2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Time for a clean out!

Today we spent a few valuable hours in the woods removing the old nest material from our nest boxes. We also carried out some repairs so the boxes are ready for new arrivals, when the spring comes again. This year Kristine is in charge of “The Big Clean Up” and she will be collecting nest material from all 100 nest boxes in small paper bags. Each nest will be dried in a large oven and weighed. This information will help contribute to our understanding of the factors which affect breeding success in Blue tits (blåmejse) and Great tits (musvit).

Kristine removes old nest material from box number 86 and collects it for analysis. Photo: Jennifer Lynch.

Kristine removes old nest material from box number 86 and collects it for analysis. Photo: Jennifer Lynch.

If you have a nest box at home in your garden, now is the perfect time to clean it out. Once you are sure that the box is empty (no longer in use) you can safely remove the old nest material. Use gloves, as the nests are usually infested with parasites, including fleas, ticks and lice. By removing the old nest material you will encourage the birds to use the box the following year, and reduce the amount of parasites in the nest, giving the new chicks a head start.

Not only birds that use box

Remains of a wasps nest attached to the lid of box number 62. Photo: Jennifer Lynch

It’s not only birds that use nest boxes during the summer. Nest boxes provide homes for a variety of wildlife, including many species of insects. During our visits we found many garden spiders (korsedderkop), earwigs (ørentvist) and woodlouse (bænkebider). In box 62 we found the remains of a wasps nest. During the summer, when the wasps moved in, our monitors Ane & Kamilla decided to leave them in peace and stopped monitoring this box. Now we can safely remove the interesting construction, to make way for new residents next year (feathered or otherwise!). According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you can prevent wasps moving in by applying a thin layer of cooking spray or soap to the roof of a nest box!

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Here you can also see the remains of a wasps nest and a large garden spider (top left). Photo: Jennifer Lynch

During the cold dark months of winter, birds may roost or sleep in nest boxes. Nest boxes provide a safe place, where they are protected from predators, and sheltered from the wind and rain. In one empty nest box we found a small collection of feathers. This may indicate that a bird has been roosting in the box. The small body feathers were grey and orange, not the colour of a blue tit or great tit. Maybe a nuthatch (spætmejse) has been using the box?

Roosting

Who has been sleeping in this nest box at night? Photo: Jennifer Lynch

The nest boxes appear to create their own micro climate, especially in the gap between the box and the tree trunk. As we moved some of the boxes, to carry out some repairs we came across a world of activity, especially at box 90 where we found hundreds of woodlouse together with what appeared to be a Hawthorn shield bug (Stor Løvtæge).

Micro climate

Woodlouse and a possibly Hawthorn shield bug (Stor Løvtæge) on the tree bark behind a nest box. Photo: Jennifer Lynch

Some useful links to mention…

Short video on why and how to clean out nest boxes from the Danish Ornithological Society (DOF) video (in Danish).

Nice key to identifying shield bugs (skjoldbiller) – at this link

How everyone can get involed in monitoring Danish nature – Fugle og Natur

Posted in Autumn, Citizen Science, Denmark, Environmental Education, Nature, Nest Box, Roosting, SDU, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hvad skete der i 2014?

sdulogo_da

En resume af sæsonen (på dansk) er nu tilgængelig på SDUs hjemmeside – læse her

For the English version of our newsletter click here

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2014 Season Round Up

After a busy breeding season in 2014, we have had some time to reflect on how the season has progressed. You can review the highlights of this season in our newsletter here (SDU Birds Summer 2014).

Summer 2014 thumb

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Garden Residents

In a small enclosed area, surrounded by buildings on all sides, close to the Biology Department at the University of Southern Denmark there is a garden, known as the Mexican Garden. In the garden there is a small pond, partially filled with grass and reeds.

Pond clearance at the Mexican Garden

Pond clean up at the Mexican Garden – May 2014

Earlier this year, at the end of May, a group of students and staff cleaned up this small green area and pond, and it appears that the local wildlife approve! A few weeks later, in mid June, some movement was noticed among the reeds and grass, close to the edge of the pond. After watching for a while a medium sized brown bird was spotted, hiding among the dried grass. A short while later a second duck appeared, and it was clear that a pair of Mallards (Gråand / Anas platyrhynchos) had moved in! It appears that Mallards will nest almost anywhere from hay stacks to roof gardens, enclosed courtyards and even in large flowerpots on balconies several floors up (RSPB). Mallards start nesting in March, so it appears this couple are a little late in starting their family.

Continue reading

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An alternative home!

An alternative home!

An alternative home!

While walking past this signpost yesterday, outside entrance N at the University of Southern Denmark, I heard a familiar sound. Baby birds, hungry ones too! I stopped and listened carefully and tried to peer into the hollow parts of the sign. I couldn’t see anything, but the sound was very clear. I stood and waited, and watched for a few moments. Out flew an adult Tree Sparrow (Skovspurv). The clever parents have chosen this somewhat alternative home for their family. If you are walking by, keep your ears and eyes open!

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Plucking Post

(Please note: this update from the woods isn’t for the fainthearted)

While out visiting nest boxes this week we came across a taste of the wilder, more ferocious side of nature. Next to the path we found the remains of a bird on a flat concrete structure, which appears to have been used as a “plucking post”. After capturing their food, birds of prey, like Sparrowhawk (Spurvehøg) typically find a raised flat structure, to remove feathers and take apart their food so it can be eaten.

Sparrowhawk plucking post in the woods at SDU. Photo: Jen Lynch

Getting a closer look at the plucking post in the woods at SDU. Photo: Jen Lynch

The first evidence we spotted were some narrow tube like structures, which resembled the intestine, and a round shaped reddish piece tissue, which I assumed to be the liver. On the ground there were a lot of feathers, which I began examining to attempt to determine the species. The majority of feathers were brown, showing wear at the tips, but some of the smaller body feathers were edged yellowish or green. At first I thought it might be a female blackbird, but I didn’t need to investigate too much as we soon found the unlucky birds head. It was a female Starling (Stær /Sturnus vulgaris).

Remains of female starling at SDU. Photo: Jen Lynch

Remains of female starling at SDU. The base of the bill is pink in color in females. Photo: Jen Lynch

We looked closer at the other remains, which included a leg and the small round piece of tissue. I assumed it was the liver, but the others suggested it might be something else, less edible. We carefully dissected it and realized it was the stomach, filled with undigested green caterpillar larvae and beetles. To get an idea of what a Sparrowhawk looks like, and how it uses a plucking post – there is a good video here. The presence of a plucking post in the woods, may indicate a nearby breeding site, especially during the breeding season. To read more about plucking posts, check out this Wikipedia link.

The unlucky birds stomach contents. Photo: Owen Jones.

The unlucky birds stomach contents, which included caterpillar larvae and beetles. Photo: Owen Jones.

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