Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dryness warning from RHS

“The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is warning gardeners that soil dryness levels have already reached level often not encountered until late July/August. The recent low rainfall has led to soils having a moisture deficit of 4 inches. This means that 4 inches of rain would be needed to restore the soil to full moisture capacity.

“It would have to be unusual rainy now to fully replenish the soil so vulnerable plants may need supplementary watering”, says Guy Barter RHS Chief Horticultural Adviser. “Most established trees, shrubs and climbers should have sufficient roots to withstand this level of dryness by using water stored in the soil from winter rain, but as summer rain is seldom sufficient for newly planted trees and shrubs I would suggest that ones planted in the last two years will need watering every 10 days even if there is some rain now.”

The RHS advises that early flowering perennials that have finished flowering can be left to die back. Late flowering perennials will need watering unless the soil is particularly heavy and moist. Raspberries, strawberries and other fruits are likely to respond to some watering. Lawns can be kept green by frequent watering but it is questionable if this is a sensible use of water, when brown lawns will quickly green up when the rain returns.

“If at all possible it would be useful to group containers, especially hanging baskets that can be very vulnerable, in light shade which will help reduce drying out,” says Guy.

The RHS suggests that watering the soil is best practice rather than watering plants and to do this consider making ‘ponds’ round individual plants so that the water can really soak in, ideally wetting the soil quite deeply, say to 25cm (10ins). Through watering like this supports plants for 14 days. Merely wetting the surface wastes water, encourages weeds and can lead to surface rooting making the plant more vulnerable.
Watering advice is found on the RHS website.

“Having your own compost heap will not only help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill but also will give gardeners an ideal medium to help make their soils even better for plants,” says Guy. “The RHS has some
useful information on compost production on our website.”"
This information was supplied by Eoin Redahan at the RHS.

Rose Mdm Alfred Carierre is now blooming over bird feeder arch.

Although I am planning a break from blogging over the summer I don’t intend to fully fall of the blogging grid. Many thanks for all your kind wishes :-) Lol... you could be right John and Frank! I’ll get my last lot of nestbox video footage sorted one rainy day and another posting I have in mind. However, until I’m back to full blog rambles I’ve realised that this could be an advantage to some (definitely not all) of the organisations that contact me.

Like many other bloggers, I get quite a few suggestions of material for posting. Some like the RHS above send me press release type mail. I don’t mind that at all. Other companies offer deals on link exchanges where they ask me to write about them or a current campaign and offer text provided by themselves… well I say they ask 'me' but often it is clearly an automated mail system and bloggers are just another advertising medium. I usually follow the links given to see but in 95% of the cases I don’t go any further.

The RHS warning above I do fully support. We have had a very dry May/June here in Scotland and only now we are getting a few showers. Seeing as I am trying to keep this brief I’ll just highlight three points on dryness in my own garden. That’s’ the plan anyway ;-)

Even established plants can suffer when it’s dry. My clump forming Bamboo shows its displeasure at dry conditions by dropping leaves. The birds highlight this for me as they dig through them for food and spread them all over my lawn.

Watering wisteria when it’s dry over the summer will help flowers the following year. I read/heard that somewhere. I do agree with that. I should point out here that my photos are not really supporting the dry theme of this post as we have had a much needed shower of rain overnight! What a difference it makes to the foliage of plants.

Many plants like summer bedding and container plantings do need regular watering and I have no advice to pass on from experience there. I tend to put plants in pots that can survive the dry like Sedums… in my hanging baskets too. I do have Hostas in pots tucked in cool corners in my back garden too.

During dry spells, my watering regime has always been to help my plants find water themselves by forcing them to become deeper rooted. I do this by watering very heavily at the base of plants with watering cans or my hose. I don’t tend to use a sprinkler/spray on my hose or rose on my watering can.

On average, during a dry spell I’d water my garden after 10 days or so depending on the heat that has accompanied the dry. This works for me although I should also point out that I have a gravel mulch on my front garden and a carpet of ground cover in my cooler back garden which does help to retain any moisture.

On the other side, if a forecast for rain is expected I do go out with the sprinkler on my hose and dampen the ground and foliage first. Lol even when the rain starts… my neighbours must think I’m mad!

