Well I’m feeling pretty gutted right now. The nest site I’ve been monitoring and photographing under license for the last 3 months has been abandoned. For the last 3 weeks I’ve noticed that I was only seeing the male coming in to the burrow with food. No sign of the female. Also, the male was only bringing in fish (although they were pretty large fish) about every 45 minutes, which on reflection I don’t think would be enough to keep a brood of chicks going.
The first nest burrow at this site was actually dug out from above, I’m assuming by the mink that I’ve seen regularly along the bank while watching the nest site from my hide.
I was really hoping that the second attempt would be successful as another nest site a mile down river had also been dug out from above in exactly the same way.
The second burrow was much deeper and there is no sign of any disturbance, so I’m pretty sure that it’s the loss of the female that’s stuffed things up.
The male seemed to stop feeding about a week ago and on my last couple of visits I’ve only seen the male flying through the territory. He’s no longer perching outside the nest burrow, which I expect contains the corpses of the chicks.
I’ve no way of knowing what happened to the female, but the extent to which Mink are endemic on this stretch of the Trent in Staffordshire is a real worry in relation to the Kingfishers. I’m convinced that the 2 nest sites were dug out by Mink as they were both only about 12 inches or so deep and the holes were dug straight down to nests containing chicks, as evidenced by the fish scale debris left in the exposed nest chambers. The 2 nests were also destroyed within a few days of each other in late April.
The fact that Swans nesting a hundred yards upstream only have one Signet left is also perhaps indicative of an environment suffering from an invasive predator.
Ironically, this is probably the ongoing fall out from when thousands of Mink were released in North Staffordshire in 1998 by animal rights campaigners.
Here are images of the 2 nest burrows after they were dug out. the close up shows the interior with the remainder of fish scales in the nest chamber. Both of these burrows were dug straight down into, so presumably whatever did this (I’m assuming Mink, was able to hear the chicks).