Nest Boxes, Birds and Bats

Bird Boxes

There are a number of bird and bat boxes located around the wood. There is a map (updated February 2023) on the map page which gives you an idea of where to find them.

Some of them are for owls (the large ones) and some are for bats!  The bird boxes are attached to tall trees and should be easy to spot.  These photos should help:Barney and woodland Feb 2015 010 Barney and woodland Feb 2015 011 Barney and woodland Feb 2015 012 Barney and woodland Feb 2015 023


The following three websites provide details of how to make your own nest boxes. Each site has other interesting linked information, which you may also like to read.

Small Birds






 Please read the following notes regarding the inspection of bird/bat boxes, either to check if they are being used or if they become used.

Owls (Source: RSPB South East Hertfordshire)

Although it is nice to see if the box is being used, one year is too short a time to be definitive. Owls tend to be faithful to their traditional nest sites and it is young birds that explore to new boxes so lots depend on the breeding success each year.

Do remember if you put up Barn Owl boxes these are a schedule 1 species and require a special licence to approach in the breeding season so check these boxes by early February. You may find solitary birds roosting at any time of the year.

Small Birds (Source: RSPB South East Hertfordshire and British Trust for Ornithology)

 When to start monitoring your nest box.

Birds can begin nesting in a box any time from February onwards, so it is important to start your monitoring as early as possible in the year. Birds may go in and out of the boxes very quickly, so even if you haven’t seen any activity, it’s always worth taking a careful look. Most Blue Tits and Great Tits will begin nesting in late March or April, but different species will start nesting at different times. If you see birds flying in and out of the box, it’s definitely worth having a look inside, particularly if they are carrying nesting material.

 Looking inside a nest box

Looking inside a box will not automatically cause the parents to desert the nest, but it is important that you take great care when doing so. If you have been watching your box from a distance and know that both the parents are away finding food or nesting material, you have an ideal opportunity to visit the nest. This may not always be possible or practical, however.

If you don’t know whether a bird is in the nest, then it is important to follow the guidelines below:

Before looking in the box, give the side a light tap so that any adult birds can become aware of your presence and have the opportunity to fly away before you open the lid

To look inside, lift the lid very slowly. If there is an adult bird still sitting tight on the nest, quickly look to see if there are any eggs or young in view, before gently lowering the lid and leaving as quietly as possible.

If there is no adult present in the box, you are free to make your observations, doing so thoroughly but quickly to avoid staying at the nest for longer than is necessary and leaving as quietly as possible.

Unlike mammals, the majority of birds have a relatively poor sense of smell, so there is no need to worry about leaving your scent around the nest box. However, handling of eggs and chicks is illegal without the required authorisation. Tit boxes again take time to establish although they do often have families in the first year.

If birds are nesting in your box, looking inside it, once every 4-5 days will not cause them too much disturbance.

 Traditionally, nest boxes for small birds are put up in the spring – pairs begin to prospect in the latter half of February, so a box put up at the end of the winter stands a good chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box, as some birds will use them to roost in during the winter months.

 What to do if the nest has been abandoned

Unfortunately, not all nests are successful. Some may be abandoned by the parents or attacked by predators. If you do find what looks like an abandoned nest, you may be tempted to remove the contents in an attempt to clean the box out for other birds. However, under bird protection law, it is actually illegal to clean out nest boxes during the breeding season, from 1st February to 31st July, in case active nests are inadvertently disturbed. If you do want to clean out the box at the end of the season, wait until the autumn when you can be sure that it is no longer being used

 Bats (Source: Hertfordshire and Middlesex Bat Group)

April/early May/October are usually the recommended months for checking boxes, out side these months are not a good time to check them as bats should be hibernating and any disturbance risks them utilising their stored fat reserves before there are insects around again for them to feed up on.

Bat boxes can take a while to be used, we usually recommend leaving them for 3-5 years before considering repositioning, unless there’s a good reason to move them and there have been no bats present. Dependent on the type of box a licensed bat worker may be required to be present at any checks…

Fed up with filling your bird feeder and seeing a cheeky grey squirrel help itself? (Source: RSPB)

Chilli powder is a safe and effective way of ensuring that only the intended recipients of bird seed get the food.

The RSPB is suggesting that gardeners dust a small amount of the pungent powder over seed and suet mixes in feeders and on tables as it will deter thieving squirrels whilst not affecting birds’ feeding habits.

An effective solution

Lloyd Scott, RSPB Wildlife Adviser says: ‘Using chilli powder to deter squirrels, is a cheap, easy and effective solution.

‘Feeding garden birds is a popular – and vital – pastime in the UK and the RSPB gets thousands of calls each year from frustrated gardeners asking how to stop squirrels eating all their bird seed.’Squirrels can consume large amounts of peanuts and seeds and quite frequently destroy bird feeders in the process.

‘Chilli powder will stop them helping themselves but doesn’t seem to have any effect on birds at all. This is much simpler than erecting barriers and trying to prevent access to feeders for squirrels – they are nimble, clever animals and will usually find a way in anyway!’

Recipe for success

Make sure seed mixes are thoroughly coated but not hidden in the powder. Put the powder in a bag with the seed mix and shake it up so as to avoid any potential problems and aggravation associated with free flying powder effecting birds eyes or skin. Other kitchen deterrents include curry powder, Tabasco, peri-peri sauce, red pepper and Cayenne pepper.