Nest Building - April 2004
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1 April - Well, the Great Tits weren't up to any mean tricks this morning, instead they got back to the business of nest building after their two day break.
It was 7.20am when the male first appeared in the entrance, visiting the box several times before 7.43am when his partner arrived for her first visit of the day.
The male had arrived and, after spending time hammering on the wood he entered. The next two minutes were spent between shuffling the straw about, looking towards the entrance, and pecking at the hole. When the female arrived, he pecked at her beak as she entered and then pecked at the back of her neck several times before leaving . she followed about a minute later.
The process was repeated just a minute or so later, although the male stayed longer after his partner's arrival.
Ten minutes later they met in the box once more. This time the female arrived straight after her partner (pic 1). She waited in the right corner of the box as he pecked the back of her neck (pic 2) then he turned in a complete circle anti-clockwise (pics 3,4,5 & 6) before pecking her neck again.
She then moved across and behind him so that she place her head over his back, although she didn't peck (pics 7,8).
He then move round her and left (pic 9).
Once again the male pecked her neck before and after turning in an anti-clockwise circle.
As he flew up to the exit she pecked at his tail feathers. She left soon after him.
Then, at around 8.39 she started appearing with straw. Between then and 9.24am she returned to the box twenty times before the visits stopped abruptly for the rest of the morning.
Having put it down she obviously had second thoughts and took it back up to the entrance where it seems that she tried to break it up, with some success.
At one stage she took the leaf stalk out of the box, only to bring it back a short time later.
I was doing other things later in the morning, but there was no sound from the box until lunchtime, when there were a few more straw deliveries and another encounter, captured by the webcam this time.
This afternoon has been quiet.
Tonight I tested the flashgun that I have already installed in the box ready should I feel able to take photographs of the birds later in the nesting process. It worked well and enabled me to get this image of the nest.
A look at the large image suggests that
the Great Tit is bringing in much coarser material than did the Blue Tit.
As well as the leaf brought in earlier today she seems to have brought only a small amount of moss and straw. The rest seems to be made up of roots and twigs. In fact it reminds me that I did see her arrive at the box with a twig that was too long - it was not brought in.
2 April - As this webcam image shows, nest building had an early start today.
In this case she managed to get the long twig in without too much trouble, but several times we saw her fail to bring in awkward pieces.
There were several bonding sessions during the morning. In this one the pattern of events was very similar to those described yesterday, with the male (back-right) pecking at his partner's neck after she entered the box, and then doing an anti-clockwise turn before pecking again and leaving. She pecked at his tail as he left.
Every-so-often during the twig/moss deliveries, the female took time to shuffle the material towards the sides of the box, clearing an area just right of centre, which may well be where the nest cup will eventually develop.
When the Blue Tits built their nest, the soft nature of the nest material meant that this area tended to 'wander' during the early stages of building. I doubt that the coarser material of this nest will allow such movement.
The morning session finished around 10am. There was another short session at lunchtime and then she surprised us by appearing again around 4pm to make a few more deliveries.
Finally she made an appearance, without any nest material, at 6.35pm. This time she just looked around for a short time and then left for the night.
Just a note to explain the fact that, other than this last image, the other webcam images for today show the month March on them - I forgot to alter this yesterday and was reminded by e-mail this afternoon!
3 April - A day of good progress!
As I have mentioned before, she sometimes brings twigs that cause problems at the entrance - well this was one of those!
She disappeared for a moment and when she returned she had obviously arranged it so that her beak held onto one end as she came in easily, which was a surprise, considering it was a small branch from the berberis bush, complete with thorns in excess of 1cm in length.
It was taken out at least four times, and she seemed to be bending it up at the entrance a couple of times before it was finally worked into the front of the nest.
During this period, which lasted over an hour she brought in much more moss than twigs so that the nest was turning quite green by the end.
A close look at the large image suggests that her sources of other materials ranges from conifer twigs to garden cuttings (the twig against the box front has a cut end to it).
Click on the images to see larger versions
Comparing this image with last night's image suggests that the nest hadn't been disturbed in the early morning.
The male appeared at the entrance soon afterwards, but I didn't see him in the box until 9.16am, and it was a while more before the female made her first appearance, with a bit of straw in her beak.
It wasn't until 10.40am that both birds appeared in the box together, the meeting following the now familiar pattern described above.
The deliveries of nesting material have continued to be few throughout the morning, so I was lucky to catch this moment as the female arrives with a contrasting load of twig and moss just before noon.
5 April - There was a bright start to the morning, as this images shows. The series of circles shows how the morning sunshine reflects back and forth between the glass and the box front. Fortunately this effect doesn't seem to bother the birds.
For the Great Tits, activity started in the box around 7.13am when the male arrived, followed closely by his partner. He first pecked her back several times and then there was mutual beak pecking before he left.
There were five more encounters before 7.30am, with the female bringing in moss on a couple of the visits.
Her response was to make her body appear as wide as possible by spreading her tail feathers and holding her wings out wide, but parallel to her body (centre & right pics).
