Now is prime time to watch birds in boxes.

We’re lucky: almost every year blue tits nest in the box in our garden, which we carefully placed out of the way of cats on the side of a shed.
Early in the year we spot them investigating it, then later on taking in nesting material. Now (6 May) the blue tit parents are busy feeding their youngsters tasty (to them) caterpillars and bugs!

Early this year we put up a second box, suitable for larger birds. The small scrubby woodland didn’t appear to have the necessary natural holes and cracks birds might be able to nest in, so we fixed the box on a mature sycamore and waited…

Yesterday we watched at a safe distance so as not to disturb anything that might be using the box; imagine our delight when we saw an adult great tit taking food in, and small beaked mouths on the inside…! My son – who made the box with a friend at Scouts – had become a ‘father’!

Not all birds use holes to nest in. Some species, like blackbirds, long-tailed tits and dunnocks nest al fresco, on branches, among ivy, or in hedges and dense scrub; but other, like coal tits, blue and great tits, nuthatches and woodpeckers look for a hole in a tree or peck out their own where the wood is softer, like a natural rot hole or where a branch has come off. Most woodlands with mature, broadleaf trees like oak or ash have enough natural nooks and crannies, but gardens without natural holes can really benefit from carefully placed nest boxes.

Did you know: great tits can lay up to 12 eggs! The males have a more distinct, full black band down their belly than the females; the females can look especially bedraggled at this time of year, because they spend more time in the nest.

For more information on nest boxes, take a look here

Please remember to keep a safe distance from nesting birds - they can be easily disturbed or stop feeding their hungry youngsters if you get too close too often.

Images: RSPB The Lodge