Kingfisher Lottery funds a new Kingfisher Bank

The organisers of the Kingfisher Lottery Club are always keen to invest funds into projects that improve the overall experience of both human and wildlife visitors to the nature reserve. So they jumped at the idea of installing a Kingfisher Bank to improve the Kingfisher population.

So what is A Kingfisher Bank?  It is a number of artificially made nesting units installed into a steep earth bank at the waters edge. The units consist of a nesting chamber and upward sloping entrance tunnel. The units were chosen on the recommendation of many websites, including the RSPB. 

The base of the tunnel (1m in length) and chamber is made of mesh to allow drainage, while the main body of the unit is made from a breathable ‘woodcrete’ designed to prevent condensation. 

Where is the Kingfisher Bank?

The steep earth bank to the right of the Cobham Hide pit seems to be a suitable site to install the Kingfisher Bank as there is no danger of erosion or rising water levels. 

Why haven’t kingfishers nested there already?  

Kingfishers prefer a clear flight path into the nest site and over the years dead wood and branches have fallen into the pit. This has now been removed by volunteers. Which also improves the view from the Cobham hide. 

What am I looking for?  

Looking out of the window on the right-hand side of the Cobham Hide, across the pit to the bank, you may be able to see the tunnel entrances. They are approx. 10cm x 10cm so quite hard to see without binoculars.

There are three in total because kingfisher usually have two/three broods per season and build a new nest for each brood, approx. one or two metres from the original nest.   

While the holes are fairly small and hard to see, a kingfisher is hard to miss.  Although small, they are unmistakably bright blue and orange birds. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches and they make a shrill ‘Toot Toot’ call.

How will we know if it’s successful? 

We are relying on our eagle-eyed bird watchers to record all sightings of Kingfishers seen at Cobham Hide via the sightings board/book in the Visitor Centre and Facebook page.   

In addition, at the end of the year, our nest box survey volunteers will inspect, record and prepare the nesting units for the next season. 

Winter work party update

Trevor Coughlan gives us the latest from the Work Parties at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve

Visitors may have noticed that over the last few months, there has been some rain! However, I am pleased to report the wet weather has not deterred our volunteers, in the fact the number of work party volunteers over the last three months has been higher than in the same period last season.

We have continued our work improving the habitat for nightingales and other summer migrants, particularly in East Scrub. We have also undertaken maintenance on the exclosures, including vegetation clearance, fencing repairs and replacement of rotten fence posts. At least the wet weather means that the ground has been soft which made bashing in posts easier! We have now finished our work in this area for this winter although further work will be undertaken in future years in accordance with the Reserve’s Management Plan.

The Management Plan details the work to be undertaken on the existing Reserve and the extension to ensure the Reserve is maintained and improved for both visitors and wildlife. The Friends liaise closely with the Rangers to ensure our work parties are coordinated with the work undertaken by the midweek work parties. Senior Ranger Matt is a member of the Friends’ Conservation Management Team which meets monthly to review progress and ensure the Plan’s objectives are achieved.

Other work undertaken by the Friends’ work parties during the winter has been further willow clearance in the Hayling Reedbed, vegetation clearance in the exclosures to encourage the growth of orchids and adders tongue fern, clearance of the bank of Southoe Brook near the yard and further
habitat improvement in the Sanctuary. We now hope that the nightingales will return in the Spring to occupy the desirable new residences we have prepared for them.

Are you interested in volunteering with one our Work Parties? Find out more here.

Volunteers uplifted by ‘The Gloomy Trees’

Janet Prior reports on a new old find for the reserve…

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the woods today you’ll never believe your eyes!  This was the situation for the mid-week volunteers who ventured into the woods to erect protective stock fencing in the east scrub area of the nature reserve during January.  

Their big surprise was to find two very old and gloomy looking Apple Trees.  The age of the trees is currently uncertain but the cankers and gnarly bark suggest that they have been slowly drifting into old age, unseen for many years. 

Although the trees were nick-named ‘The Gloomy Trees’, the effect on the volunteers was far from gloomy.  Everyone looked on them with amazement and felt uplifted having discovered these awesome veterans. 

One of the trees looks quite unhealthy as it has shed its lower limbs.  However, this phenomenon, known as ‘Summer branch drop’, and is associated with weather patterns is what trees do naturally in order to prolong their life.  Hopefully it’s not too late for this tree and we can look after and enjoy them both for many more years. 

