Garden birds are already looking ahead to spring despite the wintry weather, with the RSPB receiving several reports of some very early nesting attempts.
Robins, blue tits and blackbirds are among the early breeding species that the RSPB has been contacted about.
Ian Hayward, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, says; “It’s very early for garden birds to be nesting but not impossible to believe, especially since we had a warmer spell of weather a few weekends ago.
“More commonly at this time of year people will become aware of male birds singing loudly and for longer in order to attract a mate, or birds that have already paired up will be checking out nestboxes and pecking around the entrance hole, which means they’re thinking of nesting there in the months to come.”
The RSPB is urging people to get behind the British Trust for Ornithology’s 16th annual National Nestbox Week, which starts on Valentine’s Day.
It’s a good time to put up a nestbox or ensure that existing nestboxes are secure and well-positioned ready to welcome a courting couple.
Ian continues; “Natural nesting sites for birds are not that easy to come across; we are perhaps too quick to clear away dead wood and trees in our gardens, leaving birds short of suitable homes. Putting up nestboxes to give nature a home in your garden is a real help.”
The types of birds that are attracted to a nestbox will depend on where the box is positioned and the size of the entrance hole.
Ian says; “Blue tits will choose a tiny entrance hole – around 25mm across – which means they don’t have to compete with bigger birds wanting to nest there. Blue tits also like to be able to see everything around them when they stick their head out of the hole, so a good spot for a blue tit box is on an exposed wall facing north or east.
“Robins on the other hand prefer boxes that are around a third of the way open at the front. This doesn’t give much protection from predators or the elements and therefore it needs to be tucked away in a sheltered and safe spot.”
As it is half term in many places this week, building a homemade nestbox is a simple, free, family activity and a great way to help children connect with nature.
There are downloadable advice sheets and tips on positioning a nestbox at www.rspb.org.uk/advice and there’s still time to submit Big Garden Birdwatch results before the deadline on Friday 15 February, www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch