Birdbox Diary

Birdbox DiaryAfter a number of years following the breeding of blue tits and great tits in a local birdbox it was felt that our human calendar was less useful than the timetable of development experienced by these delightful birds.

No matter when a bird arrives, once it has a partner, the rest of the story follows a well understood set of stages until the chicks are ready to leave the nest, unless they succumb to a number of perils!

Not all years are successful, as we heard from a visitor to our site in 2005.

Sadly, the technology fell over! The wireless camera operates in a frequency that is no longer available. We also got interference from license-free devices (microwave ovens, mobile handsets). The alternative would be to opt for a camera connected by wire to a PC. This 'legacy' page and its images/recordings are left here "for the record" as it does appear to have quite a "following"!

BIRD'S CALENDAR Event or Commentary
  KEY: Broadband movie Broadband_filesor still photos photo links.
Days 1 -18 2011
Roosting and Pecking - just checking out the neighbourhood! NOTE: Initial signs of interest are shown by pecking (testing for soundness of the wood), over-winter roosting (for comfort and protection) and 'wing beating' (testing for size for their nest).

1st April 2011: This year (no, not a practical joke for the 1st day of April!), we very quickly went from "no-one at home" to quick nest building. Normally, the exploration is longer! But that year we jumped straight into the next section...
Taking up residence. 2010 - illustrations
  1 March (St.David's Day): Blue and great tits are inspecting nearby boxes. We made smaller the bird box hole and been rewarded with our first video footage - no roosting yet. We have decided on "David and Dottie".Discovery of Empty Birdbox
  5 March: and still pecking on occasional visits.
  14th March: A short clip of Dottie sizing up her home - pecking & shovelling (no sound due to recording error) Birdbox Inspection
  22 Jan: At last! We have seen a Great Tit roost overnight.Geraint First Night RoostingAfter a bit of preening he (named Geraint...) turns into the habitual "puff ball" for a night's rest. The night was fairly mild and dry, so that we are mystified as to why he arrived this evening?
  23 Jan: This morning, Geraint woke and took over 15 minutes of preening and listening before he finally left but not before we had been treated to a magnificent dawn chorus.
  25 Jan: An early start. Geraint can be seen preening his feathers ready for another day Geraint preening on waking up.
  4 Feb: Geraint has roosted every night since adopting our box. We shall post some footage of his habitual 'rocking' movement while sleeping.
  11 Feb: Not a lot to say. Geraint continues to roost each night.
  17th March: Just in case you thought this project was forgotten! Every night Geraint has roosted. On really cold nights like tonight, he fluffs up a bit more but otherwise, nothing to report. No pair-bonding yet, but it won't be long.
  23rd March: Spoke too soon. For four consecutive nights the birdbox has been empty. It may be that "Geraint" is "Geraldine" and found a mate in another location?
  31 March: HURRAH! Nest building has begun today - completely out of the blue. The next few days saw a massive influx of lichen, grass/straw and a thick layer of downy material that could be sheep wool? Hard to tell.
  NOTE: This period has been very quiet in the box without any interest being shown. Elsewhere, there have been wrens showing an unhealthy interest in the wheel arch of our car (thankfully decided on another site), and a range of other birds making claims on the area. Over winter, we have had extended periods of interest from the sparrowhawks again. The magpies continue to visit for bread and fat/seed filled coconuts.
  18 & 19 Feb (Days 3 & 4 in bird calendar?): We are relieved to find the birdbox is in use this year. On checking in the evening (18th) were we surprised by the arrival of substantial nesting material. Day 2 and substantial amount of nesting material arrives!
  We had to wait until 19 Feb (Day 4?) to see the birds themselves. A beautiful pair of Great Tits - Alf and Cath (Alfred the Great and Catherine the Great - go with it, no need to point out the different eras)! It will be interesting to see how their calendar compares with the blue tits of the past two years. So, let us introduce Alf and Cath to you. Pairing up begins in earnest
  Jan 27 - Feb 12: The blue tits roosted and sometimes slept over! Holly and Buddy often took refuge in this period and began to bring in some straggly bits of moss on 27 Feb. They also spent time taking bedding in ... and then removing it!
  We learned that blue tits flock over winter, sometimes with other tits in the hedgerows near the birdbox. The box was first erected on 29 January and by 30 January we saw the first arrival with a bit of moss - amazing!A bit of moss arrives to 'stake a claim'
Days 19/25 - 35 2011
Pair bonding and pecking - getting sociable! 1st April: No pair-bonding in the box, but straight into nest building with a sense of real urgency! The process began today with the appearance of a few pieces of grass overnight in the box. It is worrying that we only see one bird - there is no way that a bird can raise a family alone.
  We now have to find a way of blocking the increasing number of nearby domestic wifi routers that interfere with the wireless connection and spoil the images....
