Nestbox Diary - 2007

April (part 1)

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1 April - The Starlings aren't quite ready to start their family, and today was a relatively uneventful start to the month.

Our resident Starling was alert by 6.35am and out of box 1 at 6.49am, with one brief return before 7am. By 8am there were another 9 visits to box 1 and just one to box 2.

Between 8 and 9am box 1 had six visit, with 2 to box 2 9including one occasion when there was a bird in both boxes. The next hour saw a Starling in box 1 7 times, and in box 2 3 times.

There was more activity between 10-11am, with 13 visits to box 1 (including one occasion when both bird were present as they swapped places. Box 2 had only two visits. Then, there was just one visit to each box in the hour before noon before it went quiet for the afternoon.

In the hours 4-5pm and 5-6pm there were just single visits, both to box 1. Then, there was a final visit to box 1 at 7.04pm before the Starling left and went into box 2 to roost.


2 April - Yet again I made a mistake when I set up the recorder, so my records for today miss the first half-hour or so, starting at 735am. Between then and 8am box 1 received 12 visits with none to box 2. In fact, box 2 hasn't had a bird in it all day, despite being used to roost last night.

Between 8 and 9am box 1 was visited 20 times, including two instances when both birds were present. One of those meetings involved a brief bit of aggression between them.  The next hour saw another 15 visits, and then between 10 and 11am there were just 4 visits. 11am to noon saw only 2 visits and then there were no more until after 5pm.

Then there were two appearances, at 5.17pm and 5.57pm. The next hour saw two more visits (6.01pm, 6.32pm).

At 7.08pm a Starling entered box 1 but left almost immediately to make the first visit I've seen today to box 2.

Starling restless when starting roost


At 7.20pm it was back again, this time into box 1 where it has stayed to roost. Mind you, twenty minutes later is is still very restless as I write this, spending much of its time standing up on the top of the nest material rather than down in the nest cup.



Starling nestboxes this evening

These images were captured a little earlier this evening to record the states of the two boxes. Box 1 looks the messiest that I've seen it, but I think it's worth noting that today is the first time that the floor of the box has been completely covered (with the soft grass).

I can't help but wonder if that, coupled with her obvious restlessness is a sign that we are getting close to the first egg laying.



3 April -  a quiet day for both the Starling and me. The skies have remained grey for much of the day day, and temperatures barely reached 9C this afternoon. The winds are still from the North-north-east, but less strong than on previous days.

I was only recording images of box 1 first thing this morning, so that I could capture higher quality images should egg laying begin, but there was no sign of that happening. It was monitored from 7.30am onwards and I did not see a bird enter it all day.

The resident Starling was active by 6,25am, left box 1 at 6.37am this morning and returned just once before 7am. The next hour saw four visits and between 8 and 9am there was just 1, although that was a prolonged one.

Between 9 and 10am there was a Starling in the box just 3 times, with only 2 visits in the next hour. During the rest of the day there were just six visits, at 12.14pm, 2.05pm, 3,48pm, 4.44pm, 5.25pm and 6.15pm.

Tonight, the Starling arrived in box 1 at 7.09pm and settled down to roost almost straight away - very different to last night.

Today, very little nesting material was brought in.


4 April - A Sunny, but still breezy and cool, morning, and no egg yet. This morning I saw a couple feathers and some bamboo leaves (feather-shaped!) which have nearly all disappeared down into the nest cup. Sometimes even the Starling disappears under the tangle of dried grass as she works on compacting the bottom of the cup.

It was an early start for the Starling, alert by 6.20am and out of box 1 just a minute later, coming back twice before 7am.Just as yesterday, box 2 was almost ignored, with just two visits, at 9.20am and 6.50pm.

Between 7 and 8am box 1 had 13 visits, with 11 more in the next hour, and 4 visits between 9-10am. After that there were just single visits in each of the next three hours, and then nothing between 1 and 5pm.

