Round two…

After our mixed Stonechat fortunes for our first nests, with more than a 50% failure rate, we were hoping that our second broods would fare better… and so it proved.

SC chicks almost ready to fledge

We still have 13 occupied territories and found 12 nests, with 11 successful broods ringed. We missed 1 nest entirely and 1 nest failed at the egg stage. 45 young were ringed, with an additional 4 or 5 extra unringed juveniles to add to the total from the brood we missed.

We had a mixture of brood sizes, with some very small broods of only 2 or 3 but we also had 3 broods of 6 young, which is the first time we’ve had pairs produce 6 eggs, let along fledge 6 young. One of those pairs had failed on their first brood but the second pair with 6 chicks had already produced a successful first brood of 5 young, so it’ll be interesting to see if they try again. Our third pair with 6 youngsters is a new pair occupying one of the previously abandoned territories. We also had several females lay 6 eggs but only between 2-4 hatched.

Our first nest with 6 eggs

The weather was a lot more settled for round two and simply because it was later in the breeding season, the temperatures were a lot warmer anyway even on rainy days. The only spells of bad weather didn’t last for long this time and a spell of very hot weather will have helped the availability of food.

The first brood failures resulted in the timings for the second nesting attempts being more spread out and the pairs were not as synced this time, so any bad weather did not affect all our pairs at once, as it did so disastrously before. The second nesting attempts have been so spread out that we’ve been ringing second broods on the same day as early third broods.

This staggered nesting has also allowed us to spread out our volunteer efforts. With limited time available for our two volunteers, it meant we could target our efforts more effectively as we had a good idea of the status of each of the territories and weren’t wasting time on ones which weren’t ‘ready’ yet. All of that, of course, was made possible by finding every first brood nest and monitoring its progress, which then unlocked the timings for the rest of the season.

The one failure was from a pair which failed first time round, also on eggs. This time it could have been to do with the location chosen for the nest – in low sparse heather with lots of bare ground around it. This pair may also have had an unfound failure as there was a very long gap between the first nest and the finding of their latest attempt, so it remains to be seen if they will try again. It’s a shame in a way as the male for this pair is our oldest  and previously most prolific male (white/orange), so maybe he’s chosen unwisely in his partner this year or maybe he’s firing blanks…

Our new pair’s chosen nest area

Two of the territories we thought were empty after first nest failures… weren’t! The original pair in one territory managed to raise a brood unnoticed right under our noses. The other empty territory has been re-occupied by a new pair; the male is one ousted from a neighbouring territory but the female is a completely new bird, not reported since she fledged last year. She was born in a second brood to our most prolific female so hopefully she has good genes!

We have no way of knowing where she’s been or whether she’s attempted to breed before, so this could be her first breeding attempt. Or perhaps she attempted elsewhere and failed? It’s perhaps unlikely she would have left a territory elsewhere if she’d been successful unless it was the loss of partner which triggered her move. Either way, she could try again.

As we gear up to monitor which of our territories will attempt third broods, our totals of fledged Stonechat young are looking a lot healthier, with 94 young ringed. So the question is, will we reach 100 chicks ringed for the first time in the project’s history? We missed it by a whisker last year, ending the year on 95 ringed young so we’re tantalisingly close already.

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