We usually check out the bird boxes around the allotment site in late autumn but as the autumn and early winter were so wet and windy we didn’t fancy using the ladder on the soft, waterlogged ground. Eventually in mid-January we got it done.
Pete and I wandered around the site with step ladders and trug and of course both wearing a good pair of gloves to avoid any little nips from the nest mites that may still be in residence. They would normally have been killed off by now if we had had cold spells but with the milder than usual temperatures we were taking no chances.
As usual all the holed boxes had been nested in by Blue Tits and Great Tits so we removed the old nest materials of fine grasses, horse hair mosses etc. and put them on the communal compost heaps to rot down.
A bonus find was a Dunnock nest at the bottom of a cotoneaster shrub in the Autumn Garden, built just 9 inches from the ground. These secretive little songsters are normally very shy, spending much of their time skulking in hedge bottoms searching for insects and invertebrates. This pair were confident enough to build their nest right alongside a pathway, just a couple of feet from where people regularly pass following our “Interest Trail”. The nest is hard to see but try to spot it in these photos.
Completely different in character to the Dunnocks Great Tits are far more brazen. A pair had nested in this nest box fixed to the Communal Hut 2, one of the busiest places on the site. They gave hours of entertainment for members who could watch them taking nesting materials in, then the male bird feeding the female as she incubated the eggs and then the busiest time of all when both parents fed their hungry youngsters. Free entertainment when we enjoyed our tea breaks.
The nest boxes and bird feeding stations around the site afford members, their families, friends and our many visitors with plenty of entertainment and of course for the children they have an important educational role to play.
Of course being an all organic site we rely on our feathered friends to help us with our pest control. When feeding their nestlings the adult birds catch thousands of aphids and caterpillars.
None of the open fronted boxes were used last nesting season so we are hoping for success this year. We have tried moving a few to more secluded places where the birds may feel more confident to try them out. As our extension opened in the spring this year we have more nest boxes to go up – a job for the next week or two.