  18th March: OK, it is only a bit of straw, but it is progress! She is also pecking.First Straw or grass arrives Three days later we had a "futon"?A small amount of bedding - sort of a 'futon'!
  24th to 28th March - a collection of shots showing how quickly both birds are working to build their nest. A collection of images to show how the nest builds up A fair bit of bad tempered tweeting too if they both get into the box!
  31 March to 8 April: There really does seem to be an air of urgency after rapid nest building, bashing and crashing. Birdbox nest becomes better defined and bonding behaviour is clear (1st April), and the next dayMore nest-building and calling, pair-bonding (2nd April). Definite pairing going on Definitie pair-bonding going on! (1st April) and 8th AprilDefinitie pair-bonding going on!. One regularly roosts Roosting becomes more regular perhap(although not every night).
  I am sorry that other commitments have meant this diary has fallen behind. We have managed to keep track of some frantic nest building by our visiting Great Tits. Here is a still photograph to show the rather slow progress! 19th March (Day 32).
  This year the build up of nesting material was interrupted by visits from a sparrowhawk. But the blue tits were pretty determined and quickly built up the foundations.
Days 36-47/8 2011
Final push for forming the bowl 3rd April: Busy, busy, busy! This is a period of frantic activity. With eggs on the way, no time to waste!
  8th April: A couple of days without any activity and our fear that the resident sparrow- hawk or kestrel had got her, suddenly the nest material has been flooding in and the hole has been pecked at. Hurrah! More nest building 2008
  12 April: Bad news - the "resident" sparrow hawk took a sparrow; the good news, the blue tit has a feather-lined nest! She has taken in the last four nights to staying overnight. In the meantime, we saw a brief visit by a bee crawling through the nest, making it move mysteriously for a while.
  1st April: This "final push" phase (video) started on about the 1st of April. So, if the "bird calendar" is right, we should start to see eggs laying around 15 April?
  30th March to 5th April: This period began with Dottie roosting for the first time and ends with her adding feathers to line the nest. In "bird time", these slides show the overlap between this phase and the earlier one0. Phases of nest building
  Both birds and the nest is building rapidly. Nest is building rapidly Frankly, this happened in a massive rush. The nest looks very fluffy again, perhaps even more so than last year. The bird nearly disappears when it nestles down.
  29th March (Day 42 - deepening foundations)Deepening the nest foundations, 30 MarchNest building, 31 March (even deeper)Ever deepening nest material. 1 April (Day 45 - Moss now being added)Nest deeper with moss now being added, 2 April (and more moss and feathers) and for 5 April (Day 49)First and second days. The feathers were "donated" by a ring necked dove that fell prey to our local sparrowhawk ten yards from the birdbox. We have been surprised how "fluffy" and random the nesting has been compared with bluetits. However, today we say evidence of shovelling to form the softer material into a cup. Here is a short video clipShovelling and firming up the nest's underpinning. You will notice the nesting material is much higher and the bird much closer to the lens - so we should get some interesting close-ups of the chicks if they arrive. If the Great Tits were to follow the "bird calendar" for the blue tits, we should expect eggs shortly, but this nest doesn't look ready yet.
  7th - 9th April (Days 38 & 40) There has been some serious housekeeping going on. Holly brought in feathers after bull-dozing the foundation into the deep well that will hold her eggs. Holly behaved strangely towards the end of this period by taking a feather in and out rapidly, as if to say "I am just not sure if I have finished". We are seeing both birds together quite a lot.
  23rd March - 4th April (Days 36 to 47) An object lesson in nest building as the cup deepened and was firmed up by constant bulldozing
Days 49-56/58 2011
Settling in, mating and egg laying The rate of progress is astonishing! Strictly, we are in new territory so far as the "timetable" is concerned.
  16th AprilGOOD NEWS! Spotted three eggs Four eggs in view. Somehow the female blue tit has skipped the usual early pattern of inhabiting and preparing the box before breeding. At night she keeps the eggs warmFour eggs being brooded (we believe we saw four eggs at this time).
  20th April: Six eggs in clear view but looking at the cluster there could just as easily be sevenFour eggs in view. She will cover the eggs later in the day - although it is so warm at the moment she may not be too bothered. View of four eggs
  6 April to 14 April: Increasingly frequent visits by both birds. On 10 April we saw David bring a grub into the box for Dottie which is part of the bonding process. They also mated in the box - so they are serious! Occasional pushing of the sides of the bowl to firm up the cupShovelling to form nest cup.
They have been loading the box with loose feathers latelyLoose feathers added. A sure sign that eggs are due soon as this is what Dottie will cover her eggs with when she leaves to forage for food during the day. If the pattern of previous years is followed, we think that egg-laying should start in the next day or two.
  15 AprilGOOD NEWS! The first egg appeared this morning. So Dottie is keeping to schedule! Dottie's First Egg!
