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A SEVENOAKS garden centre is encouraging Kent residents to help provide a home for wild birds ahead of the mating season as part of National Nest Box Week which takes place this month (February 14-21).

More than 60 species of bird are known to use nest boxes in the UK and specialists at Polhill Garden Centre, in London Road, are urging the public to support birds – hundreds of which are endangered species – that are looking for a potential mate during the breeding season.

National Nest Box week, ironically, starts on Valentine’s Day, taking place from February 14 to February 21. The family-run garden centre has provided pointers to consider when installing bird boxes. Oliver Hunt, who manages the sundries and bird care department at Polhill,
said: “National Nest Box Week is a really important time of year for wild birds so we’re encouraging everyone to help do their bit by installing bird boxes to help create a safe haven during the mating season.

“You should always ensure your bird box is sheltered from bad weather conditions so consider your box placement carefully. It also needs to be placed out of direct sunlight or direct rain. “Bird boxes tend to be best placed under a canopy or tree where it can be sheltered by branches or in natural nest sites, if you have thick climbing plants.

“Birds are incredibly tempting to cats, so bird houses and feeding stations must be elevated so they are up and out of the way. Water sources are important to birds because they provide a location for birds to bathe and drink. Birds are more likely to reside in a garden with access to food and water to provide a comfortable environment for their offspring.

“Noise will deter birds from nesting in your bird boxes so keep them away from excess noise or try to keep other animals away from the box locations. It is also a good idea to plant bird-friendly plants such as blackberry bushes, ivy, honeysuckle or viburnum opulus as these not only provide food and attract insects but also can provide extra shelter and nesting opportunities.

“Lastly, consider which types of birds you would like to visit your garden and select an appropriate sized bird box ensuring that the hole is big enough for the specific birds. “If the hole is too small, the box won’t make a good home, if the hole is too big, it may not provide enough safety for the birds. Even if you are short of space in your garden, installing even one box helps create a secure environment for breeding birds.”

Hunt says birds also bring many positive benefits to your garden such as helping prevent the spread of disease, producing natural fertiliser and pesticides, while they are also good natural de-weeders. He added: “Birds remove fallen twigs for their nests or small bits of fruit from the garden preventing fungus growth. Bird manure has incredible benefits on soil and provides the correct nutrients to help plants grow.

“Birds are also very good for improving biodiversity in your garden and getting rid of smaller pests, so the more birds you have there, the healthier your garden will be! Certain breeds of birds enjoy eating weeds! This makes your plants and flowers thrive.”

Find out more about Polhill Garden Centre here: www.polhill.co.uk

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