The 2009 Nestbox Diary

January to March (part 3)

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16 January - No dramatic news from the Starling boxes today. They left at 7.31am and the morning visits included a good percentage to box R, in keeping with the last two days. I think they would have been back in to roost before 4.25pm if we hadn't been outside, clearing up after a delivery of logs while the Starlings watched from our neighbours' roof.

A Robin looks into the Great Tit nest box at 9.17am



Down at the other end of the garden the nestbox wasn't visited at all by Great Tits today. However, it wasn't completely ignored because at 9.17am a Robin spent a few seconds at the entrance.





17 January - A reasonably bright start outside but the Starlings had a staggered start, with the female leaving at 7.20am and the male waiting another 3 minutes before he launched himself from the exit of box R.

After that, the first visit to the boxes took place at 8.20am and between then and 10am the numerous visits were split almost 50-50 between the two boxes. After 10am the visits stopped completely as I went outside to start moving the logs up to the log store.

The next time a Starling appeared at the boxes was at 3.55pm when the female inspected both boxes several times over the next ten minutes.

Starlings prepare to roost - 1


Then at 4.16pm she entered box L to roost. Four minutes later her partner arrived in box R and both birds looked as though they were going to settle down as usual.

Some ten minutes passed as they preened, and then suddenly the male headed for the exit and left box R


Starlings prepare to roost - 2and joined his partner in box L. His greeting came in the form of two pecks on the head as the female reared up over him.

His response was to retreat and sing to her for almost a minute. You can hear that song (or series of calls?) by clicking here (57 seconds, 903KB).

After that, the pair continued to squabble for a while as darkness descended outside, and for a while settled side by side. However, this didn't last and since around 6.30pm they have been at opposite ends of the box, with the female nearest the entrance.

At approaching 10pm both birds are still restless.


A Great Tit inspection at 12.52pmWhile the Great Tits seemed to take yesterday off, the female inspected their box at 12.52pm today, staying in the box for just over a minute.

An interesting few seconds passed as a Winter Gnat fluttered across in front of the bird. She followed its progress but made no attempt to catch it.

I'm not sure which side of the glass it was.



18 January - A short entry today - I wondered how the Starlings would react to each other this morning, but as it turned out there was very little aggression between them once they became active. In fact, they more or less ignored each other as they spent nearly fifteen minutes preening before the both left (female first) at 7.29am.

On a largely bright, sunny day there seemed to be rather fewer box visits this morning, and at the end of the afternoon there were no visits before the female entered box R to roost at 4.19pm. The male arrived at 4.28pm, heading into box R once again, and while he headed for the exit again briefly he stayed in box R and was starting to tuck his head in my 4.45pm. So they are back to their own boxes again!

There was another Great Tit visit at 10.29am when the female inspected the box for just over a minute. There was also a Great Tit outside the box at 10.54am and again at 12.04pm.


19 January -  On a day of largely grey skies and light showers, the Starlings left at 7.22am. The morning visits were shared pretty equally between the two boxes and included an interesting sequence that started at 9.13am.

The Starling female brings in grass, and shuffles


The female made an very ungraceful entry, but when she steadied herself I could see that she had some bits of vegetation in her beak. She scattered three bits about the box, spent time cleaning the floor and then left.

It was nearly twenty minutes before she returned. This time she performed two very limited shuffles and then removed one of the bits, removing the others on a subsequent visit.


The male Great Tit spent a couple of minutes at the entrance of their box, pecking at the wood, but neither of the pair entered it today.



20 January - Nothing exciting to report from the Starling boxes today. They left at 7.14am and numerous visits were made to both boxes between 7.55am and 10am when they ceased for the rest of the day.

As usual it was the female who returned first at the end of the afternoon, visiting box L for about five minutes just after 4pm, leaving after looking out several times. When she returned at 4.16pm she was in for the night, despite looking out a few times before her partner entered box R at 4.20pm. He too left again after five minutes. He didn't return until 4.32pm, this time staying. Both birds preened for a while and it was the male who was first to tuck his head away at 4.40pm, the female following suite at 4.50pm.

