The countdown to National Nest Box Week 2015 is almost over! Tomorrow, 14th February marks not only Valentine’s Day but the start of the BTO’s campaign to get people out into their gardens, building and putting up nest boxes for birds.
If you haven’t already made a bird feeder or built a nest box and would like to, you can find handy guides on our blog. If however you are all ready and set to go, you might just need a few tips on monitoring and maintaining your next box over the coming week.
Taking a Peek
Of course it is tempting to take a sneak peek into your nest box to see how your feathery visitor is getting on. It is safe to do this occasionally, providing you approach their nesting place quietly and carefully. If you are taking a quick look, the bird inside is likely to sit very tight on her nest.
If you visit early in the morning however, you may find that the bird has left her nest to search for a quick meal. In this case, you could use the opportunity to count the number of eggs in the nest and note it down.
You could also consider installing a nest box camera before the breeding season starts to see the chicks as they grow.
Monitoring the Nest
If you have registered your nest box on the BTO website but find that it is empty, the British Trust for Ornithology would still like your feedback. Similarly, if you find a nest in your box that has been abandoned or destroyed, this can still be recorded.
If you are lucky enough to find a nesting bird in your box, you will find that during the incubation period, they will spend most of their time sitting on the eggs. This will make it trickier for you to count the nest contents, however it is best to leave them alone and replace the lid carefully. You can always go back later to visit when the bird has left for a short while.
Newly fledged birds that end up on the ground or out in the open straight after leaving the nest, sadly are highly vulnerable to predators. Attempting to catch birds or move them can cause more harm as you can scare them and the adults. The parents will usually be close by so it is best not to interfere.
If you are worried about cats attacking your nest box, have a think about what you can do to deter them away from that area during breeding season.
Cleaning your Nest Box
Old nests can be removed once the breeding season is over. This is also the time when the nest box can be cleaned out. According to Bird Protection Law, nests can be cleaned out between 1st August and 31st January. Dead eggs need to be thrown away and they cannot be kept or sold.
Some nests need to be left until sometime during autumn when it definite they are no longer in use. This applies to some hole-nesting species, including sparrows who may have 2nd or 3rd broods in the same nest.
Wear surgical gloves and a dust mask when cleaning out your nest box as old ones can harbour fungi growing on damp nest material. There can also be a mixture of parasites found in there including fleas, ticks and lice. Put the contents of the box straight into a plastic bag and seal it before disposal.
Good luck with your own National Nest Box Week and let us know how it goes! Share your progress with us via social media or in the comment section below.