Squirrel, bird and bat box project

nest box

The National Trust staff and volunteer team look after nearly 400 nest boxes across Brownsea Island, which provide homes for a variety of birds, red squirrels and bats. Here we explain a little more about what our Rangers and volunteers find on their yearly rounds.

2019 round up

Each year all of Brownsea's nest boxes are checked in May and September to see if they are in use and by whom and then any repairs are carried out in February. 2019 was another successful year for the project, which has been running since 1997.

Birds

Recently the team found the highest level of occupancy since the project began in the bird nest boxes, which are used by great tits, blue tits and coal tits. Interestingly, the British Trust for Ornithology’s nest record scheme shows that blue and great tits had an excellent breeding season in terms of productivity, so our 2019 results on Brownsea are in line with these national trends. There are also nine owl boxes across the island, four of which showed signs of use by tawny owls. One of these had a tawny owlet in residence along with an egg. 2019’s concluding report recorded 94 tit nests: 42 blue tits, 20 great tits, 3 coal tits and 29 unknown.

A blue tit nest with chicks
nest box
A blue tit nest with chicks

Red squirrels

Although squirrel boxes are clearly identified (with little porches on the side), squirrels will quite happily hijack any other box they can lay their paws on!  But they have been catered for with 55 purpose-built wooden boxes which have proved very popular with all but three showing signs of use in 2019. As in previous years, we found that red squirrels made use of the owl boxes too, along with various types of bird boxes. 

A red squirrel kitten tucked up in his box
Red squirrel box
A red squirrel kitten tucked up in his box

Bats

The project also includes around 140 bat boxes, over half of which are hand made from untreated timber. In 2019 we came across the usual species during our checks: pipistrelle bats, brown long-eared bats, natterer’s bats and noctules. Many of our bat records are based on the presence of droppings, which indicate that bats have used the boxes. Since 2015 we have found that large numbers of pipistrelle bats congregate in some of our specially designed wooden bat boxes to form maternity roosts. This trend continued in 2019 with large quantities of droppings found in six of these boxes in September. Four species of bats occurred: Pipistrelles (including Sopranos), Brown Long-eared, Natters and Noctules.

A beautiful brown long-eared bat
 Brown long-eared bat
A beautiful brown long-eared bat

Special thanks goes to our dedicated volunteer team including Pam and Peter Bryon
Maureen Bursey, David Evans, Carol Greig, Jackie Kelly, Ray Meddick, Andrew Parkyn, Nina Sen, Ray Styche, Brian Whitlock, Richard Yeoman for their careful monitoring and bringing us these updates.