Nestbox Diary - 2007

July (part 2)

Egg Laying & Incubation

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18 July - The First egg is laid

House Martin pair early this morning


I switched on the monitors soon after 7.30am and was greeted my this view of the Martins, with the female over to the right of the nest rather than her usual spot in the left hand corner.



The first glimpse of an egg at 8am this morning


The male was very restless, moving about all round his partner, most of the time apparently sitting on her sitting on her, and at just before 8am I saw the reason for this change in behaviour - just the glimpse of an egg.

While his partner didn't move, the male soon tucked the egg back under her. As I write this at 8.20am he is sitting on her so that his tail points out of the entrance.

The male Martin fusses around the new egg


Update at 8.50am - It's been fascinating to watch the cctv images since that first sighting of the egg. While the female has hardly moved at all, All the movement of the male  caused the egg to appear at the side of her, and he has been trying to ensure that it remains covered.

Having said that, by 9am he appears to have managed to tuck it back under the female again, and she has now decided to turn to face the other way as he looks out!


The House Martins' pear-shaped egg is clearly visible at last

Her partner had left by 10am, and with the female looking out, we had our first good look at the egg, which is white in colour, measures about 19x13mm, and weighs 1.8b (info from the BTO website).

The BTO site also says that incubation takes 13-19 days, with fledging a further 19-25 days, so if all goes well we can look forward to hatching in the second week of August, and fledging not until the end of August /beginning of September.


The egg has hardly been left unattended since this morning and as I write this update at 3pm, both parents are in the nest, although both are looking out and neither is sitting on the egg.

Around the middle of the day a third bird turned up again, this time entering nest 1 while both parents were in residence. It was difficult to see what happened beyond a flurry of feathers, but the external camera caught the moment when the intruder left - It just hung there for a few moments as though one of the pair was holding onto its tail.

I had to go out for a short time, and as I returned the third bird appeared again. This time it headed for one of the empty nests. This time it was intercepted by what I presume was 'our' male, and both of them fell to the porch roof above our front door before flying off.

House Martins' egg (cropped cctv image) showing its pear-shaped form


Late this afternoon the lighting was just about right to give a decent cctv image of the egg which is rather pear-shaped, a shape that I thought was more associated with ledge- nesting birds.




Looking back through the video recording a couple more things to note are -

A third Martin arrived in nest 3 at 5.15am and was back and forth to the nest over the next  hour.

I cannot be sure, but I think the egg was laid between 6.10am and 6.15am. The male left the nest and went into nest 2 for a couple of minutes during the period when the female seemed to be breathing heavily.


A second egg for the House Martins19 July - Egg #2

A very pleasant, sunny morning, and at 8.35am both parents are in the nest with mum settled on two eggs.

I catch a glimpse of for the first time an hour or so ago as mum spent time looking out of the nest.



On a technical note,  I apologise if you are experiencing interruptions to the webcam updates. It seems that we have a problem with our router which is causing our internet link to fail at random intervals, and it seems to be a getting worst. I have tried a couple of recommended solutions without success - it seems to be a known problem with certain  Linksys  routers and I'm wondering whether I should try a router from a different manufacturer. Also, there is some annoying banding appearing on the nest 1 webcam which refuses to go away - such are the joys of technology!

The House Martin pair this evening


A follow-up at approaching 9pm - As I write this, as well as the pair in nest 1 (back in their usual positions in this image) there is a single Martin in nest 3 again.




This afternoon, and after a frustrating couple of hours, I finally decided to replace the router with one from Netgear. That one has been running without any problems all evening, so I'm hoping that the webcams will now be more reliable. The banding may have to wait until next week before I get round to finding a solution.


Webcam image at 9am20 July - Egg #3

At 9am on a very gloomy, wet morning, with thunder rumbling around us, I think I caught a glimpse of a third egg as the female adjusted her position, although it  may be some time before I can grab an image to confirm that.

At 9.50am here is no sign of either the pair in nest 1 or the individual in nest 3 wanting to venture out into the rather miserable weather.


First sight of three eggs, at noon


After a very wet morning, it wasn't until around noon, and the first bright moment of the day, that the male (I think) left nest 1, along with the Martin from nest 3, and the female looked out, exposing the three eggs to the camera briefly before settling back on them.