Oops… I am in danger of making this too long!! One final point I’d like to add on dryness in the garden… water for birds to bathe and drink. Bird baths do dry out during dry spells too. I have one outside my kitchen window and don’t always get round to filling it up either! In my case drinking water and water bathing can still be found at my small pond nearby.

Addressing the dried up bird bath problem, my ground tray nestled in plants (as a second source for birds bathing) has had a quick summer make-over and a very simple one too. I removed the stones, swept it out and filled it with dry garden soil. I’ve never seen it being used yet but now the birds can have a dry bath to keep themselves free of parasites during these long dry periods of summer.

Hope this info helps this summer. If you’ve any tips to share for particular plants or watering regimes please do share them in the comments below. Butts for collecting water are probably the biggest tip I’d guess and most valuable for ponds too as they evaporate in the heat. Small ponds have a bigger problem as there is less volume. I’ve had to top up mine so the pump doesn’t get exposed and damaged.

Enjoy your warm sunny days, hope it doesn’t get too hot for you, your plants, birds and wildlife to handle :-D

The photos above were taken in my garden (early morning) on June 29th 2010.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Nestbox Diary, chicks look out nestbox entrance

Perhaps it’s a bit on the warm side to be sitting at a computer browsing garden blogs when you can be outdoors enjoying your own garden just now. Gosh… isn’t everything growing so fast just now? Weeds too of course ;-)

Don’t you just love that expression to describe young children growing up and getting taller… growing like weeds! Well, I guess you could say that’s what happened to the Blue tit chicks in our nestbox too ;-)

It is ten days now since they all successfully fledged and we have never seen any Blue tit chicks being fed by parents or visit the feeders to even speculate that this was our family. Ah well. Mm… but I do have one mystery! I’ll come back to that after some images taken just a few hours before the first chick fledged.

This time, I’m not going to give you any video info. I’m certain it will be much more fun for you to watch that way. I wonder if you’ll guess what happens next…

Videos are no fun though if you can’t view them so below you’ll find a few frame grabs from the video. They came out surprisingly well. I only gave them a little sharpen in Photoshop too. Oh yes… I couldn’t resist some captions :-D

Hello there… what's going on out here?

Oh my… it's a bit high... more wing flapping required!

Ouch… shuffle… ouch… topple… Mum… Dad… I’m stuck ;-)

Thanks, Dad… I’ll have my mealworm al fresco!

Sorry, Dad… was I in your way? Come on in… there’s space now :-D

What fun the chicks were to watch during the last full day they were in our nestbox. I’ve made a start on sorting the footage taken from inside our nestbox that day and will post it as soon as I get it sorted. Meanwhile… back in our nestbox now…

Yep… what an unexpected surprise! Two nights ago, purely by chance, I discovered our nestbox had a rooster in it! This is not a time of year we usually see birds roosting in there either. My first thought was for the health of this bird as the nest was bound to have parasites. I watched for it to open out of its sleeping ball shape and was soon to discover it was a Blue tit and a slightly scruffy looking one at that!

Yep… my first question was the same! Could this possibly be one of the chicks that fledged from our nestbox? Was it likely at all that this could happen? I didn’t think so. I asked around on forums but got no replies. Perhaps this wasn’t the first night this bird has been roosting in our box.

By the next evening, I had decided that seeing as I knew for sure there were no eggs left in our nestbox I could safely remove the used nest. That way if the rooster returned that night it would be a cleaner place for it. I scattered some wood shavings on the floor of the box so it wasn’t completely bare.

Did this rooster return? Yes it did. It appeared slightly confused with the new flooring too but eventually settled down fine and went to sleep. Tonight it is back again. It is still looking a bit scruffy but there are no signs of the yellow beak of a chick. However, I have no idea at what stage the yellow beak changes.

So there we have it… a new garden visitor mystery! Just when I’m preparing for my summer break too… do you think it knew this? Lol. Although, I do have one little nag as I look at the photos and video of this rooster. It’s one of the eyes. It looks like the lid doesn’t stay open easily/all of the time. Mm… that was something I noticed on one of our nestbox family chicks! I’ll have to ask around again on this. Have you ever heard of a fledged chick returning to a nestbox?