  19 April: We think we can see five eggs but she covers her eggs with feathers rather quicklyFeather covering for eggs! Each evening Dottie comes in well before dusk and can be seen panting away - this is an exhausting time for her as she creates eggs, drawing on good feeding and calcium stocks from her own body (short video).
  20 April:Another fretful night for Dottie who took a very long time to get off to sleep as her partner kept calling. And, of course, perching on several eggs cannot be that comfortable! Longish video of fidgeting and outside birdcallsFidgetting to the sound of birdsong. Just before she settled, she responds to her mate's call and has a 'noisy neighbour' moment. Calling mate and blackbird disturbanceCalling mate and blackbird disturbance. This morning she covered up her eggs with the masses of feathers in her box - so no pictures of eggs today.
  22 April: At Last! For the first time we have a clear view of Dottie's nest cup and the count is eight eggsEight eggs for Dottie! The fact that her behaviour has changed to leave the eggs uncovered may indicate she has been roosting today - so this may be the final total? Watch this space.
  13 April (Day 55) - the first egg was laid this evening while the sun was shining and then the mother leftEgg Turning and Calling! This is highly unusual as all previous layings have taken place at night. The daytime laying of eggs is continuing but spotting the eggs has bee hard as the nest is very fluffy and deep! This is the first time we saw five (17 April) then seven (19 April) eggs. Also a quick view of Geraint feeding GwendolineGeraint Feeding Gwendoline (19 April).
  Due to lay eggs roughly in early/mid April. There has been definite mating activity in the box in the past few days. It will be interesting to see how "out of phase" the blue and great tits are.
  9 April (Day 52) - the third night that the female has slept overnight in the box and we see her make her self comfortable and become a puffball while being sung to sleep by the male outside. Birdbox bedtime
  14th April (Day 57) - the Great Tits are much less helpful to the camera than the Blue Tits were! At times we think we see eggs but have not caught anything definitive on film (Cath covers the bowl with feathers and moss before leaving). She is in very early each evening and sleeps so soundly she barely moves; although she does go through heavy panting (suggesting eggs may be laying?). Getting up can be a slow business too - Cath tidies up clapping her beak until she is called insistently by Alf (and sings back to him) - 12th April (Day 55)Getting Up!15th April (Day 58) We can see at least two eggs as Cath left this morning without covering the cup Two eggs at least - then she did covered them up. 17th April (Day 60) and we have finally spotted FIVE eggs. So, egg-laying began on 12th April (Day 55) at the latest. Have a look Five Eggs Seen. NOTE: The calendar is running a bit slower for the great tits than for the blue tits.
  18th April (Day 49) We spotted the first egg of the clutch.
  6th April (Day 49) We were worried to see Blodwyn lying on her side panting. But we relaxed when we saw the first egg. Each day saw another egg laid.
Days 59/70 2011
Last egg laid 23rd April: 9 Eggs laid and now starts the period of brooding.
  3rd May: On past performance, we should start to see eggs hatching in the next couple of days - perhaps 5th May. The female continues to brood overnight and leaves the eggs covered during the daytime.
  5th May: Yesterday saw the first hatchlings emerge and we captured some video footageof feeding! The male brought food in that was too large to begin with. It is worrying if the last eggs are late to hatch - the youngsters will have trouble surviving Dottie stretches and leaves ten eggs.Chicks and eggs in view
  23rd-24th April: Hard to tell what the final count of eggs might be as Dottie is up before we are and she covers her eggs with feathers as we saw on 23rd and 24th April - she wasn't far away as her or David's call could be heard clearly. She is roosting at times during the day. We managed to catch Dottie stretching her wings and leave the nest to feed, revealing ten eggs Dottie stretches and leaves ten eggs 24th April ten eggs,Dottie's ten eggs in view so we imagine Dottie will have her first hatching around May 4th if she has stopped now?
  25th & 26th April: Change of plan - 11 eggs Eleven Eggsand a due date of 5th May! Confirmed the number of eggs this morning (26th April)Confirmed Eleven Eggs
  29th April: A very real worry. Early this morning , we found blue tit feathers near a favourite perch of our local sparrow-hawk. By 8 a.m. we still hadn't seen Dave feed Dottie, which is unusual. If she does lose her mate, that would be the end of her breeding season. However, just as despair set in, Dave appeared at 8.45 a.m.- photoDave returns to feed Dottie, thank goodness! and videoDave returning to feed Dottie after a long silence. A relief after a worrying discovery of a dead blue tit nearby.
  30th April: Frequent visits by both birds, feeding, rolling eggs, brooding. We are now seeing Jackdaws, who may raid other more accessible nests for eggs and hatchlings.
  4th & 5th May: There hasn't been much to report, except we are seeing a great deal of feeding activity in the area for just about every species we see! This includes the opportunists that can eat eggs and chicks (Crows, Jackdaws and Magpies - that's Nature for you!) All is quiet in the maternity ward on both mornings. But it really cannot be long now - regular egg-rolling.

