The Bird Box Diary
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So that progress in this second week can be compared at a glance, I thought it worthwhile to include these two images from the beginning and end of last week.
The first from 3 May, the day most of the eggs hatched.
The second is from yesterday (10 May), what a difference a week makes!
11 May - Into the second week, although I will start with a webcam image from last night. Illuminated by a single IR light source (which I think is coming to the end of its useful life) you can just make mum resting in the corner of the box. She will do this from time to time during the night as a break from keeping the chicks warm.
Night-time is gradually getting less peaceful for her as time goes on. As well as tending the chicks she also spends some time working in the sides of the nest cup, making it wider to cope with the growing family.
When morning comes it is back to the job of feeding the chicks. Here the male prepares to fly to the nest with a mealworm that he has just beheaded and gutted.
This afternoon I spent a bit of time at the box taking some photographs. Here are a couple of them -
In this first image mum is delivering a caterpillar that appears to have been beheaded in similar fashion to the mealworms.
The photograph gives us a good chance to see the open eyes as well as part of a wing with its developing feathers. The chicks' eardrums can be seen clearly, especially in the larger version of this picture.
In the last picture mum was partly hidden from the camera. In this image she is poised at the edge of the nest cup before spending the next few minutes sitting on the chicks.
Just a brief mention of first thing this morning - By 5am mum was very restless, with the chicks popping their heads up around her. At 5.15am, two minutes after sunrise, she suddenly got up and left. Three minutes later dad arrived with the first meal of the day and for the next hour there was a constant delivery service with dad making another 25 visits and mum 16 visits, pausing in the box several times (for a total of about 12 minutes).
As I write this at 9.30pm mum is again perched at the side of the nest as the chicks are very restless.
The night-time webcam image is very dim again. I'm afraid I did not get round to improving the IR illumination today. I shall have to search my shed tomorrow for a couple of old remote controls so that I can use their IR LED's.
12 May - Today is one of those days when the force is not with me and I have spent little time in the garden, so there may only be a short entry!
Unfortunately from a photographic point of view, the nest cup is set slightly away from the glass this year. There is a slight 'ridge' that I have to look over, and it's not possible to achieve the same angle of view for these photographs as is recorded by the webcam. As a result the chicks are hidden from view unless they stretch up in expectation of feeding.
Click on the image to see a larger version
In this first picture a very wet dad delivers one of those mealworms.
The cool temperatures mean that most of the time the chicks are keeping themselves low down in the nest cup. I had to wait ages for this glimpse of one of them climb almost right out of the cup and spread its wings.
Although it is a rather 'messy' picture it's worth looking at the larger version to see how the flight feathers seem to be unfurling out of tubes.
The large bare, pink area is the side of the chick. Most of this will remain bare but be hidden in the adult.
You can see the band of developing body feathers that run down the chick's back, and it is just possible to make out the tail feathers developing.
The wet weather, combined with the constant need to 'burrow' down into the nest cup leaves mum's plumage in a really dishevelled state.
If you look at the larger version of the picture you may make out the wavy effect caused in the air as she breathes out warm water vapour from her lungs into the coolness of the box.
This first picture, taken at about 10.30am was taken as dad pushed a mealworm into the throat of a chick. I have included the photo because it gives a good chance to see some more detail on the developing chicks, especially if you look at the enlarged image.
First, two of the chicks are showing their necks to the camera. You can see the how the central band of developing feathers ( the main tracts of growing feathers are called pterylae) is developing into the light colours of the bird's breast. You can also see two rows of dark feathers curving away to either side which will become the Blue Tit's dark collar.
Three of the chicks are facing away from the camera, and in their wide gaps you can see their tongues.
This webcam image from this evening gives another chance to see the development of the breast feathers, the band dividing into two as it passes down the front of the chick, second from the left.
The head of the second chick from the right is almost covered by developing feathers, and you can make out the light band that will later surround the blue crown of the adult bird's head.
Toilet duties continue, with the faecal sacs being taken out of the box more often being than eaten now.
This second chick presents its rear end and gives us a chance to compare how the tail feathers are developing on the two siblings.
I nearly forgot - For the first time, I saw one of the chicks flapping its wings today!
15 May - After a dull start, this afternoon turned sunny and warm. In the box feeding continues at quite a pace with an assortment of delicacies being brought in, the green caterpillars being seen quite often.
Look carefully at the left-hand chick and you can see that despite the growth of their feathers, the downy whisps present since hatching are still present on either side of the head.
This image of mum and a chick give an impression of the chick being well covered with feathers.
In the time I was 'in' the birdbox none of the chicks obliged with a spread of wings that I could photograph. I'll try for that shot again tomorrow.
16 May - On what looks like one of the nicest days of the year so far, the exploration of the box by the chicks has started although they are not usually staying out of the nest cup very long at the moment.
I'm still waiting for a chance to get a 'wings spread' picture and I hoped that this chick would oblige, but without luck.
For this chick the effort of getting to the corner of the box was just too much and it stayed there, eyes closed for quite a while.
Mum and dad have been in the box at the same time quite frequently this morning. Here, dad (left) is trying to get junior to eat a very plump caterpillar that mum had brought in.