Thursday, 27 May 2010

Nestbox Diary videos, chicks hatch & parents feed them

Are you ready for bird TV? Editing video footage from our Camera Nestbox has been an absolute joy! I can now share the first egg hatching of our 2010 Blue Tit family, the tiny chicks taking their first mouthfuls and the way their parents have worked together… most of the time.

Before we begin our marathon movie session you might want to check out the new overview page for the 2010 Blue Tit Nestbox Diary. It shows just how tiny the Blue tit eggs have been in the nest. This will also give you an idea of the size of the newly hatched chicks when you look at the image below taken on Tuesday. The last egg finally hatched over night. This final chick is noticeable smaller than the others.

Chicks around a day old.

Image taken just after first chick hatched.

Already I can see how the chicks have grown in just two days. Some of the bigger ones can now swallow a small caterpillar! This makes a huge difference in their growth rate. Being fed caterpillars is the best news as in previous they haven’t been available. I’m hoping this will improve the odds of the chicks surviving to fledge.

I fully understand not everyone can view videos. In short, the male is doing a brilliant job bringing in food which he gives to the female to feed the chicks. The female still spends a lot of time on the nest. She will also go to find food too. The male does seem confused if she isn’t there. Check out the green caterpillar in the chick’s mouth below.

Male wonders if female is coming back to see he fed a chick a caterpillar.

There has been an absolutely priceless moment (not caught on film) when the male wasn’t keen on parting with the juicy green caterpillar he brought in. The female tried to take in and between they pulled back and forth making me think of the spaghetti moment in Lady and the Tramp. The female won in the end!

Enough chat, let’s turn on to bird TV. There is no background music with any of the videos shown below. I hope you enjoy the show :-D

Video info: A small clutch of six eggs were laid starting on May 6th 2010. Incubation lasted 18 days before the first egg hatched. The female is seen here incubating her eggs just 10 mins before the first chick hatched. You can see her checking around the eggs. You can all see her move from side to side as she turns the eggs with her feet...

Video info: Lunchtime sees the first egg of a clutch of six eggs hatch. The female is seen eating the egg shell. She then looks deep into the nest before settling back into the nest cup to continue incubating the other eggs...

Video info: At just 15 minutes after hatching the calls from the female Blue tit are answered when the male comes in with the first feed for the new chick. The female flaps her wings vigorously over the nest to request the food which she feeds to the chick. She eats some of it herself before settling back into the nest cup to incubate her other eggs...

Video info: The female Blue tit gets tired of waiting for the male to answer her calls for food for her chick and goes out to get some herself. She then calls at the chick to open its mouth to take the food. She nudges the chick around a little before settling back into the nest cup to incubate her other eggs...

Video info: The female Blue Tit tries to catch a nap as 2nd chick about to hatch. As it hatches she removes the shell and plans to eat it. The male comes in with a caterpillar and does her a swap. She feeds the tiny chicks by dipping the caterpillar into their tiny mouths then eats what remains. She flaps her wings at the male to request more food. He dutifully returns with another juicy caterpillar...

Video info: The female Blue tit is sitting in the nest cup when the male comes in with another juicy caterpillar. He is proving to be a good food provider so far. The female appears disinterested in his offering. He insists she takes his meal and watches to see the chicks get it. She eats what remains and dives into the nest cup to tidy up before settling back to incubate the remaining four eggs...

Video info: The male Blue tit arrives with a juicy caterpillar to find two chicks home alone. He seems confused as to what to do. He leaves, heading out to his usual pre nestbox landing spot (top of a small pine tree opposite the entrance) outside. He bobs up and down calling for the female eventually giving up and heading back to his chicks and begins to feed them.

The female comes in and flaps her wings requesting the food but he continues. He does the job properly too by removing the instant (after eating) white faecal sac from the chick. The female flutters her wings at him to get it as she usually eats this but he leaves the nestbox with it. He heads straight to the top of the pine tree, drops it from there and heads away to find another caterpillar...

Video info: The female Blue Tit leaves her chicks for a brief break. Probably to get some food for herself as well as her chicks. Two chicks are just over a day old with the others almost a day. One egg remains unhatched. The chicks are now getting strong enough to lift their heads up. They need to that and to open their mouths to get the attention of a parent bird with food. Their eyes are closed so they probably listen for their food parcels...