At 5.26pm, a Starling entered box 2 and settled deep into the nest cup. A few minutes later there were loud calls from a bird at the entrance of box 2 (although it didn't go in). Moments later a bird looked into box 1, causing what I can only describe as an explosive reaction from the resident bird, which flew at the entrance, preventing the other bird from entering.

Within a minute it was back in the nest cup and relaxing, only to react in the same way again a few minutes later when a bird appeared again, this time without any warning. The resident bird left the box a couple of minutes later.

At 6.16pm it returned, with another bird just outside, and the same again five minutes later. There was another, uneventful visit at 6.50pm before a Starling arrived to roost at 7.24pm, choosing to use box 2 tonight.


5 April (written on 6th) - A day when the Starling sometimes appeared to be more in incubating rather than nest building mode, but with no sign of an egg.

She left box 2 at 6.36am and entered box 1 immediately for a short inspection (- there were no further visits seen to box 2 today). She was back again at 6.49am. Between 7 and 8am there were a further 12 visits to box 1.

The next hour saw just three visits, including one around 8.39am when she really looked as though she could have been laying an egg, although we could see nothing when she got up out of the nest cup and continued to breathe quite heavily for a while afterwards.

Between 9-10am there were 6 visits, and then 7 visits in the next hour, and 3 visits between 11am and noon. There was nothing for the next hour and then just 1 visit per hour until 4pm.

Another gap followed before 2 visits between 5.30-6pm. There was just one more appearance at 6.31pm before she(?) arrived back in box 1 to roost at 7.26pm. Although she stayed in the box she didn't settle down until around 7.53pm.


The first Starling egg6 April - Confirmed - an Easter egg!

I will need to go through the morning's video recording to try to decide if it was laid today.

I saw hardly any nest material brought in today, and most of the visits included her sitting in the nest cup.



The day started early with the resident Starling alert by 6.15am and out by 6.22am. There were 4 visits before 7am.

Between 7 and 8am there were 9 visits, and a further 11 visits between 8am and 9am. Some bits of nest material was being brought in, and on the last of these visits they included a piece of paper which was literally thrown around the nest over the next few minutes. A lot of shuffling went on, interrupted momentarily when she had to fly across the box at a bird that looked in.

Then at 9am she became much quieter, facing the front of the box and keeping very still. 3 minutes later I could see her starting to breathe heavily and slowly (around 1 breath/second), accompanied by a feint clicking sound. At 9.06am the clicking became more pronounced and after another 2 minutes her rear end lifted up briefly - the moment when I assume the egg was laid.

After that, she immediately turned around and for the next 20 minutes went through a routine that involved shuffling the lower part of her body in a very controlled way (not like the vigorous nest-building shuffle), perhaps best described as abrupt left-right-left-right movements taking just over a second, and then repeated several times, after which she would thrust her head down into the nest and then turn to repeat the process while facing in a different direction.

At 9.28am she suddenly headed for the exit, revealing the egg for the first time. Having been used to seeing the Blue and Great Tits laying really early in the morning, this late delivery was quite a change.

As soon as she left the box she went straight into box 2, and stayed for just a few seconds before returning. She settled on the egg straight away, and started the shuffling again, this time to a lesser extent for a minute or so before she settled into a more usual incubating posture for a few minutes.

From then on through the rest of the day there were between 2-5 visits every hour, with some lasting over 30 minutes. Although I haven't had time to record the actual timings, I have been surprised how much time was spent on this first egg.

It was 7.32pm when (presume) the female Starling came back to the box to roost for the night.


7 April - Egg #2 -

Just as yesterday, the Starling settled down around 9am, and by 9.30am was ready to reveal her second egg.

It was a slightly later start for the Starling this morning, not leaving the box until 6.44am, and returning just once before 7am.