Finally, I just want to add some advice on cleaning out nestboxes as given by the RSPB on their website:

“The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, which remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed in the autumn, from August onwards once the birds have stopped using the box.”

Please also note that there are laws protecting eggs in nestboxes:

“Unhatched eggs in the box, can only be removed legally between August and January - and must then be disposed of.”

To clean your nestbox the RSPB suggest:

“Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used.

If you place a small handful of clean hay or wood shavings (not straw) in the box once it is thoroughly dry after cleaning, small mammals may hibernate there, or birds may use it as a roost site.”

However, as I’ve said earlier… summer is not a time I’d associate with roosters. Has anyone any ideas/suggestions they’d like to share? This really is a curious one especially if this is one of our chicks roosting. I still can’t see it being one of them though.

On the other side, I am delighted that our nestbox is providing a safe place for this Blue tit to roost for now. I wonder how long it will stay. That’s me for tonight… way too late in posting once again!!

Enjoy the rest of your week and wishing you a great weekend :-D

All video and nestbox images above have been taken in my garden during June 2010.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

GGBD June 2010

What is GBBD? Originated and still hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day it’s a monthly date where bloggers from around the world join together to post what is in flower in their gardens on the same day. It is fascinating to see these blooms that may also appear in my small Scottish garden and those that I will never see in flower here… ever :-)

What’s the date for GBBD? It’s the 15th of the month, although Carol and the others won’t mind if you are a little late to the party as I am today. On saying that, I usually make a point of taking my photos on the 15th so I feel I’ve properly taken part even though I don’t always post then.

Plants flowering in my front garden.
Red Campion, Nepata ‘Walkers Low’, Cranesbill,
Perennial Wallflower Erysimum Bowles' Mauve,
Knautia Mars Midget, Allium Christphii.

If you are new to blogging and would like to join in please don’t feel pressure to take lots of photos (especially if you are short on time). Lists are good too or a mix of the two. Another way to look at GBBD is that it’s a great regular record of your own garden in flower that you can compare month to month, year to year… interesting to look back on especially during the winter months.

To take part with GBBD for this month all you need to do is publish your post then head over to Carol’s posting with your post URL (not your blog name one) and add your name and link to the list there. Most bloggers leave a comment on Carol’s posting too. To enjoy this festival of gardens in bloom from around the world just start clicking on the names on the list and you’re off!!

View from my front door step towards the garden gate.
Generous show of flowers from Perennial Wallflower Erysimum Bowles' Mauve.

For GBBD bloggers that may stroll their way to this post I’d like to briefly mention that recently I have been posting (at length) on birds nesting in my garden in a nestbox that has had a camera. It has been fascinating to watch especially as for the first time in the last 4 years we have had a family survive. You can see my Nestbox Diary here.

The birds were Blue Tits ( Parus caeruleus) and I have photos and video from the nest build all the way to the first chick fledging. At present, I am about to edit the last video footage from the last full day of the chicks and their activity in our nestbox. The first chick fledged last Saturday night at 9:28pm. The remaining five chicks stayed overnight in the nestbox leaving very early the next morning.

Photos of our newly fledged young family in my garden would have been a special addition to GBBD but alas as yet we have not seen them visit yet. If you are new to GBBD I’d like to wish you fun with this. It is definitely a great way to meet new bloggers with the same plant interests. I have really enjoyed taking part and hope you do to.

View in my front garden just outside my garden gate showing
Nepata (large skirt on the ground). Behind Stipa Gigantea flowers,
generous displays of Red Campion and Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'.

Finally, on a more personal note, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time blogging (over 3½ years) and I look forward to browsing the GBBD posts, discovering new blogs and meeting new bloggers. It has been great fun and I have enjoyed being part of this garden community.

However, now having met one of my main blogging goals to share a successful nestbox story (which has been fantastic) I now feel in a bit of a quandary where to take my blog from here. I often feel a little in ‘no mans’ blogging land posting on gardens/plants and birds/wildlife. There will always be seasonal periods for both which doesn’t make it easy for followers of one or the other. I understand this.

