Derek – Thursday 29th August 2019

It’s been a hot, dry week with temperatures reaching 33ºC. Today, it drops to 24ºC which is more bearable but it remains dry. We spend much of the afternoon filling our barrels from water we ferry over from Kevin’s flat in Sprowston Road. And then we water the garden. We have lots of plants in pots and some of our raised beds are shallow, and so don’t retain water for long. But we are on the cusp of autumn which will likely bring lower temperatures and regular rainfall.

But these days, with the climate playing strange games, you never know.

I decide to clean the bird box that is hanging on the fence in the shade of the large sycamore. It is attached by a single screw, so easy enough to take down. I carry it to a table, and wearing rubber gloves, I open the bird box. It is one of those where the lid lifts. The inside is about a third full of spongy vegetation. I take this out, and small spiders and other small creatures scuttle off. The nesting material is a thick mass of mostly moss and grass, not much like a nest, more like a mattress. A classical nest in a tree is cup shaped, to stop eggs and nestlings falling out. This nest, safe in a box, is for comfort and warmth. It was constructed by the female in a week or two in March.

There’s no eggshell inside, which surprises me as the nestlings would have hatched and fledged. Considering blue tits lay 8 to 12 eggs, that would be an awful lot of shell. But there’s none at all. So it must be removed by the parents.

I look this up on the RSPB website, which tells me that birds remove eggshell to discourage predators. I can see this in an open nest where the eggshells would be more visible. But in a nest box? Though it could be this is the pattern of behaviour, bird box or not. Often, though, the female parent eats the shells to replenish her calcium as she may lay another clutch in the summer.

The nesting material may contain bird parasites which is why I am wearing gloves, as who knows what is in it. This is the reason that bird boxes should be cleaned once the nestlings have fledged. Or new residents will pick up the parasites from the old. Late August/September is the sort of time to do the clean up. I put the nest material in a plastic bag and throw it in the bin.

I brush out material that is sticking to the sides of the bird box. Then I put disinfectant in water, pour it into the nest box and give it a good shake. I give the box a couple of rinses to get rid of the disinfectant. And leave it to dry in the sun. An hour later, I put the clean nest box back up, ready for next spring’s residents.

The wildflower bed is almost devoid of flowers, just a few California poppies and hawkweed. There’s a mass of wild carrot seed heads, and lots of thistledown. The hollyhocks have almost given up too, just the odd bloom here and there. We have some Japanese anemones in the bed at the back of the pond flowering. Lychnis goes on as ever, but we have done a lot of deadheading which brings on new blooms and also gives us seed we can give away.

The buddleia flowers on and on. The flowers are at the end of new shoots, and these are continually growing in our buddleia jungle. Cabbage white butterflies flit around the bush, and I spot a red admiral too.

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