Having said that, something outside has disturbed the male at approaching 9pm and he is wandering around box R as I write this. In box L the female appears to be fast asleep.

The Great Tit female inspects the nestbox


The Great Tit female spent several minutes in their box at 10.45am. There was no sign of her partner during her visit.

At 12.36pm a Great Tit spent a minute or so pecking at the wood outside the entrance, but the glare made it impossible to tell which one it was.



A Swift Calls CD arrived this morning. I'm hoping that playing it when the Swifts return in April/May will help draw their attention to our nestboxes.  Over the next couple of months I'll be experimenting with loudspeaker arrangements and I'm hoping to come up with a solution that will direct the sound upwards to minimise any noise problems for my neighbours but which also protects the loudspeaker from rain.


21 January - The only sighting at the Great Tit box today was that of one of the pair at the entrance at 10.56am.

The Starlings had a staggered start, with the female leaving at 7.14am, but her partner waiting until 7.25am. The female's first morning visits came at 7.58am and the last was just before 10am.

At 4pm it was the male that, unusually, returned first, entering box R for about seven minutes before leaving again. The female entered box L at 4.13pm, left again at 4.16pm and finally entered for the night at 4.25pm. Half a minute later the male re-entered box R and both birds spent the next few minutes preening. The male was the first to tuck his head under, at 4.26pm, with the female doing so at 4.40pm.



22 January - The Great Tit box was not visited at all today.

The dismal weather seemed to have an effect on the Starlings. They left at 7.27am (female first, as usual). Her first visits of the morning didn't occur until 8.21am, and she made 16 visits, split equally between the two boxes, with the last at 9.45am. The male didn't visit at all during the morning.

It was 4.25 before the female appeared in box L again, with the male entering box R a minute later. Both birds left again and there were a couple more short visits (with both birds keeping to 'their own' boxes) before the female entered box L at 4.31pm and her partner entered box R at 4.43pm. What followed was a session of vigorous preening by both birds (perhaps the damp weather played havoc with their feathers!) before they settled down as 5pm approached.


23 January - A very wet start to the day, and the Starlings reacted to it by skipping the morning visits.

They were preening by 6.45am (especially the male). The female left at 7.18am with the male going a minute later. During the rest of the morning there was only one visits, to box R by the female at 11am.

By noon there was bright sunshine between threatening clouds which didn't deliver any rain. I wondered if the better conditions would encourage the Starlings to turn up at the boxes, but they stayed empty until the late afternoon. Eventually the female made a series of three visits between 4.30-4.37pm, all to box L before she entered the box to roost at 4.43pm. The male went into box R a minute later and both birds settled down for the night.

Down at the Great Tit box, one of the pair spent a couple of minutes at the entrance at 12.13pm but didn't enter.


24 January - On a bright, frosty morning the male Starling was an active partner during the first part of the morning. He was active in the box by 6.50am, some fifteen minutes before his partner, and when they left at 7.28am he was the first out for a change.

The female's first visit came at 7.50am and over the next hour she entered both boxes numerous time. Then at 9am the male appeared in box L and started singing. The female arrived and quickly 'persuaded' him to leave.  However over the next twenty minutes he sang several times in one or other of the boxes.

He was singing again in box L at 9.50am while his partner was in box R, and both birds were seen in the two boxes again several times before the morning visits stopped at 11.03am.

At the end of the afternoon both birds returned to roost at 4.43pm. At first the male joined the female in box L but immediately moved back across into box R to roost. They settled down quickly, by 4.55pm.

The Great Tits stayed away from their box today. In fact, I didn't even see them in the garden until after 2pm.



25 January -  After yesterday's busy, vocal morning activities the Starlings reverted closer to a more usual pattern of visits on an overcast and wet day.