View from my back garden just behind the garden gate.
Red Campion and Aqueligia growing through lush foliage of ferns,
Hellebores, Ivy and Golden hop. Gunnera flower spike below leaf canopy.

My biggest blogging goal has always been to try and show that you don’t need to compromise planting and design to have birds and wildlife visit your garden. In essence, gardens for wildlife don’t really need to be wild.

I will always be a plants person first and the reality is that the birds and hedgehogs don’t care if I plant Alliums or brightly coloured summer bedding (don’t do bedding though). They also don’t care if my plants are in drifts, straight lines or I alternate colours in a formal pattern (the later I don’t do either).

Detail of Gunnera Flower. Physocarpus Diablo foliage
including flowers, Red Campion, Allium Purple Sensation.

View of planting below wisteria. White flowers of Choysia
Aztec Peal & Ternata, Pink flowers of Red Campion & Cransebill,
Purple globe flowers from Alliums & Chives.

Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria)

2010 is the Year of Biodiversity and for me I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever on the valuable role our gardens play here. I guess unbeknown to me I’ve really being promoting Biodiversity in my blog for some time. As my plant group tastes change and I restructure beds and planting I am providing new food sources and habits for insects and birds… and they come!

My goal for this year of Biodiversity is to consider insects in the flowering plants I introduce into my garden. I think these plants are the key ones… especially for bees who have seen a decline in numbers.

I love foliage too and am a keen advocate of ground covering plants merging together and that would be a tip I’d give to new gardeners as this foliage provides home and shelter to garden wildlife… as well as keeping down on weeding ;-)

Celmisia, Broom, London Pride, Heuchera,
Alpine Aster, Cotoneaster tree, Ajuga.

My garden project for this year is to build a new wildife pond. Although, it is the reflection of light this water will bring that I am really looking forward to I am also very keen to introduce a whole new range of plants here too. I will then sit back and do some garden watching to see what visits it! ‘If you build it they will come’… I wonder what ‘they’ will be.

Rose Mdm Alfred Carriere, Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum',
Candelabra primula, Meconopsis (Blue Poppy).
Newest arrivals from Garden Show (still in pots):
Purple flower from spotted leaf hardy Orchid Dactylorhiza x Grandis.
Globe cup flower from pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea
(oops perhaps not so insect friendly!)

Coming back to ‘Finally…’ I am seriously considering a break in blogging over the summer months. Blogging as I do with much chat, photos and video is taking time away from my garden at the moment. Don’t get me wrong I have loved blogging very much and really enjoyed the social side through comments and email too.

For now though, I really need to get out into my garden and get it back into order, get my pond completed and some general maintenance done. Oh yes… some weeding, pruning, cuttings taken etc too. I’d like to step away from the 'talking the talk’ for a while and get back out to ‘walking the walk’.

Before I break for the summer, I’ll post video from the last day in our nestbox and perhaps some tie up ones too.

Meanwhile, if you are new here please do say Hi in a comment and I’ll pop over for a visit to see you before I go. To my regular visitors I’d like to say a huge THANK-YOU for all your visits and comments during the time I have been blogging. It has been wonderful to meet you all… thanks so much for your support :-D

Just in case you're not back for my next couple of postings, I'd like to wish you a brilliant summer! I'll keep in touch... catch you later... now to the big question... will I be able to keep away ;-)

All photos above were taken in my garden on June 15th 2010.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Nestbox Diary, they kept us guessing

Yep, on Saturday the six chicks that we have been following in our Nestbox with a camera certainly did. Would they stay or would they go?

Feeding trips by the parents were already in full swing early morning when I first looked. The live mealworms I put out were disappearing at speed. The birds were seen moving around the nestbox and interestingly the parents would tend to favour feeding the chicks that remained in the nest cup area.

Lots and lots of preening was going on. The ball shaped chick shows some were having a nap too.

It was fascinating to watch the almost agitated sense of excitement in the box. This mood in the box was quite different from other days. It made me think of my daughters (when they were little) as we set off on a holiday. The chicks looked like they were getting themselves ready for something.

