My fascination for birds started when I was a little girl. My step father would quiz me on the birds we could see from our window or through our binoculars on a walk. With its diverse landscapes and habitat, Yorkshire is a fantastic place to grow up in and I am lucky to be able to watch garden birds from my window or watch waders skimming the edges of lakes just down the road at the local nature reserve.
My favourite thing about bird watching is observing their behaviour as they search for food, preen their feathers and interact with their fellow feather friends around them. There are not many animals that can be so readily observed in their natural habitats, but many birds can be observed easily, mostly because so many species will be abundant within one area, and the fact that they can fly means they can be easily spotted as they move from tree to tree.
Now that March has arrived, birds all around the country will have already paird up and have begun hunting for the ideal nesting site to raise their young. Watching is wonderful, but I’ve also found great joy in doing my part to help birds in my area, whether by hanging some feed or by providing suitable nesting areas and materials.
Building a nest box to put up in your garden is not only fun, it will also encourage birds around your yard or garden to raise their young, giving you the opportunity to see them raise their family, right in front of you. I was surprised when I built my first bird box how simple it really is. Once you gather the supplies you need, you can really get it done in a matter of an hour or two.
A bird box is best crafted with wood as it will keep chicks warm during the cold nights and cool during the warmer days. It’s the most natural option for the birds and also the one that will house them most appropriately from the elements. You’ll want several slabs of wood at least 15mm thick and 150mm by 300mm in dimension (though you’ll ultimately be cutting some of these down to different sizes). Six slabs should do the trick (floor, roof, back, front, and sides), though you may want an extra one or two in case you mess up. Wood can be purchased from your local hardware store or timber yard. If you live in East Riding of Yorkshire, I can supply you with wood as we have our own small timber yard here at the wood.
Tools to use:
You’ll also need a few every-day tools. In addition to a ruler and perhaps some sanding paper, you’ll need a saw, a hammer, nails, and a power drill. If you don’t have the right tools then check out any hardware store or head to the UK’s leading trade tool supplier also offers quick shipping options that can get you that power drill or a fresh, sharp saw in 24 or 48 hours!
Planning your box:
Once you have your materials and tools it just comes down to a little bit of construction, and this is the fun part. I’d recommend starting with a ruler and a marker to draw out the dimensions on your slabs of wood before sawing. I recommend following nest box guidelines from one of the conservation charities as they know exactly what birds like. I follow this guide for bird box sizing (including different hole sizes in front for different types of birds you may want to attract).
Cut your wood:
Cut the wood according to whatever guide you may choose, it’s as simple as cutting out a small hole in what will be the front of the box and then nailing all the pieces together. Once that’s done, you’ll want to use the aforementioned power drill to make a few small holes in the floor of the box so that water can drain in the event of heavy rains. But the rest is up to your little winged friends!
Hang your box:
Once the box is ready, you can simply attach it to a tree, fence or shed in your gardn or yard. When choosing the location for your box, consider whether predators such as cats can reach the box. Try to avoid areas where cats can easily climb up to your box.
When we first arrived at the wood over 15 years ago we started putting bird boxes up. We now have a number of boxes suitable for blue tits, great tits, robins, wrens and, my favourite, tawny owls. Watching birds use a bird box you have put up will give you a sense of connection to the nature around you, and it’s exciting to watch the parent birds as they bring food back for their young. If you are very lucky, you may even get to see the moment the chicks leave the box for the very first time an amazing experience for anyone of any age.