Both birds were active in their boxes by 6.50am, leaving at 7.27am (female first). The female's first visit wasn't until 8.35am. She only made one more visit before 9am. Then, at 9.05am the male entered box L and the female box R. This time there was no singing, and instead both birds pecked at the debris on the floor, the male also taking time to peck the wood around the entrance.

After that the female had three more sessions of visiting both boxes before the morning's activities ended at 9.52am.

At the end of the afternoon the female visited both boxes at 4.19pm before she finally entered box L to roost at 4.31pm. When the male arrived at 4.39pm he went straight into box R, and both birds had settled by 5.10pm.

Although neither Great Tit entered their box today, one did look in just before noon and again at 12.53pm.



26 January - Despite it being a bright day, the Great Tits didn't visit their box, although they were in the garden for much of the day.

The Starlings spent only a little time visiting their boxes. However there were a few variations on their usual routines.

They were active by 6.50am and out of the boxes at 7.10am.

Starling female shuffles in both boxes

The female made several visits to both boxes before 9am, and at 9.02am she carried out her most enthusiastic shuffle yet in box L, followed by an equally vigorous one in box R just moments later.

At 9.40am she shuffled again in box L , this time with less energy.


After that she made just three visits before 11.30am before all went quiet until the end of the afternoon.

At 4.30pm the female visited both boxes several times and left again. While she was away the male entered Box R, wandering back and forth to the entrance, even attempting a very slight shuffle! When the female reappeared in box L the male reacted to the sound of her arrival and 'sang' what amounted to a greeting.

Just when it looked as though both were settling down the male left again at 4.52pm. He returned four minutes later and started to tuck his head under almost immediately. The female continued to preen for another fifteen minutes before she too settled down for the night.



Great Tit pair inspect their nest box27 January - There was a very welcome visit to the Great Tit box at just before 9am this morning. It was the first in a week, and as the composite image shows, it coincided with a starling visit.

I think it was the male Great Tit that first appeared outside the entrance at 8.57am. When the female entered a minute later, he kept watch outside, although when he left her inspection continued for another half minute.

One of them arrived at the entrance again at 11.58am, staying outside for a couple of minutes.


The Starlings were active by 6.40am and out at 7.12am. The female made her first visit at 7.51am and then called in both boxes frequently over the next hour. At 7.55am there was a Starling in both boxes. The same occurred again at 9.30am before the visits stopped at 9.40am, other than a couple of visits at 10.55 and 11.10am.

The afternoon ended with a break from the usual pattern. The female visited both boxes at 4.29pm but left again.

The Starling pair clash before roosting - 1Then, at 4.38pm the male entered box R. A minute later his partner joined him. She didn't seem to get a friendly greeting, being pecked at as she entered box R.

Once the initial clash was over the pair paused for a while before the female decided to take the initiative.

Over the next minute or so the two went through several cycles of aggression and truce, and at one stage it looked as though it was the male that may leave the box.


The Starling pair clash before roosting - 2


The male eventually 'took possession' of the camera end of the box and the female started to look towards the exit.

As it appeared that she was leaving the male tried to help her on her way with a quite restrained peck. However, the female's response wasn't to leave but instead she turned on him once more. They didn't actually clash this time and she soon turned away and left the box.


The Starling pair settle in for the night


She immediately headed into box L and both birds started their evening preening sessions.

The male was settling to sleep by 4.48pm, but the female didn't tuck her head under until just after 5pm.



28 January - On an overcast, dreary and damp day there were no visits to the Great Tit box and the Starlings went back to a basic pattern of visits.

They were alert by 6.50am and out at 7.10am, despite it being wet outside. The female made her first visit to box L at 8.05am. Between then and 10am there she made quite a few visits, but I didn't see the male at all. Between 10 and 11.30am there were just a few few visits. The female didn't perform any shuffles today.

The afternoon ended in a pretty straight forward way. The female made a few visits to both boxes between 3.54 and 4.13pm and then entered box L for the night at 4.14pm and started preening straight away. The male headed into box R at 4.30pm and had his head tucked under within six minutes while his partner continued her preening until just after 5pm.