Every now and again the chicks would almost queue up alongside one wall with the main leader of the family just below the entrance hole. Some looked like they were considering it. We would be drawn to watching. I began recording video.

All chicks were also having a little look out the entrance at some point. The leader of the group was doing this quite regularly. The weather was fine. The sun was out and there was a bit of a breeze. An excellent day for a maiden flight!

I’ve so much video footage from outside and inside that it’s going to take a little time to sort it out. It’s going to be fun reliving the day. I’ll come back with video in a few days and post some screen grabs for those who can't view them or don't have the time :-)

Occasionally, the breeze outside would be stronger and a noise could be heard in the nestbox. The chicks could then be seen quickly making their way over to the nest cup corner where they would stay very still.

After a little while, they would be back to wandering around the whole floor of the nestbox. There was still a clear leader of the group.

Whrrrrrrrrr whrrrrrrrrr whrrrrrrrrr was being heard very regularly now as all birds were flapping their wings in preparation for flying. Boarding passes please ;-)

Brrrrrrrrrr Brrrrrrrrr Brrrrrrrrrr and the breeze outside would pick up and they were all back in the corner again! Lol… at the two storey formation… the smallest are at the bottom too :-o

As the sun dipped in and out behind clouds from time to time the light levels changed within the nestbox. The chicks looked like them were responding to this. Mm… or had they just spotted the camera lens peeking through the false ceiling?

Amusing new behaviour also came when the chicks all started taking an interest in the nesting material. They would pick it up and move it around. In most cases they would also take it from each other too. This little bird didn’t keep this piece for long. I hope I captured good video of this :-D

Brrrrrrrrrr Brrrrrrrrr Brrrrrrrrrr and the breeze outside would pick up and they were all back in the corner again!

The leader was very keen to know what was going on in the world outside the nestbox and would jump up to the entrance and stay there for a while looking out. Some of the others would watch with interest and the smaller ones didn’t seem to want to know what it was up to.

Time past and it was evening now. All day long, outside, we had a video tape recording, stop, rewind and then set to record again to capture the moments of the chicks leaving our nestbox.

The light levels were dropping and the image inside our box was changing to black and white. After the initial ‘would they go moments’ in the morning it was most likely that it could be evening now. Good job as I was out during the middle part of the day. Thanks go here to OH for manning the video camera and keeping an eye on the PC view indoors when I couldn't xo

As the evening moved on, the chicks carried on wing flapping, preening, investigating the nesting material looking around and began tapping their beaks on the nestbox walls. Once one started… that they all tried it.

Parents still came in with food and it was getting a bit disorganised for space and tricky for them to remove the faecal sacs on occasions. Funny to watch, but the birds still went bottom up parent there or not and on a couple of occasions another chick removed it! it has been fascinating to watch their behaviour.

Time moved on and it was past 9.15pm. The chicks now looked like they were getting settled down for the night and weren’t going to go after all. Yep... they kept us guessing all day! However, the leader was still up and down at the nestbox. The rest weren’t really interested in what it was doing any more.

It was getting difficult to see inside the nestbox with this camera so I switched over to the IR one. Just in time too! The leader chick continued to go up and down to the entrance.

Then… one time, as I waited for it to bounce back on down towards the group… it didn’t! I almost wasn’t paying attention either. The rest of the chicks carried on settling down for the night with only one chick appearing to notice what had just happened.

So, there we had it. Our first chick had fledged at 09:28pm on Saturday night and after the guessing day we had had it was pretty much a low key event. I wonder if the parent birds found the fledged chick or it really was out alone all night.

Through my window, I could just see this first chick fly in a first flight fashion across towards my hedge then it turned left not knowing where to go and headed in to my neighbour’s very leafy Cherry tree that overlooks my hedge. It would have given it great night/day cover there so that was good at least.

Chicks fledging at slightly different times wasn’t a complete surprise. I had heard of that. However, I did expect it more to be more a case of the smaller, youngest one to be left by itself rather than one of the first hatched going it alone. The photo above of the sleepy five remaining chicks was one of the last images of our Blue Tit family.

Yep, you’ve guessed it! I switched on my PC in the morning… and the nestbox was empty. I have to say I did smile at this sight. Yes, I really would have loved to have seen the rest of our nestbox family fledge but I was thrilled that they had all survived to be able to.

