This is my story
Deep into the night, I woke up to a loud hooting outside my bedroom window. And again, it wouldn’t cease and so then I cried. My mother came in and said the word ‘owl’. I didn’t understand. She took me to her bed. I felt secure. That was my first meeting of the wild spirit of the night, the tawny owl. At the tender age of three.
The grassland, fields and woods became my childhood. So much to see, so much colour and variety.
Electronics wasn’t part of family life until decades later so we could see and touch everything for real. My world was butterflies, lizards, newts and grasshoppers. A field of rough grass was teeming with bug life back then and was alive with what seemed like a noisy stadium full of grasshoppers. We were out all day, only came home for what we called teatime at 4pm, hungry.
Over time, all those forgotten little wild spaces became valuable as building plots and were converted into new houses, for the modern apex predator. Nobody was saying “Where will all the creatures go?”
Birds came later to me. This is how it started for me:
Zooming down a hill on our bikes, something odd caught my eye. I pulled up sharp to investigate, my friends behind all followed suit. Right before our eyes was this bird motionless apart from quivering wings, just hanging still on the air, not 30 ft away and 15ft off the ground. It was a small miracle to me. “Kestrel” said one of the oldest boys. I was so impressed.
From there I bought a bird book and witnessed such colour and variety that I had to go and find them, wherever they were. Several school friends developed the same interest and we cycled far and wide amongst the Hampshire and Sussex countryside. Every hollow tree was checked, every derelict barn and old empty cottage was ventured into., in search for those stunning birds. Barn owls, tawny owls, kestrels and little owls, as well as all the other smaller birds and creatures thriving there. We got to know the bird ringer who keenly joined us to ring and record.
I was a young teen when I first built a tawny owl next box. I managed to climb up a tree clutching the large nest box with a hammer and nails inside. A struggle but it worked. Quite unsuitable really as it was from an old kitchen unit shelf so bright white instead of natural wood colour. Hence it lasted only two years.
However, I did qualify as a carpenter after leaving school, and my climbing method is a lot safer after a spell as Sparsholt college learning Arboriculture.
Recycled materials, construction and environment
Over the years I have tried and tested many types of wooden next boxes. I think the most you can expect from a wooden next box is 8 years if it’s well built. They succumb to the elements usually sooner than that. The tyre design is a very simple and robust nest box which outlives all other types. The woodcrete nest boxes will last too, but they are extremely heavy. With the tyre type nest box, you only purchase it once. it will last a lifetime. You only fit it once. Only the front wooden panel will eventually rot but it is simple to replace. Use it as a template to draw around and cut a new one with minimal DIY skills.
I refuse to buy hardwood ply for my nestboxes because we all know by now that somewhere in the world a pristine forest and all its life forms is being destroyed to make hardwood ply. Used plywood, both hardwood and softwood, as a recycled use cannot cause and further damage to the environment.
These nest boxes are extremely weather proof. They are designed to allow water to run off, not in. A couple of drainage holes at the bottom allow any rain ingress to drain, as well as any waste fluid from the nesting occupants.
The nest boxes are finished with an attractive leaf design painted on. They really do make a very presentable gift. After some years this fades as it begins to take on the same colour as the tree bark as the algae and lichen spreads over the surface.
These nest boxes have been used successfully by the South Downs National Park and the Hawk Conservancy trust. I have volunteered for SDNP and still do for the HCT.
I’d be happy to have a chat if you have any questions. You can get in touch with me by clicking the button below.