Nestbox Diary - 2006

May (part 2)

The Growing Chicks

Week 1

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5 May - (The fourth day for all but one chick) - Another sunny day, but cooler than yesterday with the temperature in the garden just  reaching 20C after 1pm.

I started the day with an accident - I dropped one of the pieces of glass that goes across the back of the nest. After a trip to the local glazier I've now got a new set of panes which should give a slightly better image on the webcam.

There is no sign of the last egg this morning. At the moment I can only assume that it has been pushed to the side of the nest cup.


Even today the female is having problems with the heat, despite the box being in shade soon after 11am.



I'm not attempting to record the rate at which feeds are being brought in, but there do seem to be quite long gaps between visits today.

Nevertheless, they are happening and this was one of those moments when both parents wanted to inspect their offspring, with the male, on the left still lacking a noticeable tail.



Some of the larvae brought in are far too big - in this case it was the female who had problems.

On occasions like this the parent will undertake what I can only describe as gape dipping. She will chirp and then push the food into one of the mouths that are opened up. If that chick fails to swallow the food it is taken back and thrust into another mouth. This continues until the food is finally consumed, or as in this case the parent gives up and eats it.



The chicks themselves are making progress. The wing (centre-right) has more than dark spots now as the wing feathers grow.

If you look carefully at the chick on the right you can see the feather tracts down the middle of its back and down over the shoulder.



Here is a closer look at the head of a nestling, showing the ear and the developing external eye structure.



I spent a bit of time down the box around 3pm, and if you click on this image you will see three pictures of the chicks taken at that time. You may just be able to make out the egg towards the bottom right of the first and third images.

The colours may be a bit 'off' in these images - they were badly underexposed (my carelessness) and I haven't taken enough time to correct that properly.


Tonight the female came into the box and started settling down around 7.15pm, something she has hardly done during the day.


6 May - (The fifth day for all but one chick) - There will be no over-heating problems for the female today. After a bright, sunny start, cloud cover moved in and as I write this at 11.45am light rain is falling and the temperature outside is 14C.


A couple of  'chick pics' taken at around 10am. Notice how the eyes look as though they are ready to open at any moment.




In this second picture, the lack of evidence of feather development down its back may suggest that the chick on the right may have been the last to hatch.

I hope to get more pictures to show details later in the day.



The cooler conditions mean that the female is spending more time sitting on the chicks this morning.

However, she is also taking time to search for food. Here, both parent have arrived with very different offerings.




The female has what appears to be a caterpillar, probably with its head removed, and although it looked too big it was eaten by one of the chicks will little fuss.



I'm puzzled by what the male brought in on that visit.

As I watched the tv image before pressing the shutter, I though it might have been a sunflower kernel, but it is obviously not that - I'd appreciate any suggestions.

At just after mid-day I think he has just brought in another one.


Thanks to Marion in Dorset for the suggestion that it looks like the fruit of a White Mulberry bush.


At 3pm I spent a bit more time 'in the box'. For a while the female sat on the chicks, meaning that I had to perch very still on the ladder for more time than was comfortable, but eventually her partner arrived with a caterpillar - another identification challenge!




It was one of those times when his partner didn't want to move and in the end he had to pass the caterpillar to her.

He left, and she fed one of the youngsters.




After she left the box I took another couple of picture of the chicks.




Here are a few close-up, cropped from the pictures I took. The first shows the chick's tongue as it gapes. You can also see the small nostril just above the beak of the chick at the top.




This view of the back of a head shows the start of feather growth there.




Finally, this image of a wing, with the shoulder at top-right, fore-arm centre, and 'hand' to the left, shows how much the flight feathers have progressed so far.



One thing I haven't recorded with the still cameras so far is a parent dealing with a faecal sac. These images were captured from the cctv feed that afternoon.

Every time a parent feeds one of the chicks he or she waits  (the webcam sometimes captures them looking down into the nest cup) to see if a faecal sac will be produced. Up to now these have been eaten by the parent , but on the occasion captured here it was taken out of the box, something that will happen more often from now on.


7 May - (The sixth day for all but one chick) - As far as I can tell, an uneventful day with everything 'going to plan'.

During the morning I had an e-mail from Heidi, asking me about this webcam image that she had captured ( and which I had missed).

It shows a chick in an odd posture. It has just been fed and has reversed up the side of the nest cup to present its rear end to mum who is waiting to remove the faecal sac that it is about to produce.


