Built-In Homes For Birds And Bats
Duncan and Jenny McCutchan have combined their experience of 25 years in the building trade plus years of installing and monitoring barn owl nest boxes in East Sussex. During that time, they have seen building styles offer fewer and fewer opportunities for wildlife so they wanted to find a way to reverse this trend.
The Bird Brick House is a new and innovative way to provide permanent nesting holes and roosting sites for a variety of bird and bat species as an integral part of the fabric of a building. It is the simplest, most cost-effective means of reversing the trend of traditional nesting habitat loss. The box is designed to fit into the brick bond of the host wall. It will fit metric 75mm half-bond and some imperial three inch half-bond brickwork. It can be fitted in a new wall during construction or fitted retrospectively in an existing wall. One of the priorities when designing the box was to create a product which would be quick and easy to install and would be integral to the structure of a building. They are produced by cutting and fitting brick slivers, cut off the face of bricks matching the host wall, to the bird box front plate.
The pair have been working alongside leading ecologists and wildlife consultants throughout the design process in order to create species specific boxes, where every minute detail has been carefully thought through. An example of this is the Swift box which has a raised floor with a roughened surface to enable easy access for the birds and is fitted with an internal swift cup. It also has an enhanced cavity depth as the optimum depth for a swift box internally is 140mm. We appreciate that not every cavity has this depth therefore we have the facility to vary the depth to fit the cavity space available. Boxes which were installed last season were quickly and successfully taken up.
Planners and conservation officers are looking ever more closely at ways to reduce the impact of building development on the environment, especially on the birds, animals and insects that are displaced. Increasingly, the inclusion of nesting sites in planning applications is becoming mandatory and using the special bricks offers house builders a simple, inexpensive and speedy way to help in successfully discharging planning conditions.
Originally, Duncan started to build nest sites in stone and flint walls in 2001. These have had excellent results, providing homes for birds like wrens, nuthatches and house sparrows and groups of masonry bees. Sadly, they are not able to be cleaned out, so have become full of material and unable to be used after a time. In contrast, the new nest devices are permanent and the front is removable without the need to repoint as it only involves the removal of four stainless steel screws – Duncan has even designed a handy tool to aid the removal of the box front. This means they can be easily cleaned out and inspected and will be used and enjoyed for decades to come.