On the subject of birds’ nests, now is the time to quickly finish off any drastic hedge reshaping you may have to do.
There won’t be any active bird’s nests until March. I was doing it the other day and found a Dunnock’s nest from last summer with one perfect, bright, turquoise egg under a few brown leaves.
I could tell by the state of the nest that the bird had laid just the one egg then abandoned it. This might have been because of the terrible summer, or something could have happened to one of the pair, or a cat might have noticed the nesting attempt, and laid in wait.
It’s essential to check carefully for birds’ nests before starting to trim the new growth off a hedge in spring and summer, and if there is an active nest, miss trimming that bit of the hedge for about four metres – 12 feet (leaving the nest in the middle).
You will need to leave it until you see that the baby birds have fledged and left the nest (usually around 30 to 40 days from the first egg for songbirds, though Dunnocks are somewhat quicker).
If you come across a nest in winter, you will not be breaking the law by destroying it. Songbirds that nest in hedges and shrubs never re-use an old nest from the previous year, though they may have two or more broods from a successful nest in one season.
I’ve watched a pair of Blackbirds bring up four broods from one nest in some ivy on a wall. I’ve found over the years that gardens with dogs running loose shelter the most nests, which could be due to the lack of cats.
It’s a dilemma that cats do so much damage to small wild creatures. They’re lovely pets otherwise. Ours was called Smartie and lived for 18 years. It’s mostly the younger cats that hunt and kill things.