Cheshire Wildlife Group
"For those who enjoy the nature around us"
Ever wanted to see what a bird's nest looks like, or what a baby bird looks like? Ever been interested in watching an egg turn into a young bird- or wanted to make sense of the old saying 'flown the nest'? Well, now you can!
It's story time- I have had my ordinary songbird nestbox (see here to make your own) for 4 years now. After having my old one in the hedge one year (it raised a few House Sparrow chicks). It was stolen. I bought my new one, fixed it to a tree and for 3 years, despite Blue Tit's peeping in for a look, they decided not to nest there. This is normal behaviour- songbirds will inspect their new home well before moving in- if it is not suitable i.e. they don't feel comfortable or safe in the box, then they will find somewhere else. The problem was that the tree was bare until about May and was nearby feeders so it was noisy. A couple of years I got a mini Nestbox camera with an infra-red light and a 20metre cord. A few hours later it was screwed into the lid of the nestbox, pointing at the bottom, fastened to the tree and wired into my bedroom TV (with a cable dangling down one side of the house). I focused in the lens and I was set up. This was in about February. Ideally, after a nestbox has been cleaned out in about November- December it should be left alone. If birds are familiar with something, or it is their longer, there is more chance of them finding it and therefore using it. The earlier the better. My camera kit was £50. Here's the setup-
For 2 years on the tree, nothing happened. Sadly, by April, my camera was still pointing at a wooden floor.
Then, this January, after cleaning, I found a suitable place in my hedge. Blue Tit's start looking for nesting sites in February. They nested in it 4 years ago. Worth another go- I thought. Had the camera set up and focused again. Well, after mowing the lawn one day earlier this month, I thought I would have a look inside the box. I had seen no action in it, but forgetting about it was a good thing- a safe place for birds to nest! Well- when I went inside and plugged the camera in, I was greeted with a very pleasing sight on my TV screen...
Please note: During the evening the pictures are completely in black and white, during the day there may be some colour in the picture.
Start of the project. 13/4/2011. The nest has started to be made. The female Blue Tit alone keeps making visits to the nest with little strands of dried grass, wool, soft feathers, dead leaves, hair and moss in her beak. This is a long painstaking process for her although the box is only small. Wonder if she gets maternity leave while she's doing all this hard work!
14/4/2011. The nest now has lots of feathers in, which look large but it's just they are viewed from a small camera. The next day the feathers were dug into the nest a bit more. She makes it into a cup shape. At this point, the female is still bringing nesting material to the nest, and roosting in her normal place.
Day 6. 17/4/2011. The black and white specks are feathers which are from the parents squeezing in and out. These are obviously stirred up every time the parents visit and rustle around in there. The nest is changing every hours. Today I noticed a very plump-looking Blue Tit on my seed feeder. A good sign. Day 8. 19/4/2011. Nothing much happens. The nest is nearly finished. The female is visiting more frequently. Day 9. 20/4/2011. This is the finished nest. The female has been spending her nights in the nest now, often looking quite restless. The male has been visiting outside the nest. When the nest is complete, the female lines it with soft feathers and hair, as shown here. Day 10. 21/4/2011. The female is now sitting in the nest most of the day and night. Her mate has been bringing her food, he spends most of his time outside the box defending the box from other Blue Tits. This is a sign that incubation has begun- although I cannot see eggs as she is sat on them. She was very restless, so I think she laid her first egg that night. You can see her tail to the left of the picture. She keeps scratching and cleaning herself. Day 12. 23/4/2011. The female is now spending nearly all of her time in the box. I still cannot see any eggs however I have not had the camera on much and she has been staying very still. Incubation seems to have begun, so there must be eggs. She does occasionally leave the nest, but always when I don't have the camera switched on! She is stretching her wings a lot. A clutch of 7-13 eggs, white with reddish speckling will be laid, one per day. Incubation is when the female sits on her eggs to keep them warm and safe from predators (although not many can get through the narrow hole). The female may leave the nest, but if she leaves for a long time she leaves a lining on top. You can see her blue crown in the bottom of the picture. Day 14. 25/4/2011. WE HAVE EGGS!!! Incubation is when the female sits on her eggs to keep them warm and safe from predators (although not many can get through the narrow hole). She has been sat on them day and night for a few days now, and it was only when I turned the camera on and she left the nest very briefly then I saw these!! The camera angle makes it unclear, there are definitely 4 eggs, but I think there could be one more. Shortly afterwards, when the female came back and sat on them, a large head popped through the hole, the male with an insect for her. He did this a few times, and will continue to do so while she incubates them. He will roost elsewhere at night, while I can see him waiting outside the nest to defend it. The clutch must nearly be complete- because constant incubation only occurs begins at this point.
