National Nest Box Week: 14-21 February 2011

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I remember the first Nest Box Week, in 1999, as if it were just last year. This annual event, promoted by the British Trust for Ornithology, always sticks in my mind because it coincides with Valentine’s Day.

My home-made nest box, for the first Nest Box Week

I had made this in November 1998 from a pine shelf I found in the garage, finished off with a bit of roofing felt from a roll end, and a leather hinge, cut from an old, frayed belt.

National Nest Box Week inspired me to actually fix it up on a fence in the garden, and was so glad that I did. That box almost immediately became home for blue tits, and I watched, enthralled, as this box produced a family of blue tits for the next 3 years (we moved home, after this, and left the box behind).

I had also read, cut out, and saved this little article from a magazine. I “homed in” on the bit about the birds using up a lot of energy searching for nesting material. At the time, we got our haircuts at home by a hairdresser friend, and our West Highland Terrier was groomed by a qualified neighbour in her own doggy parlour, which she had set up in her utility room!

Every year since, I have been hanging out pet/human hair in those net bags in which onions, mandarins, lemons, etc., are often packed. I have also used wire peanut feeders, or the net bags in which peanut feeder refills, or shop-bought suet balls, are sometimes sold. They bring in just as many, if not more, birds into the garden, as does food, providing hours of enjoyment for us (and photo opportunties, too ?).

Last Spring, due to being pre-occupied and busy (lame excuse, I know, lol), I, somehow, forgot to actually do this – but all was not lost!

In my current garden, which has no natural soil at all, we grow our own veggies in tubs, baskets, and other containers. Last Spring, I found a local garden centre selling off the natural hessian sacks used as delivery packaging for the large variety of seed potatoes it sells. The sacks were being sold on, at a mere 25p each, in aid of charity.

What did we see? Blue Tits and sparrows, unpicking the hessian fibres, using terrific, very strong, neck and head muscles in the process! They were not, in the least, interested in our seedlings!

The ragged ends are courtesy of them!

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the culprits in action on camera. but was happy to watch.

I have always thought my current garden totally unsuitable for having a nest box, but now think that I will put up one, to see what happens. I put up two in the garden of friends in early Autumn.

I’m looking forward to seeing if they get residents.

They may well, of course, have sheltered other wildlife meantime.

Red Admiral on my home-made nest box in 2000

This will be something to look forward to after next weekend’s Birdwatch. :-)

Comments

23 Jan, 2011
015
aster said:

A very interesting blog David,a really good idea to put pet hair into a separate feeder. We always used to just let it blow about the garden,a little messy for a while lol, but it settled under plants and the birds picked it up from there :)

23 Jan, 2011
P1220732
bonkersbon said:

Lots of useful info here David thanks .. the reminders great as often forget that dedicated week but lots of bird boxes here to choose from.

Amazing what the birds use for their nests often smile to see magpies on the backs of sheep and horses plucking out wool and hair and probably the odd tick as well.

Blackbirds pulling out new spring planting to get at the moist soil to line their nests.Our pond plants get decimated esp like that creeping jenny and pond grasses.

The rooks and mistle thrushes tapping on our roof to remove the moss..

23 Jan, 2011
Wren_nest_building_edited_2
littlewren said:

a great read and lots of interesting ideas there.....we get enormous pleasure from seeing our nestboxes with their families.......We also put a bat box up last year and by the looks of the mess on the garage windowframe underneath it is being used......

23 Jan, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Lovely blog David...and great tips too ! Having read the clipping you posted will be utilising an old peanut feeder for hair etc..and will hang in one of the ancient apple trees...then wait and see !!
Regarding your boxes I see you have an openfronted one..beloved by robins.Hope they take up residence. We have one which think is occupied by a field mouse at the moment...hidden in thick ivy at shoulder height !!
Littlewren....we have bats in the church belfry next door. Its great to watch them swooping over the pond in search of insects !
Oh David...had to smile at the raggedy hessian ! Can just imagine the birds tugging away to extract the fibres !! Lol

23 Jan, 2011
Dipper
david said:

I have mental images, Aster, of birds chasing "tunbleweed" in your garden, lol!! Hopefully, they remembered this, and returned, later, to collect up the bugs to feed their chick, and help keep your plants pest-free.. :-))

Sounds like a holiday on a Costa del Construcion resort, Bb!!! All inclusive, and open 24/7, of course! Didn't expect anything less of you both, of course!!

