Nestbox Diary - 2007

June (part 2)

Box 2 -

The chicks grow up

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12 June - While all goes well for the Starlings in box 2, my optimism about the House Martins is being tested.

The day before yesterday I saw eight Martins off to the south of us, and for a short time in the early evening there were four directly overhead, although not at low level. I saw none yesterday, and just to make things worse, the wireless link that feeds the House Martin webcam has failed overnight.

My initial attempts at resetting it failed (my laptop could 'see' a couple of neighbouring networks, but not mine!).  Strange, it just seemed to stop transmitting. Any way, after a bit of TLC it seems to be working again, although once I'm mobile again I shall head out and buy a network cable, and hard-wire the laptop into the network to avoid a repeat of the problem.

Frustration continues with 14 hours of recording showing no visits to the Martin nests again. Again this evening I spotted a pair flying overhead for a minute or so before disappearing again!


The chicks this morning14 June - A grey, overcast morning, and life goes on as normal in the Starling box, with the three chicks being fed regularly and looking well.

I must get IR lighting installed for next year as I'm finding it difficult to get useable images form my video images.



We continue to wait patiently for the House Martins. I'm still optimistic - there were four overhead for a short while yesterday afternoon, and they were flying lower on previous days. On Springwatch last night they had a camera trained on a nest with two adults in there, and it seems that those are still at the building/ repairing stage. Given that our Martins do not need to do this, I don't suppose they are that much behind schedule after all!

Yesterday evening I watched the Swifts flying low around us and I saw them make several visits to my neighbours' roof without being bothered. Hopefully they will be able to get through nesting there after all.


16 June - Everything looks well in the Starlings nest, with all three chicks looking healthy.

Over the last two days I have seen no House Martins over us at all. With no sign of them at the moment, in order to cut down on energy use am shutting down the House Martin webcam for the time being. Should the Martins turn up it will be switched on again.

On the basis that nesting could still commence well into July/August, when the Starlings fledge I will in any case reconnect the Martin webcam to run on that computer and then allow it to run through the summer - just in case!


23 June - It's annoying that I've not been keeping up with the Starling diary during the last week. Fortunately, there has been very little to report, apart from the fact that the three chicks have been growing normally (as far as I can tell).

Two of the chicks compete for a feed

Today, two of the chicks are spending much of their time looking out of the box, anxiously awaiting any sign that they are going to get fed.

We sat outside for an hour or so around lunchtime and I didn't see any large meals being delivered at all, just small morsels, and not many of those.

With fledging occurring some 21 days after hatching, The chicks are due to leave the nest either tomorrow or Monday(25th).

Inside the boxOn a technical note, I'm afraid the quality of the cctv images from the box have declined even more. It appears that the lens needs cleaning, which is not surprising considering the amount of attention it and the surrounding area has been receiving from at least one chick.

This didn't happen in box 1, but this time I see the blurred impressions of numerous small creatures (mites?) that frequently move across the image, and I think the chicks must be trying to catch them. I shall have to clean the cameras thoroughly before they are brought into the house!


The House Martins continue to leave us frustrated. There are simply none in the skies over us on a regular basis - in fact I haven't seen one for the last six days. I have been told that one was seen heading up under the eves of a house in the next street, but I've driven along that road and seen no sign of any nests. If they were nesting there I would expect to see them to see them over us at some point.

AS for the Swifts, they seem to disappear for much of the time, but a few days ago Sheila and I were outside the front of the house when one entered my neighbours' roof space, so I must assume that they are nesting in there - we shall have to watch out for the slightly increased activity that would indicate the presence of chicks.



Inside the box on a dull day24 June - With it dull, cool and wet outside, the three chicks have not shown any sign of imminent departure today. In fact they seemed to spend less time looking out than they did yesterday,



The chicks squabbling



and it seemed that an air of frustration was starting to get the better of them because I saw numerous squabbles between the chicks during the day.



More rain is forecast for the next couple of days, although the Met Office suggests that we should get some sunshine, unlike today, so hopefully it may be a bit more conducive to fledging tomorrow.


25 June - It's another dull and damp morning, and at 11.30am it's just under 13C outside (so much for the start of Wimbledon!) - no wonder that the chicks are still in the box! I've seen just a couple of visits by parents so they must be pretty hungry by now. As I write this, the skies have got even darker and the rain is pouring down once again.

This morning, when recording started at 5am, and with no parent present, two of the chicks looked as though they were very close to leaving, but it wasn't to be.

The chicks squabble again


It was wet for most of the day (it seems that this month is the wettest June on record, and some places have had a month's worth of rain today - not us, thankfully) and as yesterday, the chicks sometimes squabbled.

Food is delivered



Food deliveries were made despite the wet conditions, usually with the parent coming in rather than passing it to a chick at the entrance.

The camera is probed by a chick



The camera received its share of attention.


