Cre­ate your gar­den patch from scratch

It’s time to take steps to en­sure that your gar­den is full of aer­o­batic hirundines next spring

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: MATT MER­RITT

Put­ting nest­boxes up now could en­sure you get House Martins stay­ing next year

IT’S NEVER TOO early to start plan­ning for next year, so the last week of Septem­ber was spent pre­par­ing for spring, with my main job be­ing to try to at­tract some of the many House Martins still wheel­ing around over the town to nest un­der the eaves of our house next year.

They’re a species that has de­clined wor­ry­ingly in re­cent years, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing a lack of nest sites – modern build­ings of­ten have the sort of fas­cia boards that are im­pos­si­ble for them to at­tach their mud-cup nests to. The good news, though, is that they very read­ily adapt to spe­cial­ist nest­boxes. Our 1960s semi has large con­crete gut­ters that of­fer lots of over­hang­ing shel­ter, just as House Martins pre­fer, so I de­cided to at­tach a dou­ble nest­box from Vine House Farms’ range (vine­house­farm.co.uk) to the rear gut­ter. The ear­lier you can do this in the au­tumn, the bet­ter, as House Martins will prospect for fu­ture nest sites be­fore they de­part on their epic mi­gra­tion to sub-sa­ha­ran Africa. We still had plenty over­head in the first week of Oc­to­ber, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that some of them have taken note of a cou­ple of de­sir­able res­i­dences for next year! Other tasks have in­cluded adding to the log and twig piles around our Hedge­hog house, and we’re cer­tainly still be­ing re­warded by reg­u­lar vis­its from the prickly cus­tomer. Do take great care at this time of year if you’re hav­ing a bon­fire – Hedge­hogs of­ten hide and hi­ber­nate in bon­fire piles, so try to cre­ate them only just be­fore you light them. I’ve re-staked our mon­strous, trif­fid-like sun­flower yet again, as the seed-packed head was be­gin­ning to bend it over, and we want to make sure that it’s avail­able for the birds to for­age from. This time, I’ve tied it to the fence, so it should last! The only bird added to the list this month was Tawny Owl, a very noisy one call­ing from just be­yond the end of the gar­den, or per­haps even in our Field Maple, one chilly night. But just as in­ter­est­ing has been the move­ments of species al­ready seen. Coal Tits re­turned in late Septem­ber af­ter sev­eral months when they were pretty much in­vis­i­ble, and Star­lings are back in good num­bers, too, with a mini-mur­mu­ra­tion of a cou­ple of hun­dred wheel­ing over the gar­den one fine morn­ing – smaller parties are reg­u­larly drop­ping in onto the seed feed­ers again now. It all means that there’s plenty to catch the eye, even as the gar­den starts to wind down for win­ter – I’m hope­ful there are still a few more sur­prises to be sprung.

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