Nestbox Diary - 2006

January to March

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An Introduction   

This is the sixth year of following nesting in our garden. Webcams have followed the progress of Blue Tits in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004 until they were ousted by a Bumble Bee; Great Tits in 2004: Robins in 2001 (when they were joined by a young Wren) and 2003. The diaries also followed the progress of three House Martin families in 2004/2005.

This year I once again have a camera in the Tit box, as well as one in a Robin nestbox, and this year I have added a camera to one of our three House Martin nests. I may get around to adding a fourth camera to one of the Swift boxes put up this year.

You can access the webcam(s) via the button to the left of the screen. The picture will vary as events unfold, showing all three (or four) boxes or just one of them as the need requires.

Up to the last week (before 22 March) things have been very quiet in the boxes. A robin was seen to look into the Robin box on 27 and 28 February, but although a pair are regularly in our garden, I suspect that they may be producing a first brood elsewhere.



On the 11th March I caught my first glimpse of a bird looking into the Tit box.

My first impression was that it was a Blue Tit,



 but on the 14th, a Great Tit pair arrived in the garden and inspected the Robin box before ....




 moving on to the Tit box. Another Robin box inspection followed shortly afterwards.

The next day (15th) there was just a brief look in through the Tit box entrance.



Early on the 21st March there was another couple of early morning brief visits to the Tit box.



22 March - Today, a Great Tit once again visited both boxes, the Robin box at 7.30am,




and the Tit box just before noon. This visit lasted for more than two minutes.



It's too soon to be too confident, but on the basis of what I saw prior to the Great Tits nesting in 2004 I'm optimistic. In that year, a single visit early in the month was followed by daily visits starting on the 25th, with the first nest materials brought in on the 28th.



23 March - A bright, cold but sunny morning on which there were another couple of visits.


The first came at 7.55am when the microphone in the Robin box picked up the sounds of movement outside. Moments later a Great Tit entered and spent about half a minute inside, this time giving the glass panel a good peck!

At just after 8.30am the Tit box received a longer visit .


It was during this inspection that I saw a really promising sign - she carried out a first, tentative 'shuffle'. This is an activity usually associated with spreading/compacting nesting material, but which I have watched both Blue and Great Tit females doing before nesting actually begins.

It involves spreading her legs so that her body rests on the floor and then shuffling forwards.


24 March - On a dull, mild and damp day I didn't see any nestbox visits to report on, although I was out for a while so may have missed something (no video recording made!).

The Great Tits were certainly about. I saw them in the Birch tree several times and one came to feed.


25 March - After their no-show at the boxes yesterday, the Great Tits were back this morning.

One of them came to feed below the bird table at around 9.20am, and shortly afterwards one peeped into the Tit box.

Then there was a clattering outside the Robin box and a Great Tit entered.

It remained in the box for about a minute, some of that time spent looking out.





The (possible) reason for that became apparent when a second bird looked in.

The inspection continued a short while longer before the first bird left the box.



The second one immediately entered and carried out a more aggressive inspection. This included pecking vigorously at the glass several times before it left.

Was this the male? I must look closely at the images to find ways of distinguishing between the two individuals.

Less than a minute after it left the Robin box, a Great Tit face appeared again at the Tit box entrance, but the bird did not enter.

As I write this at 10.45am one of the Great Tits is calling loudly from high in our Birch tree.

By lunchtime, a bright morning had become overcast and very dull, but just when I thought that we may have seen the last of the Great Tits for the day, there was a knocking at the Tit box entrance. That was followed by an inspection which lasted nearly two minutes.

This time there was no sign of a second bird.


Perhaps I ought to say something about the lighting in the Robin and Tit boxes. Each has its own night-time, very low level lighting. For daytime use, both boxes are illuminated by white LED's that are controlled by a single timer/dimmer that I made back in December. The timer raises the light level gradually in the morning (at the moment, at 7.30am) and then dims it again in the evening (at the moment, at 5.30pm). The level of daytime lighting to each box is controlled with resistors. these are set to try to give a balance between the two boxes for webcam purposes. As the birds get used to the boxes the resistances will be reduced to give brighter images.


26 March - On a dull, damp morning we have switched to British Summer Time (BST).

The Great Tits have been feeding in the garden this morning but up to 9am I haven't seen any box visits.

However, the Robin Box does have an inhabitant this morning - a caterpillar. I've had a quick look with the help of a dental mirror, and it could well be the caterpillar of a Yellow Underwing moth. I assume that it is hoping for a quiet spot to spend the day.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the Great Tits visit while it remains in the box.

It's now just after  noon and I still haven't seen any bird visits to the boxes. Howevere, there was a bit of action at the Tit Box. Twice during the morning I heard and then saw a bumble bee approach the entrance, although it didn't land.

Also, the webcam occasionally picks up the image of a Pholcus phalangioides spider spinning its untidy web on the camera side of the glass.

If the web becomes too extensive I shall have to persuade the spider to build elsewhere!

The day ended wet and without any box visits seen, although the Tit box picked up the sound of a Bumble Bee again in the late afternoon.


27 March - A very blustery and wet day, and up to 11am the only action seen in the boxes was the relocation of the caterpillar to the far end of the Robin box entrance! The Great Tits are about, and did spend time in the Birch tree, which is within just a few wing flaps of both boxes.



28 March - Another day of no visitors to either box. Even the caterpillar has disappeared! I didn't even see any Great Tits in the garden today, although I think I heard one calling briefly while I was outside.


29 March - A major inspection of the Tit Box by the Great Tits at just before 1.30pm -more details later!

All the time that I was outside this morning I neither saw or heard the Great Tits, and since then they haven't been to feed here. So it was a surprise when the quiet of the birdbox these last few days was broken at 1.30pm when a face appeared at the entrance.

The female entered and started her inspection. Soon afterwards her partner appeared at the opening. This prompted the female to go into a display mode with her back to the entrance, holding her body low and swaying from side to side, beak open and making a sort of quiet, squeaking noise.

This behaviour was repeated a couple of times before the male left.



The female then carried out a thorough inspection and 'shuffled' across the box floor several times before she left.




One of the pair returned for a second, brief inspection shortly after 2pm, and a bird looked in again just after 3pm.



On the basis of today's visit, I have taken the gamble of switching the webcam to cover just the Tit box - I hope the Great Tits do not let me down!

There will be no diary entries over the next five or six days. However, the nestbox webcam will continue to run. I will not be able to record any images from it during this time, so should you see any visitors to the box before I resume the diaries I would be very appreciative if you were able to capture images and e-mail them to me.

Click on the images to see larger versions -

2006 Nestbox Diary Index.............   ......... ............. Next Chapter (April)