As I have gone through today's recording I have noted the lengths of all but the shortest visits to  the nearest whole minute. Some of the hourly totals will be inaccurate as some visits carried over from one period to the next, and these have been added to the latter. I will adopt this same approach on other days when I record timings (not every day!).

Between 7 and 8am there were six visits, with two totalling 8 minutes duration.

from 8am up until 8.44am there were five visits (15 minutes in box), then the Starling entered and stayed, shuffling and working on the nest until she went quiet at 9am, this time facing the back of the box.

The second Starling egg arrivesBy 9.04am I could hear the clicking associated with her heavy breathing. The sounds became more strained and  pronounced as her body moved back and forth a bit slower than once every second. At 9.05am she suddenly raised her rear end up, held the position momentarily, and immediately went into the deliberate 'left-right-left-right' shuffle routine that I described yesterday. This carried on with few breaks until around 9 22am when she first climbed out of the nest cup to reveal two eggs.


Then the shuffling resumed, a bit less vigorously, until just before 9.26am when she became still again (almost looking as though she was going to lay another egg!). After a few minutes she became quite restless, looking out of the nest a couple of times (webcam image shown above), before leaving the box at 9.45am.

In the next quarter of an hour she was back in the box 2 times, spending about five minutes more in there.

Between 10 and 11am three visits included same 33 minutes in the box. As for the rest of the day, not all of this was spent sitting on the eggs, but at least half was.

Between 11-12am 4 visits included nearly 53 minutes in the box.

The next hour saw 7 visits, although less time spent (14 minutes).

From 1 - 2pm  3 visits lasted a total of 37 minutes

From 2 - 3pm 8 visits lasted for about 34 minutes

Between 3 -4pm there was one short visits and two that amounted to over 43 minutes in the box.

From 4 - 5pm there were 5 visits, including one of 22 minutes, most of which was spent by the entrance. The next longest visits was just 2 minutes.

Between 5 - 6pm there were 5 visits, four totalling 14 minutes and the last overlapping into the next hour.

That lasted for 22 minutes and then there were another five visits for a further 21 minutes before 7pm.

After 7pm there were two more visits for a total of 24 minutes before the Starling finally entered the nest to roost at 7.35pm.

I must say that I was surprised how much time is being spent in the nest before egg-laying is complete, and although I didn't mention it above  the Starling(s) continued to bring in straw and bamboo leaves during the day.


8 April - And then there were three (eggs) -

The third Starling egg arrivesA slightly earlier egg laying this morning, with egg #3 laid at around 8.38am, and revealed for the first time at 8.46am in between the periods of shuffling and turning that are part of the follow-up process. (the left-hand time on bar at the top of the image indicates the time elapsed since recording started at 5am. The right-hand number shows recording time still available)

I am still trying to find a good way of describing the movement. It's almost an abrupt 'tick-tock-tick-tock' movement, with the sequence lasting about a second.

By 8.50am she had become much more settled, so the process seems to be reducing in intensity as egg laying proceeds.

Webcam image of the Starling and three eggs


This webcam image shows her checking the eggs after taking a look out of the box. She actually left the box a few minutes later, at 9.14am, returning and settling back on the eggs within a minute.



Her day started with her climbing out of the nest cup as early light entered the box, around 6.05am, and she left it at 6.25am, returning for three visits, totalling 22 minutes before 7am.

Between 7 8am there were 8 visits with some 35 minutes spent in the box.

Soon after 8am there was a visit of about 15 minutes. Then, at 8.23am she entered the box and settled in the nest cup. There was some shuffling about for a while, but she quietened down by 8,30am and soon I could see signs of heavy breathing. As already described above, her rear end suddenly raised at 8.38am as the third egg was laid.

Afterwards, the shuffling/turning routine was carried out for a while with less vigour than for the first two eggs, and she eventually left the box at 9.19am. During the rest of that hour there were three more visits totalling some 23 minutes.

Between 10 - 11am 7 visits meant a bird in the box for nearly 40 minutes.

