Clean nest boxes

The nest boxes should be constructed so that they can be cleaned properly. They should be cleaned immediately after breeding or at the latest in -September or October, and rubber gloves should be worn as some bird-parasiti/ing insects will bite humans, causing red marks and itching. Burning the old nests taken out of the boxes will get rid of these ever-present vermin and their eggs.

To winter-proof the nest boxes one can line them with cotton, dry st raw, or wood shavings several weeks after washing, when the boxes are fully aired. This lining should be removed at the beginning of March and will probably contain a smaller amount of vermin, together with excrement from birds which have used the nest box during autumn and winter. Winter accommodation is not necessary, but it certainly has distinct advantages during severe winters. The chill of winter reaps many victims in spite of extensive winter feeding. Therefore you should combine winter feeding of protein-rich foods with the provision of warm nest boxes in the immediate vicinity. The nearerthe food the less energy is expended in reaching it and the more there is left over for warming the small bird's body.

In the middle of February nesi boxes should be 'serviced', repairing any damage and clearing out any squirrel dreys or owl pellets which may have appeared. Squirrel dreys should be removed early when the squirrels arc still in hibernation, otherwise they will disturb the birds' nest building. In any oihercircumsianccs the removal of squirrel dreys could be considered morally un justifiable. Remember that the red squirrel is a protected species in many countries, although this docs not apply to the introduced grey squirrel in Britain. The grcv squirrel is a voracious predator of birds'eggs and young and discouraging this animal may help your birds. In areas where kestrels are found, old squirrel nests should be left in the nesting box as this will increase the chances of the kestrels breeding.

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