Finally there were eight eggs (26th April) of which only six have hatched (here you can see five newly hatchedFive of eight eggs hatch in 2008(2nd May).

  18th April (Day 61) - With six eggs so far it will be interesting to see how many will be laid. This morning was the first time we spotting Cath being fed on the nestCath being fed on  the nest. By the 19th April (Day 62) we got a very clear shot of seven eggsCath's Seven Eggs on view in 2007. Today (22nd April - Day 65) we can confirm that Cath and Alf have seven eggs total 19 April Seven EggsCath's seven eggs are confirmed as she left- Cath got off the eggs after Alf fed her a large caterpillar. 30th April (Day 73) and we have been watching a lot of brooding but no chicks - they could emerge soon.
  28th April (Day 59) Holly stopped laying with eleven eggs! You can see the clutch of eggs and Buddy feeding HollyHolly has eleven eggs in total  2006
  7th May (Day 68) Oh such drama - we found evidence of the sparrow-hawk killing a blue tit near the box. Only after several hours of worry did we see both Buddy and Holly return intact.
  16th April (Day 59) We believe nine eggs were laid.
Days 71 to 75 2011
Hatching of all viable eggs and the loss of a couple of younger chicks 6th May to 13th May: Everything went to plan, except that one egg did not hatch. Mother and father worked hard every day to keep up with the ever-increasing appetite ..... until a sparrow hawk caught the male blue tit outside the nest-box. The sparrow hawk also took a European goldfinch and a couple of sparrows. We have even seen magpies chasing sparrows - normally they appear to get on pretty well side by side. That cannot be said for the visiting jackdaws, who are very partial to an easy snack if the songbirds get too relaxed!
  14th May to 16th May: It is terribly sad to see one adult blue tit sit on her eggs, waiting and listening attentively for the regular visits of her partner. Hunger meant that she went outside herself quite regularly. But very quickly it was clear the chicks were dead after only one full day of neglect. This just shows how important it is that both of the breeding pair survive. The remaining parent cleared out one or two of her dead chicks but the inevitable has happened - the nest box is now abandoned.
  6th May: 6pm, more or less as expected, the chicks are beginning to hatch. It is evening and Dottie is frantically in and out and rearranging the chicks when she gets in. You will notice that she now braces herself on the sides of the cup to avoid crushing the chicks. It seems a bit odd to hatch now - but I guess bugs are about to be caught for feeding. Largish movie fileDotties chicks get frantic for food.
  (2nd May) Only six eggs hatched. This video footage shows how tiny and vulnerable they are in their first daysSee how small and vulnerable chicks are in their first days. And then the long slog of parental visitParental visit to their chicks, feeding and cleaning begins. Occasionally we were lucky enough to see all six fledglings in clear view Six fledglings(3rd May). At this point we had to accept that two eggs were infertile. It was at this time that we experienced some very warm weather that caused some distress and the fledglings stretched as far as they could to be clear of the cupFledglings stretched as far as they can (10th May) - perhaps to catch some small breeze? Who would have guessed that they could stretch their necks quite so far!
  30th April (Day 73):Great excitement! Between 2pm and 5pm the Great Tit chicks started hatching. A couple of photos [Photo 1 Two chicks hatchedPhoto 2 Two chicks hatched]. Cath appears a bit confused when presented with a grub that is far too large for the chicks. 1st May (Day 74): We think that all the remaining eggs hatched - although the bundle of chicks could be hiding one egg? A short broadband video of eggshell being eatenIt makes sense that birds eat eggshells (as last year with the blue tits) and Alf trying to feed the chicks (fun to watchThe fun of watching dad try to feed the kids!). We also took photos of the bundle of six chicksUnsure how many are in the frame!, and both parentsMum and dad feeding their chicks together feeding the chicks, then the parents breaking up the food so the chicks can eat the grubsDad helps to break the grubs up for their young Parents breaking up the food
  10 May: (Day 71) It is all "go". By 8.00am three Blue Tit chicks could be seen with others showing signs of breaking outEarly born chicks are very small.
  A long video Video showing two hatched and a third arriving shows two out (Peggy and Sue) and a third emerging. Notice that Holly eats the shell, which will contain calcium and some albumen we guess - something we didn't notice the first year. Again, portions were often bigger than the chicksPortions ovten bigger than the chicks!! So much so the chick often falls over once their beak is full. You can just see four chicks in this photo Four chicks in view at feeding time.
  12 May: (Day 73) The mother churns the chicks around the nest bowl, making it difficult to count. We think we could see only six chicks. The chicks themselves squirm around a great deal Halfway through the birds calendar.
  13 May: (Day 74) Some delightful footage of frantic feedingOpen beaked chicks frantically feeding, churning and (broadband best) the first real cheeping from the chicks. One egg appears not to have hatched, laying in the bottom of the nest cup Photo infertile egg.
  April 28-30: (Days 71-73) We believe all 9 Blue Tit chicks hatched. The chicks are absolutely tiny and vulnerable.
  Blodwyn is seen feeding bugs to the chicks that are the size of the chicks' beaks! Note the size and shape of the very young beaks - creating a funnel to ram food into!
  May 1: (Day 74) We spotted for the first time that the parents pick up the faecal sacs of their young to remove them from the next. The routine was very much - feed chick - remove faecal sac - feed chick - remove faecal sac....
Days 75 to 85 2011 - this nest box has been abandoned, probably for the remainder of the year until we can clean it out in November. You should not disturb nest-boxes earlier than that - especially if you don't have a camera inside, to check if the box is occupied.
A period of frantic feeding, eyes open, very rapid body and feather growth. 2010
Cleanliness in the nest is of highest importance as faecal sacs are regularly presented to the parents and removed. 7th May: 7am, here is long (18Mb - worth downloading first on slower connections) video Young being fed and eggshells being eatenshowing more chick hatched, Dottie eating the egg shells to replenish her depleted calcium (and getting a piece stuck in her throat! Violent shaking of her head seemed to break up the stuck shell). You will see that Dave is in and out passing food to Dottie for her to feed to the chicks. We think three eggs have yet to hatch.
It also becomes clear that not all chicks are surviving the competition for food.

