Our nesting boxes have been designed and built to attract the widest possible variety of bird species to Nalanda’s property, such as different species of tit, woodpecker, wagtail, thrush, finch and starling. I have had a lot of help from Ven. Tony from Institut Vajra Yogini, an FPMT center nearby Nalanda, who has a huge amount of knowledge on this subject. He advised me on the designs of the boxes to cover the species that are common in this area, and the placement of the nesting boxes in the trees. Protection from predators and the weather are two important considerations, as well as some solitude and cover. Even the diameter of the entrance holes of the boxes have been varied to help with a sensitivity some species have to the size of the entry to their home.
All the boxes are numbered for reference and are removable from the trees, and they all have a door so I can clean them each winter. This also gives the opportunity to see if any have been unoccupied, so their position or placement can be adjusted to hopefully promote occupancy in the following Spring. This has been a regular approach when it comes to the Winter cleaning.
Furthermore, in Winter 2022 the project will be extended to our new property next door to Nalanda to also include nesting boxes for the two main species of owls that live on the river banks on one of Maitreya Pure Land’s boundaries. These boxes are much larger than the ones for the song birds I have been installing. Owls are quite reclusive birds, so I need to look very closely for ideal box locations.
The general idea is to attract as many bird species as possible to Nalanda’s property. Most of the species are now declining primarily because of human development. Modern housing does not allow for birds to nest, and many of the older houses and barns are being modernized and renovated with the same effect. Also, the majority of the gardens in this area do not have well-established trees or secluded areas. Nalanda’s properties are ideal nesting ground on all those points, so we can attract a lot more birds to a safe space and give them the facilities to nest and raise their young. I also hope to attract new species of birds to the property that have not commonly been seen before.
An extremely important part of the project is that each of the nesting boxes has a mantra card with holy images in the ceiling, designed by Pete Albertsen using FPMT Education Services materials. The chicks will be looking up all the time, waiting for the parents to come and deliver food. In this way, they will have imprints of the Dharma in their minds at all times.
Nalanda’s Animal Care Project is completely dependent on kind donors for this kind of activity, as well as vet bills for feral or wild animals that are brought to us (or just turn up!) for care. It’s also the perfect opportunity for them to get a generous dose of mantra too!
Of course, my huge thanks to Ven. Tony for his kind and generous help in actualizing the nesting box project. I learnt a lot from him about the bird species of the area, how they live, and how to give them opportunity to nest safely. I am very grateful for all the support so many people have given me. I’m sure we will continue to see the benefits.
It is our collective and individual responsibility to to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.
His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama