by Society members
featured in Wharfedale Newspapers
It’s definite. Blue tits have adopted our nest-box,
and keep ducking in and out in the most promising manner.
Over the years our box has usually been occupied. However,
last year was we thought no-one had moved in. We were wrong.
When I came to scald out the box at the end of the season
to get rid of parasites, I found an almost completed cup,
moulded together from moss, bits of grass, unidentifiable
fur and scraps of feather. A pair of great tits had obviously
been busy, yet, although the box is in sight of both dining
and sitting room windows, we’d never seen them at it.
Birds are, understandably, extremely wary when nest building,
avoiding the surveillance of both predators and bird watchers
alike. Just wait till leaves fall or we cut the hedge at the
end of the season. It’s amazing how often we find songbirds’
nests cunningly concealed within. And how beautiful they are!
Designed to keep the eggs together, warm and safe, these cups
of moss, grass, hair, feathers and, in the case of long-tailed
tits, cobwebs, are woven together and moulded into shape so
quickly and so secretly, veritable works of art. I remember
watching chaffinches putting the finishing touches to their
nest built into a fold of a tree branch over the river. The
female was nestling into it, wriggling gently to perfect the
shape as the male added touches of grey lichen to complete
Of course, not all birds need to be so secretive. Rooks are
noisily busy now, protected from predators in their treetop
rookeries with all those sharp eyes. Their vigilance is mainly
needed to protect their sticks from thieving neighbours! And
not all birds make such elaborate structures: the bulky wood
pigeon’s nest is a flimsy affair of twigs on which its
two glossy white eggs are balanced. They’ll be there
now, I guess. Pigeon eggshells are usually the first I find,
blowing over the garden in late March.
Whatever their habits, this is a busy and stressful time
for birds. We can help – by keeping clear of nest sites
and, perhaps, offering materials. Birds are great opportunists:
long-tails scour our window frames for cobwebs and see the
headless pigeon corpse on the lawn as a useful source of feathers.
So – combings from pets, fluff from dusters, a little
softened clay if it gets dry – every little helps!
More Nature Notes articles here