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Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Great time to give back to feathered friends in National Nest Box week

In just a few weeks the annual celebration of National Nest Box week will be upon us, but why wait? Writes Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

There is no reason why you can’t start to consider if there is anywhere on the exterior of your homes, in your gardens or in community spaces where boxes could be installed ahead of this year’s nesting season.

Nest Box Week is traditionally timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, a nice romantic link that picks up on the fact many birds are seeking out mates around this time, but with many species now nesting considerably earlier than just a few decades ago, the earlier boxes are installed the better.

Wren on post Notts WT Photo: Bo Chetwyn. (44016738)
Wren on post Notts WT Photo: Bo Chetwyn. (44016738)

Getting boxes up early gives birds more time to check them out before making their choice and boxes installed in winter can also provide vital safe roosting options for species such as the wren.

As a small, insect-eating bird, winter is a particularly challenging time for the wren so in an effort to keep warm at night they are known to seek out and share nooks and crannies, perhaps in the cavity of a decaying tree, in which to roost. Groups of five to nine huddling together for warmth are quite common, as many as 30, and in exceptional cases 60, have been known to squeeze into a single nest box to beat the cold.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden or even an outdoor space such as a balcony, then it is very likely you’ll be able to find to be somewhere you can instal a box.

Blue tit NottsWT cpt Emma Coalwood (44016710)
Blue tit NottsWT cpt Emma Coalwood (44016710)

If you don’t have a garden, is there anywhere you could ask your employer about putting up boxes or speak to your child’s school to see if there’s room in the grounds?

Other options include community spaces, such as around village greens, communal gardens or even on the walls of your village hall or community centre.

In the past we have worked with local authorities to instal house sparrow boxes on properties.

An exciting and relatively recent approach is communities teaming up to consider how they can encourage supporting wildlife.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

This approach is a foundation of the Hedgehog Street programme, which encourages people to get to know their neighbours and to take collective action to boost the chances of one of our most threatened mammals.

By looking beyond the boundaries of our own gardens we can work together to make neighbourhoods and even entire cities more welcoming to wildlife.

In Nottingham, volunteers led by Trish and Nick at INSTAR have set up a Swift Street initiative with the aim of boosting the survival chances of these amazing birds.

In addition to boosting the survival chances for birds in areas where traditional nesting opportunities are becoming scarce, this work also helps ensure residents can continue to enjoy the sight of these birds soaring over the rooftops each summer.

As well as being a good time to put up a nest boxes, now is a great time to start putting out food for birds.

Natural supplies of food, such as fruit, nuts and berries, can be very scarce and difficult to find in mid-winter as temperatures drop well below freezing.

The food we put out for birds can become a real lifeline and by providing a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fatty items and something like dried mealworms for insect eaters, we can help a range of species.

If you continue feeding through the spring and into the summer you will give the adult birds a real boost and dramatically increase the survival chances of any chicks in nest boxes in your garden or nearby.

As an added bonus you’ll also boost the wildlife watching opportunities in your garden and this potential for connecting with nature at close quarters could be very welcome if the current lockdown continues.

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