This Valentine's Day, show a little love to our feathered friends!
National Nest Box Week runs from 14 to 21 February and marks one of the last opportunities to put up homes for birds before the nesting season begins.
Different species have different needs when it comes to nest boxes - one size definitely doesn't fit all! For example, swallows and house martins need cup shaped nests placed high up to ensure their broods can be fed easily and safely. However, other birds like wrens and robins need open-fronted boxes places low down amongst dense vegetation.
With such mild weather in late 2015, food supplies in the open countryside have been relatively abundant so you might not have seen as many birds visiting your garden as in previous years. But with stormy conditions and frequent cold snaps now upon us, having a cosy nest box to raise their new family can mean the difference between life and death for many birds.
Regularly providing a supply of high energy food, like suet balls, and clean water for bathing and drinking will ensure your garden is the perfect spot for new parents to bring up their brood.
National Nest Box Week was started by the British Trust for Ornithology back in 1997 and it's thought there's now between five and six million in place all across the UK.
But don't worry if you've never put up a bird box before. At the RSPB website, www.rspb.org.uk/homes, there are lots of hints and tips to get you started.
You can either make your own, or head to www.rspb.org.uk/shop to buy a ready made box.
Once your nest box is in use it's important you don't disturb the tenants! If you want to see the chicks as they hatch and grow, consider installing a nest box camera before the breeding season starts.
Many people aren't aware that all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or handle any wild bird, or to take or destroy their nests or eggs. Some common garden species, like robins, can have multiple broods each year and the breeding season continues into late July or even early August so it's vital nests remain undisturbed.
For more information visit www.wildlifecrimeni.org or contact the PSNI on 101 to report suspected wildlife crime.
Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018