We have learned a lot about birds over the past couple of years (especially me!). Now that we can recognise the birds in our garden, we have decided that it is time to expand and try to make our garden more inviting for birds.
There are a few ways we’ve done this. Last summer Phil an the children cleared away the stones that were our previous landscaping. Then they planted a lawn, which Tristan really enjoyed seeing come up. A water feature came with our house when we purchased it, and though it doesn’t really suit our style, we’ve kept it for the relaxing sound of running water, but also because the birds enjoy using it for a place to have a drink and a dip.
The next logical step for us was to build a bird box to see if any birds would take up residence for the children to watch and learn more about them. The children have been so busy, they’ll soon have an entire subdivision set up. I hope they’ve received planning permission!
Phil made a trip out to the DIY store and brought home a length of wood. We downloaded instructions on building a bird nest box from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), the big authority on birds in the UK. Phil and Tristan then set to measuring and marking out the dimensions from the plans onto the lumber. Although the general dimensions may not make a big difference, the size of the ‘door’ will dictate what kind of bird can access the nesting box.
We took the board to a friend’s home for cutting, but it turned out the board suggested at the DIY store was too warped and wasn’t thick enough to make a good bird box. You live and learn!
A ‘new’ piece of board was found, recycled from something else and the measurements were made and the board cut and nailed into place to make a fine-looking bird box.
Phil found the sturdiest tree he could that could also be seen from our kitchen window and fastened the bird box to the tree.
As it happened, our next door neighbour had the same idea in mind and later that week gave the children a bird box, complete with their names on it! He had one for himself to add to his collection of well-used bird boxes. This one was hung up with care on our fence so it could be seen from the windows. Our neighbour’s box had a winter resident within a day, so we were very hopeful ours would find residents in the spring.
We waited patiently all winter. Bird boxes should generally be put up around December/January so that the birds will either get to know they are there for when they need them for laying their eggs and raising their young. It’s not common for them to be used over the winter, but there are some birds that will indeed use them as winter shelter. Winter passed and spring arrived. Our neighbour’s bird boxes were filled with busy parents bringing food to their young. But alas, our bird boxes were empty. Perhaps our rates were too high, or we didn’t fall within the school catchment area? I will admit that there are better restaurants (bird food choices) next door, but surely a bird could fly the few meters to make a reservation!
We didn’t let last year get us down, we’re hopeful the birdy housing market will pick up and the market will start to move again. As part of our village festival in August there was an event at Jubilee Wood for children to learn about building bird boxes and other nifty creations. But the children were so into the bird boxes there wasn’t enough time for anything else…but that gives them a new opportunity to do it next year.
The wood had been pre-cut to save time so the children chose the pieces they’d need and went to work sanding the rough ends of the boards. Then they all had a great time banging away with hammers to assemble the boxes. Kallista didn’t care for the noise and all of the strangers so she kept close to me. Tristan had the expert help of the coordinator to put his bird box together.
Then he had fun choosing templates and paint and stencilling colourful designs on his new bird establishment. It was a bit of a chore carrying this sturdy box with wet paint home while holding the hands of two hungry children, but we managed without incident.
With the wild weather we’ve been having the past two weeks the newest condo hasn’t found its plot yet, but it will very soon.
2014 will see us participating in many new projects that will deal with gardening, nature and our environment. What is something you will do this year for your environment?
You can find the dimensions to build your own bird box on the RSPB website.
If you’re interested in nature, see some of the other things we’ve done: