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.

2 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I didn't know there was so much drama watching chicks in a nest. How exciting. I hope we get to watch the chicks fledge. I also hope you have a great weekend. Cheers.

shirl said...

Hello Lisa, gosh… I did have some idea from previous nests but this was quite a journey (in more ways than one).

Definitely exciting and they really did keep us hanging on all day Saturday. It was a good job it was the weekend as OH was around to help me out with shifts in resetting the video cam on my tripod which was facing the entrance hole. Good job it was dry too :-)

Thanks, we did have a very interesting weekend. Perhaps I’ll need the week to recover… lol. As for video footage, this is going to take some time to sort… I’m definitely not complaining though!

Just want to say I really appreciate your comment. I can completely understand these lengthy postings at this busy time of year must put people off reading them. I knew not everyone would be interested in daily posts on a nestbox too and there would always be the chance I would be showing roughly the same stuff and it could be boring so the lengthy route every few days with a description of what you’d see in the video seemed the best way to go. My stats suggest not a lot of people saw this which is a shame.

Thanks so much for being such a regular commenter to my blog for so long. I really have appreciated it and smile every time I see your name come through :-D

This has been a very intense part of my garden watching blog. I am seriously considering a summer blog break now. Perhaps then, I can get my pond completed and other small garden based projects done. I think everyone’s too busy for blogs just now… I have always noticed things change at this time of year. We’ll see ;-)