That’s all for now folks!!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Blue Tit Nestbox Diary 2010

This is third time we have had Blue Tit family to follow in our nestbox with a camera. Sadly we have seen two families fail in 2008 and in 2007. Throughout this blog, the one aspect of gardenwatching that I’ve been so very keen to share has been that of a successful family in our nestbox. This year, I have been thrilled to finally do this. If you scroll down this post you’ll find a series of links to the postings on our family with both video and photos.

2010 Blue Tit pair with six chicks, day two.
Male (left) has just given caterpillar to female for the chicks.

For 2010 we have had two parent Blue tits that worked very well as a team. Both collected food with the male being an excellent provider of caterpillars. He also discovered and took the live mealworms I provided for rainy days when caterpillars could get washed to the ground. We didn’t get too many rainy days.

It got a bit warm in the nestbox at one point and the six chicks were seen with open mouths trying to cool down and they would try and get as far up and out of the nest cup as they could. They were small then though so that was tricky. On these days the female would stay outside the nestcup.

Parasites are a problem in a nest and our female did a sterling job in keeping the nest and her chicks as clean as Blue tit possible. She was a tad too house proud on many occasions and practically wrecked the nest digging below it as the chicks tumbled out of her way.

It has been fascinating watching this family grow and on the last day we were practically glued to the monitor watching them. Although we had never seen chicks get to this stage before it was pretty obvious by the behaviour of the chicks that day something was about to happen! Only one went late that evening and the rest early the next morning. We only saw the first one fledge but we also saw it hatch too... both captured on video :-)

The table below shows some stats from our families with comparison between the years. Grey bars highlight the the most significant differences. Note how quickly the 2010 female builds her nest. First impressions suggested she wasn’t a first time Mum. After following the whole story I'd say the male wasn't a first time Dad either. That has to help the odds of a brood surviving.

For those not familiar with the size of this tiny bird, the Blue Tit (Parus caeuleus) has a length of 11cm (4½in) and a wingspan of 17-20cm (6½-8in). However, looking into the nestbox at the tiny eggs it is their size that really interested us. Exactly how small were they?

An internet search during our Nestbox Diary for 2008 led me to an image by a Primary school in England. They had a nestbox with an egg that didn’t hatch and photographed it alongside a rular. I mailed the school and asked their permission to use this. I matched that image with a coin and a hen’s egg which you can see in the montage below.

Image from 2008 Nestbox Diary blog post

You can see that the Blue Tit egg is just slightly smaller that the five pence coin in length. Of course, I am aware that doesn’t really help anyone outside the UK. Today I racked my brains for everyday items for that would relate to every visitor to my blog.

For gardeners, I wandered around my garden looking at plants and I settled on a pretty universal flower... the daisy almost fully out. For birders, I went to a hanging bird feeder and tipped out a few peanuts. Back inside, I opened my desk drawer and the rubber end of a pencil instantly made me smile. The paper clip may not be exactly a universal measure but it also gives a good idea of scale.

The length of a Blue Tit egg is just smaller than the coin in the image above.

Our nestbox with camera gives excellent colour images when there is enough natural daylight. During January we added a second colour infra red camera so we could see into the nestbox during lower light levels. We are also able to get black and white view when its dark which is the biggest bonus. Image wise the original camera gives better results as you will see.

So finally, I'd now like to invite you to read the diary and enjoy the images of a nesting pair of Blue tits in a small garden in Perthshire, Scotland. Perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa...