There are also going to be some eggs that are infertile.

14th May: After a few days without a connection, we have now restored the link and found it difficult to count how many chicks have hatched and thrivingBeaks at the ready for more grubs. We think about seven, with five dominant ones. At least one egg can be seen from time to time, so never hatched. This large file shows feeding time - see if you can count themHeadcounting at feeding time is not easy!!?


17th May:It appears that only eight chicks seem to have survived. It is difficult to tell how many failed to hatch or failed to thrive in competition for food. Any chicks that hatch late are at a real disadvantage because of their size as the early birds really pile on the weight. Here is a compilation of feeding videosFeeding frenzies compilation.


18th May: A possible object lesson in survival of the fittest! We can only see seven chicks now, and one of those (bottom the video frame) seems to be weaker/smaller than the othersSeven chicks surviving at present. It is certainly crowded, but they still manage to stretch enough to show off their plumage. We will try to capture footage of the comedy when poor old Dottie tries to sleep - lots of jostling. We may see the chicks leave around 24/25th May!


20th/21st/22nd May: Our mistake! Eight chicks, although the churning made counting hard. The cup has become so crowded that for the last few nights Dottie has been getting precious little sleep. Indeed, this evening (22nd) the chicks have been left alone after both parents spent all day carrying food to the box. Eight birds are overflowing the cup of the nest and they will just fidget, fidget, fidget away - so, Dottie, we do understand! This video tells the story (18Mb, be warned) Chicks growing fast and filling the box.


