The 2008 Nestbox Diary
March - part 1
1 March - A quiet start to the month for the Starlings. They were active in their separate boxes by 6am and had left by 6.37am (the male two minutes before his partner).
The morning session of visits started just after 7am and ceased early, at around 815am. This morning box L received a lot more attention than box R. The female made the most visits, cleaning but not bringing anything in.
It was 5.12pm before I saw the female enter a box again, visiting both of them before disappearing for five minutes. When she did return, she entered box R, where she has remained. Her partner reappeared at 5.28pm and started to settle down for the bight as soon as he entered box L.
The Great Tits were not seen in the garden today.
first, at 7.30am when just one appeared a the box and entered it for about a minute. Five minutes later and a Great Tit face appeared at the entrance for another look without venturing inside.
In this image the information bar shows the elapsed time after the recording started at 5am.
Then, shortly before midday two arrived. One of them spent several minutes pecking at the wood around the entrance before entering the box to spend over a minute inside. Its partner didn't go inside, but did look in briefly.
Then they both left, only for one to return and enter the box again a few minutes later.
Since then I have seen them in the garden several times, and one looked into the box again at 3.40pm - the most encouraging day so far!
Looking at the black chest stripes in these images suggests that the 7.30am and the 3.40pm visits were by different birds, probably the pair, although I'll need to confirm this as time goes on.
This morning the Starlings were awake by 5.50am, were looking out by 6.35am and left the boxes at 6.35am (male) and 6.37am (female). These departure times were within seconds of those recorded yesterday!
Their morning visits started at about 7.05am and ended just before 9am. It was mainly the female that entered the boxes, with her emphasis again on box L. Each visit is short, the bird just pecking at debris on the floor, and it leaves as soon as it has a bit in its beak. Nothing has been brought in since 27 February.
This evening, the first of the pair (the male) didn't return until 5.25pm, heading into his usual box L. The female entered box R at 5.33pm, by which time her partner was already settling down. Having said that, at 6.10pm, with it more or less dark outside, they are both busy preening, or at least dealing with the multitude of parasites that they have to put up with.
3 March - To my amazement, the Starlings left at almost exactly the same times again this morning, the male at 6.35am and his partner at 6.37am. There was then a short gap until the first morning visit at 6.50am, these continuing until around 8.25am.
First, what I think is the male Great Tit entered the Tit box, its partner peeping in after it (pics 1 & 2). The appearance of the female caused the male to crouch and open his beak, although he remained silent.
While he was getting on with his inspection, the female Starling entered box R, followed by the male (pics 3 & 4).
His arrival was followed by a violent and noisy confrontation (pic 5).
A final flurry by the female (pic 6), and the male finally retreated, left box R and went straight into box L (pic 7).
At the same time the female Great Tit decided to enter their box, the male squatting down even more as she descended over him.
In stark contrast to the Starling encounter, this one was without any violence. As soon as the female had landed (pic 8), the male turned and headed out (pic 9), leaving the female to carry out her own inspection of the box.
It was an interesting opportunity to compare how the two species reacted to the arrival of a partner at this pre-nesting stage.
Unlike yesterday there were further visits during the day.
This evening the Starling boxes had their first visit when the male entered box R for a few seconds at 4.33pm before vanishing again. It was another fifty minutes before the female arrived back in box R at 5.23pm.
Eight minutes later the male entered box R again. As soon as he landed he headed for the camera end of the box, next to the female and the first pecks were exchanged.
Then there was a tense pause as he 'sang' to his partner.
As soon as the song was completed, the female lunged at her partner again. This time the squabble turned into a violent few seconds until the male showed his intension to head for the exit.
A few squeaky calls from him and he was gone,
heading into box L where he stayed as both birds settled down for the night.
4 March - This morning the Starlings both left at 6.33am. The morning visits went on between 7 and 9.20am.
At the end of the afternoon the female was the first to return, entering box R at 5.20pm, with the male into box L a minute later. After another ten minutes he visited the female, receiving the usual greeting of repeated pecks.
Rather than a song, the male produced several short phrases before he was pecked again and chose to return to box L.
Click here and you can hear a recording of the visit (348KB - 22 seconds long), starting with the male's arrival and ending as he returned to box L. I have edited the recording to shorten several long, quiet periods that occurred.
The male entered first, had a quick look around (middle image) and then adopted his usual crouched posture (left image), with beak wide open as his partner entered.
He left immediately and she spent the next minute making her own inspection (right image).
5 March - The Great Tit visits continue, this morning at 8.40am, with the usual pattern of male in first before the pair swapped over - and as I write this at 10.25am there has been a bird looking into the box (but not entering) numerous times over the last twenty minutes.
I'm having a bit of a technical issue with the quality of the images provided by the side view camera at the moment. I changed things last night which made matters worst so I'm likely to try again after dusk this evening.
Update at 10pm - I have now replaced the camera with one that has a lower resolution but a better response to the lighting used in the box. It is actually the same type of camera that I have installed in the top of the box so the two images are now matched for colour rendition. If the images are acceptable in tomorrow's daylight then I will not make any further changes.
I have just one more job to complete preparations in the Tit box, and that is to add a photographic flashgun which will illuminate the box through a diffuser just under the roof. The flash is set up so that it can be switched on remotely should I get the opportunity to do some still photography. With the flash set to its lowest brightness setting, this arrangement worked well in previous years, with little sign of it affecting the birds' behaviour.
