I’ve always had at least one, and often two nest boxes in the garden for the Great and Blue Tits. That is to say Nest Boxes with fairly small entry holes, around 30mm.
I’ve never had nests in two boxes at the same time, I think my garden may be too small to support two nesting pairs, but most years I’ve had at least one nest, although my last was now 2020, since when I’ve not had a Tit nest, I don’t know why.
My very 1st Nest Box was home-made and built during the winter of 2017-18. I used the fairly classic design below, I think I got it from the RSPB website.
I positioned the Nest box around 1.5 m from the ground in an ivy hedge bordering the neighbouring house. The box had cover from a mature Red-Robin (Photinia) bush, only around 2m from the back of the house and the hole is pointed North East and in general gets very little sun.
The box was installed during March 2018 and it was straight away with a pair of Great Tits successfully raising a brood.
Unfortunately I took the decision during the winter of 18-19, whilst installing a 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 brood was raised during April-May 2020, 5 chicks 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 here.
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 was slightly smaller than my homemade box although the hole size is exactly the same at around 32mm, which is slightly bigger than the recommended size for Great Tits.
Another bonus was that the box lid was secured shut with a couple of screws. Again this is good predator protection. On my first 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 as I have the occasional Beech Marten visit the garden and these are serious birds nest predators. During the nesting season of spring 2020 I took a picture of a Beech Marten on the box trying to predate the chicks inside.
Unfortunately though this box was never used, in fact the nest of 2020 is the last Tit Nest that I’ve had in the garden.
I thought that perhaps this box, for whatever reason was not favoured so I made a new box based on my very first design which I installed during the spring of 2022. It’s probably took late for the nesting season of 2022 but I’m hoping a return to the original, successful design will change my nesting fortunes.
All of the Tit Nest Boxes in the garden have been equiped with video cameras from Green Feathers. When I started filming the nature in the garden I bought a couple of Wireless cameras of the type below.
However over time I’ve moved to now only use the wired version of the cameras. Although the installation and the management of the cabling is a bit more complicated the images are much more reliable.
The cameras provide 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 my rather secluded garden is just not enough. Therefore I now also fit small LED lights into the nest boxes, again from Greenfeathers, the same manufacturer as the camera.
They come 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.