Looking out my window there were no signs of the Blue tit chicks in my garden. However, I did see one parent take mealworms up to the Cherry tree! I hope that was to the first chick.

The same or another parent took mealworms away in a completely different direction so I’m guessing the family group split up. I wonder if they will every reunite at any point. If they follow their parents (who are still coming back to my garden for food) they just might.

On telling my OH, a little while after this, his response was along the lines of ‘Did they all make it okay?’ and ‘There were no crash landings were they?’ He was suggesting had I looked around on the ground. Oh dear… I never thought of that.

I gingerly walked around the paths of my garden looking into the borders which are pretty foliage full at the moment. Phew… I didn’t see any little blue tits lying on the ground :-D

Photos of our newly fledged Blue tit family out in my garden would have been the icing on the cake to this story but alas no sightings of them yet. However, there was also another Blue tit taking the mealworms from the feeder just before ours fledged. Now, if a family of newly fledged chicks arrive at the feeders I can’t be certain at all that this will be our one. That’s ok. I probably would have been too nervous watching them anyway.

Videos from Saturday? Well, I have quite a few. It has taken some time to select the photos to use to tell stories from the day and videos will be way harder. I’ve a challenge ahead of me there. I kept recording short bursts when the chicks headed up to the entrance, again and again. They will follow later in the week. Thanks to everyone who have followed this story with us.

Tomorrow night, I think I’ll go back to my roots and get back out into my garden with a camera and take photos of flowering plants for Bloom Day. The garden has been growing at a great rate in the time I’ve been watching our Blue tit family. I’m especially loving my front garden at the moment. I’ve got a couple of rather special plants waiting planting in my back garden too.

I hope you’ve been enjoying your garden at the moment too. Last evening, not having chicks to watch, I sat outside from 10:20-11:20pm for the RSPB Make your nature count survey. I wanted to see if hedgehogs were visiting at the time. I sat quietly at my Arbour knowing that bats would pass me by there… and they did. It was so peaceful at that time. A few moths passed by me too and a cat considered it! No hedgehogs though… Mmm… I’ll have work on that. I couldn't see any sign of a frog at our pond either but... lots of slimey slugs... very tasty bites for hedghogs! However, by next year my new pond (still at the hole in the ground stage) will be overflowing with wildife to watch:-D

The last photo above of the empty nest was taken in my garden on June 13th 2010. All other photos above were taken on June 12th 2010.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Nestbox Diary, thinking about it

It looks like a nice day to explore the world… maybe after breakfast ;-)

Okay… maybe after dinner…

Wait a minute, we need to practise…

Nope… too tired… maybe tomorrow :-)

See... how we've grown,

All photos above taken on June 11th 2010.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Nestbox Diary, home alone

Yesterday, the Blue tit chicks in our nestbox became real characters. What fun they are to watch now… absolutely addictive viewing now!! However, it’s time for the chicks to start getting ready for the world outside our nestbox. Gosh… we are almost there… so close to seeing a successful brood of chicks fledge from our nestbox. I am thrilled to be able to share this. Fingers and toes crossed now.

Mum started things off last night by… leaving the chicks on their own all night! This is the first time she has not roosted with them. Mm… did they behave themselves? Well, for the first time I watched them poop without being just fed! I saw two chicks do this and of course when they went bottom up to get this removed there was no Mum or Dad to take it and it went in the nest. Lol… messy youngsters ;-)

Yesterday, the parents continued to bring in plenty of food although as per a pattern often in short quick succession with breaks in between. Caterpillars were still going in but after the rain less so. I have supplied live mealworms in a feeder for such rainy days and they have gone through them at speed. I went out to get more.

Since being able to see the Blue tit chicks have changed their response to food coming in to the nestbox. Perhaps this is just a coincidence but it has been interesting to watch.

When the chicks were younger a mass of open beaks greeted the parents as they came in the entrance. Now even when caterpillars come in some birds don’t even turn their heads. Maybe this could mean that the chicks really are getting pretty well fed and aren’t hungry all of the time now.

