Friday, 3 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 3 – Distracting Starlings

Just as in many a BBC Springwatch nest, there was a possible drama with our seven, ten day old Coal tit chicks this morning! Their parents were out foraging for food. I had been on the PC with the activity inside the nest box (via a cam) in the corner of my monitor. All was going good, lots of feeds and the chicks were growing well.

Then a clumsy noise was heard outside the entrance of the nest box. The Coal tit chicks quickly recognised this sound wasn’t their parents bringing in food for them. They crouched down in the nest cup and stayed very still and quiet. Clever little things.

Rushing to my feet, I quickly opened a window to scare off this possible intruder. I had a good idea who it was too. This is not the first time this bird has shown interest in getting its very sharp beak inside this nest box. As the title of this blog suggests I needed to use a distraction technique to keep Starlings away from our Coal tit family this morning. I had one in mind too.

I’ve found that by putting out more of the food that the Starlings are very keen on like fat balls, which is an easy food to feast on quickly, they get distracted the next time they come to the garden. They then remember where that food is and go straight to it especially when being harassed by their newly fledged chicks.

Not taking any chances today, I would be away for the rest of the day, I put out a few fat balls a distance away from the nest box. I crushed them before putting them on a large ground feeder. I also quartered a fat cake putting squares on other bird tables too.

When I returned home later, a Starling parent was seen feeding a fledged chick some of the fat cake. It was going down well! Inside the nest box the Coal tit parents were seen busy feeding too. All chicks were present and correct :-)

Did the Starling revisit the nest box later today? I’ve no idea. I did all I could especially as last week I actually saw a sharp Starling beak all the way through the entrance hole! That time the parents were away too. Fingers crossed our chicks stay safe. In the meantime, fat balls will be available in other areas of the garden and I’ll move them further away from the next box each time.


Just imagine that beak coming through nestbox entrance! Footage March 2015.


Oh dear, but there was another sharp beak in the garden this evening! This one will successfully peck its way through a nest box too. These tiny chirping chicks will really need to keep the noise down now. Then again, the fat square on the ground that the male Great Spotted Woodpecker found is a quick easy meal so hopefully should it return (usually a winter visitor) it will be happy with that too.


Male Great Spotted Woodpecker in the garden this evening.


This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

9 comments:

Lisa Greenbow said...

Starling are nuisance birds around here. They take over woodpecker holes and harass smaller birds. Grrrr..... I guess I would be more tolerant of them if they were native. They are so prolific here. I would rather have that woodpecker in my garden. We lost a big tree from our garden and our neighbor lost one about 30 feet away. Hmmmm anyway I think it will persuade the starling that there isn't a good nesting place here. They are usually out in fields here unless it is winter or early spring when they are looking for someplace to nest.

Sue Garrett said...

Not quite Springwatch, they would have left the coal tits to have to fend for themselves. I am always shouting at the screen for them to do something about it. That woodpecker is a worry though.

Shirley said...

Hello again to you both, thanks for keeping up here and leaving your comments :-)

I agree with you both on the Woodpecker visitor. I can’t deny I’m drawn to watching it but he hasn’t got the best timing for our chicks. Fortunately for them (but not the other family) they aren’t the only chirping chicks to be heard in the garden. I heard noisier ones near my shed when I was out getting more fat balls coming from a neighbour’s hedge. I’ll take a good guess that they are house sparrows as they have nested there before. They had better keep quiet too.

Lisa, ah, I do remember you bogging and commenting on many blogs on the nuisance of Starlings. I didn’t realise they weren’t native to you. I also remember the loss of your neighbour’s tree and one of yours too. That just goes to show the worrying habitat loss on wider scales in the countryside. I have a friend whose neighbours have removed hedges and her bird table sees few birds now and it makes her quite sad. Yes, I do think Starlings were originally farmland birds so they should be quite happy there so that should make you happy too:-)

Sue, very true :-) The nest is so close to where I sit (being just through the wall and above me) there was no way I couldn’t open the window and see the starling off. Two Starling parents have just been in with a couple of chicks feeding them the fat cake again. They didn’t stay long and came nowhere near the nestbox. Meanwhile the Coal tit chicks inside the nestbox are getting right little wrigglers and the tight nest cup is well broken at some edges. A parent has just been in and half the chicks are now under a nest flap! I’ll post video soon. Yesterday the distinctive white head stripe appeared. How special it is to be seeing this family. I’m sure it will be a one off as its Blue and Great tits who usually compete for this box. Many years this nestbox remains empty after their disputes stop. The coal tits came in at a lucky time and we feel really lucky too.

Midmarsh John said...

Lots of drama there Shirley. I'd never have imagined Starlings attacking nests. They are a general nuisance here, greedy and messy eaters. Sometimes they meet their match as a couple of male Blackbirds often chase them away from what they consider to be their garden.

Lisa Greenbow said...

Shirley, I have decided to accept the Starlings in our life. They may take over as they are so adaptable. Might as well. There is nothing we can do about it now. Just as the House Sparrows and the Monk Parakeets. At least the Monk Parakeets are colorful birds. Maybe with the world cutting down all the trees the parrots and parakeets that are inadvertently released become established in the warmer parts of the country will be their salvation. I will try to stop whining about it. ha...

Lisa Greenbow said...

P.S. I meant to tell you that I love that woodpecker photo. It appears that you were prostrate on the ground taking this one.

Shirley said...

Hello again to you both, thanks for popping by and leaving your comments :-)

John, There certainly was. I’ve no idea if the Starling would take the chicks but its beak was fully in. A few years ago when we had a Blue tit family with the female in with her chicks a Starling had a beak in then too. The nestbox entrance hole was set to the smaller size for the Blue tit too. The female Blue tit made a serious noise and flapping lunging towards the Starling. She wasn’t happy as you’d imagine. What was more worrying with the coal tit chicks is that the entrance hole is fitted with the bigger entrance hole panel so Great tits would use it and two years ago they successfully did. I hadn’t changed it since. They were distracted with the fat cake and their young today when I was at home to see them. I know what you mean about the Blackbirds. Today our males were getting harassed by the odd Starling chick begging for food – that’s not the first time I’ve seen that either. Fun and game in the garden!

Lisa, Yes, me too. It was a suggestion by an RSPB member of staff at our local reserve that suggested I just feed them away from the other feeders and it certainly works. Monk Parakeets – I must look them up. Thanks re the woodpecker photo – it was a crop but I see what you mean. I couldn’t see it well through the plants from my window so I just kept trying to focus and taking images and got lucky :-)

Pauline said...

Well done for distracting the starlings! We only have one or two starlings which visit our feeders, that is , until the other day when there were baby starlings everywhere, at least 10! Soon we will be inundated with baby birds, so far we have baby nuthatches and robins visiting and soon we will have blackbirds as they have been nesting in the honeysuckle for a long time now.
Keep up the good work!

Shirley said...

Hello again Pauline, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment :-)

Ha-ha, I am certainly distracting them from the nest box but they keep returning to the garden and what a racket they have been making! You’ll know that noise in yours. Wow, baby nuthatches – I’d love to see even an adult up here. They are supposed to be moving north up the UK so maybe one day :-) Having newly fledged nuthatches sounds a serious treat in the garden! We have had a Robin nest but the chicks didn’t hang around although I have seen odd Robin fledglings in the garden – they are so sweet. We have had Blackbird juveniles in the garden already this year but today I saw a female collecting nesting material – I guess she is on her second for the year :-) Enjoy your bird filled garden – what fun it is to watch isn’t it :-D