  • Photos & video, outside nestbox, chicks at entrance - Jun 12th, 2010

  • Photos, chicks prepare to fledge - Jun 12-13th, 2010

  • Photos, chicks thinking about fledging - Jun 11th, 2010

  • 2 videos plus photos showing the chicks looking like mini Blue tits. Feeding and nest tidy footage - Jun 6th, 2010

  • 4 videos showing progress of chicks, parents feeding and female keeping chicks and nest clean. Days 1-11 - May 24-June 3rd, 2010

  • 8 videos including chicks hatch and get fed - May 24-26, 2010

  • First three chicks hatch - May 24th, 2010

  • The nest build and 1st egg - May 1st-6th, 2010

  • Surprise discovery of moss in nestbox - May 1st, 2010
  • Monday, 24 May 2010

    Three chicks hatch

    Wonderfully, I had the camera view up on my monitor at the time and recorded the first one too! I didn't expect this today. No videos tonight… just a couple of images. I couldn’t let today go without mentioning this. I’ve collected some very interesting footage today and I'm really looking forward to editing it tomorrow. Mum and Dad have been recorded together in the nestbox too :-D

    Image from colour cam that operates with natural daylight only.
    In this camera view the entrance is on the righ. Two chicks. Time: 6pm.

    Image from IR colour cam. Night view doesn't show image in colour.
    In this camera view the entrance is on the left. Three chicks. Time: 9pm.

    Last night’s update posting was rather lengthy in terms of photos and chat. I had so much I wanted to fit in... sorry about that. Can’t believe I am replacing it so quickly! Never mind, that blog was as much one for me and my garden records too. It’s a bonus when people read the longer ones. I’m glad now I covered so much garden news as nestbox news will rather dominate things now.

    I wonder... if we could be seeing six chicks by the end of tomorrow. BTW Dad is being a good provider of food so far :-D

    Sunday, 23 May 2010

    Garden watching updates

    Gosh… there is so much to watch in the garden at the moment. Plants are growing by the day with the very warm weather we’ve been having. Newly fledged Blackbirds are appearing wandering around the borders and… perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa :-)

    Time has rather run away from me for blogging of late. Little time has been spent in the garden either. Anyway, I really can’t complain as it has managed quite nicely without me. It has been a joy to stroll around. This truely is my favourite time of the year.

    Many thanks to all who joined in with posts and comments during the Tulip fest. I really didn't intend it to run an extra week. It was brilliant to see so many varieties. How stunning many are. Since then, a few tulips have popped into flower in my garden. Not sure about the one in the border in the montage below but it has been enjoying the sunshine.

    Clicking on photos in this posting will enlarge them.

    My broom has come fully into flower now and planted roughly in the middle of my back garden its scent is spreading beautifully. Nearby, the first of the vibrant orange Geum flowers have been opening. They do make me smile. In another area woodland strawberries have just a few flowers… much less than usual.

    Also a bit less than usual is the number of eggs laid by the nesting Blue tit in our Camera Nestbox. Once again, I really am not complaining. Usually we see eight eggs laid but fingers crossed a brood of six could all survive. The photo below was taken yesterday as she was curious about the lawnmower and strimming noises from neighbour’s gardens.

    Incubation is well underway now and perhaps in a week’s time we will see the chicks hatch. The real excitement will begin! More regular nestbox updates will appear then. As I’ve mentioned, I have had PC probs and a video drive out of action. I have captured some video and snapshots which I’ll sort into one posting soon.

    We have two cameras in this nestbox so different views will be seen. The larger photo was taken from the original camera in this nestbox. This one has been recently reconnected in the last few days. It only works with daylight. The entrance is on the right.

    The montage photos below were taken with an extra IR camera we added so we could get a night view. The colour isn’t as good during the day but is okay. Most of the photos and video taken so far have been with this view. The entrance is on the left with this camera view. Spot the last image where the male comes in with a tasty bite. Lol… I’ve video of what happens next ;-)

    Moving on to plants in flower taken on the 15th of May for Bloom Day and I have added a few longer shots too to show roughly where they appear in my garden. I know I myself like to see these shots in other blogs. To see other May Bloom Day posts head over to Carol's... another cuppa may be required :-D

    A Bamboo adds height, movement and structure between my lawn and hedge. However, walking through the arch where bird feeders hang and there is a hidden spot behind it.

    There's enough room for a large pot with a weeping pear and a compost bin plus access for trimming the hedge. Below we have the bird’s eye view (as they arrive at the feeders) of the Clematis ‘Constance’ in flower.

    The close-up montage shows the delicate flower of Constance and the buds of a rhododendron successfully about to open after its move last autumn from my new wildlife pond area.

