05 June - day 19
D-Day at last. The chicks left later than I had expected - not until after 0930 whereas in previous years they have always been gone by 0700. Here is a parent trying to coax them out.
This one is not so sure.
It takes so long to upload the videos that I have put only this one here showing the first chick to jump ship. The full story of today's events (with all the other videos) is on the blog home page for today.
All that was left was the egg which didn't hatch.
04 June - day 18
I got up early just in case but the chicks were showing no sign of leaving. They were sitting in the back of the box, well away from the entrance hole. I think one of the next two days is the most likely departure date.
03 June - day 17
The chicks are nearly ready to go. I expect they will fly in the next three days - probably on Friday. They are spending more time on the upper level of the nest and are taking more interest in the entrance hole, probably because they have realised that's where the food comes from. I also took the opportunity of taking a few more photos of the parents before they all leave.
02 June - day 16
More practice flying this morning - and more housework from mother.
01 June - day 15
The chicks are becoming noisier and more inquisitive, exploring their nest box.
30 May - day 13
Last night was the first time the mother didn't sleep in the box with the chicks. Here they are snuggled up together to keep warm.
They make a lot more noise in the daytime.
29 May - day 12
The chicks are starting to show the yellow colouring in some of their new feathers. The grey will gradually become bluer before they leave the nest. Their diet is mostly caterpillars.
28 May - day 11
The chicks are growing up fast. Their eyes have been open for two or three days and they now make a lot more noise.
27 May - day 10
Until now I have avoided taking photos of the parents bringing in food so as not to upset them but they don't seem to mind at all. As the chicks have got bigger so have the caterpillars and flies are now on the menu as well.
26 May - day 9
The mother is spending less time with the chicks and more time hunting for food. She is staying out late tonight - the four chicks are already tucked up and asleep. The unhatched egg is also visible. Infra-red pictures as it is nearly dark outside.
When they heard a parent outside they soon woke up and realised they were still hungry.
25 May - day 8
The chicks are now more active and are busy stretching and preening. The mother's vigorous housekeeping has enlarged the nest cavity so the chicks are partly disappearing from view.
24 May - day 7
The chicks now spend time preening their new feathers. The father brings food and disappears straight away but the mother does a lot of housekeeping like this. She is sitting on them less and less in the daytime.
23 May - day 6
The chicks have turned from pink to grey as they now have a fine covering of feathers. Even at this stage they are starting to groom their wing feathers. They are still blind but have begun to make a faint cheeping - I think you will hear it on the video although there is some background noise.
22 May - day 5
21 May - day 4
The chicks have a slight fuzz of feathers and are more active. They are still brooded by their mother most of the time.
20 May - day 3
The chicks have a few scraggy feathers on their heads but nowhere else. They react to sound but they are blind and make no sound of their own. Both parents are feeding them very frequently.
19 May - day 2
More than 48 hours after the others did hatch the fifth egg still hasn't. It is the first dud there has been in the box in seven years. It is interesting to compare it with the size of the chicks as they already look twice as big after two days.
On this video the father brings in a spider but doesn't let go so the parents each feed a chick with half. They then have a tug of war while deciding what to do with the result. I hope the mother's decision doesn't put you off your dinner. She won't do that when they are a bit bigger.
18 May - day 1
Four eggs had hatched by yesterday morning and by this afternoon the fifth is still unhatched. There is still time but if it hasn't hatched by tomorrow morning I don't think it will. The mother sits on the chicks most of the time but pops out from time to time to allow me a view.
This is the father feeding the chicks. He calls to say wake up and open up.
17 May early morning - First eggs hatch
The first egg hatched at 0700. The second at 0800. The third at 0915.
Here the mother removes the shell of the third egg to hatch.
The father is now bringing in tiny white caterpillars. He seems quite inteerested in the new chicks.
Here the mother feeds a chick for the first time.
The male is a very diligent partner and is bringing food for his mate regularly. I'm not sure what was going on here. He makes four attempts to deliver the food - whether he doesn't let go or she won't take it isn't clear. The little clucking noise he makes is the one they will both use shortly to get the chicks to open their beaks. Then a shadow appears at the entrance and they both (especially the female) respond with a threat posture. The male goes out to sort it out and the female goes back to the eggs.
The box receives a fair amount of unwanted attention - I think from magpies, tree sparrows, woodpeckers etc. I can hear through the microphone but can't see outside. Nothing has come into the box while I have been watching recently and only a sparrow would fit through the hole. The blue tit's reaction is usually to keep very still and quiet. This visit was from a sparrow and she is focussed intently on the hole, ready to go into attack mode. After a couple of minutes she relaxed and went back to sleep.
I think we should be on course for hatching at the weekend. The male is regularly bringing in food - often following the female in as she returns to the box. The favourite treat at the moment is a St Mark's fly such as this one.
08 May - Breakfast in bed
A spider for breakfast but she preferred to eat it outside.
06 May - Five eggs
I have been away for a couple of days and on my return there are still five eggs. The female is now sitting most of the time so I'm sure that is all there will be. The male is bringing her food. It is a smaller clutch than average but may be influenced by the continuing cold weather. (In the very cold spring of two years ago there were only two eggs.) This improves the chicks' chance of fledging but reduces the number of fledglings.
