The 1st Box was home-made and built during the winter of 2017-18. Actually from the wood previous used by the boys when they were younger as a ramp for their toy cars. You can even still see the markings written on the wood by the boys, start line, finish line, etc. The entire lid of the box was hinged with a rubber trip made from an old bike tyre. Once built the box was treated with a standard wood stain protector.
The dimensions of this box are shown below.
Unfortunately a nest box will not last forever. Although my homemade box was pretty successful it was not a perfect build and after 3 years outside I noticed a bit of a problem. During periods of bad weather it was clear that the rain was getting in.
Young chicks are particularly sensitive to the cold, they have difficulty regulating and maintaining body warmth. A nest box which lets in water could pose a significant threat to their chances of survival.
I did try and repair and refurbish the box but to no avail, it was still not water tight. Therefore during the winter of 2020-2021 I decided it would be best to replace it. The replacement is not home-made, I actually bought it a couple of years ago when I purchased my first nest box camera kit. It was the box which came with the kit but I never actually used it.
It is slightly smaller than my homemade box although the hole size is exactly the same at around 32mm. This is actually slightly bigger than the recommended size for Great Tits but it seems to be working for me.
The new box does have a few interesting features. Firstly it has a metal protection ring around the entrance hole. Many boxes come with this and it is to prevent predators from hammering away at the hole to enlarge it and get access. It should be a plus for the Great Tits.
Another bonus is that the box lid is secured shut with a couple of screws. Again this is good predator protection. On my homemade box I had a couple of hooks to secure the lid which wasn’t a perfect system and I was always a little concerned about this as I do have the occasional Beech Marten visit the garden and these are serious birds nest predators. During the nesting season of spring 2020 I got a picture of a Beech Marten on the box trying to predate the chicks inside.
Therefore a secure lid is a definite bonus.
Less of a positive with the new box is the large window cut into the side. The idea for this window is that it lets in light, therefore allowing you to film inside in colour without the need for additional lights. Personally I’ve never found that the light from this window is sufficient to allow for colour filming but I guess it depends on the situation of the box, where it is installed. Apparently the window will not put off nesting birds but I’m a bit skeptical. So I did tape over the window in my new box.
Obviously some light is still getting in but it offers a little more protection for the birds. If the box is not used during 2021 I will think to completely block up the window hole but for now I’ll give it a go like this.
During the winter of 2018-19 a video camera was added to the box. It is a wireless camera, of the type shown below.
The camera provided great images but only in black and white. Considerable light is needed into the box to get colour and unfortunately the level of light available in this rather secluded location is just not enough. Therefore for the next nesting season, 2021, I’ve fitted a small LED light into the new box, again from Greenfeathers, the same manufacturer as the camera.
It comes with a sensor so that the light is only on during daylight hours and off during the night. It seems very bright although I understand that it shouldn’t put the birds off.
In addition a motion activated trail camera is installed on the back wall and takes external shots of the birds entering, leaving and in the bushes around the box.
The box is located in the back garden of the house. It is around 1.5 m from the ground in an ivy hedge bordering the neighbouring house. The box also has cover from a mature Red-Robin (Photinia) bush. The Box is installed only around 2m from the back wall of the house. The nest box hole is pointed North East, 30o NE, and in general gets very little sun.
The box was installed in its’ current position in March 2018. It was used during the spring of 2018 and a pair of great tits successfully raised a brood.
Unfortunately I took the decision during the winter of 18-19, whilst installing the video camera, not to clean out the nest material from the previous year. I now know that this was a mistake, great tits will not re-use a box unless the previous years’ nesting material is removed, and the nest was not used during the 2019 breeding season. Another box in the garden, the tree nest box, was used by a pair of great tits during spring 2019 but the brood was not successful and all chicks died within the first 2 weeks.
During the winter of 2019 I removed the competing tree nest box and cleaned and disinfected the fence nest box ready for the 2020 breeding season. I was obviously hoping that these changes would encourage the use of the box for 2020.
Luckily all worked well and a successful brood was raised during April-May 2020. 5 chicks were successfully fledged from a clutch size of 8.
I managed to record the full story of the nest and it can be re-lived on the website.
I’m hoping for more success, this time in colour, in the new 2nd nest box during 2021.