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Going back a long while ago, when I was involved in the protection of Common and Little Terns breeding on mid Chesil, opposite Chickerell and Langton Herring, Wheatears were being regularly seen on the beach from late March to the end of May. It was considered that nesting could occur but as rocky crevices don’t exist on Chesil, the birds needed some help. So quite a few wooden boxes, shoe box size and open at one end, were set in the shingle slopes on the inner flank of the beach, in the spring of 1981.

With the terns being monitored at a distance it was not possible to see whether anything was happening with the boxes during the breeding season, and so it was not until the end of the summer that an examination of the dozen boxes was carried out. As the first contained a semblance of a nest, hopes were raised that others may have been fully utilised. Two were used but not by birds – out of them popped long-tailed field mice! Their nests of loosely woven grass, quite similar in shape and size to that of a warbler were lined with small squares of chewed off polythene.

The following year more boxes were put out and a wheatear was seen by one on the last day of May, but during cursory mid-summer visits to that stretch of the beach ever since no wheatears have ever been sighted – so I was interested to read in the 2021 Dorset Bird Report of a ‘recently fledged juvenile Wheatear being seen at Ferrybridge on 18th July being thought likely to have come from a nest on Chesil Beach’.

Don Moxom