Photos of The Gloomy Trees kindly provided by Matt Hall

Bird ringing report 2019

Derek Gruar introduces the 2019 report from the bird ringing and monitoring that takes place at Paxton Pits

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has used Constant Effort Site (CES) bird ringing to monitor the abundance, breeding success and survival of 24 common breeding songbirds since 1986. Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is one of over 140 sites across the UK that contributes data to this programme.

Monitoring is carried out by qualified volunteer bird ringers during the breeding season, with twelve visits between May and early September where the same nets are set for same standard length of time for each visit. At Paxton, we monitor the site with eight mist-nets totalling 140 metres in length that are set between 5.30-11.30am. 

The results are used to measure changing population sizes (comparing the number of adult birds caught each year) whilst the ratio of juvenile to adult captures provides a measure of breeding success. In addition to ringing new birds we also record data for all birds we recapture; those of adult birds ringed in previous years are used to estimate annual survival rates. 

Some birds ringed in 2019. L-R House Sparrow, Bullfinch, Reed Warbler.

2019

In 2019, we conducted 15 bird ringing sessions at “The Sanctuary” at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve. The first session was in early January and our standard CES monitoring began in May and continued until late August. 2019 proved to be another improvement on the previous two CES seasons. Post CES we managed to successfully target late summer migrants on three visits in September. The final session of the year was a demonstration event where visitors from the Friends of Paxton group were invited join us during the ringing session. Sadly, the poor weather in autumn prevented any further visits.

Over the year, mild winter conditions were replaced with cold and wet weather in late spring. We were fortunate that conditions had improved by the time the start of the 2019 CES ringing season was due. Fine and dry weather in May enabled resident species to raise broods with Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Robins making up the most of the early season catches. June however was quite wet which seemed to affect breeding warbler numbers, especially Blackcaps which were surprisingly absent. The record warmth of July seemed to suit Phylloscopus warblers with a record combined catch of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff on 21st July. Late summer saw an increase in thunderstorms and in August numbers of birds ringed were steady rather than spectacular. The highlight was the number of fledged Bullfinches. 

Overall, we succeeded in conducting ringing sessions on eleven of the twelve allocated time periods. A total of 346 new birds were ringed of 23 different species. This was a further improvement on 2018 as bird populations at Paxton seem to be recovering after the poor year in 2017. An average of 34 new birds ringed per visit is just above the 10 year mean.

Bird ringing news, September 2019

An update from our regular bird ringing team.

Three extra ringing sessions were carried out in September after the end of our normal annual monitoring programme. With no strict methodological constraints, we could set nets at different times of the day (no 4am alarm calls!). As these sessions came after the breeding season had finished, we could also play bird calls (via MP3 players) that attract birds into the area too. The first two sessions were on the afternoon/evening of 14th September and on the following morning.

The third session was held on Friday 20th September and was a thank you event for the Friends of Paxton Pits who have generously funded our ringing over the years. Many thanks to all the visitors who visited us during the day, we hope you enjoyed your day. I must also thank the RSPB for allowing myself and others the time to ensure we could carry out this event (we were allowed a day to undertake a conservation project or attend any of the youth climate strikes as a show of solidarity).

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The three session were blessed with fine weather, our plan was to target any late migrants especially Blackcap and Chiffchaff that use the sanctuary to feed up on the bountiful fruit and berries (once the ringers had stopped scoffing them). Both these species responded to calls on the MP3s set by nets which helped increase the catch.

Over the three sessions 143 new birds were ringed of 16 species with Blackcap and Chiffchaff contributing 67% of the catch! Single Garden and Reed Warblers were late migrants and two Coal Tits were very unexpected as only one has been ringed here since 2007.

Ringers for these sessions were: Derek Gruar, Maureen Reeves, Alan Garner, Andy Stanbury, Chantal MacLeod- Nolan, Saskia Wischnewski, Kevin Middleton, Alice Edwards and Viv Gruar scribed excellently.

HOT NEWS

We have been informed of a bird ringed on CES session 12 that has subsequently been recaptured by other ringers in the UK:

Blackcap

Ringed 26/08/19 Paxton Pits
Recaptured 10/09/19 Fields Heath, near Fawley, Hampshire, UK
177km SSW (15 days)