The 2009 Nestbox Diary
April (part 2)
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4 April - The Great Tit lays her first egg
By 4am this morning the female Great Tit was quite restless, turning frequently in the nest.
However, just after 4.15pm she became more settled, facing the left side of the box, and by 4.17am she was tucked down deep in the nest cup. There was a pause for several minutes before I noticed that she was starting to breathe more heavily and her tail was now held in a horizontal position.
At 4.24am her tail was rising and lowering with each breath and a minute later, while her head remained low, her body rose and her tail dipped even lower. Although it wasn't possible to see the egg, this was the sequence I had been watching for. However, this time the microphone didn't pick up the clicking sounds that have often accompanied egg laying in the past.
While there was no hope of confirming the egg visually from this camera angle, later there were two bits of indirect confirmation. Before the female left the box just before 6.10am she spent time with her head down in the nest cup and pulled 'soft stuff' over the cup.
When she appeared for her only visit of the morning she didn't bring in anything, but spent almost twenty five minutes sitting in the nest, occasionally putting her head down into the cup, pulling bedding over the cup before leaving.
Tonight I must remember to switch over to the top view camera so that we have a chance to see any eggs that are present before they are covered again in the morning.
The Robin continues to sit on her eggs, with no sign that food is required for hatchlings as yet - perhaps tomorrow.
The first Starling visit of the day came while the Great Tit was sitting on the nest at around 6.52am. The female first went into box R but then took a long piece of straw into box L.
Between then and 8am she made a number of visits with box L being the main destination, and these includes several shuffles.
However, after 8am the emphasis changed to box R and that box received nearly all the attention for the rest of the morning.
At 8.16am the male appeared in box R. He didn't bring anything in, but he started to organise the straw, carrying out a shuffle as he did so (top-left picture).
The female arrived with some straw and he left immediately, his partner going on to also do a shuffle before leaving.
The morning's work went on until 10.45am.
The female appeared in box R again at 12.27pm , and two hours later the male turned up, spending some ten minutes working on the nest. There were several more short visits in the course of the afternoon.
Here are the Starling boxes at 2pm.
There is no doubt now that box R is the one chosen for their first nest, with the straw now being organised around what will become the nest cup.
This evening the female Great Tit returned to the nest at just before 7.10pm and almost immediately started calling to her partner. He could be heard calling nearby before he came to the entrance. However, he didn't enter but flew back to the Birch tree where he could be heard calling again.
After a while the female moved to the side of the box, revealing the egg for the first time before she settled down again.
She had her head tucked under her plumage when the male arrived noisily at the entrance at 7.25pm, but again he left immediately without entering.
5 April - Great Tit Egg #2
The Great Tits' second egg arrived at a very early 3.57am, but it was another two hours before it was revealed as the female got up out of the nest cup in response to calls from her partner.
She left the box at 6.06am and during the next couple of hours she returned three times, twice with hair to replace the bedding that is being pulled down into the nest cup as she covers the eggs.
A look down into the nest cup (via the mirror) shows how completely hidden the eggs are from predators, and also confirms that I should get some decent views of them once the covers come off.
If you are new to the diaries, the mirror is positioned behind the glass back of the box so that I can look down into the nest without having to disturb it.
I took advantage of the visit to replace the glass with a clean panel (also done without needing to expose the nest).
This evening the female returned at just before 7.15pm. After a brief 'conversation' with the male who was probably in one of the Birch trees, she settled into the nest cup quite quickly without giving me another chance to see the eggs.
The Robin still appears to be incubating - I've seen no indication that hatching is starting today. I would expect to see it happening tomorrow. As I write this at approaching 8.10pm the female has just been fed twice by her partner.
The Starling female turned up at 6.33am to inspect both boxes. It wasn't long before she started to carry straw into box R and at 7.15am both birds met up in there as they brought in materials.
Tonight, box R looks more chaotic than at the end of yesterday's activities.
6 April - Great Tit egg #3 -
Frustration! While I expect the Great Tit laid an egg this morning I cannot confirm it as as none were exposed before she left the box at 6.06am. I will need to go through the night-time recording more carefully later today in order to spot any egg laying behaviour.
After leaving, she returned with soft bedding three times before 9am before leaving for the day. The male looked in (but stayed outside) at 6.30pm, 6.46pm and 6.52pm.
The female returned to the box at 7.05pm and when she left the box for a short time at just before 7.15pm she left the eggs uncovered, confirming that a third egg was indeed laid this morning.