Even in the hot evenings, the mother would sit on her young. The young, on this occasion, decided that a quiet night was called forSilent night - although you can see some stirrings around the edge of this deep and comfortable cup (11 May).


2nd May (Day 75): As in previous years, we believe one egg will not hatch. It is important that all chicks hatch roughly at the same time if they are to survive - they grow so quickly that any latecomers have difficulty keeping up in the competition for food. This video clip shows how wind-blown twigs that hit the birdbox cause the six chicks to believe their parents have returned with foodChicklets are quite blind - six to feed. They are, of course, quite blind at this stage - this results in lots of very similar scenes of open beaks when the wind blew Six big mouths gaping and when a cat clambered nearbyChicks startled by a cat. One significant difference with this year's Great Tits is that they eat the faecal sacs from their baby chicks.


11th May (Day 84): Still sightless but noisy - they display some clear markings on their juvenile feathers. We are not sure if all six chicks are thriving?Are the chicks still thriving?


12th May (Day 85): A peaceful scene of sleeping chicks, dreaming perhaps? A view of wing markings as they fidget.Sleeping Chicks and wing markings begin to show definition


14 May: (Day 75) Rapid changes are taking place - you can see a dark line down the chicks' backsStripe marking down the centre of chicks' backs. From being very tiny, you can start to see the chicks more easily. We spotted Two infertile eggs two infertile eggsTwo infertile eggs in view, so the best we hoped for was 9 chicks from the clutch of 11.


17 May: (Day 78) Holly caused some concern when she went roosted at the edge of the nest cup and breathed very shallowly. So the chicks slept without cover! Later in the night Holly returned to churn the chicks about and the next morning the chicks looked fine.Holly decides to get a night's sleep at the cup edge


19 May: (Day 80) Late storms battered the box. The chicks a growing very quickly, feather tufts appear over the eyes, and Holly engages in a lot of churning of the chicksBirdbox viewed on a stormy night. All quite comical. We think there may now only be six chicks. You can begin to see distinct markings on winglets too as they scratch and flap.Birds scratching and flapping for exercise and cleanliness


3 May: (Day 76) Our best view of the remaining 7 Blue Tit chicks. Any dead chicks are likely to be removed by parents. You can begin to see "tufts" on the chicks' heads and a darkening of the skin as feathers begin to emerge. Still sightless which makes feeding time a hit and miss affair and they don't react until the parent "cheeps"!


Sometimes food is dropped but soon recovered and delivered again. Once we saw two chicks feeding off different ends of the same grub - quite comic really.


4 May: (Day 77): Four minutes of frantic feeding on video.


5-8 May: (Days 78-81): Housekeeping and hygiene are a priority. Nearly every time a parent arrives with food, they leave with the faecal sac in their beakFaecal sacs removed at each feeding visit, presented to it by the chick turning upside down in the nest. The chicks get churned about too as the parents diveChicks get churned about by mother under the chicks to maintain the cup. The markings become clearer (Day 81) and some chicks start to preen themselves, but fall over asleep at the same timeChicks preen themselves but soon fall asleep too!


9-12 May: (Days 82-85) The eyes open , and very quickly you see some chicks becoming more successful than others in getting food from their parents, the bigger one pushes the others out of the wayChicks push eachother and their faecal sacs are removed. By Day 84 we see that only five of the seven hatched chicks appear to be alive now and Blodwyn moved one dead chick Dead chick cleared away to the wall of the boxOne chick that died overnight is moved to the side of the cup. We did wonder if this was because Blodwyn was a first-time mum but it could be that food is scarce too? The markings are becoming even clearer.

Days 86 to 89 2010
Stepping on to the edge of the cup, flapping, strengthening and fuelling.

23rd/24th/25th May: 09.30 am: The chicks have been frantically feeding and today they have been exercising their wings a great deal and occasionally peering out of the hole. We got up early, fully expecting to see them leave this morning but it may be that three of them are still a bit small. But, if not today, then tomorrow is almost guaranteed on our experience of previous years. Today, both adults are feeding; when they want the chicks to leave, they will stop feeding the chicks and sit outside calling.

Crowded - so parents start to spend nights out of the box.

Sadly, on 24th May we spotted that one of the chicks died overnight - 7 left, which isn't bad. The competition in that box is very strong, so the "runts" are not likely to survive - especially as they have been without their parents sharing their roost - simply no space available!

