Winter preparations

Text: Eet and Aarne Tuule, Tallinna Linnuklubi
Photo: Aarne Tuule
Translation: Liis
Degrees of frost at night remind ever more often of the fact that the long and warm late autumn soon will change, little by little, into early winter. In connection with this every bird friend just now might have a suitable opportunity to make some preparations and to look over the nest boxes and bird feeders.
The nest boxes have been unused since summer and it might be thought that before April comes again nobody will need them. But the nest boxes should nonetheless not be taken to the shed or some other  shelter because when autumn and winter arrive they become once more valued by birds. Many have probably observed that with cooler weather mainly great tits appear at houses, loitering on window sills and climbing on walls as if looking for something. The summer abundance of insects is at an end, birds start to look for food in bark crevices, wall joints and all other places where insects may have settled in winter quarters. And because of this birds can be seen busy around nest boxes as if springtime nest building were in full swing. Actually the birds look for insects hidden in the nest boxes and at the same time check suitable secure overnight places for the steadily colder nights.
Precisely because of the winter night-time lodging the nest boxes should be dismounted, the material brought there during nesting taken out, the box cleaned out and why not line it with clean, natural insulation (dry grass) in autumn. In an untidied nest box there are often parasites left from the nesting period besides edible insects and they harass birds staying for the night and weaken the birds already exhausted by severe winter conditions even more. Sometimes the springtime nesting did not succeed and the remains of eggs or chicks may be found in the nest box. Who would like to stay overnight in such conditions? Even with an autumn cleaning the nest boxes should be emptied out in spring too, immediately before the nesting period starts!
And when a nest box cleaning action goes on then the winter feeding tables can be checked too. The can well be repaired, cleaned and if needed supplemented with a new one; not seldom thick snow comes unexpectedly. It is good to have a feeding table ready in time. It is not neccessary to start feeding the birds in the garden before a snow cover has arrived, with permanent frost degrees., because a too plentiful choice of food lures birds that otherwise would migrate towards south to stay here and so a too early feeding of birds may in the end be a disservice to the birds. It should be remembered that the feeders should be cleaned out during the winter too, because in places where many bird meet diseases can begin to spread from a birdfeeder smeared with excrements and this may kill many weaker birds.

When all the above preparations have been made some more can still be done for the benefit of our birds. Certainly one of the best ways of helping birds in winter is to take part in the winter bird counts. How these work and what to do for the count can be read here:

Cleaning nest boxes. To the left a pied fly-catcher's nest with dead chicks, to teh right the contents from a great tit's successful nesting.




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