The 2008 Nestbox Diary

 March - part 2

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9 March - This morning brought another Great Tit sequence worth noting, this one taking place just before 9.15am. This time I'm including sound recordings made during the sequence - it's interesting to compare these with the noise of the Starling encounters, much higher pitched, and quieter (you may need to turn the volume up a bit!). The recordings have been edited, mainly to remove some annoying background noise, but also to shorten several quiet spells.

Great Tit pair visit the box at 9.13am - sequence part 1

It started off in the usual way, with the male arriving first, squatting down, beak open as the female entered and then leaving immediately.

The recording starts with the male at the entrance. He enters after about 12 seconds and his partner arrives at the entrance. She enters about 7s later. the 'chattering sounds you hear next are produced the male before he leaves.

Click here to listen to the recording. (431KB)



This morning the female didn't have the box to herself. Over the next three-quarters of a minute the male reappeared at the entrance twice. The next recording includes both of these visits, with the interval between them largely edited out, with the second visit starting about 15s into the recording. Even after playing the video recording numerous times, I'm finding it difficult to distinguish between the contributions made by the two birds.

Click here to listen to the recording. (492KB)


Great Tit pair visit the box at 9.13am - sequence part 2


After the second sequence heard in that recording, the male entered the box again, pecking at the wood before he entered, and with the female squatting with beak open as he landed across the box from her.


Great Tit pair visit the box at 9.13am - sequence part 3


There was short pause, with both birds seeming to relax a bit. Then, with the female crouched low, the male hopped across the box to be behind his partner (pics 11 & 12).

He took one more hop (pic 13) and it looked as though he was about to mount her to mate, when he suddenly sprang back across the box to where he had started from (pics 14 & 15).

Great Tit pair visit the box at 9.13am - sequence part 4


Once he stopped moving, his partner, without moving her feet, reached across the gap between them and gave him a peck (I can't be sure but it appeared to be to the leading edge of his wing rather than his body). She repeated this a couple more times with no response whatsoever from him.

After the last peck he headed for the exit, pausing to look back at his partner before leaving. The female only stayed a short time longer before she left too.

I don't think that there were any other visits during the day, but I need to check the recording later tonight.


The final recording covers from the moment the male re-entered the box to when he left again, a period of not much more than fifteen seconds. The chattering is again produced by the male, and the quieter 'squawking' sounds seen to be made by the female.

Listen to the final recording (254KB)

Starling nestbox R with the first signs of nest building


I also need to check the day's recording before I can  give details of the Starlings' day.

This image, captured that afternoon, shows that the floor of box R is gradually acquiring a soft covering. However, as usual I have seen very little activity at the Starling boxes during the day.



10 March - I have amended yesterday's notes to include three sound sequences recorded during the Great Tits' visits to their box.

Today was a blustery and sometimes very wet day with wind gusting to around 55mph at just about the time that the Starlings were rising and then again when they were returning to roost.

The were out of the boxes around 7am but there weren't as many morning visits as usual, and none during the day, at least until 4.43pm when the female arrived in box R. She stayed until 5.15pm and then left. A quarter of an hour later the male appeared in box R and the female in box L. A few minutes later and the position was reversed, but at 5.45pm the female left again and the male moved into box R once again.

Starling pair in box R at 5.47pm - sequence part 1


For the next couple of minutes he waited, moving to the entrance to look out briefly (pics 1 - 3).

Then, as a second bird arrived in the entrance he launched himself at it (pics 4 & 5).



Starling pair in box R at 5.47pm - sequence part 2


As the new bird (which was in fact his partner) tried to move past him and head for the back of the box the attack continued, with him pecking at her back and then the breast area (pics 6 - 10).

I have gone through the sequence several times, frame by frame, and at no time did I see the female retaliate. In fact, once against the side of the box she held her head and beak high above him (pics 9 & 10).

Starling pair in box R at 5.47pm - sequence part 3

Then, he suddenly stopped attacking, squawked at her a couple of times and headed for the exit, still squawking as he left.

Moments later he was in box L and both birds were settling down for the night!

It's difficult to provide an explanation for what happened without resorting to talking in human terms, so I'm not going to try...


Great Tit male visits box at 8.30am


Today the Great Tit box received just one visitor, spending a short time pecking at the entrance and then entering for just a few seconds.

I assume that it was 'our' male, but with the feathers of his chest stripe quite ruffled by the wind outside.




11 March - After the blustery conditions yesterday, this morning was dull and damp, but calm, and the Starlings made an early start, leaving their boxes at 6.15am. Then there was a gap until 6.40am when a series of visits started.

cctv image shows Starling and Great Tit visiting their boxes


This image, captured at 7.23am records the female Starling bringing in a twig at the same time as the female Great Tit was inspecting the Tit box (As usual, she had been preceded by the male).


Male and female Starlings bring in twigs



During the period up to around 8am, I saw several more bits brought in by the Starlings. This pair of images, captured just seconds apart, show the male (left) and then the female bringing similar pieces into box R,


Female Starling performs the first shuffle of the year


and shortly afterwards, the female carried out her first proper 'shuffle'.

Despite the apparent cooperation between the pair, there was a brief clash when the female entered box R just after her partner had arrived with a twig in his beak.


At around 12.50pm the male entered box R and performed a prolonged song ( unfortunately I wasn't recording at that time) and just afterwards, the female brought more plant material into box R - it looks as though the Starlings are on the verge of getting serious about the business of nest building. I didn't see any more brought in during the afternoon.