I haven't been watching the box a great deal today, but I did spend a short time there just after noon. Here are some images recorded at that time.

Feeding has continued, and there seems to be a good supply of large brown caterpillars.

However, I'm including this delivery of a smaller offering because it shows the size of a chick against that of its father.

It is amazing how much the chicks have grown in just six days - for the fist day or two you would have been lucky to see them get close to the rim of the nest cup, even on the cctv images, with that camera positioned higher.



With very little direct sunshine today, the temperature only reached a high of 18C this afternoon, so it was a bit surprising to see the female taking up this posture at the side of the box several times during the day.



In the time I was watching the nest, I didn't get a good overall shot of the chicks, but here are three that show some of the progress made since yesterday.

This rather messy shot you can see the developing light coloured feathers of the front and sides of the bird's body.



This one shows more clearly the same chick's wing.




Finally, in this last shot, as well as the eye, still closed, and part of its wing, you can see a small arc of developing feathers around the front of the ear.



Feeding went on until after the lights went out at 7.30pm, although she came in for the night soon afterwards.

For some reason she is very restless tonight, spending time with her beak wide open. It doesn't help when one of the chicks insists in popping up to the side!

Perhaps the mild temperature tonight has something to do with this - it's 14C at 9.30pm.


8 May - (The seventh day for all but one chick) - A very wet start to the day, although the rain had stopped soon after 9am.

Perhaps it was an excuse to stay out of the rain, or perhaps the damp conditions are affecting the wood around the entrance, but while it was still wet outside the male spent quite a bit of time pecking at the wood after making food deliveries.

In fact, on one occasion it caused what was almost a reversal in roles. He had brought in some food, and was busy at the entrance when the female arrived with a caterpillar. Instead of getting out of the way, he took it from her and did the feeding while his partner looked on.

Once he saw that a chick had indeed eaten the caterpillar he returned to the woodwork, His partner continued to check their offspring for a few moments longer before she had to push past him in order to leave.

He followed her out.


Seeing both parents in the box is now becoming a regular event.

Here, the female was sitting on the chicks (it's cooler this morning - 13C just before 11am) when her partner brought in a caterpillar. Then it was another of those moments when they both pause to watch (and wait for a faecal sac to appear!).


When a parent returns after a longer gap between feeds, I watch out for how many mouths appear. When will the full set pop up in anticipation?

On this visit I was able to see six, which is the most so far. Five are easily seen, but the tip of the sixth is just about visible at the bottom of the image.


The twig that sticks up at the front of this image and  right next to the glass, annoyed me, so when I changed the glass a short time ago I took advantage of the opportunity to snip it off. ( As I slid the replacement glass across, I pulled back the new pane back just a couple of millimetres to slip the end of a very narrow pair of scissors through the gap. As I do during  photographic sessions at the box, I wear a dark top, dark gloves, and I have a black hood over my head, and there is a black curtain between the nest and my position).


As I mentioned above, the female has been spending time sitting on the chicks this morning, and this picture was taken as she settled down for another session at around 11.30am.



However, it wasn't long before this tranquil scene was interrupted by the male with a food delivery, this time a spider.



The usual interaction occurred, and after some hesitation the spider was passed to the female who fed a chick while the male looked on.

He left, and she settled down for a few more minutes before heading out as well.



Once she had gone I took a few pictures of the nestlings.




This image shows just how quickly the wing feathers are developing, as are those down the back of the right-hand chick.



Finally for this morning session, a parent's eye view of a gape.




I visited the box again very briefly at 6.30pm, taking only a couple of pictures of the chicks, which may show more clearly how well the wing feather development is progressing.



As happened last night, feeding continued after 'lights out' at 7.30pm, but by 7.40pm the female seemed to be settling down.

In this webcam image her tail is casting a shadow as the evening light from the eastern sky still lights up the back of the box.


Ten minutes later the male came in and fed a chick that poked its head up to the side of its mum. She stayed put and started to settle once more.

However, five minutes later and her partner was in again. This time there was more fussing, and then they both left, the female not returning until about 8.05pm. It does look as though the day is now over at last.

Click on the images to see larger versions -

Nest building...

Egg Laying ....Incubation......Hatching

Next Chapter (The Growing Chicks - week 2)

The Countdown to Fledging - week 3

2006 Nestbox Diary Index