    Wood Anemones have travelled with this rhododendron which is a bonus too. You can see how it thrives in the shade beneath the rhododendron in the longer view from the lawn side of the Bamboo.

    A week on and this rhododendron was laden with its large blooms and another rhododendron nearby with very few buds had also opened too. Now, a few days on again and these blooms are going through more colour changes. It really is amazing what a few sunny days makes to plants.

    We’ve been short on rainfall of late. Having moved a few plants around and sowing sow seed directly on the ground it has been necessary to do some watering. During the early hours of this morning we had a very heavy downpour and these areas would definitely benefited from it as the ground was already damp.

    Evaporation of water in ponds is also a problem in times of warm weather especially small ones like my little rock based pond. Add that to a run back when the pump was running and the rocky back wall had to be dismantled… again.

    On and off in the last two weeks I’ve tried different arrangements of the rocks. I won’t rebuild it completely until I’m certain all looks okay. However, even when I think it’s near the slightest back tilt as the rocks build up and I could be back to square one. Perhaps adding a piece of liner could be the answer.

    My main problem here is that I’m trying to incorporate a small running reservoir that will act as a bird bath with a firm enough step beside it so hedgehogs could safely drink from there too. As for sound, I want to hear a deep gentle burbling noise. Oh yes... I also want to see the running water from my window… yep… I want it all ;-)

    Golden leaves of a Carex grass light up this semi shaded area behind my pond which gets early morning and some evening sun. Japanese Anemones grow well here and I’ve recently added a few new young plants with pink flowers to the white ones already there.

    The deep red thistle flowers of Cirsium are beginning to form. Soon it will grow tall through the obelisk that is used for feeding apples to the birds in the winter. In flower this will feed the bees.

    The weeping pear had white blossom on the 15th with only a few silver green leaves. I did wonder if it could be a casualty of winter. Looking out my window tonight and it has many leaves now.

    Meconopsis have thrived beside my pond long before the Anemones arrived. I’ve now added some young plants of mixed colours to the wonderful blue ones. I can’t wait to see what colours they will be.

    Blue is already filling the small area in the border opposite. Brunnera Jack Frost is still flowering well. Birds disappear under its leaves in search of peanuts which are getting dropped from a feeder above. Great tits and a Jackdaw are the main birds spotted doing this with a clumsy footed Woodpigeon or two too.

    The Great tits and Jackdaw also appear at the feeding area under my small domed Acer tree. The larger Jackdaw looks particularly out of scale there.

    Originally tentative the Jackdaw is getting more comfortable around this area. Usually we don’t see any Great tits if we have nesting Blue tits in the garden but this year a pair is regularly visiting the garden which is nice to see.

    Gosh… sorry I am chatting on a bit! It’s been a while… I’ll try and be quick. The tulip ‘Shirley’ was given to me as a present a few years ago and still sends up one flowering stem. There were only a few flowers on my broom on the 15th. Looks like a tulip with a virus here by the markings… I really should remove and destroy it.

    A week on and ‘Shirley’ is fully open towering over ground cover plants at the side of my pergola. The centres of both it and a dark variety in another area really are quite eye catching… Shirley has attracted a bee there :-D

    Walking under my pergola and up towards my arbour and a generous planting of pale yellow primrose catch my breath every time I walk by. So do the wonderfully glossy Asarum leaves growing beside them. This Asarum is slowly self seeding.

    On the other side of my Pergola my Wisteria was showing clear flower buds on the 15th however I was thinking that not all buds looked like they would yield flowers.

    Primroses have self seeded along my path. Alpine Lady’s Mantle and Heuchera on the other hand have been planted around the ground spike for my rotary drier. They camouflage it well. A single hyacinth survives my trowel to live another year.

    A week on and it looks like I was right on the Wisteria. Perhaps the cold winter has had an impact on Wisteria flowers for this year… or perhaps with me stalling the second pruning as it was so cold had an impact. Shame… I will still have some flowers though :-)

    Many garden designers talk about drawing the surrounding landscape into your garden view. For this posting celebrating blooms and views I’ll just borrow my neighbour’s flowering cherry tree hanging with wonderful pink blooms that towers over my hedge above my arch with bird feeders. This tree is very popular with birds visiting my garden.

