This is the time of year, particularly with some sunny weather, when stories from the wildlife-friendly garden start to come thick and fast.

But while I'm itching to talk about crocuses and woodpeckers and bumblebees, I'm writing this on 14 February so that means there's just one topic - nestboxes. Valentine's Day is typically given as the day to think of putting up a new box.

The basic idea is of course quite simple - in ancient woodland, birds that like to nest in holes have access to all sorts of natural rot holes and old woodpecker holes in old trees. In contrast, gardens are generally too young to have such opportunities, so by providing artifical holes, we can fill the gap.

However, there is now a second very good reason to put up nestboxes. In the past, some birds, in particular House Sparrows, Starlings and Swifts, became very used to nesting in holes in our houses. Today, people are very adept at filling up any gaps that previously would have allowed birds into gaps in the brickwork or under the eaves. And that's fine, as long as we provide those birds with a replacement.

So yesterday. with the weather set fair, I grabbed the moment to add to my collection of nestboxes around the house and garden.

Up went a Blue Tit box with 25mm hole

And a Great Tit box with 28mm hole

And a Starling box with 45mm hole, erected on a tree.

And another Starling box and a bat box on the east side of the house.

My totals are now 5 House Sparrow boxes, 4 Starling boxes, 1 Swift box, 2 House Martin cups, 5 bat boxes, 6 tit boxes, 2 Stock Dove boxes, 2 Kestrel boxes, 3 Wren/Robin boxes and a Tawny Owl box.

Not all of them will be used; not all of them will be used by the species for which they were intended!

But the opportunity is there for those that want it.

Here's the amazing thing: 30 minutes after the new Blue Tit box went up, a pair were investigating it.And this morning, new residents took over the Starling box on the house. Starlings? No! A pair of House Sparrows!

That's how eager hole-nesting birds are at this time of year; they have their house-hunting heads on, and they're ready to move in in an instant. If you'd like to boost your invitation to tenants, then I see the RSPB shop has an offer on at the moment for money off when you buy two RSPB nestboxes. You may well make some lovebirds' day!

Anonymous