ONE of Britain's most successful amateur conservation projects - National Nest Box Week (NNBW) - starts on Friday with this year a tinge of sadness for its organisers, the British Trust for Ornithology.
The annual campaign was the brain-child of Chris Mead, one of the BTO's leading members, and its aim is to persuade ordinary people, and children in particular, to put up nesting boxes in their gardens to help wild birds breed more successfully.
Sadly, Chris, a serious scientist who had that rare touch of popularising conservation programmes, died last month - but NNBW marches on having done major work in making Britain's gardens one of our most successful breeding habitats for song birds.
And, as Friday is appropriately St Valentine's Day, this is the time of the year when birds are beginning to get to know each other again in time for the spring breeding season.
The BTO is offering free advice to people who wish to erect nest boxes, some of it quite intriguing: for instance, it reports that a pair of blue tits have to find 100 food items per day for each youngster.
Given that they lay an average of 10 eggs in a clutch, that the young have to be fed for 20 days and that most food items are caterpillars, having a pair of blue tits in the garden can be exceptionally helpful!
Advice is available from NNBW, FREEPOST 1155, Canterbury, CT3 4BR, or you can log onto www.bto.org