Today I found the first chicks of the field season at Wytham during my rounds in Bean Wood. Weighing a little over 1g each, if all goes well these chicks will increase their weight by up to 15-fold over the next couple of weeks. I'm hoping that the impending rain that's forecasted won't be too detrimental for the early broods!
As part of the DPhil I have started this year, I have joined the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology (http://egi.zoo.ox.ac.uk), which is a leading institute in the study of birds! The EGI has monitored the breeding population of cavity-nesters (mainly great and blue tits, but also a handful of nuthatches, coal and marsh tits) in Wytham Woods since 1947, collecting really standardised data on these birds every year. This makes it possible to have tonnes of information on how successful the birds are, the timing of their breeding attempts, where they are, and how they are related to the rest of the entire population. In turn, this means we have really useful data that can be used by researchers to ask wider questions about ecology and evolution (like I am doing with questions about the consequences of population age-structure!).
However, it's no mean feat to collect this data! There are over 1500 nest boxes in the woods, and this year it has been split into 7 rounds for 8 fieldworkers. In my round, I have a little over 150 nest boxes which I will be keeping track of and collecting data from over the next couple of months. So far, this has just been visiting the boxes once a week to check how advanced the nest-building is. But today I'm very pleased to find the first eggs of the season!
The birds lay one egg a day, and so this box with three eggs means the lay date was 4th April. I weighed the eggs to identify the species (as well as it being data for potential future research), where great tit eggs generally weight greater than 1.3g, and all other tit species that take up the boxes weigh less. The blue tit in this nest will probably continue to lay for the next week or so, and then will begin incubation for ~13 days. I'm looking forward to finding many more eggs in my rounds at Bean wood, and hopefully some chicks soon as well!
A blog of my ideas, photography and research of the natural world.