A note caught my eye the other day that now is a good time to think about adding nest boxes to your garden, if you want to offer accommodation to garden birds this year! Ryan and I were doing a bit of bird watching in the garden today and it’s clear that the blackbirds and the robins are starting to defend their territory against incomers, so nesting season is definitely on their minds.
National Nest Box Week is the traditional time for thinking about nest boxes, and it’s 14th-21st February, but the truth is that the earlier in the year you can get your boxes up (and some people start as early as December, but clearly they’re the kind of people who don’t get wrapped up in Christmas preparations!), the more chance you’ll have of them being spotted – and accepted – by local birds in time for the nesting season. It’s also possible that birds will use your nest box as a winter roost or shelter in the meantime.
These days you can nip into any garden centre and be presented with a wide range of options for nest boxes, in different styles and designed for different species of birds. But if you’re handy (or up for a bit of a new year challenge), then it’s not too hard to make your own. You can find plans on the internet to help you; the BTO website has one that’s made from one plank of wood, and that’s a common (and simple) design. Remember not to use CCA pressure-treated timber, which can poison the birds. It’s the size of the hole which differs according to species.
It’s also important to pick the right location for your nestbox. It needs to be at the right height, and ideally facing north east to avoid strong sunlight that could cause it to overheat, and the wettest winds. Tilt the box forward slightly so that heavy rain hits the roof rather than blowing into the box.
Sparrows and house martins are the only species that like nesting in groups, and if you have the space it’s worth putting up more than one nesting box for them. For other species you can only expect one nesting pair per garden, so if you want more nest boxes then make them suitable for different species.
Existing nest boxes should be thoroughly cleaned over the winter, to kill off fleas and other parasites, but there are some bird species that nest over the winter, so do make sure you’re not disturbing an active nest. Remove old nests, use boiling water to kill the parasites and then allow the box to dry thoroughly. Don’t use insecticides or flea powders of any kind. It’s only legal to remove unhatched eggs in the winter – you’ve got until the end of January to do that if it’s necessary.
It’s important not to disturb nest boxes once they are occupied, so if you want to get a bird’s eye view on what’s happening inside, then consider installing a nest box camera while you’re making/cleaning your nestbox.
Are you taking better care of your bird boxes than you are your own garden furniture? The Garden Furniture & Interiors Co. has a quick guide on how to care for and maintain your garden furniture, so that it’s in tip top condition when the sun comes out!
And while your mind is on birds, now is also a good time to sign up for the Big Garden Birdwatch, which is taking place from 27-29th January this year. The idea is that you spend a nice, peaceful hour recording the birds that visit your garden.
The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey, and it has been running for nearly 40 years. Half a million people regularly take part, and the data collected allows the RSPB to monitor the health of our wild bird populations. You can request a special pack through the post, or download a digital copy now.
This post is a collaboration, but the advice comes directly from bird experts and the words (and bird pics) are all my own!