  The days from 12th May to 20 May left us confused and worried. It was clear that some young were much stronger and inclined to follow their parents out of the box after feeding. However, we didn't see any of them leave over this period - here are all six looking hungry but healthyHungry but healthy brood of six. We also began to suspect that the young were being fed only by one parent - we have seen cats, kestrels and sparrow hawks very active nearby. On one occasion we found a cat sitting on top of the birdbox trying to figure a way in - mad flailing of arms and shouting saw him off on that occasion, but you cannot watch over the boxes all the time. The magpies that have overwintered with us were also showing an unhealthy interest in the many nests in nearby shrubs and bushes. So, did we lose one parent? Or did some early fledglings make a bid for freedom and had to be cared for outside the box in the thick undergrowth? We will never know for sure.

The birdbox was not monitored for several days.


27 May: (Day 88) For a week we have been watching massive changes in the chicks; although a couple did worry us because they are so much smaller than the others. One thing we got wrong - there are seven chicks in view Seven Chicks waiting for feeding time and a very short clip of the beaks responding to Holly Magnificent seven in full glory. Holly and Buddy have had to work so very hard to keep the food going through wind and rain. This was the last night during which Holly stayed with the chicks - we don't blame her given how little room she was givenLast night in the box for Holly!


28 May: (Day 89) Getting much more active, with three chicks much larger than the others, exercise their wings, standing on the smaller chicks and scratch for fleasBroadband Three Strongest Chicks Dial Up Three Strongest Chicks. So we wonder, do some stay behind and get looked after or abandoned? By the evening they were worn out and were left to sleep alone - a short clip because they don't moveHome alone!!


13 May: (Day 86) This is the first sight of a chick flapping its wings and standing at the rim of the nest cup - prime position for feeding too Wingbeating as essential exercise.


14 May: (Day 87) At any one time you can find three chicks standing at the rim of the cup, often craning their necks to see outside the hole and frequently exercising their wings (and pecking each other if one stands on the other!).


15 May: (Day 88) Two stand-alone photographs: see how much wood Blodwyn removed when "preparing" the box for occupationPreparing to leave. The next one shows Blodwyn (Brian?) with a caterpillar ready to feed the chicksBlue tit outside with caterpillar in beak.


16 May: (Day 89) What a day! Several chicks have had us on tenterhooks as they jumped up to the birdbox hole. However, they were just as often knocked down again by the adult returning to feed them. Blodwyn also chose today to clear out two dead chicks as, we guess, space is at a premium and the presence of a blow fly makes it an important piece of hygiene. The bird call is much more distinct and a lot of time is spent on the rim of the nest and flapping, scratching and preening

Day 90 2010
Finally preparing to leave

26 May: Likely departure day. In spite of the chicks having a keen interest in the birdbox hole and peering out, Dave and Dottie kept feeding them, so they stayed.


As we hinted earlier, we thought that only one parent was now alive and interested in the fate of the fledglings. From this broadband footage (18 May)Only three chicks left, it is clear only three chicks are active and it does look as if the others may not have made it. The three remaining were caught (19 May) looking as if they were ready to leave the box Three chicks ready to go (and the flies that were now beginning to arrive). Once the chicks had left, it was clear that only one parent cannot support six fledglings - you can see the remains of the other chicks and a fly left (21 May)Only three out of six could survive with only one parent.


29th May (Day 90): So close to being ready to leave as one chick flies to the hole and looks out before falling back! Feeding is so frantic, you often see both adults in the box togetherBoth parents in the box is quite rare. The pressure to get fed leads to some comic clips - this short one shows the mother cornered! (Thunder in the background)Thunder in background.


17th May: The chicks behaved oddly today. They were almost docile as if resting and conserving their energies? No frantic feeding and calling. We think that Blodwyn returned to the box last night because she was soaked through. This evening she was noticeable by her absence.

Day 91 - Freedom! 2010
But beware the bandits (Magpies)

By the time we got up at 6.30am, all the chicks had flown and could be seen in the undergrowth.


Yesterday, we were convinced they were ready to go, the speed at which they left today reflects how strong the remaining seven in the brood were. This video pulls together some images from the past two days, including the birds peering out and standing outside the box, but none of them leavingGetting ready to leave. Here we caught site of one care-free chick by some fruit canes Young one now outside!- if you check the leaf-size, you get an idea of just how vulnerable they are for the next couple of weeks. We have regular visits by Jackdaws, Crows and Magpies, not to mention Kestrels and Sparrowhawks. Nothing more to be done by us though except to keep food ready available for all the birds who have fledglings of which there are a very large number this year.