29 January - A dry and reasonably bright day, but the temperature didn't reach 4C. Perhaps this explains why it was so quiet on the box front.

The Great Tit box was looked into at around 2.11pm although the bird didn't enter.

The Starlings, as usual were alert by 6.50am, and left at 7.17am. The female's first visit was at 7.59am back into box L and then two minutes later both birds appeared, the female in box R and the male in box L, with both pecking at the floor. After that there were only a few more visits before they stopped at just after 10am.

At 1.35pm I was surprised to see the male in box L, pecking at the floor again before attacking the box entrance.

Not long afterwards I saw six Starlings together in the garden - the largest group I've seen here for some time.

The afternoon came to a swift, if quite late end when the female entered box L at 4.39pm, the male arriving in box L just half a minute later. Both birds started preening straight away, the male starting to settle by 4.45pm, the female not until after 5pm.



30 January - It was a cold morning but hazy sunshine today brought the temperature up to around 6C. I was a bit disappointed that under these conditions there wasn't even a 'look in' at the Great Tit box today.

For the Starlings in was another normal day with some interesting quirks. They were alert by 6.45am and out of the two boxes at 7.06am.

The female made her first visit (box L) at 7.41am and made ten visits to the two boxes before the male turned up at 7.65am. He entered box L and his partner into box R. Both pecked at the floor for  about half a minute before they both left again. A couple of minutes and this happened again, and also at 8.19am. Around 9am it was the male that visited both boxes.

Starling female brings in a featherAt 9.35am the female brought what looks like a bit of moss into box L, and she was back very soon with a white feather.

During this visit she suddenly took an interest in the area around the infra-red LEDs, suddenly leaping up above the camera, taking a close look at the lens before returning to floor level and leaving.

She went into box R and completely ignored the camera in that box.

There were just a few more visits before 10.15am when they stopped until the late afternoon.

Starling female removes the feather



At 4.18pm the female returned to box L and removed the feather.




Starling male visits partner before roosting - 1The next time she returned to box L (at 4.34pm) it was to roost, and she started her evening preening. The male returned to box R at 4.39pm and was tucking his head under by 4.50pm.

However, a few minutes later he was at the entrance, singing. The female also headed for the entrance as he continued. Then he flew across and pushed his way into box L.

After an initial commotion, with his partner pecking at him,


Starling male visits partner before roosting - 2


she withdrew to the other end of the box and he started his singing again. but it didn't last long. He stopped singing, headed for the exit without any of the usual encouragement from the female and withdrew back into box R.

Both birds then settled down for the night, with the male first to stop preening.



31 January - The month has ended with a rather quiet day for the Starling boxes. They were alert by 6.45am and out of the boxes at 7.14am.

The female, as usual, made the first visit when she returned to box L to remove droppings form last night's roost.

Starlings clean their boxes

In the following 10 minutes she visited both boxes several times and at 8.02am we had a repeat of yesterday's behaviour with the male entering box L and the female box R. They both pecked at the floor for about half a minute before leaving.

After that the male made several visits to both boxes before the female resumed her visits. The morning visits ceased at 10.10am.


At the end of the afternoon the female was first to appear when she made several visits to both boxes. When she entered box L at 4.33pm it looked as though she was in for the night., but she left again at 4.46pm, returning four minutes later. The male arrived in box R just afterwards, at 4.51pm.

They took much longer to settle tonight. The female first started tucking her head under at 5.19pm, but the male was very restless. He actually made a few calls at 5.30pm before he tucked his head for the first time at 5.36pm. His restlessness has continued through the evening, and at 8.30pm he still appears to be awake.

Great Tit female inspects the nest box


The Great Tit female ended the month with a visit to their box at 11.12am. Although the male was to be seen in the garden for much of the day he didn't make an appearance at the entrance.

 I may change the main camera (side view) at some point during February in an effort to improve the resolution of the video feed, using a camera that should also give better performance at the low light levels experienced at night.

- Click on the images to see larger versions -

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