discussion / Sensors  / 29 September 2020

Method for mapping & finding nest boxes

The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP) involves siting a minimum of 50 wooden nest boxes in a grid throughout a woodland site. At out site we have 600 boxes and sometimes it can take hours to find them all. Some of the sections have been monitored for several decades so when management occurs or a tree falls down or a box needs replacing, its location is often slightly altered. In the past we’ve tried to GPS plot their location but it’s not very accurate. We would like to better map our boxes and have a way of finding them more easily. Does anyone have any advice please?

Hi Nida, I have used google mymaps and a form builder epicollect5 to map deployments and have them accessable easily. Have helped in management quite a bit. Are you looking for such management solutions?


Hello Nida,

Facing same problem here with track-tunnels/nest-tubes (about 500). Even though we used waypoint-averaging while marking on a Garmin handheld GPS the location of the tree, there is significant error in the end...making the waypoints just a crude guide as to where the nest-tubes are. 

Half way through the project, we added red tape to a nearby branch (not very close to the actual nest-tube in case it attracted crows etc.), but close enough that - once you get there - you know you can see the trap. Wouldn't that cheaper solution work? We just started collecting our grid, and the tape helps a lot.



Hi Nida,

If QGIS is one of your GIS tools I suggest using QFIELD (https://qfield.org/) for your field mapping project.

Best wishes,


I've been musing on a similar problem too.

Nesting boxes for Coal Tits which eat large quantities of invasive pine processionary caterpillars.

Amongst the ideas I had that might be of use in your case are:

Using a passive bluetooth low energy beacon (year+ on a button battery, cheap) to "guide you in" once you are in range, i.e. 10s of meters.

Using the RSSI reading emmitted from a LoRa radio chirping say, once a minute, probably about a year with a lipo battery - longer with a small solar panel - again when you're withing range, could be ~1km or more depending on your transmit power, (more = more batt use) and reciever antenna.

I'm thinking of using the latter with some kind of "occupancy indicator".

Just chucking it out there.