The 2009 Nestbox Diary
May (part 2)
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7 May - since hatching: 13-14 days Starlings; 12 days Great Tits
A slight hiccup in my nestbox coverage I'm afraid - put down to that CFS that sometimes leaves me rather more weary than usual. I did take a few pictures on both the 5th and 6th, and I will add them as soon as I can.
First of all, confirmation that all four Great Tit chicks are doing well - the only time the quartet appeared together while I was in the box today.
By now the chicks seem pretty well covered with feathers and as long as they are resting they are beginning to look like smaller versions of the adults.
The growth of feathers around the head has progressed enough to hide the ear,
and at the other end of the body the tail now looks like a tail!
The wings feathers are really growing quickly,
and while I have yet to see any wing flapping the chicks have reached the stage in the 'get fit to fly' program where they occasionally give their wing muscles a good stretch.
As the feathers grow and emerge further from their shafts, these start breaking up.
The fragments need to be removed,
which must be one of the tasks undertaken when the chicks preen.
I'm including this rather confused picture of a chick preening because it it one of the few times you get to see that there are still areas of bare skin (the apteria) under the plumage.
The other time that these areas show up is when the chicks reach up for food, even when the over-sized caterpillar has already been given to another chick.
The female continues to sometimes arrive back in the box without food . She will often take time to delve into the bottom of the nest, no doubt to clean the bottom of the nest.
She also tends to spend time perched at the side of the nest. Sometimes she will remain in the box until her partner comes in with his next delivery of food.
Here, the male gives a large spider (I think) to a chick. Notice how it now puts the food into the side of the mouth, avoiding the sharp end of the chick's developing beak.
After each feed, the parent always hesitates just in case the chick needs to pass a faecal sac, something that is signalled when the chick flips its body almost upside-down.
In the first few days the parent would have eaten it, but by this stage there is no chance of that happening, and it is taken out and dumped away from the nestbox.
In the Starling box, the chick seems to be doing well and has reached the stage when it will leave the nest cup to beg for food when it mother arrives.
Having the chick against the light for a moment provides a good opportunity to see how its flight feathers are developing. A fair amount has emerged from the shafts and you can really see the size of those feathers in relation to the fleshy leading edge of the wing. Look carefully at the large image and you can also see the emerging tail feathers.
When mum left, the chick returned to the nest cup where the light from the entrance showed up the downy tufts that it has had since hatching - more noticeable than those on the Great Tit chicks.
On what has been an overcast, with a high
of 13C, the mother has spent short periods sitting on the nest, usually with
the chick's head poking out somewhere!
The Blue Tit continues to roost in the House Martin nest. I'm still looking skywards for Swifts and Martins, but there is still no sign of them over us. I did see a Swift at low level yesterday, but that was a mile or so to the south of here. I read that the Swifts also appear to be a bit late arriving in other parts of the UK.
8 May - since hatching: 14-15 days Starlings; 13 days Great Tits
Today there was little chance to see any bare skin on the chicks. They are really looking like fluffier versions of their parents.
Today too I could hear them chirping, although it is only just audible from behind the glass, let alone outside the nest box.
Also, there is little evidence now of the feather shafts as the plumage grows to cover them, and as they crumble away.
It's been a blustery day which started wet but brightened up later, and there now seems to be a good supply of food, both natural, like this caterpillar.
and this food pellet, courtesy of someone's bird feeder.
Notice how black feathers have completely covered the central portion of the chicks neck and breast. The broad black band would appear to indicate that this may be a male, although I'm not sure how certain this indicator is at this stage.
I've mentioned about how the female spends time at the side of the box. During several visits today she did this and took the time to close her eyes - at least the eye facing the camera.
I've nothing significant to report for the Starling box today, apart from the fact that the chick continues to do well.
The local Swifts may have started returning. This evening there were three (possibly four) flying at low altitude over us for the first time - although not at rooftop level yet.
When I took this picture at around 8pm, the scale on the camera lens indicated that the Swift was just under 70m away, almost directly above me. There was no sign of them half an hour later.
9 May - since hatching: 15-16 days Starlings; 14 days Great Tits
There was a major step forward in the Great Tit box today when the first wing flapping tests took place.
The Great Tit chicks continue to make good progress, and this was one of the first times I could see all four without resorting to the mirror.
For much of the time they were hidden in a confusion of plumage.
When a head emerged it was possible to see that under the spreading feather there are still feather sheaths protecting the developing feather shafts.
Look carefully at the picture above and you may just make out just one feather sheath, on a flight feather in the bottom left of the picture.
And the wings are really taking shape now.
While I have seen wings being stretched over the last couple of days, at 12.33pm today I saw what I think is the first high speed wing flapping taking place. It happened again this evening, after the female had entered the box for the night - she was perched at the side of the box when it took place.
It's when the chicks stretch up to receive food that you are reminded that they still have some six days to go before they are ready to fledge. The soft, rather downy appearance in the earlier photographs somehow disappears for a few moment!
In the Starling box there is wing stretching going on, but while the chick opens up its wings enthusiastically when its mum arrives, I don't think it has started wing flapping.
I noticed that box L is once again getting early morning visits, and there are other Starlings about. I think that 'our' female is the bird on the left in this picture, having flown up there from the box.
I wonder if we will see a second brood started after the chick fledges towards the end of the coming week.
My neighbours have their Swifts back for another nesting season. There have been up to six flying about today, certainly lower than yesterday, and at around 8.30pm I saw a pair making their usual very cautious approached to the corner of my neighbours' roof.
This is great news - all I need to do now is persuade a couple of their 'friends' to at least take a look at my Swift boxes.
Today I started playing the Swift calls CD through the loudspeaker next to those boxes - my fingers are crossed!
And I still watch the skies for House Martins........
- Click on the images to see larger versions -