Keep a register of your nest box birds

If you have many nest boxes, it can be good fun to keep a record of visitors, in which case it helps to number the boxes. I have used black plastic numbers from old car registration plates. Fasten the numbers to the boxes using copper or aluminium tacks which will not rust. The box numbers can thus be seen from a long distance a great advantage.

I have also successfully placed numbers on small pieces of thin waste wood which were sawn up into 10 cm long pieces and painted with wood preservative oil to inhibit rotting. Holes were drilled in the wood, and the plaques were fastened to trees using aluminium nails. These pieces of wood can thus all be placed at the same height and facing in the same direction so that observers can read them from a particular vantage point.

Numbering of nest boxes is absolutely essential, if one wishes to carry-out studies of birds using the boxes; the risk of confusion is then minimized. It is also an idea to make a map of the area with the nest box positions marked by their numbers.

However, a pair of binoculars should be used if you wish to make a reasonably intensive study of your bird guests. Some bird books claim that the breeding process can be observed by looking into the nest box. but I think this entirely wrong as it encourages people who are not sufficiently acquainted with the ways of birds to open up nests and look inside, which may result in the nest being abandoned. Young which are ready to fly may be panicked when the nest box is opened and fly off, being scattered like bait in the wind, and falling easy victim to crows, magpies, and roving cats.

Instead you can observe, for example, the following;

1. The arrival dates of the various specics of migratory birds in the area and which sex arrives first (males usually come first).

2. At what time of day and for how long during the breeding season the male bird sings.

3. When nest building begins (when the bird is seen carrying nest material in its beak).

4. If the male bird feeds the brooding female and, if so, with what.

5. When the parents begin to feed and when the young have clearly hatched.

6. When the young leave the nest.

All of these points can be observed with the eye or with binoculars without looking into the nest box. When you clean the nest box in the autumn you will also be able to see what the nest has been made from, and what old food, if any, remains in it. Once you do become experienced it is possible to check on progress without too much risk of disturbing the occupants. By avoiding the most sensitive times mentioned above and by being quick, careful, and never attempting stupid actions like touching the brooding adult it is possible to collect breeding information without causing any harm. You can fill out a card for each nest box and keep a record from year to year. Information may be entered on year or species based files such as that illustrated on the next page.

This sequence of data provides information on egg layingdatc, clutch size in relation to date, hatching and fledgling success rate, all of which taken with data from other nests, enables rcscachers to build up a picture of the breeding biology and population recruitment for the species.

In Britain it is possible to contribute to the British Trust for

Specie* CI real l it i.oealilj Denny l.odge, Year

Now I'Oicsi

Observer K A. Courtier Box Dala

Position On pine trunk Boxlype I it box

Dimensions 25* 16 - 16 cm Hole diameter ,1.5 cm Height from ground 1.5 rn

Dale

\re?.l Contents

23 April 5 May 15 M ay

Heinti built

Female onh building

23 April 5 May 15 M ay

6 eggs

Female sitting Newlv hatched

Well feathered. ready to fly Young flown

Ornithology's nest recording scheme, thus contributing to research into bird conservation being carried out by amateur bird watchers on a countrywide scale. Details and nest record cards may be obtained by wr iting to the B.T.O., Beech Grove, Tring. Hertfordshire HP23 5NR.

The nest box has just celebrated its 200-year jubilee in Sweden. It was introduced into Europe and Sweden at the end of the 18th century. Starling nest boxes were then set up on a large scale on the islands of Oland and Gotland, but it was not until the 1850s that nest boxes bccame common throughout Sweden. Such boxes first appeared in India; European travellers were surprised to find a type of round bird-house made from bark and set up in long lines around villages. They brought back this pleasant new custom to Europe and Sweden. The results I have recorded in this book represent 29 years of field experience from my own private research using my own nest boxes of various types which have gradually grown in number to 130 in the last 10 years.

One of the longest running nest box schemes in Britain is that first set up by the Forestry Commission at Nagshcad in the Forest of Dean in 1942. This scheme was kept going by the students at the forestry school there under Bruce Campbell's supervision for some 30 years and later by individual Forestry Commission staff until the area was included within a larger area leased as a reserve to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1973.

This book will attempt to give some tips on nest boxes for different species which you can either build yourself or buy, as well as to give some insight into the family life of birds which use these boxes. Good luck with your future bird visitors.

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