Friday, 11 September 2009

Pied Wag post script

One of the things we should all do at this time of year is to clear out our nestboxes. Once you've disposed of any contents, you can disinfect the box with boiling water. Let it dry out, and perhaps put some wood shavings or hay (not straw) inside in case it's used over the winter as a roost.

We followed our own advice and cleaned out our poor Pied Wagtail nest. Andrew did the intrepid ladder-climbing and popped the abandoned nest and eggs in a plastic tub for inspection.
The nest is made of twigs and some moss, and has been lined with feathers, hair and some wool. The clutch of 5 eggs is typical (according to the BTO data in our Breeding Birds software). I guess we'll never know why the nest failed. It could have been the super-hot spell we had whilst the birds were incubating. I'm going to re-site the box somewhere more shaded for next year.

Other happenings this week included a trip to visit invertebrate-artist god, Richard Lewington (where entertainingly there was a grasshopper perched on his front wall). A meeting with the good people of Bumblebee Conservation Trust was very productive, and I finally finished fiddling with my new Lindo at Large. It'll be appearing on the webzine very soon.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Emptying and disinfecting nestboxes is not "something we should all do", and is way over the top in most circumstances (e.g. tit/robin boxes). For one thing, nestbox contents usually compost down to very little by the following spring, and provide a useful base for a new nest (many tits in surburban areas cannot find enough moss for a nest base, with the eggs and chicks having little insulation).
Secondly, old nests are a habitat for many invertebrates and fungi, including moths, bumblebees and spiders. Bats and woodmice may also use them. By pulling out the nest and pouring in boiling water, you're killing them or depriving them of a habitat.
Birds may also use the boxes for roosting in winter, and the insulation and reduced space of an old nest would aid insulation and energy conservation.
There is very little or no evidence that nestbox parasites are a significant problem for birds in the following year, and unless the box still half full of material by February then there is no need to empty it. After all, nobody cleans out the natural holes for them, and they are used year on year.
I rarely empty my 50 nestboxes, and have no problems. I certainly don't take a boiling kettle round the wood!