Nest boxes – making a little birdhouse in your soul
The British Trust for Ornithology launched National Nest Box Week on Valentine’s Day to encourage people to put up boxes in their garden. Do you have nest boxes in your garden, and have they been successful?
Even if it feels like we’re still in the depths of winter, the days are now longer and there are definite signs of spring in my garden, including flirtatious birds! National Nest Box week launched on February 14, as this is the time of year when many birds pair up and start prospecting for somewhere to lay their eggs.
I’ve got a nest box on my shed that has seen two broods of blue tits raised in it, but it hasn’t been without problems. The box is close to the shed roof and one of the neighbourhood cats started sitting just above it, trying to catch the parent birds as they whizzed in and out.
Nest box know-how
You need to make sure the rain can’t get in, as well as consider how much sun the box will get (you don’t want the baby birds to overheat on the first warm spring day). You can’t put boxes too close together, because birds are territorial, and you shouldn’t put them close to where you feed birds, as the activity will probably put them off nesting.
In a small garden like mine, that doesn’t leave much choice about where it can go. Also, birds naturally have parasites, so it’s vital to clean out the box between visitors.
Sometimes I wonder whether it’s worth it, and whether, left to their own devices, birds might find their own nesting sites.
I know natural nesting sites are disappearing, but I’ve noticed birds will often improvise. Some robins nested and raised four chicks on top of suitcase inside my shed a few years ago, and one pair of blackbirds built their nest in a climbing plant next to our garden table. I took a coffee out there one day and suddenly realised I was being watched! We’ve also had robins nesting in a watering can at the Capel Manor trial garden, though that led to disaster when someone missed the sign we’d put up and filled the can with water.
I want to help birds in any way I can, of course, because I know many species are in decline. But my question is, how much help do we give them with our nest boxes? Do you have a nest box? If you do, I’d love to know where you put it, how you look after it, and how many baby birds you’ve seen raised in your box.
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