A popular part of Hever Castle’s Living with Birds half term event has been the nest box building activity with Tim from Tim Christian Nature Services, in support of National Nest Box Week.
Returning to provide this popular activity for a second year, Tim enjoys the enthusiasm the kids have for building the bird boxes as well as the chance to encourage the next generation of nature lovers.
We caught up with the Kent native to find out how his career in nature education developed and to get some tips on attracting birds into your own garden.
How did your interest in nature develop?
I’ve been interested in nature since I was a child, although I drifted away from it in my teens. When I was 20 I found myself unemployed with no idea what I wanted to do for a career; to keep myself busy while I decided what I wanted from life I started doing a bit of voluntary work. This included doing practical conservation work with a local organisation (The Kent High Weald Partnership) to help look after several wildlife sites in and around Tunbridge Wells. I soon realised I wanted to work in this sector.
How did you get into nature education?
Once I’d decided I wanted to work in the environmental sector I started to do more volunteering and got involved in everything from wildlife surveys to education, so was building up experience in lots of different areas. I realised I lacked a qualification so also did an Undergraduate Diploma in Environmental Conservation. I was applying for all sorts of jobs but the one I got was People and Wildlife Placement for Kent Wildlife Trust; this involved lots of education and organising family events.
When the recession hit, the jobs market dried up and the most work I could find was a little bit of tutoring during the summer term. I couldn’t see an end to the jobs shortage so decided I’d become self-employed and offer my skills to schools and anyone who wanted to hire me.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m most passionate about educating and inspiring children. I believe we must look after our environment and to do that we need to understand why it is important. By helping children to explore and understand the wildlife around them I hope that they will care for nature in the future.
Which of the birds spotted at Hever Castle has been your favourite?
Hever Castle’s grounds support a great variety of birds, but the most interesting would have to be the Kingfishers as I’ve only seen one once before and I’d love to see another.
Do you think it’s important for people to put nest boxes in their gardens?
Definitely; nowadays people like to keep their gardens and houses tidy and well maintained, so they lack the nooks and crannies that birds used to nest in.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to attract native birds to their own gardens?
The best thing is to try and make your garden a bit more wildlife friendly in general, not just for birds. A log pile will provide a great home for lots of invertebrates, which will then provide a natural food source for birds and other animals. Nectar rich plants will attract lots of butterflies and other insects, again providing more food. There are too many tips to list here but search for ‘wildlife gardening tips’ on the internet and you’ll find lots of great advice. Of course, you can also put up bird boxes and feeders!
Tim provides a variety of services to schools, tourist attractions and private parties. These range from providing environmental education and help or advice to schools on their school grounds, to running pond dipping or minibeasting activities for private bookings (such as birthday parties). Tim also helps tourist attractions such as Hever Castle to put on fun and exciting family events.
Read more about the nature and wildlife at Hever Castle.