I haven't had time to go through the Starling video for today but as far as I can tell they kept to their same general pattern of behaviour, although the male did appear briefly in box R at just before 3.30pm. This evening they were both in sometime between 5.15 - 5.30pm and the male once again visited his partner for a short time before they roosted in their separate boxes.
I suspect that a pair of Collared Doves are already nesting in the Ivy tree. Over the last few days, I have seen one perched frequently on the same branch of the Birch tree right next to the Ivy, and today I spotted a pair mating on the caravan shelter roof.
6 March - I'm encouraged by the activity that is taking place around the Tit box.
There was another inspection by the pair at 8am this morning.
It followed the usual pattern, with the male checking out the box first while his partner approached the entrance. Then he crouched down as she entered, departing as soon as she had landed, leaving her to make her own, and longer inspection.
I took a liberty with the recording of the sequence to put together this montage of the two birds in similar poses during their individual inspections.
With both images recorded under identical circumstances it shows some clear differences between them, the most noticeable being that while the male appears to be slightly larger and has the bolder black stripe, the female has brighter yellow plumage.
Around 10am there was another inspection. The male spent time pecking at the entrance before entering and was quite vocal for the first time while inside the box. I only managed to record the last bit of his 'song', which was uttered as he picked up bits from the floor of the box. Afterwards he spent more time pecking at the wood around the entrance before leaving.
You can listen to the recording (7 seconds long - 116KB) by clicking here.
Since then I've seen the pair moving about within feet of the box on several occasions.
As the images may indicate, the replacement camera seems to be a big improvement. While it has a lower resolution, its overall performance gives better images so I'm unlikely to make any further changes this nesting season.
Tonight I've installed and tested the flashgun. All I need now is a pair of nesting Great Tits to replace my old faithful cameraman's assistant!
Although my Canon cameras have higher resolutions, if the Great Tits do nest I will probably use my older Olympus E-20 because of its almost silent operation.
The Starling pair was looking out by 6.20am and out by 6.25am. The morning session of visits started by 6.50am, going on until 9.27am. Unlike on previous days, the boxes were visited my the male several times during the day, at 10am, 11.30am, 11.45am, and 2.55pm. During the 11.30am visit he entered box R and sang quite loudly. Another bird, presumably his partner came to the entrance but did not enter.
The female returned to box R for the night at 4.56pm. The male arrived in box R at 5.12pm and was greeted with the usual aggressive response from the female. He headed into box L but visited the female again at 5.31pm. He fared no better this time and soon retreated to box L, and both birds then settled for the night.
7 March - Just a brief entry tonight as I have just wasted several hours trying to persuade the link that I need to upload my webcam images to work for me. It looks as though I shall have to wait until after the weekend to talk to someone at my network provider. I can upload pages such as this one, and pictures, but the webcam images are being lost somewhere in the ether! Perhaps I'm too tired this evening.....
The day started cloudy, and perhaps this had an effect on the Starlings because they didn't leave the boxes until around 7.05am. There were not so many morning visits seen, but like yesterday there were several visits during the day. On one occasion the female brought a few bits of dry plant materials into box R. At the end of the afternoon she entered box R at 5pm but then disappeared again until 5.30pm when she came in to stay for the night. The male made a brief entry into box L at 5,33pm before arriving for the night at 5.45pm. At no time during the day did I see both birds together in either box.
One of the Great Tits (I think it was the male) spent several minutes looking into their box and pecking at the wood at just before 8am, but didn't enter. At 9.50am the box was visited, this time by the female on her own, and she spent nearly four minutes in there giving it a very thorough inspection - a very encouraging few minutes!
Away from the nestboxes, I watched the female Blackbird collecting a beakful of dried leaves from by the small pond and taking then towards the bottom of the garden. She stayed low, but I have no idea where she ended up.
8 March - The webcam is now up and running after a frustrating time over the last two days. Having sorted out the network provider side of the equation after a phone call this morning, it took ages for me to persuade the software to upload more than blank files.
I must point out that the webcam image tonight shows the Great Tit box brightly lit. This is not the way it will be normally at night - I have yet to program the timer to switch the lights off at dusk. That is a task I hope to carry out tomorrow.
The Great Tits were visiting by 7.55am. Again, it was the male who inspected first (pic 1). When the female arrived and entered he went into his rather submissive posture, with his back to the entrance, body held against the floor and beak open (pic 2).
As soon as she landed he lifted himself up (pic 3), took one quick look at his partner (pic 4) and headed for the exit (pics 5 & 6)!
The female set about her inspection (pic 7), but on this occasion the male reappeared at the entrance (pic 8).
When it looked as though he was going to enter, she reacted in a (perhaps) more assertive way than her partner had, with her beak open but staying upright, head held high, with her open beak pointing at the entrance (pics 9 & 10).
The male did not enter, and although he remained at the entrance, his partner obviously decided that any threat was over and she continued her inspection (pics 11 & 12).
An hour later the female paid the box another visit, staying a couple of minutes during which time the male didn't appear at the box , but was seen in the Birch tree.
The Starlings' day was pretty predictable with them leaving the boxes at 6.30am and making a number of morning visits followed by several more during the course of the day (nothing brought in today).
At 5.39pm the female returned to box R for the night, closely followed by her partner. There was the usual clash of beaks, an encounter during which the male was as aggressive as the female, before he headed into box L, and they both settled down for the night.
Click on the images to see larger versions -