Wild Skills: nest box building

On Sunday our Wild Skills members met for their first session of 2017. It may have been a cool, grey winter’s day but our minds were on preparation for the spring! The team spent the morning making small hole nest boxes (35 in total) to replace some of our older boxes on the nature reserve.

You might think that there would be plenty of nesting habitat on a large nature reserve like Rutland Water Nature Reserve, however even here our breeding birds need as much help as we can offer to make their lives a little easier.  There are literally hundreds of nest boxes up around the reserve, each providing a small but safe haven for song birds such as blue tits, great tits, wrens and tree creepers to name but a few. The boxes aim to replicate the nooks, crannies and crevices in older trees and other natural habitat that birds would normally use to nest in, but provide extra protection from the elements and predators. The nest boxes also help us monitor breeding bird numbers and success, as we are able to check the boxes each year and ring the birds we find with a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) identification ring.

The group learnt about the essential features of small hole nest boxes: they should be made from a sustainable source of hardwood with a rough surface that the birds can grip on to, ideally of a thickness of 15mm or more to provide a good insulation layer. They should be nailed together (with nails that won’t rust) and have holes drilled into the bottom to allow water to drain away. The lid needs to be removable so that the box can be cleaned and monitored, but must be secured well enough that it can’t be lifted by the wind or predators. You shouldn’t attach a perch to the front as this will give predators a leg-up if they try to access the box.

Jan 2017 Nest box building (Becky Corby)

The finished boxes will be put up at the Lyndon Reserve in readiness for the arrival of spring, we’ll be checking them later in the year to see how successful they’ve been. Keep an eye out for an update on their progress in the summer!

If you would like to have a go at making a nest box come along to our Family Nest Box Challenge during National Nest Box Week on Saturday 11th February (click here for more details).

About Wild Skills:
Rutland Water Nature Reserve’s Wild Skills project is an excellent example of the work being done by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (LRWT) to encourage young people to get involved in wildlife conservation, discover new skills and talents and provides opportunities which open doors to a variety of interests and perhaps even higher education and career prospects. Most importantly it provides a social network for our like-minded young wildlife enthusiasts. The Wild Skills team meets once a month on a Sunday morning for four hours. Sessions take place year-round, and are led by four dedicated volunteers.  Members are aged 13-18, have a keen interest in wildlife conservation and are often working towards a Duke of Edinburgh, VInspired or community action award.