11am - noon saw another 36 minutes in the box during 5 visits.

Between noon and 1pm even more time was spent in there, 41 minutes during four visits.

From 1 - 2pm there were 3 visits, with the longest being 28 minutes out of a total of 36 minutes.

Five visits between 2 - 3pm  totalled 47 minutes, and another five visits in the next hours added another 34 minutes.

There were also five visits between 4 - 5pm and those resulted in 28 minutes in box 1. In the next hour there were 4 visits, but less time spent in the box, totalling 19 minutes.

Between 6 - 7pm there were five visits for a total of 34 minutes in the box.

Then, of the first forty minutes after 7pm another 26 minutes were spent there during 7 visits before she arrived to roost at 7.44pm. She didn't settle until around 8.12pm as the camera image became very dim.

A quick calculation shows that in the 12 hours from 7am - 7pm (including time taken during egg laying) an average of around 37 minutes, over half the day. I must emphasise that for perhaps as much as half that time was spent in the box but not incubating the eggs - in some visits this doesn't happen at all. Nevertheless, I continue to be surprised by the amount of attention the eggs are getting at this early stage - of course, I can't tell to what extent both parents may be involved in the visits.


9 April - Egg #4 -

The fourth Starling egg arrivesThe fourth egg was laid around 8.12am this morning, and revealed for the first time at 8.40am.

I don't intend going through the day in detail tonight, other than to note that she was already off the nest cup by 6am and left the box at 6.31am.

Tonight she seems to have settled down more quickly, being tucked into the nest cup well before 8pm.


Starling box 2


While I have been concentrating on box 1, there have been occasional visits to box 2, and it is obvious from this image, captured at lunchtime, that it had received small amounts of nesting material since I last commented about it.



House Martin nests - views from cctv camerasToday I've been busy finalising the House Martin  arrangements, and this composite image shows the view from the four cameras. The external camera has been moved to a lower position - once the Martins arrive I hope to re-route the feed from that camera to provide a colour image.

The internal cameras have been adjusted to ensure that the images include the lowest part of each nest, and you can just see a bit of the white board that runs along the back of the nests.

In addition, I have replaced the rubber sheet (see the introduction to the webcam) with one that extends down below the nest backboard. You can see the black edge of it protruding below the board in the external camera image above. I've done this to extend the barrier against the ingress of Martin Bugs into the area above the cameras.

After making the final lens adjustments, as I replaced the artificial nests themselves I used mud ( made up from worm casts!) to seal all the nest/wood joints. It was obvious that the Martins did this last year, so I decided to give a helping hand this time! I also used the mud to coat the rubber sheeting around the camera lenses.

Some of you may have noticed that I have made a slight increase in the size of the webcam image in readiness for the need to include a composite image. The size may increase again in the next day or so as I test arrangements. Please let me know if the larger images should cause problems.


10 April - A Fifth egg is laid -

The Starling inspects - fifth egg was laid this morningI was a bit slow getting going this morning so until I go through the video recording I cannot tell when it was laid, but this was the moment, at 8.20am when I first saw the addition to the clutch.

A few moments before, she was busy with her 'tick-tock' shuffle, so I guess that the egg had not long been laid.



The day had begun with the Starling moving about in the box by 6am, and leaving at 6.48am, returning briefly four times by 7am.

In the next hour there were three visits before 7.30am totalling 20 minutes in the box, but then she entered again at 7.33am and stayed until after she had laid the fifth egg. She seemed to take a long time over this one, and was settled and breathing heavily by 8am. Then it looked as though she may have been trying to lay around 8.06am when her rear end came up and then her head went down. However, there was very of the 'tick-tock' shuffling and she soon became still again.

At 8.08am she raised her whole body up, much more than for the previous eggs. and held that position while breathing very heavily. A minute later she relaxed and I think that was the egg-laying moment. Two minutes later she suddenly left the box, revealing the fifth egg.