The clutch of three eggs this afternoon



A better view this afternoon when the female left the box for just a short time.



21 July - Egg #4

Four eggs revealed at 8.30am


On a bright, sunny morning, a moment when the female adjusted her position at around 8.30am revealed that the pair now have four eggs.

With blue skies outside, the male, and the Martin from nest 3 are already spending time away from the nests, in contrast to yesterday.


This evening I looked through the morning's recording in order to pinpoint when the egg was laid. The recording started at 5am, and until 7am there was little movement from either of the pair. The male started to get more restless, and then at round 7.15 am the female partially reversed out of the entrance, presumably to deposit a faecal sac on our porch (stainless steel & easily cleaned!). It that moment I was able to see that there were still three eggs, but it wasn't long before it was obvious that she was getting ready to lay.

Positioned across the back of the nest, facing right she was keeping quite still, apart from her breathing. At 7.10am I had measured her breathing rate - 62 per minute. By 7.35am it was up to 102b/m and at 7.38am it was around 122b/m.

All this time, the male was in close attendance, constantly preening.

Female spreads her tail feathers as she lays an egg

Then, with the male tightly against her, at 7.39am her breathing increased again to 132b/m, she spread her tail feathers, and raided the rear end of her body, which she swayed from side to side for the next half minute.

When that movement stopped her breathing had dropped to around 100b/m, and she continued to keep  her tail feathers spread out for about a minute more.


Male rests on female after she lays an egg


Up to now (7.42am) the male had kept still, but no longer, and he virtually sat on her as he turned to look out!



The clutch of four eggs this afternoon


It wasn't until 8.30am that the fourth egg was revealed for the first time, and this image of the clutch was captured this afternoon.

A few more feathers are being brought in each day.


Webcam at 8.27pm



Tonight, we have three birds in residence again.




Also tonight, I have changed the software used to provide the webcam from nest 1, but will need to wait until the morning to make any adjustments to the image and other settings.


Webcam at 8.12am22 July - A bright, if cool morning (13C at 9.30am) has seen no addition to the clutch, so it looks as though the egg-laying phase of this nesting may be over.

The parents are taking shifts at incubation, and later in the day I hope to look through the recording to get an idea as to how often they change over.



Incubation lasts for 14-16 days, and while I'm not sure when that time period should begin, I would expect hatching will occur sometime between 4 - 6 August.

Feathers and a shuffle in nest 3

This morning there is also a lot of activity around nest 3 with a Martin making frequent visits and bringing in a couple of feathers! Later on, the Martin has a few shuffling sessions.

In the lower image, as well as the feathers, on the right there seems to be the 'feathery' part of a thistle seed - I've seen a couple of these brought into nest 1, as well as more feathers  and plant material today.

There's no sign that the nest 3 bird has a partner, so is this just a practice nesting?

While one Martin was in residence in nest 1 most of the evening, its partner, and the resident of nest 3 didn't return for the night until around 9pm. I haven't had chance to watch today's recording - I'll try again tomorrow.


House Martin (with beak tucked under its fluffed up feathers) incubating eggs25 July - Sorry for the gap in the diary. As it happens, there is very little now to report on. In nest 1 incubation continues with very little chance to see the eggs during the day.

After a day which was nearly summer-like on the weekend, the weather has declined once again. Today, with the weather dull and damp for much of the time, and cool (only 17C)  it was not unusual to see the roosting bird with its head tucked under fluffed up feathers that helped it blend into the feathers of the nest.


Despite (or was it as a reaction to) the weather conditions I saw feathers being brought in a number of times today.

Feather bedding in nest 3


And the same has been true in nest 3, where the single bird continues to visit and shuffle as if preparing the nest.

Or is the bedding simply for comfort when roosting? The bird was in for the night before 8pm.



The second bird was back in nest 1 at around 8.10pm.

I have still to carry out that count of the change-overs in nest 1. I haven't been able to carry out all day recordings since my last report, a situation that I hope to put right in the nest day or so.


The House Martin eggs in a bed of feathers in nest 126 July - Just a couple of images today -

The first is an image from nest 1 showing the increased amount of feather bedding since the last picture of the eggs was captured,



The House Martin in nest 3


and the second is of the Martin that is visiting nest 3, the image captured during a pause in preening.

