As a bit of background, Jo and I are registered nest recorders with the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), for two years now we have monitored nests in and around the village where we live. With kind permission of the land owner we have been able to site 50 boxes in a local woodland. These have attracted Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch. Throughout the breeding season we monitor the contents of the boxes and collate the information – whether a nest has been built, how many eggs are laid, by which species and how many young successfully fledge. The data we collect is used on a national level to analyse trends in breeding performance, which in turn help the BTO to identify species that may be declining or indeed doing well. www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs.
This year we have decided to add a few extra boxes towards the top end of the woods. These were mostly sparrow terrace boxes which we had previously sited at a nearby farm and had limited success with. Whilst we’ve monitored sparrow terraces elsewhere, the ones at the farm just got dusty and cobwebby – nothing was interested in them! Too many much more enticing natural holes for the birds to nest in. Indeed the terraces we have monitored we are pretty certain were only ever used by one pair, they used different sections throughout the season, depending on whether broods failed or fledged. So I cut down these old boxes and made the 3 section terraces into 3 detached properties! With the breeding season fast approaching and a beautiful sunny day forecast we decided to get them up on the trees ready for the coming year. As it turns out, very appropriate timing as it is National Nest Box week here in the UK. https://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw
The woods are quiet, and our boxes discreetly sited away from paths so we have not placed them too high on trees; we are not aware of any disturbance to the birds and the slightly lower height makes it much easier for us to check what is happening in them. They are a miscellaneous selection, made to a fairly basic pattern, but adapted and altered slightly depending on the wood I have available and what I am working with! As we need to check the contents, we have hinged the roof section with a piece of rubber cut from a wellie boot!
In addition to the regular boxes we also have 3 boxes which we hope may attract Treecreeper. This species is definitely in the woods as we have heard their calls, but they are notoriously difficult to encourage into a box. Various studies have been conducted with people trialling different designs, but success has been patchy and a little inconclusive. We have 2 designs which we are trying, a wedge shaped box which has an open back (my own design!) and an oblong shaped box. Both have their entrance hole on the side near the trunk. Treecreepers only climb upwards, so need to be able to climb up and into the box whilst scurrying up the trunk. I will let you know how we get on and whether we get anything in these boxes at all!
Finally we sited a couple of bat boxes. Bats are a species that we know very little about, but we have found them roosting in our bird boxes so they are around in the woods. We were kindly given two different bat boxes, so have popped them into the woods in the hope that they may also be used. It will be difficult to tell as the boxes don’t open and the entrance holes are very small, may need to use my little endoscope attached to my phone if we want to see if they are being successfully used.
I hope you have also managed to get out and enjoy the spring sunshine, in between a painting or two! Spring is definitely well under way with lots of bird song and drifts of beautiful snowdrops. Should you have read this far, do leave a comment and let me know whether you have any bird boxes, whether they have been successful and which species you have managed to give a home to.
Until the next time – Paul 🤓