03 May - Five eggs
02 May - Four eggs
It is often difficult to get a view of the eggs as most of the time the mother leaves them covered in feathers. However this photo this afternoon shows that there are now four.
01 May - Three eggs
30 April - Two eggs
The female is sleeping in overnight but is out during the day. She pops in to turn the eggs and sometimes covers them with a feather.
29 April - The first egg
This is the view early this morning. The black and white photos are taken in infrared light as there is not enough natural light. The bird is popping into the box every few minutes to have a look at the egg. I think it is probable that she will lay one egg a day over the next several days.
Mrs BT is sleeping in again tonight.
26 April - Sleep over
It is interesting that the female is sleeping in the box tonight. As far as I can remember in previous years this hasn't happened before all or almost all the eggs have been laid. Maybe it means the first egg is imminent.
The blue tit has brought in a lot of soft fluffy stuff in the past two days so I think the nest is nearly complete. The male rarely enters the box but does occasionally follow the female in with a spider or something else tasty. I hope we'll see the first egg in the next few days.
It looks as though Mrs BT has had a busy day. The structure of the nest itself has gone in today. I think she was having trouble choosing a colour and has finally settled for Moss. Let's hope she likes it when it's finished.
This is the state of play after three weeks. The chosen position for the nest is now obvious. The female blue tit is visiting the box very frequently to sort out the material but she has yet to line the nest space. Strangely she often comes in without any new stuff and sometimes takes bits away. At this rate it will be another week or two before the nest is finished.
18 April - Breakfast in bed
The female in the box early this morning. She is doing her nest-shaping dance and measuring up for the lining. Then her mate pops in with a tasy morsel. This strengthens the pair bond and also builds up her reserves for the stress of egg production. The noise in the background is a mower on the golf course.
15 April - Takeover bid
More drama in the box this morning. The tree sparrows made a serious attempt to take over. After lots of chirruping right by the entrance hole one sparrow came into the box twice. I couldn't hear if the blue tits were close by but I expect they were. The sparrow that came in was doing the nest-shaping dance but left after a couple of minutes.
One of the blue tits (female I think) was back in a few minutes later. My guess is that the blue tits will fight hard to retain possession. There is another box outside the kitchen window which has had blue tits, great tits and tree sparrows visiting so I don't know yet which will take possession. Tree sparrows are definitely in at least half a dozen other boxes.
This how things stand this evening. It looks as though the nest will be top right as we look at it, which is back left as the blue tit sees it.
A bit of drama outside the box this morning. A tree sparrow has taken a liking to the box and has been chirruping outside, trying to proclaim ownership. At one stage it was sat on the roof of the box, with one of the blue tits (the female, I think) trapped inside and keeping quiet. You can also hear the alarm call of the other blue tit.
Eventually the bird inside the box got fed up and went outside to help see off the intruder.
This is as far as the blue tits have got after the second week.
It still seems like slow progress in building the nest but compared with last year's birds at least this pair seem to know what they are doing. I can remember last year watching the birds come in with a beakful of stuff, peer around the box and then take it out again! The male bird seemed especially useless - I think he was working on the theory that it you are no good at the housework you won't get asked to help.
Yesterday it poured with rain most of the day and one of the birds came in for a while to dry off. They do stop bringing in material when it is raining.
I think the female is doing all the nest building - she organises the material by doing a circular dance with her wings fluttering, as here.
Today is the first time I have seen the two birds in the box together. The female (top) came in first and was begging for food from the male. When they are together you can see the brighter colours on the male.
The birds have been busy over the last two days. At the moment it is difficult to tell if they both contribute to bringing in material but the female fashions the nest. Already she is doing a fluttering circular dance to create a space at the back of the box (to the right as you look at it) where the nest will be.
This as far as the birds have got in the first week. Not a lot of progress but they usually make a slow start. Until the last two days the weather was poor so they may have been waiting for it to improve, otherwise the materials would be wet.
At least one of the birds pops in regularly to have a look around and to rearrange the few bits of moss and grass.
Here is a mouthful of moss coming in this morning. Things should speed up now that the weather is warm and dry.
Just now the box was visited by a bumblebee queen who checked it out for a few minutes then left. As far as I can see it was not a tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), the species that typically nests in bird boxes, so it may have just been inquisitive.
This is the seventh year of my nest box camera and the prospective occupants for this year have just started bringing in nest material in the last two days.
The box was bought from HandyKam in 2009 and has been occupied every year since. It is on a north-facing wall just outside the front door. The camera takes colour still photos and videos if there is sufficient light and infrared black and white pictures if there is not.
In 2009 two blue tits built a nest in the box but one of them was killed by a sparrowhawk before any eggs were laid. In 2010 a pair of great tits moved in and laid two eggs. Both hatched but one chick died within 24 hours. The other developed normally but never fledged and died in the box. When I retrieved it I found that it was trapped by its leg in a strand of string the parents had woven into the nest. Very sad and frustrating as, with a roof-mounted camera, I couldn't see what the problem was.
After that things improved. In 2011 blue tits laid 11 eggs and all hatched. All 11 chicks fledged on 31st May. The same success in 2012, with 11 blue tit eggs, 11 hatched, and all 11 chicks fledged on 7th June.
to this in the space of 19 days.
I was also able to photograph the parents bringing in spiders and caterpillars
and the chicks fledging on 1st June.