Day 15- 26/4/2011. Not much has happened. In the picture you can see the female's blue crown. She is still sitting on the nest. I haven't seen the male visit today but I've only had the camera on for 10 mins. She did initially move and give me a glimpse of the eggs- there are now definitely 5. She seems like a happy mother for now anyway. Not long until they hatch- probably no more than 2 weeks!
Day 16- 28/4/2011. This picture was taken whilst the female made an unusual departure of the nest for 10 minutes. I'm not sure where she went- it must get boring sitting in a box all day for 2 weeks! Notice that there are now at least another 2 eggs. Sadly the camera is not showing the whole box- only 2/3. I can only presume how many eggs there are. I think there are 6 eggs, but I think more will come. The male still keeps visiting with food for his wife. Probably does more than some parents nowadays! Not long till chicks!
Day 16- 28/4/2011- A short video clip. This video just shows the female scuttling around in her nest at night. You can see her in the bottom of the picture. Sorry for the unsteady camera! Not much will happen now until the eggs hatch.
Day 27- 7/5/2011- They've hatched- We have chicks!! The little grey blobs in the bottom have replaced the oval white eggs which have remained motionless for 2 weeks. They hatched in the night, sadly I missed it but woke up to this magnificent sight. The camera angle is poor so I am guessing that there are 6-7 chicks although the camera only shows 3 (sometimes 5). The normal clutch laid is 7-13 and only 2/3 of the box is showing. The chicks, tiny, blind and just hours old are being fed live insects (mealworms are superb on your bird tables) every 15 minutes and the mother is still incubating them very regularly, and will do so until they get bigger with feathers to keep them warm. They make chirping noises when being fed. They are all tiny and huddled close and look very alien like but also rather cute with their beaks open while being fed.
Exciting times- an update soon!!
- There will now be a photo update regularly so you can see how they are getting on. I won;t upload a picture if nothing specific has happened though! Although I have not got a picture, the male is bringing the female food while she incubates her eggs. The eggs will take about 8-13 days until they hatch- it's very exciting. I've put cat repellent down in my garden, and I've got a cap gun (produces a loud bang with no bullet) ready to stop magpies coming in my garden and getting the nest or one of the adults, which would spell death for the unborn eggs too. I've super-glued the box to the tree, and put a rubber band around the top to keep it fastened (it's been screwed in too, of course). I'm very pleased because a female will reject several nesting sites until she finds one she approves of- and my nestbox obviously appealed to her!
-Inspired? Visit www.handykam.com for your own nestbox camera set-up, you're too late this year, but next year you could be enjoying a similar experience, and you can put it in any nestbox- a hedgehog home, an owl box, anything. They have infra-red lights so they can see in the dark (black and white), and colour and sound during the day. The nestbox camera is screwed onto the roof, pointing to the floor and wall with the entrance hole in (hence the slighter brighter circle at the top of my TV screen. There is some limited evidence that Infra-red can disturb the birds, so I'm going to keep it switched off when not taking a picture.
-Oh and before anyone mentions it- the couple have been named Dave and Doris. If the eggs hatched on Friday it might be suitable to call them Will and Kate, however we can't seem to escape it on the TV so I'm keen to keep CWG royal wedding free!!
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Established by Alex Staniforth February 2009