Blue Flower

Bird Nest Boxes & Camera System

We’ve had bird nest boxes since the early days of the bone mill restoration, Dennis made some in 2016 which are still in use today, these were used by Great Tits and Blue Tits straight away.

When we got our Green Community Grant from Breckland Council in late 2021, bird nesting boxes were a large part of the project with specialist boxes for many species, most were made by local Men’s Sheds. We researched the height, direction and location for the different species before installing them.

A nest camera installation was also part of the project and cameras were installed in the barn owl box and a small bird box in the tree near the railway wagon, a hedgehog box underneath the wagon and one trained on the bird feeding station just outside the wagon, as when we go out to look it frightens them away. As we are an off grid site we were restricted to a wired 12 Volt system so the nest cameras had to be relatively close to the monitor inside the wagon, where volunteers and visitors can watch the activity on the screen. In December 2023 two of the cameras stopped working, due to Mice eating the main cable which was replaced in January 2024, restoring the system to full working order.

We were fortunate that Great Tits soon used the small bird box with camera and we watched them bringing up seven chicks. Jackdaws took over the Barn Owl box, so we watched them raise their chick as well. Before the 2023 season we cleaned out both boxes and adjusted the camera in the Barn Owl box to give a better view. Swaffham Men’s Shed who made the Barn Owl box suggested we modify it so any chicks that fall out can get back in, so we moved the shelf up under the hole.

We saw a Barn Owl on the fence in the field next to the mill and hoped it might use the Barn Owl box, but the Jackdaws got there first again in 2023, they had 5 eggs and 4 chicks hatched, they went down to two which we saw being fed. As well as the Barn Owl box we also put up Little Owl and Tawny Owl boxes but we don't know if they were used. Great Tits used the small box with camera again in 2023 for the second time, we saw the female with her 7 eggs, 4 hatched out and we watched them all being fed. In 2024 Great Tits and Jackdaws used the nest boxes again.

We often see Kingfishers, so we installed a Kingfisher nest tunnel in the river bank with a stick next to it for them to perch on. Kingfishers like their tunnels in a steep or vertical bank with no vegetation by slow flowing water, we struggled to find anywhere suitable so we created a small vertical bank just downstream from the mill. We have a spare nest tunnel which I held back to build into the river wall when its repaired, as it will be in an ideal position. The nest tunnel has now been modified ready to fit into the wall.

Grey Wagtails are often seen at the mill and around the water wheel. If they nest in the wheel, it would prevent us turning the wheel at open days, so we installed nest boxes for them on the river walls. When I installed them, I went across to the other side of the river to photograph them and Grey Wagtails were already showing interest in one of them. We believe they used this one, as we often saw activity around it. They are known for preferring man made structures or boxes to natural sites, which is why they nested in the water wheel. When the river wall fell we had to remove the un-used nest box for safety after checking it was empty, but it will be put back when the wall is repaired. Allan of NarVOS advised us about placement of Kingfisher tunnels and Grey Wagtail boxes.

Pied Wagtails nested in the water wheel in the past, so we put several open fronted nest boxes up nearby for them but have not seen any in use. Before we turn the water wheel at open days we always check to make sure no birds are nesting in it, and before we clean out nest boxes we always check them.

One Kestrel box was put near the entrance to the mill and one opposite the Nar Valley Way footpath at The Maltings as there were no more suitable trees at the mill, the boxes need to be at least 5m high and we struggled to safely fit them at this height at the mill. We often see Kestrels at the mill and along the track.

We also have Dove boxes in the trees opposite the mill, Sparrow terraces on the back of our visitor centre which Blue Tits used, and many other boxes for small birds including 3 way boxes with a choice of large or small hole plus open top options to suit a wide variety of birds. We bought some metal protection plates with various hole sizes for bird boxes, so if we see any signs of predators trying to get in we will fit a metal plate for the next season. In April 2023 we had a Duck nesting in the brick floor with 11 eggs covered with down, we kept away from this area until she had gone, this was followed shortly afterwards by another Duck nesting at the end of the fallen river wall, we saw her with her chicks on the river after she left.

We now have binoculars bought with the grant and a bird identification chart and book donated by volunteers at the mill, so we are usually able to identify what we see. See our wildlife page for a list and pictures of wildlife seen at the mill, and the Green Community Grant page for details of all other aspects of the project.

Graham Bartlett

Green Grant        About Grants         Wildlife         Wildflower Meadow       Wall Repairs

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