Most of us associate February 14th with an altogether different holiday, but it also marks the start of this year’s ‘National Nestbox Week.’ This initiative by the BTO aims to raise avian awareness and invite residents to provide a more sustainable and attractive environment for our winged friends.
Any gardener worth his or her salt knows that their job isn’t done until it has the seal of approval from local wildlife, so we’re looking at how to bring this about more quickly.
Swift work is needed
One of the most iconic birds of the British summer is the swift, a migrating species that comes here from the shores of Africa in May. It stays only three months to breed, and then shoots back off again. The problem with swifts is that they generally won’t take to outdoor next boxes, and have become extremely infatuated with the grand English terraced house. Or cottage, or semi. They love nesting in existing buildings. Most churches will have a family or two in their spires, as will many older homes see them darting in and out of their eaves and crevices.
But modern homes are streamlined and draught-proof, meaning less pockets of privacy for swifts to nest in. Since 1995, their population has almost halved.
Swifts are very tidy birds, eating the droppings of their young, but they’re also fantastic allies for gardeners. They are avaricious when it comes to aphids and other insect pests, which is good news for your delicate plants and flowers. To give your local swift population a boost, simply replace one of your house’s bricks with a hollow one. A small opening is all that’s needed for a pair of swifts to deem it home.
Bringing the birds to roost
As for the multitude of other species we are lucky enough to have on our shores, there are a few key types of nest boxes that we can use to attract them in greater numbers.
The roosting pocket is a favourite of the wren. It affords greater environmental protection, something that smaller birds need more of, and is generally made from coconut fibre. These should be installed in quiet spots, sheltered from wind and rain and sun. When you don’t find wrens, you may find robins in the summer.
The Schwegler nestbox is made to be easy to install, inspect and clean. These strong and durable varieties will last upwards of 25 years and come in versions that cater specifically for house sparrows, nuthatches, treecreepers and more.
And of course, any sheltered container mounted high will lend a certain appeal to wayward birds. Just make sure it has a small opening and enough space inside to house the young – and you may find your garden a richer place come spring and summer.
Eden Restored is a team of passionate garden designers working throughout London, Kent and Surrey.
We deliver value-for-money on projects of any size, from inner-city courtyards to countryside cottages.
To discuss your ideas and how we can help throughout the entire process, get in touch.