This week’s guest column comes from Dr Chris Andrews, from the RSPB...
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Sounds like a pretty good property, doesn’t it? But I’m not talking human habitation, rather a nest box for birds. February might seem rather dank and cold to us, but wildlife knows that spring is on the way. So they start to make preparations and, in the case of birds, that involves finding somewhere snug to raise their family.
Putting up a nest box can be a really great way to encourage a little slice of nature into your garden. And it isn’t just good for the birds. Watching a pair of birds raising their chicks can provide hours of enjoyment. Some nest boxes these days even come with cameras inside that can be attached to your TV or computer, so you can see everything that happens. Rather like your very own Springwatch. Keen gardeners too should be interested in providing a home for the birds. Hungry chicks need a lot of caterpillars and grubs to eat, so your garden will get some thorough pest control, free of charge!
Nestboxes come in various sizes and shapes, but the basic model is a squarish box, with a round hole in the front. This will attract members of the tit family. Blue tits will like boxes with small holes, the larger great tits need a larger hole. If instead of the round hole you have a large opening, you may attract a robin or a wren instead.
I am often asked where the best place to put a nest box is. Direction is quite important, with boxes facing between north and east doing best. Height, the amount of nearby cover and proximity to bird feeders are also matters to consider. For in-depth advice, do visit the RSPB web pages.
Nest boxes are now sold in most garden centres, or you could build one yourself. There are designs to follow on lots of websites, including the RSPB one. The important thing to check for any box though is that there is at least a 12cm gap between the bottom of the hole and the bottom of the box. Any shallower, and cats will be able to fish the nestlings out. So this February, set yourself up a nestbox, and experience the joys of giving nature a home.