After she returned and had settled down again the male came in with a larva of some sort for her.
After her partner left she settled down quickly - her head was under her plumages almost straight away.
The Robin continues to sit on her eggs. Food being brought by the male (first visit at 6.04am) is being eaten by her, so no chicks there as yet. On this basis she must have laid an additional three eggs in addition to the three that I recorded. Hatching must be imminent.
This afternoon I took advantage of the female's absence to take a quick look with my dental mirror, and it leaves me more confused. I could only see four eggs (although there was deep shade below the entrance that could have hidden one more egg). Robins normally incubate for 13-14 days. Assuming that is counted from when the final egg is laid, it suggests that hatching should taken place on 3-4 April, making them somewhat overdue now.
Today the female's incubation timetable has been completely predictable. Her day lasted from the first time out at 6.04am until she finally retired for the night at 8.13pm. In between she spent just over 14hr sitting, in 14 sessions, and made 15 trips out, averaging 7¾ minutes. The male fed her at the box 17 times.
The Starlings arrived at 6.30am to continue their nest building and at noon they are still working on it.
There have been only one or two visits to box L all morning.
Over the next few day the image of box L that appears on the webcam may be replaced by other images as I check out the House Martin and Swift camera arrangements.
7 April - Great Tit egg #4 -
No doubt about the fourth egg this morning as the female did not cover the clutch completely before leaving.
This rather hairy view was recorded at around 8.45am, and as well as showing the eggs with their red flecks, it is also possible to confirm that the hair had been cut - someone trimmed their pet - or themselves?
The Starlings have been busy before 9am, but I need to watch the Robins for a while longer to decide what is happening (or not, as the case may be) in their box. The female still appears to be sitting on the eggs, and has been fed at least once in the last half hour.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have now made a change to the webcam. The Starling box L now shares its corner with the Swift and House Martin boxes. There is a slight problem with the feed form the multiplexer handling the Martin boxes so that at the moment, while the individual images are fine, the quad image has a great deal of interference. I shall have to sort this out soon.
It also shows that I need to get the ladder out, not so much to clear the boxes at this stage but to sort out the focusing, especially in nest 2 (bottom -right), and give the lenses a wipe over.
Tonight I see that the House Martin box 3 nest box does indeed have a roosting bird, which I believe if a Blue Tit. As I write this, shortly after 8pm, the quad image of the webcam shows this bird tucked against the left side of the box. I hope to get a useable cctv image to confirm that either tonight or in the morning.
The quad image also shows an occupant in all four quarters as the Starling female has moved in tonight- a sure prelude to the start of her egg laying.
The female Robin ended her day by returning from her final trip out at just before 8.10pm. I haven't tried to record her day in detail, but as far as I could tell it was just like yesterday, short trips out and continued incubation of the eggs.
The picture shows her partner with another winter gnat, brought while she was absent. He had no interest in taking it into the box, reinforcing the fact that there are still no chicks.
8 April - Great Tit egg #5 ; Starling egg #1-
While I'm not sure what time the Great Tit female laid her fifth egg, she revealed it briefly at just after 6am.
By the time she left the box at 6.18am the clutch had been covered over.
The female Starling is spending a lot of time sitting in the nest cup this morning although there was no sign of an egg up to 9.45am. Unlike the Great Tit, the Starling isn't usually an early morning egg layer, so she could still produce an egg today.
It was obvious from her behaviour at 9.45am that egg laying was imminent. She shuffled about a great deal in the nest cup and moved her body sideways in sharp , what I describe as 'tick-tock' actions, always a sign of an egg on its way.
The egg is actually pale blue, with no markings and is about 3cm long.
The female Robin continues to sit, although this morning she does seem to be paying more attention to something down in the nest. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and dental mirror ready for when she leaves the nest!
Well, she has continued to sit all day, taking short trips out as she has done throughout the last twenty days, and the male has continued to feeder at intervals throughout the day (he has just been to the box at 7.19pm).
However, I have just looked in the box while the female was out of the box just after 7pm, and unfortunately I can confirm without doubt that there are still four intact eggs in the nest.
How long will she carry on before the pair try again?
It also shows the male Robin coming to feed his partner, and I've just seen him at the box again at 8.15pm.
Despite some heavy rain during the night, today has been largely bright and sunny, and I took advantage of the continuing good weather and spent several hours servicing the House Martin nests, cleaning the lenses, checking the focusing and cleaning out all the droppings that the Blue Tit lodger has deposited.