    I love to see tree shadows move around my garden like a clock hand. The bare area of soil in foreground below has a scattering of wild flowers and Californian poppy seeds. Today I noticed the new seedlings appear. The B&W camera nestbox on the pergola pillar didn’t get a completed nest so I guess that’s it for this year. Pity... I'll not be greedy though :-)

    Coming back to flowering plants on the 15th and London Pride was close but not quite there. Tiny violets were out but Allium ‘Purple’ Sensation didn’t make it either.

    Deep pink drumstick Primulas held on to a few final flowers as did the narcissi ‘Ice Follies’. Where back in the planted area of my lawn some fresh delicate narcissi had just come into bloom. Mm… what’s going on here beside the bulb area? Oh… I’ll keep this chat for another day. This area is still work in progress :-D

    For many years I’ve had small yak hybrid rhododendrons in my garden. I have moved them around too as mentioned earlier. Below tells the story of the rhododendron that will flower (nice plump bud) and the one that won’t as I didn’t snap off the dead flower after flowering last year… oops.

    This plant is growing at the back of my Gunnera border. BTW… no photos but my Gunnera did survive the very cold winter temps! Ah… but what about the pretty yellow/green bells above? Well... they really should not be!!

    Seriously… this plant in flower is a bit of a miracle. Why? Let me show you…

    Hanging my head in shame, I have to admit to lifting this plant from the new pond area last Autumn and it has been proud of the ground with roots exposed ever since then. I wasn’t sure if I would replant it in another area or send it to compost heaven… so I did neither.

    Incredibly, with the coldest temps we have had in years and with plant losses throughout my garden it has flowered… in spite of my neglect. I really must find a spot to plant it now. Its will to live outweighs my indecision. It can stay! Its hardiness is without question now :-D

    Taking a look at the longer view you can see it above my pond dig. It’s been a bit too hot to dig for the moment but once it gets cooler I’ll get out and back to it again soon. First, I need to get the other borders/beds tidied up and weeded before they run away from me :-D

    To be honest, although I don’t like looking at this unfinished area I’d rather take my time and get it right. I do have some strong ideas on design here and I just need to work out if they will be practical or not. It is a big job that’s for sure.

    Looking at the area of my back garden just through the gate always makes my smile. I love foliage and green in the garden. Being partially shaded light levls change throughout the day and once the Gunnera sends out its new leaves it is quite magical to me.

    Hellebores are still just hanging on to flowers, fern fronds are uncurling by the day and Red Campion is growing fast. Golden hop and ivy weaves about the ground and up the trellis to join the wonderfully scented Jasmine. Ah… just smell it… Summer is on its way.

    There is an incredible contrast in temperature and mood between my lush green partially shaded back garden and my gravel dressed, very hot and dry front garden. Just a gate divides the two. It feels like two quite different worlds. Euphorbia took a big hit with the winter in both my back and front gardens and most had to be lifted.

    My faithful flowering Penstemons also took a hit but it wasn’t quite so severe. I pruned hard back all the dead stems and slowly some new growth has appeared on some of the plants but as they were going to leave a bare patch meantime and may not flower this year I pulled some out. I’ll take cuttings later in the year from one plant that looks like it will pull through.

    A Skimmia from my back garden replaced a Euphorbia which seemed happy enough to flower in its new home.

    The perennial wallflower Bowles’ Mauve had one casualty out of three plants at my front door. I have loved this plant so much that I bought another few for my front garden and I intend taking cuttings from my plants this year to spread it around even further.

    Replacing the Penstemon plants in my front garden was easy and relatively financially painless. Last year I bought some bargain plants. I picked up pots of the sedum Rose Carpet that I have in hanging baskets at the front of my house. I thought I'd try it on the ground… so that filled a few gaps.

    I had another sedum (not sure variety) that was in my back garden (not the best place for it) that I had divided. That made another four plants. A lavender growing in pot was also lost to the winter. Sedum ‘Carl’ wasn’t getting enough space next to the wallflowers so it was lifted and put in the pot then placed with the other sedums… job sorted!