Of course, this set me off on a tangent, thinking of coach tours, of all things!!!!!

I remember, as a child, in the '60s loving the colours of our local buses, operated by Wm Alexander & Sons, with their "bluebird" logo.I aways loved seeing the bus arrive, with the bird depicted against a cream background (a quick search has shown that this will be more awkward than first thought - as usual!). :-(

I saw a robin inspect that box, Jane, the same day I positioned it. Saw some droppings on adjoining branches very soon after. Am hoping that it will become home tio a robin (or, even, a wren?) family, this year.

Am hoping to catch them in the act, this year, now that I have a better camera. :-))

23 Jan, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

LOL David...trips down memory lane huh ! Seem to remember somehow Bluebird toffees ??? Maybe way off beam...lol. Looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labour in spring. Hope the robins nest in that box...sounds hopeful !! Our garden gets decimated...lol..but wouldnt have it any other way !!!!
PS..Our rooks gathering next door in the rookery too..Hurrah !!

23 Jan, 2011
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hobbit said:

Very informative blog, David. Today I have seen Bluetits pulling at the old Clematis seed-heads ... possible nesting material? I really hope they will take up residence in our bird box. None in it last year ... but they did use it for the previous three. : o ) Another of our boxes was inhabited by Bees last Summer ... not a problem for me but may have annoyed the birds!

25 Jan, 2011
Cimg13cropped_photo83
hobbit said:

Just had to share ... two days running we have seen a Bluetit checking out the hole in the birdbox ... fingers crossed they'll choose it as their home this year!

25 Jan, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Thats a good sign Hobbit...our resident pair were investigating "their" box in the garden at the weekend too..:o).Spring is just around the corner..hurrah !!

25 Jan, 2011
Dipper
david said:

I hope that the boxes do get some tenants, Jane. The rooks are rather noisy right now, lol!

Am sure that those fluffy clematis seedheads make ideal nest material, Hobbit. With your observations, Hobbit and Jane, sounds, indeed, like Spring not too far off, now. Don't usually see the blue tits gathering nest material here until February.

27 Jan, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Nor do we David....but the seasons are changing all the time arent they !! Maybe like us they are just planning ahead..and tired of the long winter we are having !!

28 Jan, 2011
Dipper
david said:

They certainly are, Jane. I'm sure that the poor birds are even more glad than us, to (hopefully) see the end of the awful weather. Hopefully, your pet hair won't set "the cat amongst the pigeons"!! :-))

1 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Well the bluetits are still staking their claim to the nestbox David so after a tidy up this weekend the hair will be set in place !! Will update on here in a fortnight...maybe BB will get a haircut during this time...more for the coffers !!! Lol

7 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Lol! I'll be putting a nest box up in the garden today, if it stops snowing, and am sure that, between the 3 of us, we can gather together some hair. Your nest box sounds very promising. :-))

7 Feb, 2011
Cimg13cropped_photo83
hobbit said:

Hey, good news, saw a pair of Bluetits going in and out of the bird-box this morning. So pleased to see them. : o )

7 Feb, 2011
015
aster said:

How lovely for you Hobbit :) Spring is definitely on it's way,collared doves cannoodling,crocuses appearing.....

7 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Excellent news, Hobbit! Sounds as though you have new tenants moving in! Hope you'll keep us up-dated. ;-))

8 Feb, 2011
Cimg13cropped_photo83
hobbit said:

Thanks both ... I shall try to get a pic of them ... won't be easy though! : o )

8 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Excellent news Hobbit...as David says please keep us posted. Spring is definitely on its way now !! :o)

8 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

The air here, despite the weather, is filled with birdsong, and the lengthening days are making us all (including the birds) feel a whole lot better, methinks. With your previous Blue Tit pics, Hobbit, am sure that you will catch them on "candid camera"! :-))

