bird watching birds garden wildlife natural pest control wildlife

Nest Box Cam

During the early Winter I made a special nest box for Blue Tits, one designed to house a wireless camera. To finish the project son-in-law Rob fixed  the tiny “spy” camera inside and linked it up to our television. So now that it is fixed up, partly hidden in our grape vine, we patiently wait to see if a pair take up residence to raise a brood. Exciting!

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You can see the second hole on the side, covered in a sheet of scratched perspex placed to let some light in.

It felt so good to see our first images of the empty box appear on our TV screen. Just how excited will we become if we spot a Blue Tit entering! Watch this space! It will be so good if they do nest because not only will we love watching them but we will know that they will be acting as great natural pest controllers, devouring thousands of insects especially aphids and thousands of caterpillars as they raise their young. Now that is real natural gardening!

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birds garden wildlife gardening log piles natural pest control wildlife Yellow Book Gardens

Wildlife Homes and Green Men

When we opened our garden last August under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme and appeared in its famous Yellow Book we included in our details that we welcomed children. We were aware that few gardens make this obvious so we decided to reverse the trend. We made a few quiz sheets available for them to encourage them to look closely. They were very popular and most youngsters had a go. Some were very determined to find everything on the sheets. Great fun!

One quiz sheet featured our little collection of “green men” which we have scattered around the garden, some of which are hard to find.

The other invited our children visitors to seek out the large variteies of wildlife homes, shelters and nesting places.

I thought you might like to see the photos of the green men and our wildlife features. Amongst the green men is a definite intruder who lives in our Japanese Garden on the trunk of the Salix flexuosa.

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So now to our huge variety of wildlife features all designed and carefully placed to welcome all sorts of creatures, large and small.

Places for our feathered friends to roost and nest ………………

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Places for beetles, invertebrates and amphibians ……………………….

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Places for bees, lacewing and ladybirds ……………..

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Places for all sorts of beneficial creatures – whoever wishes to drop in ……………………

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We will have to think up some more quizes for our young visitors later this year.



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A Morning at the Allotments – Checking the Bird Boxes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Home Search

There seem to be too many members of the titmice family around this year looking for suitable nesting sites. All our nest boxes are occupied and being fought after. This little chap, a young male Great Tit is using his imagination and setting up home in one of our terracotta pots at ground level in the Beth Chatto Border, our gravel garden. He is just a few feet from our study window so is entertaining us as we work on the computer.

His family will provide us with natural pest control in return for our hospitality. Feeding a couple of nests of fledglings will dispose of thousands of aphids and caterpillars.


He is such a star we thought he deserved a little photo gallery all of his own. Just click on any pic.

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Cheeky Sparrows

What is it with House Sparrows? We all know now of the terrible plight of this “cheeky chappy”, the “cockney sparrer”, or as we called them as kids in Gloucestershire, “spaggies”. Their population has dropped drastically, in town and country. A year ago we were missing their constant chirpy chatter here in our Avocet garden as in the six years we had lived here they all but disappeared. We decided that we might reverse the trend a little by putting up a box for them – the real thing, a sparrow terrace with 3 nesting spaces. They had occasionally in the past pushed a pair of great tits out of one of their boxes so we put one of those metal plates with a small hole over the original hole and nearby nailed up the new “for sparrows only” box. The box was on the fence in the side garden opposite our kitchen window so we could watch for developments.

The old box with its new metal hole was grabbed early in the year by a pair of blue tits who took up residence in January and fought off all other prospective squatters. The house sparrows completely ignored their new box except occasionally using it as a perch or toilet. However we soon discovered a pair evicting great tits from a tit box in the back garden. The fight continued for weeks with nesting material being added in turn by the sparrows and the tits. The sparrows won in the end and have now raised a healthy and noisy brood. They are now sitting on the second batch of eggs.

But no sign of activity in the specially provided sparrow terrace – unless of course you count the blue tit family in residence in the end terrace!

The wrong box!