Bird lovers prepare Peak District boxes for African visitors

Uncorking nest boxes for returning pied flycatchers to use in the woods around Padley Gorge: Ranger Mark Bull checking a nest box hole after removing the 'cork'...(National Trust photo by David Bocking: free use for stories relating to National Trust work in the Peak District)
Uncorking nest boxes for returning pied flycatchers to use in the woods around Padley Gorge: Ranger Mark Bull checking a nest box hole after removing the 'cork'...(National Trust photo by David Bocking: free use for stories relating to National Trust work in the Peak District)

The arrival of spring has been marked in the Peak District by the opening of more than 50 bird boxes to welcome visitors flying in from Africa.

National Park rangers and National Trust volunteers have removed corks from boxes in the oak woodlands around Padley Gorge for pied flycatchers to nest in.

The National Trust and local conservation and school groups have set up more than 100 nest boxes around Padley over the last 30 years, but Mark and colleagues realised that resident blue and great tits were moving into the boxes before the migrant flycatchers arrived back from the Ivory Coast and Liberia in the first weeks of April.

To solve the housing crisis, the rangers began corking up half the boxes over the winter, and only uncorking them once the first pied flycatchers returned.

“After months of working in the woods in the freezing cold over the winter, to see the birds coming back is amazing, it makes all the hard work worthwhile,” said Mark.

The National Trust has kept the woodlands around Padley attractive to flycatchers and other wildllife by managing the open land around the trees, and keeping out grazing animals that can damage young trees and other woodland plants.

Along with the nestbox corking, the strategy has worked, with pied flycatcher nests in the Trust’s boxes having increased from nine in 2000 to 29 last year.

The species is becoming rare in many parts of the UK and was recently added to the official ‘red data list’ of UK birds which are of concern due to declining in numbers.

The male birds are black and white, while females are a greyer colour.