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I have a blackbird nest in my wildly overgrown hedge. The babies have hatched, but how do I know if this is the blackbirds' first brood?

Sent in by Julie Bush, Leeds

We do not recommend cutting or removing hedges or trees between the months of March and August.

Light pruning to neaten up a hedge from straggly shoots should not be damaging to nesting birds but the use of power tools and vigorous cutting and can be very destructive. If any work takes place it is vital to check for nesting birds before the work takes place. Nesting birds are often difficult to find even by the most observant of gardener so it is best to err on the side of caution. Certainly if you see a nest or a bird taking food into the hedge, I would leave well alone.

The best time cut a hedge is generally autumn or if it is a berry bearing species, early spring but no matter when you do it, always check first.

Blackbirds can start breeding as early as February if the weather is favourable. It is normal for a blackbird to have up to three broods in a season, this activity can go on until late summer, sometimes even into autumn. Other species like the robin, song thrush, dunnock and wren are also common hedge nesting birds among many others that may be vulnerable from hedge cutting.

It is also worth highlighting the fact that gardens that are neat and tidy are often not the best gardens for wildlife. Leaving wild patches and cutting hedges and lawns less often will be beneficial to wildlife. Gardens are vital for wildlife in built up areas as they may be the only suitable habitats for birds, insects and mammals. By leaving hedges to grow through the summer, planting wildflowers, creating a pond and a log pile it is likely your garden will become an urban oasis.

Please see the pages on the website on creating a wildlife garden.

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