BIRD BOXES harbour fleas and other parasites from year to year. So if you haven’t already had a look in your boxes and done the annual clean, now is the time to check the weather forecast and find a few dry days to do it.
Empty out any nesting material, unhatched eggs, or strange creatures sticking the lid down with webbing, and scald the inside of the box with boiling water. Leave the lid off (or wedge it open) for a few days to dry. If you can, put a handful of hay in the base that can provide both some warmth for anything using the box over winter and the start of a nest come the spring. PLEASE do not use cleaning chemicals or biocides.
No nest boxes in the garden? This is a great time to put one up and they make a perfect Christmas present. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website, www.rspb.org.uk, has masses of advice on what to choose and where to put them. They sell a range of bird boxes from their online store. The local RSPB group will have bird boxes for sale at the Green Christmas event at Caversham Court on Saturday 4 December. Reading University researchers found putting a bird box up near a bird feeder encourages predation by squirrels, so try to keep the nest box several metres away from a feeding station.
Peeking into bird boxes to see how the chicks are doing is strictly forbidden, but you can buy yourself an extra present this Christmas and invest in a bird box camera: https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/nest-box-accessories/
by Tricia Marcouse