Tonight, as usual they are in separate boxes, although before they settled down the male visited his partner twice, with the usual squabble the first time, but with less aggression seen during the second visit.

The timer is now in operation for the white LEDs in the Great Tit box. To start with, I've programmed them to come on at 7am and then dim at 6.30pm. These times will be adjusted gradually as the season progresses.


12 March - Just a brief report today -

On a very windy day, I saw very little activity in either Starling or Tit boxes. I saw a Great Tit at the entrance this morning at just before 8.30am and then again in the later afternoon, but I didn't see a bird enter it today,

The Starlings don't seem to have added anything to box R today, and they are back in their usual boxes again tonight.


13 March - There was an early visit by the Great Tits, the female entering the box briefly at 7.05am, followed by her partner.

Male Great Tit inspects box at 7.05am



He left but returned less than a minute later to have a longer inspection. During this visit he obviously felt it necessary to check out the corners above the glass.

Female Great Tit swops places with the male at 7.05am




Again he left only to enter again. This time the female followed him in and as is usual at this moment, he left her to carry on her inspection.


Male Great Tit enters box already occupied by female at 7.42am


At 7.41am pair appeared again, the female entering the box, while the the male stayed at the entrance for nearly a minute before he too entered.

He was greeted by his partner with a peck on his beak.


Female Great Tit encourages her partner to leave at 7.42am


This was followed by several pecks to his shoulder area before he headed for the exit.

As happened a few days ago, he hesitated and looked back, but was then pecked on his wing several times before he finally left.

Once again there was no sign of aggression by the male during either encounter this morning.


While my cameras were watching the Great Tits, this morning I watched from our bedroom window as a pair of Blue Tits spent several minutes inspecting the old and neglected box on a North-facing wall in my neighbour's garden.


14 March -  I didn't mention the Starlings yesterday because there was nothing new to report on. However, this morning is different - the Starlings have started to get serious about nesting, exactly one year to the day since it happened last year.

They were out of the boxes by 6.20am and over the next few hours brought in a whole lot of mainly small twigs (the majority from my neighbours' birch tree).

Male Starling tries to bring in a long twig(the following has been rewritten since I took another look at the video recording!) The male was already in the box when the female arrived with a twig, too long to fit in the box. While she watched from the camera end of the box, the male then attempted to pull the twig in. He eventually gave up and left, closely followed by his partner.

In the meantime I'd gone outside to see what is problem was  - she had brought a Birch twig that wasn't just long, at 50cm it was nearly twice the length of the box. Also, it was branched, and she had hold of the tip of the main branch so that the other branches acted somewhat like barbs!

Female Starling shuffles the twigs into place


As the bottom of the box was covered, there was a need to start organising the twigs and so the 'shuffles' began in earnest.

Here the female carries out the task. I need to check through the video later to see if the male did any shuffling.


Nest boxes compared between 7 and 10am


These pairs of images from my cctv recording show the boxes before and after the morning session. They show the increase in material in box R and the roughly circular area being cleared by the shuffling.

Visits to box L have continued, with the floor being cleaned, but no nesting material being added.


Nest box R at noon

This image of box R shows more clearly the state of the box by noon today.

While you can make out the shapes of dead leaves (Oak and bamboo) what the monochrome image doesn't show are the bits of green material that have been brought in. I watched the male Starling tearing young leaves from the Elder and taking the pieces into the box during the morning. I have read about them doing this but it is the first time that I've seen it going on in the garden.

There were several more deliveries made around mid-day.


The Great Tits continue with their morning inspections. Today's first visit was at 7.28am with the usual routine of male in first followed by his exit after the entry of his partner for a longer inspection. The routine was repeated at around 8.08am. The male was back in the box at 9.34am, this time able to give it a prolonged inspection before leaving when his partner finally arrived in the box.


15 March - The skies have been grey all day, and it has been wet since the early afternoon.

No pictures today, but I just had chance to go through the day's recordings -

There were no visits by Great Tits today. In fact, I only saw one making a single visit to the feeders.

The Starlings left their boxes at 6.15am and between 7 and just after 10am the pair made over 30 visits to box R, at least half of them with something in the beak, as well as numerous visits to box L (with no nesting materials).

During the day there were just a few visits and the female returned to box R for the night at 4.56pm. The male entered box R at 5.03pm and after a brief squabble he headed into box L.

At 5.39pm he visited his partner again. This time he was greeted noisily, but then the female retired to the back of the box will the male spent the next five minutes quietly looking out before finally heading back into box L for the night.


16 March - On a thoroughly miserable day, overcast and wet (although not heavy rain, just enough to make it unpleasant) it was encouraging to see the Great Tits make an appearance this morning, the male entering the box first, at around 7.50am, followed by his partner in the usual 'her in him out' routine. About three quarters of an hour later the male turned up again, this time on his own. He entered the box, then went back outside to peck at the wood before going back inside to make a second inspection before leaving.

The Starlings were obviously affected by the weather. They left the boxes to start the day at 6.26am , and then made far fewer visits to the box between 7 and 9am - I counted just ten to box R and seven to box L.

And the day finished early for them as well. The female first appeared in box R at around 4.20pm, the male joining her briefly at 4.39pm for a noisy but not violent encounter before heading into box L. About eight minutes later they both left again and finally entered the two boxes for the night at around 5.20pm.


Click on the images to see larger versions -

2008 Nestbox Diary Index...........Previous Chapter.......... March (Part 3)