    So, there we have it a new look for the front garden in the aftermath of winter. One final touch that might add a little zest of colour for this year… I have no idea if this will work but my head tells me there should be a chance. I have scattered Californian poppy seeds in the gravel around my sedums and along the garden boundary. Will they grow… time will tell.

    Bringing things right up to date and we have a montage of Alliums in my front garden. Bees are visiting the wallflower and in my back garden the first Meconopsis flower buds can be seen.

    A clump of Bluebells are flowering in my front garden. The seem to like it there as do the pink ones. The bluebells and alliums growing on the other side of the fence in my back garden are a bit behind in growth.

    More uncurling ferns catch my eye and an unexpected find of the cuckoo flower at a garden centre just made my day. I’ve added a few to the bulb area of my back lawn. No flowers for this year as they are already over but next year…

    I could quite safely say you’ll never see a Woodpecker in my garden. My trees are nowhere mature or old enough to bring them in.

    Yesterday though, my daughter and I popped up to SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes for a visit and as per usual we saw them there. However, most of the visitors were much more interested in the live pics from the Osprey nest. The female laid three eggs and two chicks had just hatched. Great news there! You can read the latest on their blog here.

    Finally, this has been a marathon posting. If you are still reading… thanks for bearing with me. I’m delighted, especially as I fully understand your garden awaits your attention too.

    Before I send this on its way out in to blogland where it may never be seen again I would like to very quickly mention something for readers here in the UK.

    The WWT is running a campaign at the moment. I’ll post on it later this week… I might have an interesting story or two with this. I’ll give you time to recover from this download first :-)

    “As part of a long-term study, WWT needs volunteers of all ages to contribute to a survey into whether the presence - or absence - of wetlands in gardens, local parks, school grounds and allotments affects the range of animals found there.”

    Sounds interesting. For more info check out the WWT website . I received an email about this asking me if I'd like to write a blog on this. Perhaps other UK Bloggers might like to promote/support this week's campaign too. It began on May 21st and runs until May 31st.

    Meantime, I hope you’ve had a good weekend and I’d like to wish you a great week ahead :-D

    Thursday, 6 May 2010

    Tulip photo fest

    This invitation to all bloggers to post photos of tulips was inspired by the Bloms display at the 1st Tulip Festival at Cambo Gardens in Scotland. Taking a few quick photos after the Anna Pavord talk it wasn’t until I uploaded them that I truly saw in detail the beauty and incredible variety of these flowers. My jaw dropped!! I only wish now I had taken longer to actually look at them.

    Please feel free to use and pass around the image above if you wish.

    For those going to Malvern, Bloms will be exhibiting in the Floral Marquee so if you want to see these tulips for real yourself you may see them there. I didn’t photograph all the varieties on display at Cambo. Being conscious of the time and others viewing them too I only went for the ones that caught my eye at that moment.

    ~Royal Design~

    Royal Design, Flaming Spring Green, Spring Green, Danceline, Carnaval De Nice, White Parrot, Aria Card, Snow Parrot, Rem's Favourite, Ballade, Maytime, Charmeur, Blushing Beauty, Creme Lizard, Drumline, Apricot Parrot, Sensual Touch, Helmar, Abu Hassan and Exotic Emporor can all be seen in this posting.

    ~Flaming Spring Green~

    ~Spring Green~

    ~Spring Green~


    ~Carnaval De Nice~

    ~Carnaval De Nice~

    ~Carnaval De Nice~

    ~White Parrot~

    ~Aria Card~

    ~Snow Parrot~

    ~Rem's Favourite~




    ~Blushing Beauty~

    ~Creme Lizard~


    ~Apricot Parrot~

    ~Sensual Touch~


    ~Abu Hassan~

    ~Exotic Emporor~

    Gosh now… I'm guessing that there has to be a few tulips that have caught your eye here too. I wonder if you could pick three favs from this group of photos. A very hard choice but if really pushed mine would be Flaming Spring Green, Danceline and Abu Hassan.

    I now welcome as many postings as possible with tulip photos in the link list below. Past postings would be great too. Please do share the favs from your garden, gardens you have visited or blooms you have seen at garden show. Let’s see how many tulips we can collect in the next week or so.

    Let's celebrate... The Tulip!