Nestbox Diary - 2007
March (part 2)
11 March - The Starling box 2 presents an encouraging sight!
After roosting for the night the occupant of the nestbox was looking out from around 6am, although it was after 6.30am before she stretched her wings and left.
Over the next couple of hours she was in and out many times, bringing a few bits in, and it seems, taking them back out again, and just once during that process she undertook a 'shuffle', an action so often seen performed by the nesting Blue and Great Tits over the years.
All activity stops soon after 10am
Talking of Great Tits, there hasn't been an inspection of their nestbox for over a week, but they are still about. I had just started to write this diary entry at 10.30am when one of them turned up at the Robins' nest, took a quick look inside and flew off again.
I must adjust the focusing on that camera to record visitors to the entrance rather than what should be going on inside.
12 March - Another brilliant start to an early Spring day, and the Starlings in box 1 have been busy this morning. Both of the pair have coming into the box the box with sticks, and there has been some serious shuffling. By 9.45am things have quietened down, as seems usual for them.
I will add more images later, but for the moment I need to switch off my computer, take up some floorboards (!) and feed some extra cabling down from my loft through a cavity wall. If all goes to plan, in addition to the one cable already in place, these will provide six extra video feeds and be ready for the Swift and House Martin cameras.
In the garden I see the female Blackbird is busy again, first taking moss form the hill by the West Wing, and later taking wet moss etc from the big pond. It does look as though she is nesting in the conifers, just beyond our back fence.
At 2pm the computer is back in operation after a very successful morning's work, which went much better that I could have anticipated.
I was using twin cored, screened cable that I rescued from our local recycling centre quite some time ago. It was only when I measured it out in our drive way that I realised just how much there was. As a result I now have cables set up of up to nine video or sound links.
It means that I can now watch both Starling boxes, and the picture shows the four cameras that are in use at the moment. Life will start to get more complicated once I start installing the Swift and Martin cameras.
Later today I'll be making a link to the microphone in one of the Starling boxes - a couple of hours later and I have made the connections that allow us to eavesdrop on both boxes.
The boxes remained empty all day, form around 10am, but at 4.30pm one paid a short visit.
At 5.40pm a Starling (bird 1) has returned, and appeared to be going back and forth between the two boxes before settling in box 1 (left).
At around 5.50pm it started to look out and make quiet calls.
Suddenly, another Starling (bird 2) entered the box and for a few moments there was noisy chaos. Then the original occupant returned to the same corner and seemed to cower there. The new arrival was clearly dominant over it and went on to inspect the box, bird 1 moving aside if it got too close.
After a few minutes things settled down, and a small faecal sac, produced during the initial encounter was visible in the centre of the box.
As dusk approached it looked as though the pair were settling down to roost. However, bird 1 suddenly got up and headed for the exit, picking up the faecal sac as it went.
It headed straight into the other box, with the sac still in its beak. It poked its head of of the opening and shook it, before wiping its beak furiously.
That done, it headed back into the other box where the pair finally settled down for the night.
13 March - Another early start, with both Starlings up and about soon after 6am. After last night the floor was rather soiled and for a good hour, getting that cleaned up appeared to be a priority, with the dropping being pecked at until loose and then carried outside.
Once the floor was deemed satisfactory, and until around 9.30am they were in and out frequently, sometimes with nesting material (both birds bringing it in) but mostly just to inspect and arrange what was already there.
After just a few more visits over the next hour, the boxes remained empty until 5.20pm when one of them returned and did a few shuffles. Then it disappeared again until nearly 5.50pm when it entered the box and almost immediately headed for the corner under the camera.
Over the next twenty minutes it was constantly looking towards the entrance as though waiting for its partner to arrive, but at 6.15pm, with light levels falling quickly it is still alone and has settled into a roosting position in that corner. The other box is empty, so I wonder what has happened to the partner bird tonight? I'm guessing that the one in the box is probably the female.