This evening it returned for the night at around 8.50pm after an evening spent in cloudless skies (after what had been a dull, grey morning and a very wet afternoon!).

The second bird from nest 1 didn't return until 9.10pm.


Pair of House Martins in nest 328 July - On a bright and sunny morning, a bit of great news - the Martin in nest 3 is no longer alone. As I write this at 8.50am there are two birds side by side in the nest.

They have been in and out of the box since I first switched on the monitors at around 8am, and I have seen mating take place twice since then!

The appearance of this second bird seems to explain the behaviour already seen in the nest, but didn't the partner shown up sooner? If they do go on to produce eggs, they seem to be nearly two weeks behind nest 1.


Composite image showing pairs of House Martins in nests 1 & 3



And just to confirm that there are now two pairs present, a composite image captured just before 9am!



Last night I looked through the 15 hours of recordings of nest 1 made yesterday -

When the recording started at 6am both birds were tucked down at the back of the nest. However, at 6.07am both left, one returning three minutes later. The partner returned at 6.18am. It was 7.03am before one left again, returning briefly some 12 minutes later.

Between then and 8am there were 7 change-overs when one bird returned and took over incubation duties as its partner left;

8 - 9am - there were just 3 change-overs;

9-10am - only 2 change-overs.

10-11am - 3 change-overs, but also two periods totalling 5 minutes when both birds were out.

11-noon - 4 change-overs

12-1pm - there was just 1 change-over and two periods totalling 13 minutes when both birds were out

1-2pm - just 1 change-over at 1.40pm

2-3pm - 2 change-overs and two periods totalling 8 minutes when both birds were out

3-4pm - 2 change-overs, one visit when a bird brought in some bedding and then left again, and a 15 minute period when both birds were out.

4-5pm 1 change-over and a 12 minute period when both birds were out

5-6pm - just one change-over at 5.26pm. The bird that entered at this time did not leave again, and its partner returned to the nest at around 8pm.

Overall, I saw 29 change-overs from 7am onwards, with the eggs left unattended for a total of just 56 minutes all day. Often, the bird entering the nest brought in a feather or some other bedding.


29 July - Just a brief entry today (which has been a bright, dry day, although cooler that the last few days, with a maximum of 18C) - While incubation continues without any hitches in nest 1, it was a case of 'copy-cat' in nest 3.

When dawn arrived, the pair in nest 3 were close together at the back of the nest, and they more or less stayed that way from when recording started at 5am until am. During all that time the female (I assume) was tucked against the back wall, facing right while her partner shared his time between preening himself and pecking at has partner, just as we saw in nest 1 on 13 July.

During the day I finally got round to replacing the power supply to the nest 3 camera, so there shouldn't be any more dark bands across the image at lower light levels.


30 July - An uneventful day for the Martins as far as I can tell. However, tonight (at 9.20pm) there is only one bird in nest 3. It had been looking out quite a few times over the last half hour, but has now settled down for the night at the back of the nest.

As this webcam image shows, both Martins were here earlier in the evening, staying for nearly ten minutes during that visit. I need to check the evening's video recording to see if there were any later visits by both birds.


I hope tonight's absence doesn't mean that we have lost one of the pair. I shall be watching with interest, and some concern tomorrow morning.


31 July - A bright, sunny morning, and things seem to be back as they should be in nest 3. There was only one Martin in the box overnight, and she(?) was still asleep when recording started at 5am. By 5.30am she was taking occasional looks outside.

By 6am she was at the entrance all the time and at 6.10am she left, Two minutes later the pair were back in the nest, and since then have returned to it frequently over the following few hours.

Both nests 1 and 3 have have seen brief sessions of building work going on around their entrances today.

Nest 2


However, more interesting is what I have seen in nest 2. Up until now that nest has received only a few visits, but during the course of this morning it has gained a couple of very small feathers, seen here against the back of the nest.

Adding mud to the entrance of nest 2



Also, around 1.25pm a Martin arrived with mud and added it to the entrance. I'm waiting to see if it returns - it did later in the afternoon and added a bit more mud.

We have seen this happen in the past, even when the nest wasn't used subsequently for nesting - could the Martin be simply practicing its building skills?

composite webcam image



Tonight, as it approaches 9pm, there are pairs of birds in both nest 1 and nest 3, but nest 2 has stayed empty.


Click on the images to see larger versions -

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