The Bird Box Diary
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I thought that I'd start the week by repeating this picture of the chicks as they looked on 3 May so that we can compare it with each day's development.
4 May - This morning I start off with a gap in my records as last night I managed to set both video recorders to start recording at 4am, but on the 5th! If anyone saw egg shells appearing early this morning, please let me know.
In the meantime, here is dad bringing a caterpillar for one chick. There will be lots of similar images on the webcam over the days to come.
It always amuses me how the parents insist on bringing food items that seem far too big for the chicks to cope with. We often see them push the food into a chicks gaping beak, wait a short time, and then pull it back out and give it to another chick. This may be repeated several times until either a chick does manage to swallow the food, or the parent takes it away.
I nearly missed this one - another chick hatched, but I will not give this one a number until I'm sure of the total! Is this the last one? I can't see another egg.
It is impossible to count the chicks at the moment, and it doesn't help that there is a feather partly covering them.
The feathers have continued to be a nuisance (to the webcam) all day and when I have been by the computer it has been difficult to catch an image that shows the chicks clearly. Look closely at this image and you may just make out eight beaks. In case you miss any, there is one by the big feather on the left, three more to the right of that one, and four across the back of the nest cup!
I am sure that during the evening I saw nine beaks. To confirm this I will need to suspend the webcam for a short time so that I can capture some images from video. I'll do this when mum has finally settled for the night.
Mum has spent quite a bit of time today sitting on the nest, even after all the eggs had hatched. While there she has been fed numerous times by her partner. I have seen a variety of meals brought in today, including spiders, caterpillars, other larvae and what appeared to be a pupa of some sort, in addition to some mealworms. The mealworm feeder has not been busy today. The warm April has obviously helped to create a good insect population this Spring.
Confirmed at last - there are nine chicks in this image taken from the video recording of earlier this evening.
Their gaping mouths await the attention of dad who has arrived carrying the rather large pupa or chrysalis.
5 May - This morning the temperature is just 11C at 12.15pm, there is a bitterly cold North wind and, after a sunny start the skies have now completely clouded over. Mum, not surprisingly, has spent a lot of time sitting on the nest, probably thankful that she found so many feathers in the last week or so of nest building ( even if they get in the way of the camera!).
The dawn chorus had started by 4.22am and it was 5.15am when the male arrived with the first delivery of food. Between then and 8am he brought in 27 more items, with 13 of them after 7am. Mum left the box for the first time at 5.30am for about 4 minutes and up to 8am left another 13 times for a total time of 51 minutes. She usually brought in food on her return and also made 6 food deliveries without stopping to sit on the nest. I think that made a grand total of 47 food deliveries by 8am this morning, (although it is possible that a few may have been rejected through being too big!).
The feather screens are gradually shifting out the way again. This webcam image shows the chicks piled up on top of each other, waiting for someone to arrive with food.
A slightly unusual period occured this afternoon when the male came in with food while his partner was away. He fed a chick, but instead of leaving straight away, he stayed perched over the cup for several minutes until mum returned. This is the longest period I have seen spent by a male in the box.
Later in the afternoon mum is greeted by eight hungry chicks (one behind her beak).
6 May - The computer has been in use for other jobs today (school reports!) so the diary entry is a bit late.
Today started off rather damp, with heavy drizzle first thing, although this did not continue too long the overcast skies stayed with us way into the afternoon.
For the Blue Tits, the day started at 5.45am when dad brought the first meal. He returned with food another 52 times before 9am and a further 51 times by 1pm.
Mum took her first trip out at 6.07am and then spent a total of just under four hours in the box in the seven hours up to 1pm. She left the nest for 35 sessions for an average of about 5.5minutes, spending longer out of the box in the late morning as the weather improved. During these times she brought food to the chicks 44 times without sitting on the nest. In total it meant that food was brought to the chicks nearly 180 times by 1pm!
After being fed the chicks will often do a 'head stand' and present their rear ends to the parent.
They then produce a faecal sac (the white object) which the parent takes and either swallows, or removes from the nest. In the past I have found that the parent would fly from the nest and dump the sac just before collecting another mealworm.
It's likely that the webcam will capture moments like this frequently in the next few weeks.
If you look closely at that chick you may just make out the dark lines that represent where the first feather development is sarting to get underway. These will become more obvious over the next few days.
Another chance to see all nine chicks this evening. Notice how they are already reaching above the top of the nest cup.
Just to finish off, a chick exercising its wings!
7 May - This webcam image give you a good idea of the weather this morning.
Both parents ( male on the left) are wet and bedraggled as a result of hunting for food in heavy drizzle. The forecast is better for later in the day.
