In sixth grade, I built a bird nest box at school. I wasn’t particularly keen on that – “Build a nest box” simply happened to be the only non-sport after-school activity that was available.

But even though I wasn’t particularly skilled in using tools, somehow I managed to build a nest box without sawing my fingers off. And like you do with things you build at school, I proudly took it home.

At the time, there were no trees in our garden to which we could have attached the nest box. Still, I was so proud of my nest box, so my Dad attached it to an iron pole and set up the pole in our garden next to a large spruce tree. He also coated it with wood preserving paint, which the teacher had neglected to make us do, probably because there was some kind of toxin scandal involving wood preserving paints at the time.

I never expected that any self-respecting bird would ever nest in that nest box. After all, I wasn’t a wood craft person and my box wasn’t as perfect as those of some of the other students. And besides, it was sitting on top of an ugly iron pole, because my parents didn’t want trees in their garden. What was more, my Dad had insisted on painting it with paint that was probably toxic, even though he insisted that it wasn’t.

But lo and behold, the nest box was occupied that first year. And every year after. In the winter, my Dad always cleaned out the previous summer’s nest to make room for the next nest. Sometimes, he also repainted the box.

That was 27 years ago. And guess what? The nest box still sits atop its iron pole in my parents’ garden and it’s still occupied every year.

When I visited my parents today, my Dad told me that he had cleaned out the nest box and showed me last year’s nest. You can see it behind the cut:


Last year's birdnest from the nest box in my parents' garden. Note the unhatched egg and the mummified baby bird in the center

You can see that the birds – most of the time, they’re tits – wove not just traditional grass and straw into their nest but also some kind of red fibre, probably from a blanket or carpet left to air outside or maybe someone’s socks left to dry. There’s also feathers, leaves and white fluff and the remnants of an unhatched egg in the center of the nest. And if you look very closely, there’s what appear to be the mummified remains of a dead baby bird (it’s the brown bit at the center). This is not the first time we’ve found a dead baby bird in the nest – a few years ago we had one that was quite big.

But dead baby birds aside, this school project I didn’t even want to do has provided a home for 27 generations of birds by now. Which isn’t too shabby, if I dare say so myself.

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