11 February 2000

FEATHERED FRIENDS

ALL YEAR…

IT can be disappointing when you have fed your garden birds all through the winter, to have them fly to a neighbours garden to make their nests. But by providing nest boxes you can enjoy their company in the spring and summer, too.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) starts its National Nest Box Week on Feb14 – St Valentines Day – because of its public appeal and the time when birds traditionally pair for the coming year.

There is a real shortage of cavity nesting sites for birds. Winter storms can rip the heart out of copses and woodland and while the felled trees are quickly taken over by other wildlife, their use as a nesting site for most birds ends. In many gardens nest boxes are the only places for hole-nesters to breed safely.

In the modern countryside and garden, rotten trees and stumps are all too quickly felled and there are far fewer holes in modern buildings. Putting up a couple of well-designed boxes in your garden can make a real difference for your local birds and give you much pleasure at the same time.

While some cavity nesting birds are able to construct their own holes, most are not. They depend on natural sites or old holes left by woodpeckers. But there are just not enough of these natural sites to go round. The type of nest box you erect will influence the species of bird attracted to your garden. You might even entice species not normally seen in gardens, like the pied flycatcher, providing your farm is within its localised but expanding range and has deciduous woodland.

According to ecologist, Chris Mead, many organisations will join in the event to promote the idea of more nest boxes in the countryside. "We are mainly concentrating on ordinary nest boxes suitable for birds like tits and tree sparrows or with open fronts for robins and spotted flycatchers."

The BTO has adopted the special "woodcrete" nest box of Jacobi Jayne & Company, the founding sponsors of National Nest Box Week, as the "official" nest box for the week. It is very sturdy, has excellent insulating properties, is readily occupied and is guaranteed for 25 years against damage in ordinary use. It costs £19.95 from the address below. Details of how to make standard tit boxes, and how and where to erect them, are available free from: NNBW, Freepost 1155, Canterbury, Kent CT3 4BR.

Bird boxes

provide safe nesting sites.