Nail-biting nests

The rangers at our special places are dedicated to improving habitats for wildlife. From installing nest boxes to monitoring roosts, it's all part of allowing nature to flourish in their ideal environment. Some, however, have their own ideas about where makes a good home...

Dormouse, Fyne Court, Somerset

Dormouse, Fyne Court, Somerset 

Rangers spotted this bashful dormouse squatting in a birds nest six feet above the ground. Rob Skinner, area ranger and licensed dormouse handler, made the discovery while checking bird nesting boxes on the Somerset estate. Rob said: 'I nearly fell off my ladder. It’s not something I was expecting to see. We have 93 dedicated dormouse nesting boxes in our woods – but this juvenile ignored them all.' The dormouse stayed for three weeks before disappearing earlier this month.

Pied Wagtail in December

Pied wagtail nest at Studland Beach, Dorset 

Two pied wagtail parents have found a far-from-rubbish nesting site in the cardboard recycling bins at our Studland beach visitor centre in Dorset. Kevin, our visitor experience officer, says, 'They were starting to show quite a lot of interest in the bins, so I had a suspicion that they'd be there. I'm glad I checked.' The common black-and-white birds have successfully raised four youngsters and are on to their second brood.

Mallard, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Mallard, Farne Islands, Northumberland 

Rangers on the remote Farne Islands discovered a mallard duck nesting beside a stack of Calor gas canisters this spring. Jen Clark, ranger, said: 'The gas is kept in a cage so that if it explodes it’s contained. There’s a tiny little gap between the wall and the cage that the duck must have crawled into. It’s probably just because it was a nice safe place – protected from predators attacking from above.' The duck’s eight chicks fledged a little over a month ago. Her gas cage nest site is yet to be used by another bird.

Unusual Wren nest at Harewoods in Surrey

Wren, Harewoods, Surrey 

Despite years of hard work to improve the habitat around his National Trust cottage for nesting birds, it’s Andy Wright’s shed that is proving popular for the small birds. A pair of wrens built a moss nest into a coil of rope hanging from the shed roof. It was the first time wrens have nested in the wooden outhouse. Andy, countryside manager for the Surrey Hills, said: 'They weaved it into the tassels of the rope. With the racket they were making there must have been four or five fledglings. I’ve no idea why they nested there. I’ve done a lot of habitat work around the place, so you’d think there would be plenty of natural nesting habitat for them. There’s even a wren nest in my smoker.'

Field mouse, Alderley Edge, Cheshire

Field mouse, Alderley Edge, Cheshire 

One small mouse chose a life in the fast lane after nesting underneath the bonnet of a National Trust van. Christopher Widger, countryside manager at Alderley Edge, discovered the field mouse’s nesting place in the sound-deadening material beneath the bonnet – after the mouse scuttled across the windscreen wiper. Chris said 'I was travelling at 30mph and pulled over onto the verge and he made a jump for it – into the nearby hedge.'

Razorbill, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Razorbill, Farne Islands, Northumberland 

Around 400 razorbill couples make their nests on the steep cliffs around the Farne Islands, a mile off the Northumberland coast. Jen Clark, ranger, said: 'They tend to nest on horrible little ledges. They’re really tiny – about the size of the bird. They don’t actually build a nest – they incubate their egg directly on a small, sloping crevice.' The black and white penguin-like birds, which are only 40cm and spend their entire winter at sea, lay just one egg a year. The exposed nesting sites makes the eggs and chicks vulnerable to fierce North Sea weather, as well as predatory attacks by gulls.

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, Norfolk 

One of Britain’s rarest seabirds nests so close to the sea it finds its nests regularly flooded. It’s thought that there are fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs of little terns left in Britain. Nesting on beaches, the birds are sensitive to disturbance – as well as flooding from the sea. Ajay Tegala, ranger for the little tern stronghold at Blakeney Point, said: 'They tend to lay one to three camouflaged eggs on the beach, often close to the high water mark. This means that nests regularly get washed away if big tides are combined with stormy weather. They’re also vulnerable from a long list of predators – gulls, birds of prey, foxes, crows, snakes and even herons.' As part of an RSPB-led EU LIFE+ project, rangers at Blakeney Point have been using plaster models of little terns to encourage the birds to nest up the beach and away from the high tides.