As you may have spotted on the website's home (front) page, I have now set up a webcam so that you can follow progress. There is no lighting in the box so I'm afraid the image will be visible only during daylight hours.
14 March - Well, we thought it would be interesting to follow a different bird as it nested, and it is certainly turning out that way. Being a bit afraid to miss something, I haven't interrupted the recording today so far, so I will have to wait until darkness falls to check on what happened as dawn broke.
However, there was no mistaking what occurred soon after 8.30am. The Starling that was in the box was definitely wary of something and kept checking the entrance.
Then all of a sudden, another bird entered the box and all hell broke loose, as anyone watching the webcam would have seen.
For the next few minutes we were glued to the tv as the pair rolled about the box.
What was fascinating was the way one of them had the beak of the other bird firmly gripped with the claws of one foot, as you can clearly see in this image from the cctv camera.
It seemed to be a defensive act. While holding the other bird firmly it did not seem to want to take advantage of the situation, not using its own beak to attack.
Eventually the engagement came to an end, with one bird making a rapid exit!
About an hour later I happened to walk into the room in time to see another, similar tussle coming to an end. This time I had only enough time to grab a webcam image before one of them headed for the exit again.
As before, the one bird left in the box headed for the end under the camera and just stood there much as when preparing to roost - having defended its nest?
After all that aggression, things quietened down, that was until the occupant then proceeded to entertain is with a long concert to demonstrate her(?) vocal skills. If I have time later on I will capture a snippet for the sounds section of the website.
For much of the day I have been outside, doing some woodwork prior to setting up the House Martin cameras - the boxes have now been taken down (more about them either later or more probably tomorrow) to allow for the modifications to be make.
At the end of the afternoon we were faced with another puzzling situation in the Starling box - quite a few of the twigs that had been brought in were now being removed again.
By 5.15pm the resident Starling seemed to be settling in for the night, but as I write this at 5.30pm she has just left, having had a bit of a shuffle before going.
At .5.45pm there was a bird in both boxes, but after some vocal interaction between them, the other bird left again, leaving box 1 occupied.
By 6pm the Starling had her(?) head tucked under her wing, and there has been no chance in the following half hour as darkness falls.
16 March - It seems that I need to re-evaluate what we have seen in the box so far - things are even more different to the Great and Blue Tits than I had realised.
I sat down to read a bit about the breeding habits of the Starling last night in an attempt to clear up some of the confusing events we were seeing, and found that it is the male who has been doing the nest building so far. He brings in the twigs, as well as the occasional green leaves.
Once he is satisfied with that work he will try to attract a partner by singing from inside the nest space, and he will defend that space from rival males - hence the fights yesterday. He would not tolerate another pair nesting in the adjacent box, but that may not be wasted as it's possible that he may attract a second mate to use it (we had both Swift boxes used last year, which was why I built this pair of boxes). That box is certainly getting some attention as I have just seen a bird doing some shuffling in there (at 8.05am).
It still leaves me puzzled as to the second bird that roosted in the nest three nights ago - male or female? Tonight it's just the one Starling again.
Not having spent more than a few minutes watching today, I will try to do some catching up tomorrow
The last two days I've been trying to get the House Martin nestboxes ready between trying to stay awake. I've now reached the stage of mounting the cameras, and I hope to fix the boxes back on the house during the weekend once I've sorted the wiring (got to buy some suitable plugs first).
17 March - Another busy morning for the Starling(s). The resident bird was looking out by 6.10am and left the box seven minutes later. There were some ten visits back to the nest before the first bit of nesting material was brought in at 6.50am.
Over the next two hours there were another seventeen visits, but between 8 and 9am the number went up to twenty seven, with material brought in during just over half of them.
Between 9 and 10am there were just eleven entries, although the bird stayed in the box for a total of well over half the hour. The next hour again saw the Starling in the box for a long period.
There were a few more visits up to 1pm and then there was a gap until after 4pm when there were just a few visits before one Starling settled down for the night.