She wasn't out of the box for long, and of the rest of the hour she spent some 41 minutes in the box, going out three times, and much of the time she was sitting on the eggs.

Between 9 and 10am she was in the box for around 47 minutes and in the next hour she spent 40 minutes in there.

Between 11am and noon she only left the box briefly on two occasions, spending some fifty minutes in there, and in the next hour she was present for 53 minutes.

In the afternoon, with the outside temperature reaching above 18C a little bit less time was spent in the box, with 37 Minutes (1-2pm), 34 minutes (2-3pm), but back up to 43 minutes (3-4pm) and 44 minutes (4-5pm).

The lowest time spent in the box came between 5 -6pm when she was in and out of the box some seven times, with just 28 minutes spent in there. She was still in and out some five times in the next hour, but still managed to be in the box for about 37 minutes.

Of the first half-hour after 7pm she was in the box for 26 minutes, despite going out three times, and then when she did return at 7.33pm she stayed for the night.

There is no doubt that incubation has started today, with an average of 45 minutes in each hour spent in the nest between 9am and 7pm, and with the majority of that time spent sitting on the eggs. My bird guides say that Starlings can lay 5-7eggs, so it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow morning. Also, looking forward to hatching, the guides say that incubation lasts for about 13 days - do I start counting from today?


11 April - It's a clutch of 6 eggs now -

The sixth egg was laid this morningand I completely missed it this morning!

When I looked at around 8.30am there were still just five eggs, but when I had a chance to look again at 11.30am there were six.

I needed to go through the recording to pinpoint when this one was laid - at a very late 10.03am, after she had been back and forth to the entrance a number of times and was not at all relaxed.


While the eggs are being incubated in box 1, box 2 has had several visits during the morning, I had presumed by the male. Usually, on leaving that box he would attempt to enter box 1, causing the female to fly at the opening to block his entrance.

Starlings fight in box 2 - 1



Soon after midday there was a tremendous noise from box 2 as a Starling entered followed by a second bird which was attacked as soon as it appeared in the entrance.

It was a frantic affair with the pair rolling about with wings flapping, legs kicking out and beaks being used as weapons.


Starlings fight in box 2 - 1b


When they did stop in one place for long enough to grab an image, the dominant bird (top in this image) made calls very similar to those in my Starling song recording, making me think it is the resident male, while the other individual only seemed to make tuneless, shrieking calls.



Starlings fight in box 2 - 2


Eventually, the pair seemed to run out of energy, or was it simple a 'game of patience',  and ended up holding onto each other firmly, and lying under the camera position.

Both were making sounds, although it was the right-hand bird that remained the most vocal, with those same familiar sounds.


Starlings fight in box 2 - 3



and seemed to be dominant, using its beak to peck at the other bird from time to time. With the entire encounter lasting something over 9 minutes, they spent over 7 minutes of it locked together on the floor of the box


Starlings fight in box 2 - 4



That bird at the bottom of the image (I'm guessing, the intruder) had gone very quiet, but just when I was wondering how it was going to survive the engagement, it raised itself up and


Starlings fight in box 2 come to an end - 5


the fighting resumed. Very fast and furious, it ended as one escaped, followed by what I suppose was the victor.

It seems that the resident male has got competition for the vacant box - I've no idea if he was the winner of the fight, but there has been another, peaceful visit to the box since it happened - I shall be listening for the familiar calls to be made again!


Incubation in box 1 continues during fight in box 2


And what about box 1? When there were the sounds of a Starling calling from box 2 the female went back and forth to the entrance several times. When that bird left the box she, as usual, blocked the entrance of box 1 and then returned to the eggs.

During the fight itself she hardly moved, remaining in the nest cup and watching the entrance.


Click on the images to see larger versions -

2007 Nestbox Diary Index.....

First Chapter (Jan/Feb).................March..................... April - part 2