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Clean out thy bird boxes

wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,912
I'm almost done clearing the old nests out of my bird boxes and giving them a spruce up for the winter now. I'm up to over 20 boxes in various places now so it takes a while to get through them all. The nests or old debris gets taken out, then boxes are then cleaned with boiling water (or using the steam cleaner if the wife is out) and some of them get a bed of wood shavings to keep the floor warmer and more absorbant for birds that use the boxes as a roost over the winter. I pick a mild weekend to do it if I can as I invariably have to evict some tenants and it's only fair to give them time to find new homes.

This year has been harsh weather wise so I was expecting to see more failed nests but there have definitely been a lot of successful fledgings including my first nuthatch nest which I'm very pleased with. One box had the remains of a large wasp nest and another had the start of a wasp nest but probably got evicted by the birds before it got very far.

The giveaway for a nuthatch nest is when you find mud plastered around the entrance hole like this. The light pink is the removable door to the box and the brown is the nuthatch's construction work.

The remains of the wasp nest. It had probably been picked apart by birds looking for left over grubs.

This is how I boil the water in the woods.

The kettle burns anything to boil the water, including wasp nests :)

So give your boxes a clean and don't forget to check any boxes fitted with cameras to see if they're getting used for roosting over the winter. Post if you see anything good B)


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 30,989
    Lovely pix e.edges. Are they all in your garden? The wasp nest is a fair size. 
    I've missed seeing the nuthatches I had visiting winter before last. I was hoping they'd keep returning. There's a small NT garden near me, so I think they mainly live there. Great to see what their nests are like.  :)

    This is a timely thread as I got a little bird box, on a whim, and was looking for a suitable spot for it yesterday. I also wondered about putting something in it. I've got some hay - would that be ok do you think? I can get shavings easily enough anyway. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,912
    Some are in my garden but most are at my parents' place as they've got a couple of acres and plenty of mature trees. The nuthatch nest was really unusual, apart from the mud it had made a thick base of wood chips and bark and then layered up leaves on top of that. It must be a lot of work for them.

    I'm not sure about hay, the only problem would be if it went mouldy if it got wet. I use shavings as they insulate the floor of those woodcrete boxes and make it warmer for the birds. They'll drag moss in there too sometimes. I had one box that had a whole colony of wrens in there during the really cold weather and the shavings kept it all nice and dry but they were minging by the spring. I just give them a sweep out at the end of winter but the birds will clean it all out anyway if you don't.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 30,989
    Good point re the hay. I've not got the concrete box kind either, so it's far more likely to get wet - especially with the rain we get, even under the conifer, which is where I'd probably put it.  :) 
    I do have a little wren visiting regularly, so it would be brilliant if it was used by them - or anything, to be honest. I take it you saw them, or did you have a camera in the box?
    The nuthatch nest is fascinating. Hard work for them , as you say. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,912
    I was lucky with the wrens and happened to be nearby when one came in to roost and kept an eye on the box to see if it came back out again but it was joined by several others.

    My wren nest box is an open fronted box with one of those woven roosting pockets stuffed inside. This was from last year, you can just see the little beaks poking out. :)

  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,006
    After cleaning out a nest box is it advisable to but some sort of nesting material in it?
    I always think about putting in a little duvet for them!!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,912
    I put nesting material out in an old fatball feeder in the spring but if there's enough natural material about they'll find their own easily enough. I keep a log of what the nests are made out of in each box and I'm starting to see trends of preferred materials in certain boxes. One always has brightly coloured man-made fibres like fuzz picked off tennis balls or bits of clothes stolen from washing lines I suppose. Another has been all animal fur 2 years in a row now while the others around it have been all moss and feather.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 30,989
    I've often wondered about keeping the fluff from the tumble drier filter for them, to put in one of those feeders at nesting time. I always thought it might not be good as it's largely synthetic though. I ought to keep all the fluffy seedheads from the alpina clematis. They look like cosy little fluff balls anyway.

    Those wrens are beyond cute, w.edges.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • We line our boxes with fallen leaves and a bit of moss growing in the lawn.   We did this last year and found more bird nests were made in the boxes that we had lined than the boxes that had nothing put into them.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 30,989
    That's interesting GD - and makes sense. I might try and find a few bits and pieces [and dry them off!] to put inside before I put it up  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,912
    I did a quick check and spring clean of a few boxes over the weekend. The ones that have been used as winter roosts are getting a bit filthy so it's nice to give them a sweep out before the birds start prospecting them for nesting in the spring. It's always a bit hard to judge the timing but it's been mild so I thought I better get it done before March this year just in case. They don't need much more than a sweep out and fresh wood shavings but it saves the birds some work and lets me know how much use they've had over the winter. I've noticed the boxes nearest the feeders tend to get used the most at this time of year.
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