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It's Nesting Time
Michaela's Green Scene

"Oh the Barnyard is busy in a regular tizzy and the obvious reason is because of the season.
My nature’s lyrical
It’s her yearly miracle
It’s spring, spring, spring"


Yes spring is well and truly on the way. Hooray! (By the way, for those of you unfamiliar with old musical films, that line was from a song from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers!).

Anyway, gone are the cold wintry months when the only bird you’d hear singing his little heart out in the garden was the faithful robin; now they’re all at it, the tits, the finches, the wrens and blackbirds. Now is the time they’re all thinking about the pattering of tiny feet and this is the last opportunity for you to get those bird boxes out.

Now I’ve always thought that perfectly manicured gardens are very attractive, I’ve always admired the amount of hard work invested in them. I have a small walled garden in the heart of Clifton in Bristol, and I’m afraid ‘manicured’ is not the word that springs to mind!

Many friends think it’s because I’m too busy or too lazy to get my gardening gloves on and spend hours on my hands and knees weeding. And while there might be just an ounce of truth in that accusation, it’s also because my aim is to attract as much wildlife into the garden as possible. Mind you, after reading the other articles in greenfingers.com, who knows - I may well be inspired to tidy it up a bit.

But, back to the subject of the birds and the bees! Bird boxes can be in all shapes and sizes, from your gran’s old kettle to a state of the art three-holed fancy tit box. We put about 10 out three years ago. The most popular one has been a rather unattractive modern-looking woodcrete model. There really is no accounting for taste in the feathered world!


The different types of boxes are:

1. Small, open fronted boxes that attract pied wagtails, robins, flycatchers and wrens.

2. Small boxes with an entrance hole of 28mm and less, attract blue, coal, marsh or willow tits. A 30mm hole will attract great tits and tree sparrows.

3. Larger boxes may be used by house sparrows, nuthatch, pied flycatcher, redstart.

If you’ve got a larger garden you can even get boxes for kestrels, owls, woodpeckers and parakeets.

Most boxes are made out of wood and they are more attractive than the ones made out of woodcrete, a mixture of concrete and sawdust. This is the type, however, that has been most successful in my garden. They are waterproof, long lasting and more impenetrable. You can of course make a nest box, but not being a great craftsman myself, I would suggest buying one!

You should remember to do a bit of maintenance on your boxes later in the year if they have been used. Remove any old nest in the autumn and if necessary clean the box with boiling water. This kills any parasites. Do not use insecticides since these could harm young chicks.

Spread your boxes out and position the entrance away from the prevailing wind and never facing upwards. Also position away from direct sunlight. If you get cats in your garden make sure you position the box well out of their reach. Remember that cats in Britain are thought to kill up to 70 million birds every year!

However many boxes you put out, there will always be a few bohemian birds that will pick a completely unexpected site to nest. Robins have been found nesting in old wellies and watering cans, blue tits in street lamps, redstarts in a mail box, even an old desk was used by tits that entered through the ink well! But wherever your opportunistic garden birds choose to nest, you’ll have a lot of pleasure watching them.

Happy bird watching and stay gardening wild!

See also the Helping Hand workshop:
How to encourage birds into your garden

Articles reprinted with permission from Greenfingers.com



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