14 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Hi David...Well its here...Nest Box Week !! After initial acitivity no sign of bluetits but having said that its been raining here for days now! Theye are still feeding in the garden but not paying much interest in the box. Could be they have already claimed it and are just staying stum to draw attention away..lol ! The tree sparrows are in and out of another box...if they nest there it will be the third year running ! Planning to groom the cats at the weekend and hang out the feeder with it in.Still working on Ray but the look of horror...may just have to do a "Delilah" on him ! Lol....
Good luck with your robin box...ours stil in the thick ivy with (I think) a mouse in !!
One last thing...the rooks have started nest building...this weekend...soon will be stripping the moss off the cottage roof...and welcome !

15 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Nothing happening around the tit box I've put up in my garden, Jane. Hoping to get out, soon, to my "other garden" to see if anything happening at the robin and tit boxes I put up in Autumn. Great to think that someone seems to have mde use of your robin box over winter.

Good Luck with the "Delilah", hehe! :-)

18 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Eek David..snow,sleet and strong winds forecast tomorrow ! What a start to the half term break ! Hope you get out to the "haven" soon and can check out those boxes !!!

18 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Thankfully, this did not happen here, today, Jane, apart from being cold and windy. Hope your half-term gets reasonable weather! On schedule for the "Haven" Monday morn! :-)

19 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Hi David...neither here ...just pouring down with icy rain and high winds ! Lol...off to a nursery tomorrow where they sell "homemade" nest boxes.May just have to get another...they are only £5 each and the last one we got a couple of years ago has had bluetits nesting in it every spring ! Made of silver birch and very sturdy...it would be a crime not to buy another especially as its Nestbox week !!! :o)
Good luck for Monday !

19 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Thanks, Jane, looking forward to Monday!

I love those nestboxes made from silver birch, from sustainable sources, of course. Hope you get there, and get another. :-))

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Got there but none left David ! The good news is that there has been a run on them so thats great for the birds. Did get some little pots of bulbs to brighten up the garden though..:o)

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Sorry you didn't get a nestbox, folks :-(( must mean, as you say, that many more gardens will have them now! :-))

Am going out soon, myself, to get some new Iris reticulata varieties for my tubs! :-))

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Great minds David...we got those too today ! Beautiful shades of purple and blues...and an unusual yellow variety !! Also bought some very cheap pots of tete a tete daffs...the more the merrier and just the tonic to banish the winter blues !! Happy hunting !! :o)

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Wonder if the yellow ones are Iris danfordiae? Kids love haviing Tete a Tete in small pots indoors on the windowsills, so always have these! We have iris reticulata "George" and "Pixie" - "George" has just produced first bloom. We grow them in containers, which have just recently been put back on front doorstep, to cheer us up!

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

It is David ! Just googled it ! Thought they looked so cheery and would mingle with the Tete a Tetes ! The iris are "Joyce"..pale blue and I cant remember the purple variety...duh! Just great to see some colour !

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Isn'tit gr8 to see some flowers????? Enjoy!!!!

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Got the purple one.."Harmony"...just about says it all !! X

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

"Ebony. Ivory.......... " there's defo in there a "Harmony". - Reminds me very well of bird colours, namely Magpie, crow, et al, which combine both, and more. :-))

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

David !! Youve got me singing now !! Ray thinks Ive lost the plot ! Lol..he is probably right !!!

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

My aplogies to him! :-D)))

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

No apologies needed David...he is used to it !! Lol..

20 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

LOl!!!!...............Goodnight to you 2!

20 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Night night David !!! Still singing !!!!..xx

25 Feb, 2011
P1150022_1
jane said:

Had our day out at Fairburn Ings yesterday David and found it very interesting to note that high on their "to do" list for this week (posted on the noticeboard) was " Maintenance and repair of nestboxes" . Enquiries led us to understand that the severe weather had not only brought trees and branches down but had also ripped apart some of the boxes !! Great that their repair and replacement high priority !!

27 Feb, 2011
Dipper
david said:

Would never have thought of nest box renovation, due to damage to their supporting trees, or splitting due to water and ice expansion, Jane. Glad to read that this has been given "high priority" status, there. :-)

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