The best laid plans....
As with most people, I tend to think that nest boxes come into their own during the spring. After all, this is when birds will be nesting, so it's logical to imagine that for the rest of the year they are sitting empty. But the recent installation of a new nest box (one fitted with a camera) to the outside of the house has changed this perception.
The new nest box replaced an existing one that had been regularly used by blue tits, as you can see from this shot. The thinking being that by swapping boxes, they would more readily use the new box when the time came for the birds to start raising the 'class of 2020'. Having got the camera all wired up, I left it switched off for some weeks. After all, no birds would be visiting anytime soon, or so I thought.
Out of idle curiosity, I switched the camera on one day, and to my surprise, a blue tit had taken shelter in the new box. This happened every night for some time, and it soon became evident that the floor of the next box was becoming soiled so, when the new resident was out during the day, I put a thin covering of hay on the bottom to make it easier to clean out nearer nesting time.
Since then the nest box has been occupied almost every night by, I assume, by the same bird. This is despite our garden being surrounded by a wide variety of trees and bushes. We even have a small patch of woodland and as a result, a variety of suitable nesting habitat. Despite all these more natural options, it would seem that this blue tit prefers our nest box. Seeing as this is probably the safest place to roost and that it is dry and out of the cold winds, it's not surprising.
It's good to see these locations being used during the autumn and winter and highlights the need to have nest boxes set up in our gardens - almost as much as feeding stations. With suitable nesting and roosting sites in decline, it falls to those of us who want to help our local birds to provide places like this. Nest boxes are not expensive, and although they don't last forever, they will, if looked after, provide the birds with shelter for a number of years.
A nest box is not just for spring