Video info: Below, the male is seen bringing a spider in. Usually he holds on to spiders and dips them in the mouths of a few chicks before one chick either takes the rest whole. He appeared to be having difficulty getting interest with this one.

Look out for the one with its back completely turned and facing the back wall. I found it quite comical to watch. It was like ‘go on Dad… give it to me if you really must’. I then mused at the other two that had shown a little interest muttering away saying some thing along the lines of ‘We’ll have caterpillars or mealworms next time… can’t get the staff… or we’re telling Mum what you brought us”

Yesterday, at 16-14 days old these Blue Tit chicks were spending time regularly preening now. Mum has been very diligent in her housework but is clear that there are still little bugs/parasites in the nest and on the chicks. Mum has been seen gently removing them from the chicks.

Video info: Below, one of the larger chicks (there are now clear size differences in the chicks) is being cleaned by another chick. At least that’s my guess anyway. It looks to me like it is eating the bugs. I really don’t think it is just annoying it for the sake of it. Do they think they are Chimps? Lol. You can also see the shifting about that goes on in the nest.

The third of the three larger chicks (facing the entrance) can be seen looking like it is muttering away ‘behave you too… if you don’t mind… it’s a bit crowded in here!” It’s fascinating to watch their heads all turn around now especially when light levels change outside and it gets brighter or darker in the box. This three look right little characters now. Look out for the little chick that tries to get to the surface and then disappears again.

The second clip shows all six chicks tightly packed and the size differences can now clearly be seen. Maybe it’s just me, but I really am imagining little conversations going on between them all. I wonder what they could be saying here. They get a feed in this clip. Note one smaller chick at the back just ignores all the commotion behind it completely. Once again after the parent leaves they look like they are having a chat about something. Leaving home perhaps?

Last night, when the parents were giving the chicks their last meals of the day there was a brief moment or two of drama for our soon to be independent chicks. They showed excellent instincts too. One minute the chicks were gently pushing and shoving in the nest for a good position and the next minute can be seen quite differently in the second photo below.

Have you spotted the difference? The chicks are seen very low in the nest now. Any guesses? Well, I heard a clatter through my PC speakers telling me something was on the roof of the nestbox. The chicks instinctively understood this was not a parent coming into the nestbox and therefore a threat and quickly hid. I watched them as they stayed perfectly still for almost 10 minutes.

Starlings were about with their young. In this instance I don’t think they were trying to get in as I have seen them do with a previous nest. I suspect a Starling chick clumsily followed a parent and passed over the roof on the way to the ground to follow the rest of its family. Phew!

Worryingly, a little while later (after I had managed to drag myself away from the monitor) I started to hear agitated calling outside. It sounded to me like a Blue Tit. The male had popped its head into the nestbox just after the roof incident when the chicks were in hiding. Seeing them still, he went back out again and started calling and calling for the female. I was worried a Sparrowhawk would find him a tasty bite as he was too visible being on the top of a pine tree. He called and called!

Looking at my monitor I was immediately worried myself. Light levels were dropping as it was approx 7:45 pm. The colour was going with our camera making it more difficult to see what was in the nest now. What had happened when I wasn’t looking? I looked outside only to see the fluffy black tail of Edmund (next door’s cat) as he walked quickly along the grass by my hedge. He was gone by the time I was outside.

I could hear desperate calls from a Blue tit. A second calling, which I suspected to still be the male who had moved from the tree top could also be heard. I wasn’t convinced the alarmed call was the female in trouble but I think the male was confused too. Had one of our chicks got out or been taken out of the nest?

I wouldn’t be able to do anything about that I knew this. As experts say if this was the case and a chick was out the nest I really would need to leave it for the parents to find it. I finally came inside really not knowing what had happened and where or who the youngster was.

Phew, all turned out well for our family. Perhaps this other youngster was from another family. Hope it's okay. Eventually the female appeared in my garden again. The chicks started moving about enough that I could count them too… they were all there!! I could see them using the night cam. A huge sigh of relief… although it did make me wonder what I’ll feel like if I see these chicks around at the feeders in my garden if/when they fledge!