Having read several reports of House Martins already in the UK, I've started watching the skies over us - nothing yet!
9 April - Great Tit egg #6; Starling egg#2 -
It's a dull, damp morning for a change. The Robin continues to look out from her nest, and the Great Tits and Starlings continue to make progress.
The apparent ease with which the eggs are laid makes it difficult to spot the moment of laying in the footage from above, although it may have been around 4.28am. She left the box at 6.14am
As I write this at 9.30am the female Starling has yet to lay, although she is in the box, standing next to the nest cup and I suspect that very soon she will produce her second egg.
At 9.36am she has in fact just settled into the cup and has started breathing quite heavily. That was a false alarm and we are still waiting as the time approaches 10am.
She laid her second egg within the next hour - at 10.25am.
Tonight, the Great Tit, Starling and Robin are spending the night in their boxes. While the others spend just about all of the time the time actually sitting on the eggs during the night, the Starling is far more restless and spends quite a lot of time standing in other parts of the nest.
The Great Tit returned to her nest at 6.55pm, and was fed by her partner at 7.20pm and again at 7.24pm.
And in House Martin nest 3 the Blue Tit is roosting again. Judging by the number of droppings I cleared from the nests yesterday I think it's quite likely that the Blue Tit has been using one or other of the nests for much of the winter.
This morning it left at 5.37am and then returned this evening at 7.39pm.
10 April - Great Tit egg #7(?); Starling egg #3 -
On a dull and wet start to the Easter weekend, the Great Tit made it difficult to confirm her seventh egg this morning, and this was the nearest we got to a clear view before she pulled more bedding over them prior to leaving the box at 6am.
She was back in at 6.22am and settled on the eggs for some twenty minutes before leaving again at 6.45am, still without revealing all the eggs.
Since then she has been back just a couple of times, just to deliver bits of soft bedding.
The Starling on the other hand made no attempt to cover over her third egg after she laid it at just before 10am.
While the clutch is not yet complete (it can be up to 7 eggs) she has spent a bit of time sitting on the eggs this morning.
I've just been looking at the recording of the Starling's activity through the night and up to 4pm this afternoon. During the night she spent hardly any time on the eggs, in total contrast to the Great Tit which didn't get up out the nest cup all night. She sat on the egg for a total of just 28 minutes between 9pm and 9am usually for no more than a couple of minutes at a time, with half of those sessions taking place between 6am and 9am.
After 9am she spend over an hour on the nest in the build-up to laying the third egg. From then on there was a series of seventeen short visits before 4pm, during which she sat on the eggs an average of 13 minutes, the sessions varying from 3 to 24 minutes.
Our Robin continues her vigil (day 23) - I understand from Christina Websell that her domestic hens, whose eggs normally hatch in 3 weeks, will sit for around six weeks before giving up on infertile eggs!
The Robin's day started with a feed at 5.51am. After that (and up to 4pm) she left the nest seventeen times, just like the Starling. However, her trips were much shorter and her sessions on the eggs lasted an average of just under 30 minutes ( ranging from 7 to 73 minutes). The male visited the box 13 times before 4pm.
This evening the Great Tit returned to her nest at 6.27pm, the Starling at 7.18pm and the Blue Tit to her roost at 7.38pm, within a minute of yesterday's return.
As for the Robins, I'm afraid that this is a sad way to end the entry. After behaving 'normally' all day, the female left the nest at 6.30pm and did not return. The left-hand picture shows the moment when she left.
It seems that her partner wasn't able to find her as he continued to visit the box with food for her, right up until 8.13pm. In the right-hand image he appears to have three winter gnats in his beak.
Late News - That report may be a bit premature! She still hadn't returned when I stopped the recording at 8.30pm. However, since then a dark, curved shape has appeared at the bottom of the box entrance. It looks suspiciously like the top of her head. Could it be her? The cctv feed is now being recorded through the night, but I hope to confirm things before I head for bed!
Sadly, it turns out that the dark shape is the curved back of a large woodlouse which parked itself on the rim of the entrance, and finally decided to move off to one side after 10pm.
That the Robin should abandon the nest was inevitable, but I am a bit surprised that the female should leave in the evening, having spent the day behaving 'normally'. As long as nothing untoward has happened to her it does mean that the pair have plenty of time to start a new brood before it is too late in the nesting season. I shall be watching out for the pair in the days to come.
Just in case there is any further activity at the box I will wait until tomorrow before I rearrange the images in the webcam.
- Click on the images to see larger versions -