I have moved the close-up camera a little bit closer, and I have speeded up the refresh rate for the webcam to once every 10 seconds. I have tested this with a 56K modem on my laptop and it seems to be OK.
Please let me know if it causes you any problems, I can easily change it back to the 15 second refresh rate if that is better.
As time goes on you will see mum in a lopsided pose like this as she rests to one side of the nest cup and spreads one wing to cover the chicks. Before settling, she usually spends a few moments head down in the nest arranging the chicks.
A look at this morning's early video (5-9am) revealed that dad made 57 food deliveries (first at 5.44am); mum left the box for eleven periods totalling 63minutes and also brought 17 food items during those times.
Between 9am and 1pm he male made a further 38 deliveries and the female was out of the box 21 times (total 122 minutes), making an additional 20 food deliveries. So by 1pm the pair had brought in about 160 food items, not as many as yesterday's morning total of about 180.
Some things are not suitable food for the chicks. This fly entered the box with a very loud buzzing in the early afternoon. It must have settled high in the box and was twice disturbed by the entry of a BT parent.
On the second occasion mum managed to catch it and remove it from the box.
Yesterday I mentioned the line of feather development down the chick's back. Here is a better view of it today. I have also been able to see the rudimentary feathers on the wings - I shall try to capture an image of this detail later.
8 May - I have not done very much box watching today, so there are no feed counts to relate.
I've replaced the glass with a clean piece. There have been problems with feathers obscuring the view of the chicks so I have removed a couple. It has not removed the problem completely but I do not want to interfere any more.
This is an enlarged portion of a webcam image showing the front of a chick. You can see an inverted 'V' of developing feathers. I still have not magaed to get an image of the early development of the wing feathers.
9 May - The chicks' progress continues. Here, a webcam image captures eight of the chicks begging for a meal this morning. It's rare to see all nine now as one or two are usually still dealing with a previous feed when the next is delivered. If I catch a full-set image I will add it later.
As these chicks present their rear ends, you can see a line of dark marks running across the body where the tail feathers are developing. The two images show how development is at different stages in the two chicks.
This webcam image (10.58am) gives one of the best chances yet to see how the wing and back feathers are developing in the most advanced of the chicks. Unfortunately, it didn't keep its head still and I could not get a better image off the video as the chick was moving too quickly.
This time the webcam caught the moment after a chick received a decent sized spider from dad. You can see the pattern on its abdomen. There have been quite a few large caterpillars being brought in. Although they are green in colour, the Infra-red cameras show them as almost white.
Unfortunately, the TV camera arrangements and the nest cup position prevent me from getting any worthwhile colour photographs as yet.
Tonight I have a problem with the IR lighting of the box. I must have bumped the IR emitter earlier when I moved a camera slightly and now a camera lens is casting a shadow over most of the nest cup. I can't put things right until the morning as mum is now settled for the night. I shall leave the visible lighting on at a very low level - it shouldn't cause any problems.
Watching mum at 10.30pm, she is not in the nest cup but at the side of the box. This behaviour is familiar from the previous nesting I have followed and reflects the problem mum has resting with nine restless chicks underneath her!
Having a look through a video recording of earlier today, I captured this moment that shows the first signs of eyes opening on two of the chicks.
You may just make out the darker slit appearing at the centre of the developing eyes.
Tomorrow I am going to swap the two camera bodies in an attempt to get higher resolution images on these close-up shots. It will mean that the webcam will go off-line for a very short time (as little as possible) during the morning.
10 May - One week since the first chicks hatched! To end this page I am including some colour pictures taken this afternoon while I was trying to rearrange the cctv cameras.
This first image puts a bit of colour to the infra-red images of the webcam. In addition you can see the downy tufts that have been present on the chicks' heads since hatching.
Here, the wide gap of the chick waiting for food contrasts with the small amount its eye is opening so far. Just below and right of the eye you may just make out the chick's right eardrum (an oval shape) which will be completely hidden once the feathers are developed.
As a result of the adjustments made to the CCTV cameras I will now be able to use the digital camera to take more photographs, using the camera's built-in flash.
As far as the webcam is concerned, the close-up images are now being obtained by a camera to the left of the box. Hopefully, this will go some way towards getting round the problem of the dark flight feather. I have looked again today and there is no way I can remove it without causing disruption to the side of the nest cup. In the days to come mum will be making the nest cup bigger to cope with the growing chicks. Hopefully she will move the feather during this process.
This webcam image from the early evening gives the best look yet at the developing wings on this chick. It seems to be somewhat ahead of some of the others at this stage.
Egg Laying.. ..bIncubationb......Hatching........Chicks Week 2.......Chicks Week 3.