Your Garden in February
The last full month of winter is time to appreciate the first hints of the coming spring and make sure that your garden has plenty of potential bird nesting sites.
We’re now in the last full month of winter and, whatever February throws at us, spring isn’t too far away. Hedgehogs and bats should still be hibernating but the first squirrel litters are likely to be born around now and, by the end of the month, an increasing number of ponds will have frog spawn.
Other signs of the approach spring are the lengthening days, the first green shoots of cuckoo pint and violet pushing up among the snowdrops, and the increasing number of birds that are singing.
The bird song is a method of attracting a mate and defending a breeding territory. This has happened every spring for centuries, leading our ancestors to believe that the birds paired up on St Valentine’s Day, a belief that is carried on into National Nestbox Week, which starts on the 14th of February every year.
Early nesters such as Crossbills, Ravens and Grey Herons are already busily incubating, and by the end of the month it’s highly likely that a few Mallards, Mistle Thrushes and Robins will be sitting on eggs, but for most species the breeding season is still a little way off, although the birds may well have chosen a mate by now.
Birds will be looking for nesting territories, which makes February the ideal month to put up a new nest box. There are lots of different designs to choose from, including nest boxes for specific species, but a good rule for a typical garden is to have two or three 32mm hole entrance nest boxes, sited at least two metres apart, and one or two open-fronted nest boxes.
Our WoodStone® nest boxes are made from a long-lasting concrete and wood mix that offers excellent protection from weather and predators such as squirrels or woodpeckers.
Siting for most nest boxes is quite straightforward:
• Hole entrance boxes need protection from rain and full sunshine, so work best if facing somewhere between north, through east to south east, but can face in another direction if sheltered by a mature hedge or whatever. In quiet areas height is unimportant, so you can site at a convenient height for cleaning out in the autumn. If disturbance is a possibility, aim for at least 2 metres above ground. On tree trunks, avoid the damp strip that the rain runs down.
• Open-fronted boxes work best when protected by vegetation, preferably thorny. An open-fronted next box on an exposed wall is unlikely to be used as the occupants will be vulnerable to predators, rain and sun, but moving it to a sheltered aspect behind an established climber should greatly increase its worth.
Cleaning should be left until October or November and just involves removing the contents with a gloved hand. If a nest box hasn’t been used for three whole breeding seasons it’s probably a good idea to move it.
If squirrels are present it’s worth fitting a metal nest box plate to wooden boxes.
A nice weekend or half-term holiday activity to share with children is to help them make their own nest box, using pre-cut wood with all the fastenings supplied.
We also have the below nest box kits:
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