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Creating Cosy Nesting Sites at West Beckham Green

We had an international cast at the Gresham’s School work party on January 20th, with students from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong. After a briefing about the benefits of nest boxes in young woods which lack mature and veteran trees to provide natural nest holes, and the obligatory health and safety guidance, our first task was to locate nest boxes we had previously erected in order to clean them out ready for this year’s occupants.

Nick and two students tackled the nest box near the entrance, and were delighted to discover a perfectly formed Blue Tit nest. At the end of the session, after we had all admired its neat construction, one of the students took the nest back to show to the biology teacher. This discovery was certainly proof that the birds like our nest boxes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group searched through the woodland to find other nest boxes. We drew a blank on this, but did discover several trees with bat boxes. The first challenge with these was to enable one of the French-speaking students to understand the word “bat”. I was frustrated that I couldn’t remember the French word, but when we described it as a mouse that can fly, they announced that if must be a “chauve-souris” (“bald mouse”) – well, then it came back to me! (And if anyone cares, I can remember the German word – “Fledermaus” which means “flutter mouse”). Note to self: brush up on wildlife vocab! Anyway, back to the plot, we explained that bats use these boxes for roosting rather than hibernating. We pointed out that we have three boxes together, on the north, east and west sides of the tree, with the bats using different boxes depending on weather conditions and wind direction. With a little prompting, the youngsters worked out that the reason we don’t put bat (or bird) boxes facing south is that the occupants would risk overheating in the full sun.

We then fixed up five new nest boxes, each bearing the date and the initials of the person who put it up – the four students and their support teacher. They made quick work of the job and we were soon able to stop for doughnuts and hot chocolate. We left the woods knowing that we had made the habitat more welcoming to our feathered friends. As ever, a big thank you to the students and staff from Gresham’s School, and to our band of volunteers who enable us to deliver this outreach to young people – on this occasion, Bev, Nick and Seán.

National Nest Box Week starts on February 14th, so now is a great time to clean out existing nest boxes and erect new ones. Why not join in?

Val Stubbs

January 20th 2023


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