Today is the start of National Nest Box Week 2009 (14 - 21 February). Full details can be seen on the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website where you can also register for the Nest Box Challenge. Nest Box Challenge is a joint project between BTO and the BBC Breathing Places campaign. If you fancy building your own nest box then information can be found on those sites along with the RSPB's "Helping Birds" pages and many other wild bird sites.
Last year I erected two nest boxes. One (pictured on the left) is for tits and I bought this from a local garden centre. I chose this particular one as it used substantial thick wood, had a deep entrance hole making it more difficult for predators to enlarge the hole, and plenty of extra space above the entrance hole so I had room to fit a camera. The other is a rebuild of a bought one which I modified to be more suitable for Robins and installed a camera in that as well.
Both these nest boxes are fixed on the back wall of a shed which is pretty well north facing though protected from the worst of the winds by a tall hedge which is about ten feet away.
As far as I can tell the Robin box has been ignored. Though I have tried to make it look more like it is in a hedge with the use of artificial ivy I think they probably still find it too exposed. After the breeding season I will move it to a much more sheltered position in a hedge.
The tit box was used by a Blue Tit as a roost on a couple of cold nights and the bird has made brief visits on quite a few occasions. When I set up the box I put a layer of fresh wood shavings in the bottom as recommended by several organisations. At one time I thought the tit was just tidying up when it removed a few of the shavings but as time has gone by the amount of shavings has reduced considerably. Maybe the bird is just using the box as a source of dry material for a nest elsewhere. Only time will tell.
Near the end of last summer I saw a large nest box being erected on a house in the village. That one is for Barn Owls so whenever I pass in that direction I keep an eye on it in case there is any sign of activity and I will be keeping a camera watch on it from time to time over the spring and summer.
If you are feeding and attracting wild birds to your garden then why not give a home to one of them. There is plenty of good advice to be found. Some people find their nest boxes being used almost immediately but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't get used this year. Many birds seek out and investigate possible nesting sites in the autumn and winter. It took nearly a year before I noticed any signs of the tit box being used.