At least once this morning I saw one bird enter the box with a twig while there was still another in there, having already brought something in, and while there was a noisy moment during the change-over, there was no repeat of the fighting I saw a few days ago.
I read that as well as twigs, the male brings fresh, green vegetation and even petals from Spring flowers.
Unfortunately, the black and white camera makes it difficult to spot these, but occasionally I do catch a glimpse of a leaf, as here, in the lower right corner of the box.
Here, you can see a feather in the same corner.
These pictures show what the arrangement looks like in each nest, with the camera lens protruding through a rubber sheet.
I will add some other pictures once the arrangement is back in place.
The first image shows the false 'roof' hinged down for access to the wiring.
The second image shows this in its normal position. You can see the colour camera on the right. The black strip is the rubber sheet - you may just make out the three lenses poking through it.
The final image shows the nests back in place.
When I took them down, the nests were badly infested with lice and needed to be cleaned thoroughly and carefully. It's amazing how these creatures will survive from one year to the next as they wait for the return of their hosts. I wanted to minimise the disruption to the mud added to the nests last year so I used a hot air gun on all the parts, spraying the areas around the work place with a bleach. I have kept a couple of specimens and will photograph them when I have time this next week.
The next tasks are to make the necessary electrical connections in my loft and next to the computer, but these jobs may not be done for a couple of days.
We definitely lost Spring today, and there was a cold, gusty wind blowing from the North-West as I worked up the ladder, and it seemed to make a difference to the Starling.
The height of activity took place before 9am but with fewer visits than yesterday (12 visits between 8 - 9am). Then, a couple of more visits before 9.3am brought activity to an end for the rest of the morning.
The picture shows a delivery of a couple of bamboo leaves.
Going through the morning's video recording I saw only one time when there were two birds in the box, and there was no aggression seen between them.
The first bird hadn't brought anything in, but spent some time working on the materials nearest the camera. It headed for the exit as the second bird entered, bringing what looked like dried grass.
I can't help think that this must be a pair, but which one would be the female? And is it the male or female that stays in the box at night?
This afternoon there were just two visits, shortly before 3pm and at 4.45pm, before a single bird arrived to roost at 5.45pm, tucking its head under its wing within a couple of minutes.
19 March - The Starling's day was more or less 'normal', with most activity occurring before 9.30am. There were another 13 visits before 11am and then just five more during the rest of the day, although a few involved longer stays, including one of about twenty minutes just after noon. The bird returned to roost at 5.16pm. There were just a few visits to box 2 all day.
It's possible that the increase in daytime visits may be accounted for by today's weather - colder ( a high of 7c, reached only briefly) and with a north north-easterly breeze bringing showers of rain, hail and sleety snow.
20 March - With today's temperature struggling to reach 5C, and cold northerly winds all day things have been quite different in the Starling box(es).
Once the resident bird left the box at around 6.29am the nest remained unvisited until after 8am when there was a burst of activity, with eight visits seen in the next hour. Although I do not have a continuous record for box 2, it was also visited several times during this hour.
It seems that sometimes the bird moves straight from one box to the other, and although box 2 has very little plant material in it, it also receives attention, including the occasional shuffle.
There were two more visits soon after 10am and then nothing until the middle of the afternoon.
At 3.20pm a Starling entered box 1 and stayed for over twenty minutes. At 4.18pm there was another long visit lasting until 4.52pm, but then it left again.
Soon after 5pm it made another very brief entry into box 1, left, and immediately entered box 2 where it settled down for the night!
I shall watch with interest to see what it does tomorrow morning.
Following this evening's behaviour I'm changing the webcam to show a block of images (produced by a video processor) to allow monitoring of both Starling boxes until further developments occur in one of them. The image will also include the Tit box and, from time to time another image, probably made up from one or more of the Martin cameras, as I sort them out ( two have been connected today - there may be pictures from them tomorrow).
Click on the images to see larger versions -