Nestbox Diary - 2006
May (part 1)
I can't help thinking that it looks like a very uncomfortable position to be in.
It is now twelve days since (I think) the last, 8th egg was laid, so with hatching imminent this could be her last quiet morning.
Having said that, she has just left the nest at 8.07am. On her return, some five minutes later she settled back down straight away - there is no chick to be fed yet.
2 May - Breaking News - Hatching is under way!
More to follow later, but just after 7am, and under the bright spotlight of the morning sunshine, our female eats the discarded shell of one of her new chicks.
A second large piece was eaten shortly afterwards before she settled down in the nest cup for the next half hour, making frequent inspections of her offspring.
She went out for a while shortly afterwards and I took advantage of that to change the glass (nearly a problem when it got stuck!). I checked the mirror and could see one chick, which I hope to get a picture of soon.
At 8am her partner arrived with food and hesitated a while before giving it to the female to eat. It was as though he knew that there was a chick to be fed.
Why is it that today of all days we are having a brilliantly sunny start which is playing havoc with the cctv images!!
The male has just been back in at 8.10am with an insect or a spider. Again, he hesitated, and moved from side to side before 'handing' it over to the female. She in turn kept it in her beak for some time while she moved around, as though not certain what to do next, although eventually she ate it. Five minutes later he was in again, and once again he was reluctant to give the food to the female.
Here is their first chick, photographed at around 8.30am. About ten minutes later mum was eating another shell, so I guess we now have two.
By the time I took these next photographs at 9.45am there were four chicks - you can see the other two lying down in this shot.
This picture gives us a chance to see what will develop into the amazing structure of the wing. Notice how they are used more as arms as the chick raises itself up.
At .10.45am they are already stretching up into webcam view as they greet their returning mother.
An inspection just before noon showed that there are still four eggs.
In this shot, notice not just the fuzzy 'hair' on the chicks' heads, but also the tufts around the shoulders. It will be interesting to use these images to measure progress over the days to come.
In the early afternoon things have quietened down a bit, and the female is concentrating on incubating the remaining eggs and her partner pops in every so often with food.
He enters and has to call to attract the female's attention. The food is passed to her and he leaves as she feeds one of the chicks.
Since that shaky start he has brought in food frequently. However, sometimes he brought in something that was much too big for them to cope with, and then he and his partner seemed to pass the food back and forth, apparently breaking it up before finally giving it to the chicks in bits.
At 1.06pm the female's rest period was interrupted by another hatching, making it five chicks so far. As with the earlier hatchings, the shell was eaten straight away.
Two more close-ups, taken around 1.30pm - this first one shows the five chicks, three remaining eggs, and un unwelcome visitor - a fly.
The second picture gives a better look at an individual chick (or nestling).
They are completely blind at this stage - their eyes will not open for over a week. Note the small thumbs on its wings-to-be.
I checked the nest again at around 5.40pm and there are still three eggs still to hatch. I took just one photograph of the chicks this time and I've cropped that image to concentrate on just this one, not because of its posture, but for the first time we can see a foot, which is already equipped with small claws.
A final still camera image for today - taken just after the previous shot. The female had returned and settled down before her partner brought in a very small offering.
The sequence followed the now normal routine where he passed the food to her after some hesitation, and then hesitated again before leaving, at which time she passed it on to a chick.
This last picture was taken with the Olympus E20, with its quiet shutter, and the birds completely ignored it, including the flash going off.
At this point I had thought that I would be writing a quiet postscript to the day, but the Great Tits thought otherwise.
Then ten minutes later dad come in with another bit of food. He hangs around as a chick get fed. Mum then settles down again, only to be up a minute later with half an egg shell in her beak - it seems that chick #6 has left it late in the day to hatch!
The day started at just after 6am when the male brought in food for his partner. At that time there was no hesitation about passing it to her, nor was there at any of the other three visits before 6.16am. It went quiet then, until the female left the box for about five minutes at 6.55am. Soon after her return she was fed a fifth time, and it was shortly after that visit that the first egg shell appeared.
Tonight they have six chicks, and hopefully the remaining two will hatch tomorrow morning to complete the family group. It's been an interesting day, not only because of the hatching of the eggs, but also in the way the male's behaviour changed so dramatically as soon as the first egg hatched.
