21 February 2021

The annual February pre-spring clean of our blue tit nest-box. You’re supposed to do it nearer to St Valentine’s Day, but the icy cold weather of a week ago meant this was never going to happen.

Last year, for the first time since we set up our nest box in 2002, we did not have a successful blue tit brood. A pair of birds showed interest for a few weeks, going through all the right motions, but then they just disappeared. In the book I’m currently writing, I have a chapter in which I describe the huge success we’ve had with our blue tit nest box. It looks as if I might have to add a post script.

Blue tit eggs

I was surprised to find two abandoned eggs inside the nest box, with almost no evidence of any nesting material. Usually, the blue tits pad the box with an assortment of moss, hair and feathers. So it looks as if last year’s birds were particularly inept. But inept birds, as this example shows, tend to leave fewer offspring, so the problem is self-righting. Darwinian natural selection in action in the corner of our garden.

I usually find a few invertebrates when I'm cleaning the nest box. Bird lice, woodlice, unrecognised squooshy things. This year, I was delighted to find a magnificent spider, which I carefully relocated in the bush at the side of our compost heap.

Spider

By Richard Carter

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Website · Facebook · Twitter · Newsletter · Book

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On the Moor

Richard Carter’s fascinating exploration of his local grouse-moor in West Yorkshire digs deep into natural history, human history, prehistory, and the history of science. His writing is grounded, insightful, and frequently hilarious, and he shows how falling in love with your own local patch can be a gateway to the whole world.
Neil Ansell, author and journalist

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