She also flicked her wings upwards very rapidly, making a quiet hissing sound as she did so, in addition to the sound made by the moving wings.
She stayed in this position (right pic) for over two minutes after the Starling had left, and before she left the box. Between than and the next encounter with the male at 8.49am she made a further 7 deliveries, so the Starling incident had not affected her too badly.
Here she is seen poised on a Birch tree branch ready to deliver a twig, and then leaving afterwards.
During the period up to 11am there were at least three occasions when she arrived at the box and was unable to get her load through the hole, and there are now a number of twigs on the ground below the box, having been discarded.
There was another period of activity around lunchtime, and the last visit that I saw took place at just before 5pm.
I couldn't resist this webcam image from this morning, showing the female looking out into the bright morning sun. At this time the bottom of the box was still visible.
This is the nest tonight, showing that there has been a lot of moss brought in since this morning, so that the bottom of the box is now covered.
Once incident this morning had me crossing my fingers. A familiar buzzing sound on the loudspeaker had me watching the screen as a bumble bee appeared at the entrance shortly after the female had left.
Fortunately, it decided not to venture further in than the inner rim of the entrance, and after pausing for a while it flew off. This webcam image is the nearest I got to getting a picture.
7 April - Activity started earlier today with the male appearing at about 7am, followed quickly by his partner. He pecked her on the back of her neck and her back a number of times and then there were a few beak to beak pecks before he turned anticlockwise and left.
She then brought in three clumps of straw and moss in the next ten minutes. The box remained quiet until just after 7.30am when the female appeared again, although she brought nothing in. Up until 9.05am she then brought in moss 7 times, and met up with the male twice.
The middle of the day saw an increase in activity, and this webcam image shows a moment when she brought in blades of grass to supplement the moss.
8 April - The day started almost bang on 7am with the male drumming vigorously on the entrance for several minutes. He was back again at about 7.09am but it was 7.23am before he entered the box, followed immediately by his partner. The usual pecking occurred and they both left.
He was back in five minutes later, and this time he was kept waiting. I could hear him calling quietly, a sort of warbling call, repeated several times before the female entered.
In the next half hour the female visited eight times, bringing moss. Between 8 and 10am she made a further 19 visits which included several things to note.
First of all, she started to bring in much finer, dry plant materials, and on several occasions, what looks like coarse hair (possibly dog).
These images show the difference between the nest last night at 10pm and 12 hours later at 10 am today.
I've included a close-up of the hair.
For the first time we have seen the female settling down into the cup of the nest. She shuffled into this position and stayed put for a short time. As I write this at 11.25am she has just done something similar, just for a few moments.
These events suggest that we are getting close to the end of the nest building stage.
For the rest of the day there were only a handful of visits, including this one when she again seemed to be testing the nest cup.
I have changed the glass today. The morning sunshine in the above image shows how necessary that change was.
I have also moved the camera to get a better view now that the nest is higher. The black band across the top of the webcam is unavoidable as I lift the camera up to get a slightly steeper angle onto the nest.
9 April - On a nice, sunny day that started of quite cold the box has been strangely quiet most of the time, with no visits at all by the male.
Then followed a gap of two hours before she reappeared at 9.12am. There followed a further pause until 9.48am after which there were four more deliveries by about 11.30am.
The box has not been visited since then.
Most of the deliveries have been of fine, dried grass, but there have also been two of moss and one of what looks like a synthetic fill of the sort used in pillows or cushions.
This is a picture of the nest this afternoon (3pm).
This is a close-up of the possible synthetic material. You can see its fibres glisten.
This was brought in around 10.14am. When she came in for her last delivery at 11.30am she took hold of this lump and removed it from the box, only to bring it back in a minute later.
From 11.30am up to now (4.30pm) I have seen only a couple of brief glimpses of a Great Tit in the trees at the bottom of the garden. At least one of them is still about, so I wait in anticipation of the next peck at the door!
10 April - This morning, around 7.30am I first looked at the TV image with some concern as the nest didn't show any signs of being disturbed since yesterday. I checked the video, which starts recording at 6am and it showed no sign of the Great Tits at all. It's wet outside, perhaps not the best time to collect nesting materials but I would have expected at least an inspection visit, even if only as far as the entrance.
Then, just before 8am I went outside to replenish the feeder and table and, as Sod's Law predicts, when I come back inside the nest has been visited. It was the female with a beakful of fine straw.
I am still waiting for a sign of her partner.
At 8.30 she was back, and during this visit she spent time working the synthetic fibres into the nest cup.
This face appeared at the entrance although the bird didn't enter the box - I think it was the male.
A short time later I could see one of them, unfortunately with its back to me on a branch of the Birch tree. It was holding its body quite low and its wings were vibrating (or shivering) in a display that I understand is performed prior to mating.
Since then the female has been back to the box twice, with soft materials which she continues to work into the nest cup.
As far as I can tell there were only three more visits during the rest of the day.