Nestbox camera 2017

For a third year I have put in an extra page to provide regular updates on the nest box without overloading the main blog.

29 April 2017
You can see the problem.  The sparrow's comings and goings have dislodged a feather to obscure the view of the camera.  I have hoped that she would knock it out of the way but despite several visits this morning it hasn't happened. The bird still hasn't slept in so no sign of laying as yet.  If she doesn't move in tonight I'll shift the feather if it is still in the way.  If it happens again once she has started laying I'll be stuck with it.

26 April 2017
This all the activity there is in the box at the moment - just a brief dash in and out.  It is mainly in the mornings.  This video clip was from this morning.  I expect the birds are keeping an eye on the box to make sure it doesn't get taken over.  There are lots of sparrows on the feeders and chasing around the garden in excited groups.  Lots of dust bathing in the kitchen garden as well.

25 April 2017
It is now 6 weeks since nest building began and almost two weeks since the nest was completed.  It seems strange to me that the female doesn't take advantage of this warm dry nest on a bitterly cold night like tonight.  I expect she won't stay in untill she ready to lay, which is obviously not just yet.  She visits in the mornings just to check but only stays a second or two.  We still have a view in.

22 April 2017
Not much to report.  The nest is finished.  I haven't spent much time watching but from what I can see the bird calls in several times each morning, usually just for a couple of seconds.  She doesn't even do any rearranging so I suppose she is happy with things as they are.  I still have some sort of view in so I'm planning to leave things as they are unless something changes dramatically.  This is the view just now.

It is quiet outside all the other tree sparrow boxes as well so I think they have all decided who is going to live where and all the disputes are settled.  There are several tree sparrows in holes in trees in the garden as well so I'll try to see how many once there is more activity.

19 April 2017
It has been pretty quiet around all the sparrow boxes in the past couple of days.  There has been some territorial chirping outside the camera box and the sparrow pops in from time to time but there has been no more material coming in as far as I can see.  I did risk another adjustment last night, moving the camera about 1cm down and to the right.  The camera is still just above and to the right of the sparrow as it comes in and this was the view when I had finished.

This is the bird in the box just now.  It (she?) seems to be making fewer adjustments so I am optimistic we might have some sort of view when there are eggs and chicks.  I expect laying will start soon so I will leave the box undisturbed from now.  The sparrow hasn't yet slept in overnight.

12 April 2017
The sparrows spend a lot of time chirping outside the box, presumably to proclaim ownership.  They are still challenged from time to time but I can't see what by - I just see the reaction of the bird in the box.  There are still adjustments being made but only a few feathers being brought in as far as I can see.  The female hasn't yet slept in overnight.  This is how things looked last night.

And this morning.  I haven't been in recently to improve the view - I'm still hoping that we'll be able to see down the tunnel to the nest cup.

07 April 2017
I have been away for a few days and it looks as though the birds have carried on filling the nestbox while I wasn't here. I could hardly see in on the monitor when I got back so I have just had a quick look inside this evening to adjust things slightly.  This is how it looks inside, more or less the bird's eye view.  The nest is built with a tunnel running backwards from the hole at about 45° to where the nest cup is at the back.

The camera is just above and to the right of the hole but even so it is hard to keep the view clear.  This is how it looks now.

Once the bird is sleeping in I'll not be able to make any further adjustments.  Let's hope we still have a view.

30 March 2017
I presume it is the female doing all the work in the nest at present but I can't be sure.  At times she comes in and out every few seconds.  A few feathers and leaves are brought in but most of the time she is readjusting what is already there.  I think all that remains to be done is to complete the lining of the nest.  There is a bit more stuff in front of the camera so I may tweak it again slightly.  Here is what she was doing this morning.  You can hear her mate in the holly tree outside.

28 March 2017
I readjusted the camera last night, moving it down and to the right by about 15mm.  The entrance hole is now below and slightly to the left of the camera so I hope we will end up with a good view into the nest.  This is how it looked first thing this morning.

The sparrow or sparrows have been very busy this morning, rushing in and out with feathers and leaves, starting to line the nest cup.  They do get a bit confused and are just as likely to take something out as to bring it in.  I remember the blue tits doing the same in previous years.  Here is a short video clip to show you what they are up to.

27 March 2017
I think the sparrows have mostly finished building the nest and over the past couple of days they have been lining it with feathers.  This is view the camera has at present.  It isn't perfect but I haven't adjusted it for almost a week.

I can the see bird in the nest and see it go in and out.  It (or they) visits regularly but only stays for a moment.  They also sit on the roof and chirrup loudly so that all the others know this box is taken.

Here's a short video from this morning.

I think I'll make a few minor adjustments tonight but at the moment it does look as though we will have a view into the nest when laying begins.  I think that won't be for another two or three weeks but if the fine weather continues I suppose that could change.

21 March 2017
I sneaked into the box again yesterday evening after the sparrows had gone for the day.  I haven't been able to see in for a couple of days as the nest material forming the "bower" keeps falling in front of the camera.  So I made a minor modification and put a piece of wire across to keep the stuff away from the camera.  Like this

This is the view down into the nest - much as the bird sees it when it enters - so the wire isn't in the way.