3 May - It was another early start for the male, with his first food delivery of the day before sunrise, at 5.35am.
His partner was obviously not ready for this and it took a series of calls from him before she would finally raise her head, take the food, and pass it on to a chick.
He didn't return again until the female had been out for a short time (7 minutes) at just after 6am.
Since then the male has been a regular visitor while the female divides her time between popping out and sitting on the chicks and eggs.
Up to 7.45am there has been no sign of another egg hatching. I have changed the glass in the box but I didn't stay to inspect the nest at that visit.
Another egg hatched! - Shortly before 10am I checked the nest and could see that there were still two eggs present. At just after 10am the female went head down in the nest and moments later the webcam confirmed that egg #7 had hatched.
I managed to take a couple of pictures at 10.40am, and in this one of the chicks around the last egg, you can see the new addition in the top-right of the image. It is a slightly darker pink than the rest, and its downy feathers are still wet.
Also, there is a marked difference in size between it and the nestling to the left of it - is that the result of just one day's growing?
This time I caught the new chick as it gaped for food. In the large version of this cropped image, look carefully at the down on the head of the older chick and you may just make out its feathery structure.
Despite him approaching from different directions, with lots of chirps and other noises, she wouldn't budge, and eventually he left with the food still in his beak. Was it too big, or perhaps the female knew that the chicks were not ready for their next feed?
The last time I checked the nest today was at 4.15pm, and the last egg was still intact at that time. Since then I've seen no sign of it hatching (it is now approaching 8pm).
During my last visit I took just one photograph, and this is a cropped section of it, showing the back of a head in detail. You can see how the down is arranged in a circle around the top of the head. Look behind and slightly below the large, shin covered dome of the developing eye and you can see the position of the circular eardrum.
4 May - A gloriously sunny day with the promise of the highest temperature so far this year.
Again, the day started early for the Great Tit family with dad arriving with the first feed at around 5.35am.
As usual, he bypassed his partner to feed a chick first, and it was only afterwards that she got a little taste of the 'left-overs' before he left again.
On the next visit, some eight minutes later he gave the food to the female straight away, and she fed a chick.
Between then and 8am there were another 33 food deliveries, including some made by the female when she returned from six trips out.
Looking at the chicks, I can see the first signs of feather growth on the wing in the lower left corner (you can see a row of dark spots), and there seems to be more structure about the skin covering the eyes.
After I took the previous photograph I switched to the Olympus and waited for the parents to return. The male popped in a couple of times and then the female came in and snuggled deep down into the nest cup.
A few minutes later, and after she had turned several times, her partner arrived with an offering. Unfortunately, he is slightly out of focus (I must adjust the camera before taking any more shots with it), but it does show something I mentioned a couple of days ago.
Notice how his left foot is on the lower part of her back. It seems to happen too often to be just accidental.
Having been sitting on the eggs for a while she perched in the corner, breathing heavily with her beak wide open ( you could see the water vapour condensing on the cold glass) for nearly a minute before going out.
You may see her do this a lot today.
I'm not going to 'count my chickens' quite yet, but at 11.10am the male came in with food (the female wasn't present) and after he had finished he dipped down deep into the nest and seems to have picked out a piece of shell, which he left the nest with.
Could this be the last egg hatched? I will be going down for another inspection a bit later.
I checked the nest again just before 1pm and it looks as though the last egg is still there. Perhaps the male was removing a fragment from an earlier hatching?
This afternoon, with the temperature in the shade reaching around 28C, the female has been very restless when in the box. For that reason I am staying away for the rest of the day. It is supposed to be cooler tomorrow and hopefully the female will become more relaxed again.
In the Garden diary yesterday I reported my first sighting of Swifts and House Martins. I don't know what the Swifts are up to today, but at around 3.30pm I spotted the Martins inspecting their artificial nests, including the camera equipped one. I may be able to grab a couple of images later, which I will put into the garden diary for the moment.
An apology - If you have any problems watching my webcam at the moment, then I must apologise. We have been getting connection problems with our broadband link, and this morning it has been particularly annoying. I have contacted our cable network provider who tells me that he is "surprised that we are getting any signals through at all". Apparently there is so much electronic noise on the circuit that serves us that we should not be able to use the internet! He couldn't tell me how long it will take to remedy the situation!!!
Click on the images to see larger versions -