Heart shaped nest

A bird nest on a moss blanket.

The nest, which developed its distinctive heart-shape after being removed from the nest box, contained three pale speckled eggs that had failed to hatch last spring.

National Trust rangers suspect that the eggs belonged to a pair of Blue Tits or Great Tits. The birds were either killed by a predator or had been disturbed and abandoned the eggs, the conservation charity said.

The tiny nest, which at around 13.5cm long is about the length of an iPhone 6, was made using horse hair, grass, feathers and moss.  

It was uncovered in one of 65 nest boxes that have been installed in the woods at Hardcastle Crags with the help of Calderdale Bird Group. Groups of three volunteers take it in turns to scale ladders in order to check and record the boxes.

This photo really shows off the different colours of the materials in the nest.
Heart shaped nest on a white background.
This photo really shows off the different colours of the materials in the nest.

By identifying the nests’ builders, rangers and volunteers are able to estimate trends in the breeding bird population – directing how rangers manage the woodland valleys.
Natalie Pownall, National Trust Academy Ranger at Hardcastle Crags, said: “Where eggs have been abandoned, disturbance is the most likely cause. The adult bird can get flustered and if attacked can even damage her eggs in the surprise attack.

“Busy blue tits lay up to an egg a day at the height of the season. It’s an ordeal that requires a huge amount of energy, which is why you’ll see the birds stocking up on fatty foods like peanuts and sunflower seeds in your garden in March.”
With Valentine’s Day looming, birds at Hardcastle Crags are busy pairing up for the upcoming season.

Gently holding the heart shaped nest.
Holding the heart shaped nest so carefully.
Gently holding the heart shaped nest.
" Our female blue tits are looking for the perfect partner and home to raise her young. Her ideal Romeo will need to bring her insects and other grubs to eat whilst she’s brooding on the nest. Once born, her chicks will need to eat on average 100 caterpillars a day just to stand a chance at survival. "
- Natalie Pownall, National Trust Academy Ranger

We’re not sure what happened to the pair that made last year’s nest. But we’re hoping that this spring brings no repeat of last year’s heartbreak.

Upcoming events

Guided walk: Widdop amble - please note route change.

Sat 21 Jul 2018
Meet 9:45 to catch the Bronte bus to Cock Hill. Follow easy tracks overlooking the Aire Valley with a short climb over Top o Stairs followed by a gentle descent down the Crimsworth valley back to Hardcastle Crags.

Forest - Yan Wang Preston

Sat 21 Jul 2018
A breathtakingly beautiful and poignant photography exhibition, Forest is presented as part of the 2018 Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.

Ranger Day

Sun 29 Jul 2018
Would you like to learn how our rangers keep this woodland a special place to visit? Come along to the Ranger Day to meet the team and find out more.

Den Building - 50 things to do before you're 11 ¾

Mon 30 Jul 2018
Step outdoors, let the woodland be your playground and build your very own den this summer.

Discover what's in a pond - 50 things to do before you're 11 ¾

Tue 31 Jul 2018
Have a go at pond dipping and see how many amazing creatures you can find!

Family volunteering - be a ranger for the day

Wed 01 Aug 2018
Family volunteering is a chance for families and friends of all ages to spend time together learning new skills in the fresh air. We'll work together come rain or shine to help keep the woodland healthy and beautiful.