Some wildlife that I have tried to encourage to breed in my garden came within months, weeks, days even.

But Starlings? There was clearly no history of them being here, no holes suitable for them, nowhere with the short vegetation they need to feed.

Six years later, and with beautiful Starling nestboxes adorning my house, at last, they've decided to set up home here. And I love them - the little bird of stars, as the name means and as the plumage so clearly shows, here down among my Cowslips. A bird that has undergone such terrible declines; so sad for something so beautiful.

The only thing is they have decided to nest in my Swift box instead. Clearly they know best!

(I don't really have an elevated set of eaves with a clear flight in, so expecting Swifts was always something of a long shot, so don't worry, it is not as if the Starlings have ousted any!)

For Starlings, once the four or five eggs are laid, incubation is rather quick, taking only about 11 or 12 days. But then raising the chicks to the point of fledging is quite long - usually about three weeks.

They can have a reputation for being a bit messy in and around the box, but see in the photo above how the parents are trying hard to do some domestics.

And to try and keep some vestiges of personal hygiene, mum and dad have also been coming down to have a frantic wash each evening in the birdbath.

The end result takes me back to my youth when copious amounts of hair gel were applied daily.

Then, on Thursday morning, where the box had been so active for the last month, there was silence. I presume the young have fledged successfully, and will be hounding their parents out on a sports pitch somewhere or in someone else's garden.

And in another two weeks or so, the process is likely to start all over again for the second brood. I'd better get that birdbath topped up ready!

Anonymous