And this is the camera's view first thing this morning.

One of the sparrows came in to check and seemed happy.  It shows clearly on the monitor but I may need to make a minor adjustment.

Later, after the sparrow had gone, I witnessed a burglary.  After very loud tapping on the entrance plate a pair of great tits came in and spent five minutes or so sizing the place up before leaving.  Perhaps they were put off by the police sirens in the background on the video.

Later the great tits were back again but had gone again before the sparrows returned.

18 March 2017

I readjusted the nest material slightly last night and could at least see into the nest a little, like this.

It has rained all morning and the birds have stayed away, presumably not wanting to bring anything wet into the box. After it stopped one of them came into the box for a poke about but didn't bring in any new material as far as I could see.  This is the view with the bird in the box at present.  It does look as though the camera is pointing at where the nest will be.  It needs improving but I think I might be possible to maintain a view once the nest is complete.  Let's hope so.

17 March 2017

You can see the problem.  This is how things ended up yesterday afternoon.

So I opened up the box again to move the camera.  Here is the nest which is constructed with a kind of bower over the top, blocking the view from the camera.

I moved the camera to be just above the hole at the front, looking down and back (I hope the sparrow doesn't bang its head).  After I finished it looked like this.

But this morning it looks like this.

I can make out the sparrow behind all the stuff as it goes in and out.  Once it starts roosting I'll be stuck but until then I can make adjustments.  Possibly when the nest is almost finished they won't keep adding and rearranging.

16 March 2017

After finding that the sparrows had blocked the view of the camera yesterday I opened the box yesterday evening.  This is what the nest looked like.

And this is the view down into the nest, so it does have a dome or roof above, which is a problem for the camera.

I moved some material aside to improve the view.  This shows the camera in the roof.

And this was what it looked like afterwards - not too bad.

However, the sparrows weren't impressed and rearranged it first thing this morning.  This is the view now (you can just make out the sparrow sitting looking out of the entrance) so we are back to square one.

The only other thing I can think of is to move the camera forward so it is looking back into the nest rather than straight down, so I'll try that tonight.  If they block that as well I'm a bit stuck.  Maybe they just want a bit of privacy.

15 March 2017

Houston we have a problem.  This is the camera view this afternoon.  The birds have brought in so much stuff that it is blocking the view.  I have read that tree sparrows' nests have a dome so if they want it to stay like that it may make it impossible to see what is going on.  I think I'll sneak in tonight after they have gone to clear the view but if they persist I may be stuck.  We'll see.

14 March 2017

Until now the sparrows haven't done much more than bring in material and drop it.  Now one of them (I guess it is the female) has started arranging the furniture.  I hope not too much stuff ends up on top as it may make it difficult to see what is going on.

13 March 2017

One thing you can say about tree sparrows is that once they get started they certainly get on with the job.  This is how the box looks 24 hours after I noticed the beginnings of the nest.

The sparrows use grass, leaves and feathers so the nest at this stage is a lot more scruffy than a blue tit nest.  The blue tits are still around but I haven't seen one come into the box so I expect they have more or less given up.  On the video below one of the sparrows is in the box chirping loudly to proclaim ownership.  Something comes to the entrance (out of view), probably a blue tit, and the sparrow cowers for a moment before plucking up courage and asserting itself.

I read that both birds build the nest (in blue tits it is only the female) but because they look identical I can't tell which is which.

12 March 2017
I have been away for the weekend and returned to find that building has started in the camera nest box.

In the past few weeks both blue tits and tree sparrows have been showing interest in the box.  A pair of blue tits has been coming in many times each morning.

The tree sparrows have mostly sat on the roof chirping loudly but one has occasionally dashed in and out, almost too quick for the camera.

The box was put up in 2009 and this is the ninth consecutive year in which it has been occupied.  In 2009 a pair of blue tits built a nest but one of them was taken by a sparrowhawk before any eggs were laid.  In 2010 a pair of great tits hatched two eggs but neither chick fledged.  In 2011-2016 the box was occupied by blue tits which raised 11, 11, 2, 8, 4, and 6 chicks, an average of 7 a year.  Early last year I changed the entrance plate to 32mm, hoping to attract tree sparrows, which were in several other boxes, but still the nest was built by blue tits.

Now it looks as though the tree sparrows have adopted what you might call the German Beach Towel Strategy and have moved in and started building.  It is said that possession is nine-tenths of the law so they have probably won the battle.  It will be interesting to watch them, as they make a change from blue tits and are likely to have two or three broods (the blue tits always have just one).  The BTO website says that egg laying starts in mid April and goes on until mid August.  The eggs are white with brown blotches with 5 or 6 in a clutch.  Incubation takes 12-13 days (slightly quicker than the blue tits) and nestlings fledge after 15-18 days (again slightly quicker).  The nest material is noticeably different from that used by blue tits, being grass, leaves and feathers whereas the blue tits mainly bring in moss to begin with.

As I did in the past two years I'll post regular reports on this page with occasional updates on the main blog.

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