During the Winter I spent a few days getting round the fourteen nest boxes dotted about the garden. The predecessor to my role here and the first to take up the challenge in it’s early stages, was no doubt given the weighty task of hanging each of them in place. Thankfully encouraging wildlife is considered important to the garden owners and their collective initial efforts were commendable. However as I slowly came to locate them, now submerged in ivy or smothered in new growth, it seemed that quite a few were placed in ways not ideal for attracting and accommodating the birds that would seek to inhabit them.
As it’s good practice (so I’ve been told by my RSPB friend) to clean a nest box out after each season ready for the next, I decided to take them all down, clean them out, and re-adjust their position. It was mostly a case of sighting them higher up in the same trees (almost exclusively sycamores), away from any immediate horizontal branches (to deter cats and other potential carnivorous bringers of destruction) and facing out towards the South enabling the tree trunk to block out any northern winds.
Now in Spring, so far it seems that almost every single box has either been visited or taken up by nesting birds. As is the typical experience, almost all are tits. It’s always tits. In fact I’ve seen 3 of our 4 most common tits having a poke round a box. This is simply down to the similarity it shares with their natural site of choice; usually a tree or stone crevice with low light and a single entry gap. In fact nest boxes over the last few decades have played an important role in adding to the numbers of the species. However I was pretty excited to find that nuthatches were nesting in one of the larger boxes further out towards the woodland. I’d been hearing them calling all through early Spring, their sound being so distinctive and piercing, almost tropical. And occasionally I’d caught a sight of them running up (and down) the larger robinias at the top end of the garden. I took the below photos from quite a distance, after being very, very patient.
I was donated a nest box camera last year too, and having fitted it into the nearest box to the shed during the clean-up, and only last week found a tv that worked, I was amazed to switch it on and see a family of blue-tits already nested. The mother seems to be preparing to sit, having laid 9 eggs, while her mate turns up with regular grub-meals.
I’ve now moved our broody into the tortoise pen so that she is more comfortable and away from the other two. The tortoises are temporarily bunking in with me in the shed.
My bantam-breeding friend Alex has sent me some fertile mixed bantam eggs in the post and I’ve now placed them under the hen, removing all but two of the original infertile eggs, just in case it confuses her. Frustratingly she doesn’t seem to want to feed or drink herself so I’m taking her off the nest once a day for 10-15 minutes to have a drink, feed and a quick scratch around.
I’m still uncertain whether it will be possible to raise bantams under an orpington, but time will tell. 18 days to go..