2008 - Hiding in a hebe - the last one to leave. The mother was nearby.


2007 - 19th May (Day 92): Oh dear! We were away for a few days and came home to find chicks under the birdbox, looking very beautiful and being fussed over by their parents. So we missed filming the departure by only a few minutes. This short clip gives a view of one chick that did not make it (we suspected one was lost). On broadband you may hear the call of the parents as they tend to their newly flown great tit chicks. Five out of six is not so bad a success rateAll gone in 2007.

2006 - reluctance to leave the box

2006 - 30 May: This year took 3 hours to empty the box!

  This is how it went....

(1) 0700: Surprise! Three gone and we worry the smaller ones might be abandoned - one is much smaller that the others Four remaining.


(2) 0755: All is well until something caused four hungry chicks to go very still and silent .... the reason was a good one. A magpie had landed below the nestbox and several birds made alarm calls.


(3) No more feeding but a number of short visits and a lot of calling from outside to entice the chicks to leave the nest. This long clip (6.5 mins) follows their fate - leaving the runt of the brood with its motherFinale.


(4) The final chick was abandoned for 40 minutes without food until finally it was forced to respond to its parent's calls - although it was a real struggle for this chick to get airborne - we are not confident that this one will survive the nightFinal Chick ready but not sure will survive.

  Bird Facts: Only 37% of bluetits will survive their first year

2005 - 18 May: 0630 chicks are frantic. Several try to perch at the birdbox hole - we see two trying at the same time. All chicks are exercising their wings and rattling their tail feathers. It cannot be long before they go - Blodwyn is still regularly feeding and cleaning the chicksReady to go. 0720 and all five chicks have left. Be warned, these are large files - make a cup of coffee first and unpack the hankyLengthy leaving session. Over in 12 minutes!

After the chicks have gone...

In mid June 2005 we saw a solitary bee take residence in the nesting material for a whileSolitary bee takes residence in Summer.


Also in May 2005 we heard a sad tale of another bird-box from a visitor to our website that lost all its chicks. Read that sad tale below.

Other bird boxes on camera that we have heard about

Breeding for our songbirds is unpredictable and often hangs by a thread. If you have been watching Bill Oddie's Springwatch, you will have seen 9 eggs hatch and the chicks fledge. In our case 5 survived from the original 9. But if one of the adults loses its mate the story is much more bleak……

Mark Webster wrote to this website

24 May 2005

I have been watching your blue tits footage with interest, but not logged on for a week so only just seen the fledgling footage.

I have a nest-box up too with a black & white CCTV camera inside and found it fascinating watching the 'inner' activity live. Sadly things have been going from bad to worse: since 3 of the 7 eggs hatching on Sunday 14th May (2 in the morning and one in the evening) both parents started feeding a lot. It would appear that the male then disappeared on Tuesday 16th or Wednesday 17th and I concluded Wednesday night that he has gone, presumably killed by a cat or other predator. The female was popping out to feed the 3 young occasionally. but still sitting on the nest most of the time. I phoned the RSPB Animal Welfare dept for advice on assisting and put some mealworm out in a small pot following their advice. (They did say that it has been a bit colder this season so they expect less eggs hatching and more abandonment as has happened in previous cold springs like 2002.) I'm not sure if the female blue tit touched these though. The 3 young were at least growing a lot and after on..........but I have looked at your own site as guidance to how long things take to progress; with slow feeding then maybe the development is a bit less with my 'neighbours'.

Thanks for sharing your video footage on the web.

Regards, Mark Webster.

2nd June 2005 – replying to our request to record his experience

Thanks for your reply. I am happy for you to use any of my feedback if you like. Sadly it wasn't good news with my blue tits; after I emailed to say only one of the babies was left alive, I woke next morning and turned on the TV to see that the last baby was laying dead in the nest. The mother kept popping out and returning to it, sitting on it for a few hours, before finally accepting that all her brood had perished and she left the box. I've not seen her returning to the box since leaving it. I decided to remove the dead baby, but had heard that eggs cannot be legally removed from nests until between August-January, so will leave those in for now.

I've been tuning in to see Springwatch on BBC2 this week which has loads of bird-box footage and other animal photography, so great to see all those doing well. There's a good chat page on their website too if you are after more feedback on birds.

Let's hope the boxes do well next year for us all.

Regards, Mark Webster.

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