It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow…it’s also the start of National Nest Box Week, a time to show some love for our feathered friends. The event, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and running from 14th February to 23rd February, aims to encourage people to put up nest boxes in their gardens or allotments. This event was new to me – many thanks to Karen at The Garden Smallholder blog for her lovely post on it, without this I would never have known!
The BTO website has info on which types of nest box are suitable for common breeds of birds. Some, such as robins and pied wagtails, like an open-fronted ‘letter box’ entrance to fly in and out of. Some prefer round entrance-ways in different sizes – like this ‘birdball’ we were given as a house warming present – blue tits nested here last year. The BTO also advise on where to site your nest box, and how to monitor any breeding pairs that move in. You can join in with their Nest Box Challenge, sending in updates about any birds nesting in your garden – including whether they have managed to raise chicks. You don’t have to put up a nest box to be able to join in with the Challenge – as the BTO says, a nest in your garden hedge or your satellite dish still counts! I think this is a lovely activity to do with children – I’ll definitely be doing the Challenge this year with my two little ‘uns. It could be fun for schools to join in with too.
We’ve got a couple more nest boxes ready to go up during the week. The one with painted leaves on was a kit given to my daughter – she really enjoyed helping to put it together and then decorating it, it made a great kid’s present and really got her excited about looking after birds in the garden.
Once you’ve got your lovely nest boxes up, what else can you do to encourage birds to use them? One fun idea is to leave out suitable nesting materials. Linda from Linda’s Wildlife Garden blog suggested I could use some of the spare sheep wool that we were given last year, putting it into a bird-feeder – the sort suitable for fat balls if possible – for the birds to find. We’ve hung ours near a hedge where a wren nested last year.
It doesn’t have to be wool – when a friend cuts her kids’ hair in the Spring, she leaves the trimmings out on the hedge-tops for the birds to use as nest material. (Sounds like something from a fairytale to me, finding a nest lined with golden hair!)
I also try to leave plenty of seedheads for the birds – like this old sunflower, still hanging in there (just!) in February. What about you – do you have any great ways to look after garden birds?