The chicks this evening



Tonight, the three chicks are still quite restless at 8.30pm, with no sign of a parent turning up.

The forecast for tomorrow is for a dry day, so with a bit of luck conditions will be good for them to take the plunge and fledge.


26 June - We are now down to two chicks after one fledged this morning.

The big pictures should be added tomorrow!

It's been a dry day, but cold, although this afternoon the temperature managed to rise just above 15C for the first time in days and there is a keen north-westerly wind that makes it feel colder. It's not surprising that the chicks are reluctant to leave the shelter of the box!


This morning the three chicks were busy preening and stretching wings right from first light, and with the sun shining I really thought that they would leave today.





I watched from around 7am until just before 9am when I had to do other things of a hour or so.

In that time the first of the chicks fledged, so I decided to set the camera up outside to try and capture the moments when the other two left.


I was soon back in the house for a warm jacket and fingerless gloves (at the end of June?!) before spending the next several hours watching and waiting.


Other than one occasion when a couple of claws appeared over the rim of the entrance at around noon, the chicks showed no sign of leaving during the whole time I watched.





Instead there was an almost constant calling for food,




and just an occasional appearance of the second chick.





Both parents responded to the calls of the chicks, although the food portions were usually very small - this one was an exception to the rule.



Several times, what I assume is 'our' fledgling turned up with one of the parents. It made a couple of attempts to land at the nest entrance, and on this occasion nearly collided with an adult making a food delivery.




Inside the box, things didn't always goes smoothly. While I was outside I heard the sounds of squabbling at least half a dozen times.

In the exchange illustrated here, one of the chicks ended up pinned down on its back, reminiscent of the fights I saw between adults early in the nesting process.



Tonight the pair seems much more settled. They were fed at around 9.15pm but are on their own again as darkness falls.

These webcam images recorded a bit earlier show the effect of evening sunshine. The box faces north, but at this time of year the sun sets far enough north to shine into the box for a short time before it sets.


I spent some time outside between 9.30 and 10pm, and one adult Starling was still about, and  unfortunately it was still finding it necessary to harass the Swifts. Eventually it disappeared from view, but not in either nestbox.


27 June - Nesting is finally over -

The second chick fledged at 5.35am and then the last one left the box at about 9.15am this morning.


When recording started at 5am both chicks were already active and approaching the exit. Flickering light levels outside suggested that an adult must have been making close approaches to the nest, and one entered the box briefly, although I didn't see it pass any food to either chick.




Soon after 5.30am one of the chicks positioned itself at the opening, and then suddenly left the box at 5.35am.



The last of the three chicks showed no sign of following, and seemed content to stay put for a while. However, as time went by it started calling for food at the entrance. I started watching from outside before 8am, and while the parents were obviously nearby, most of the time the chick's call went unanswered.

In this case, the chick was stretching out so far it made things difficult for the adult and no food was handed over (if it actually had any to give). After that visit, at just after 9am, there were no further attempts made to feed it at the box.



Over the next ten minutes the chick seemed to be on the verge of leaving a couple of times, and when an adult flew past the entrance it finally took the plunge at 9.15am.




About ten minutes later one of the parents turned up to give the nest an inspection, and the box has remained empty since then (I'm writing this at 11.30am).




28 June - Strangely quiet today, after the noise of two broods of chicks these last few months.

BUT - is it all over, or may we be in for a third brood?

On several occasions this morning, this pair of Starlings were hanging around the box, one busy singing and the other making several inspection visits of box 1!

I hadn't been monitoring the box 1 camera for a couple of weeks and when I got the image up on a monitor it seemed as though the lens was misted up. When the Starlings weren't about I went up to the box to clean it, only to discover that the outside of the lens was clear.

I decided to remove the camera and check it, only to find that it was full of mites! When I installed the cameras (all of them) I forgot to ensure that all entry points were sealed.

The camera in box 1 has now been cleaned, sealed and replaced. There has been a bird looking into the box since I completed that task, but I've yet to see one enter that afternoon (written at 2.10pm).

I have also removed the camera from box 2 - now I know why the image quality had degraded during the last few weeks. I will not be replacing that camera for the moment, and I have sealed the entrance to box 2 until I am able to move the box in the Autumn. Box 2 is absolutely teeming with mites. It's going to be essential that I take precautions and clean it thoroughly when I do get round to moving it.


29 June - As early morning rain started to give way to very welcome blue skies, box 1 has been the venue for one of those now familiar battles for possession that we saw during the previous nesting cycles, although this time the encounter only lasted a few minutes.

This, along with the singing I'm hearing from the roof top does suggest that a male really is interested in attracting another female to nest, even if it is very late in the season.

Click on the images to see larger versions -

2007 Nestbox Diary Index.....

Jan/Feb........... March (nest building)............. April (egg laying/incubation)...

May (the chicks fledge in box 1; eggs in box 2)... Next Chapter ()