As I’ve mentioned before, two cameras are in my nestbox. On bright days the original camera gives excellent colour via natural daylight. On dull days it can become a bit dull in the nestbox view too but not quite greyscale. At night it doesn’t work at all. The second IR camera bridges the gaps these times. The entrance hole is on the left hand side in this view. I like to see this night time view too.

In this IR camera view the chicks look much larger but that’s just due to the camera lens and position. The images are not so sharp though. However, I just love watching this packed in moment in the evening. Again, I have to say they look right little characters stuffed in there. Little did they know that tonight Mum was going to stay out and they would be home alone for the first time!

Video info: Below you can see a feed by a parent and one of the smaller birds getting stuck under the ridge shelf that Mum made when digging for bugs. In fact, the chicks can now be seen digging in there now too.

At the end of the clip you will see some wing flapping but as I write this description for my upload I have no idea how clearly this will process. I’ve noticed the chicks seem to give a stretch back with their wings tight shut before flapping them. It is really quite amusing after the flapping as all the birds stay still for a quick moment then this bird turns around and they all settle down facing the same way.

At this point, I had no idea that our cautious chicks were about to left home alone for the night! Another first was to see one of the biggest chicks curl up to go to sleep. I’ll guess there was no room for this with Mum in the box too. Perhaps two of the chicks were curled up. Of course out of the nest the chicks will need to keep warm like this at night.

A couple of days ago, after visiting my Dad on his birthday, I pulled the car door to close it and damaged some nerve or other along my fingers. It has improved and is not much of a problem now except when I use certain finger movements… which include using my PC mouse. It was just a bit painful to edit my videos etc last night. However…

This morning the story of our nestbox family has moved on again! Wonderfully, as I was trying to select/sort my photos and upload videos there was some new action to share. I just couldn’t keep this until next time and if I have already got you still reading here I could perhaps keep you just a little longer?

At 17 days old, this morning the first steps from the oldest chick out of the nest have been gingerly taken. Assuming this larger chick was the first hatched it that is. The other chicks don’t pay attention at first but then show interest in what is going on too.

Video info: Below you see these first steps, although initially sitting in the corner out of the view of the camera this chick gets missed completely by the parent coming in with food. Once the parent leaves it quickly trots across to the nest like it was never away ;-)

A few other attempts are made out of the nest I’m guessing all were by the same chick but later on after this video was taken two chicks have been seen out at the same time. They chicks are getting quite comical to watch now. Days could be running out now to see this. Perhaps we will see them out in the garden soon… oh dear... I’m nervous thinking about that now!

Our chicks need to walk about out of the nest for some independence and exercise. However, just walking is just not enough exercise for a soon to be fledging chick. One very important exercise is required before these chicks can leave the nest and they have all been giving it a go. Can you guess what it is?

Our Blue tit chicks are fairly regularly seen stretching and flapping their wings in the nest. A stretch normally proceeds the flapping with the wings being pulled tightly back together first. Of course, doing this in the nest is a bit tricky with limited space as is capturing it to show in a video.

Video info: Below you’ll see some warm up, practise flaps. Once the chicks step out of the nest the wing flapping is very impressive indeed. I’ll not try filming that as it is a complete blue blur then. Note one of the smallest (youngest at a guess) one gives it a go too :-)

As the time clock for group photos of our nestbox family for 2010 which has been an absolute privilege to watch and share I thought a couple of group photos are called for. You can see the size difference very clearly between the chicks in the second photo.

Following that, you’ll see a photo of our new nest wanderer with the next oldest two looking like their taking a keen interest in his activity. A little while later another one of these chicks also makes it out of the nest. Lol…unfortunately for this pair, being out of the nest isn’t a good place to be when food comes in! I’m wondering if Mum/Dad is looking for the youngster in the group which is almost two days behind the first two. I also wonder if it will stay in the nestbox a little longer after the others have gone… fingers crossed they all make that is :-D

Time’s up… yours for sure… and that of my hand! I’d just like to wish you all a great weekend. I hope you are still enjoying following our nestbox family. I’ve a feeling I could be posting almost daily over the next few days… fingers crossed :-D

All photos and video shown above were taken in my garden on June 9th & 10th 2010.