The period between November and New Year is the best time to install new bird boxes and check existing ones. Birds will often start to inspect prospective sights by late winter. Of course, you can make your own but a wide range of types can be purchased designed to attract different species.
If you are putting them up in your garden there is no point in putting too many up as the birds simply won’t breed at those densities. Boxes suitable for Tits should be no lower than 2m from the ground but make sure they are still at an accessible height for you personally. There must be a clear flight path to the entrance. Open fronted boxes (for Robins, Wrens and Wagtails) can be placed low down however and sited amongst undergrowth. If, as at Denmark Farm, you hope to attract Spotted Flycatchers to one of these open boxes you will need to situate it in the same sort of position as a Tit box.
Try and site your boxes facing between North and East away from prevailing wind and rain as well as midsummer sun. This is less of an issue in enclosed woodlands. I’ve always used galvanised nails to fix them but screws or wire work just as well. Don’t forget also to clear out your boxes each autumn. This makes them more appealing as nest sites as well as reducing a build- up of parasites.
In the past, there have been as many as a hundred boxes at Denmark Farm and perhaps the most significant species they have supported is the Pied Flycatcher, with up to twenty pairs breeding. Unfortunately, many of these boxes are in a state of disrepair and will need replacing in future years if this iconic summer migrant is to continue to thrive. This year, limited funds have been spent on four long lasting woodcrete boxes for its endangered relative, the Spotted Flycatcher, which in 2014 chose to breed in the flue of the wood burner in the yurt.
How would you like to support the birds at Denmark Farm and at the same time get a truly original gift for your nature loving friend or family member?