The 2010 Nestbox Diary
April (part 4)
25 April - House Sparrows egg #1 arrives at last!
After all the effort they have put in to the preparation, the Sparrow pair seem to be as excited as anything this morning as they fuss over their first egg.
There is none of the Great Tit's quiet covering of the egg, these two spent ages taking turns to poke at the egg and sit on it before they left the box at 9.56am (I must adjust the clock on the webcam, it's three minutes slow!).
Their day started around 5.48am. They had been sleeping in their usual sleeping positions until external light levels started rising. At first the male took a look outside, but at 5.58am he popped over to his partner's side of the box, waking her up. By 6.04am they had started their frequently performed routine of swapping places so that the male spent time in the nest cup before he preened and left the box at 6.13am. The female stayed in the box, remaining just inside the entrance.
The male returned six minutes later, heading straight to the nest cup where he started work on tidying up. At 6.28am the swapping over resumed. This carried on until at 6.39am the male left again briefly. When he returned two minutes later they immediately mated just inside the entrance before they both left at 6.44am.
When they returned at 6.47am it was the female who headed for the nest cup. She settled into the cup and a short time later the male started visiting. Each time he settled next to her briefly before returning to the other end of the box.
Around 6.53am I noticed that the female had started breathing more heavily. From now on, when the male visited he not only sat next to her, but he also took the opportunity to check under her, presumably looking for an egg!
The breathing was more laboured by 6.57am when the male really did make a point of sticking almost his whole head under her.
Finally, after pecking her on her back, at 6.58am he pushed his way around her so that she had to move and for the first time I caught a brief glimpse of the egg.
Having seen seen the egg too, the male headed back to the other end of the box and left at 7am. The female fussed about with the edges of the nest cup. The male returned briefly, there was a brief swap while he checked the egg and he left again. This time the female tucked her head under her wing for a few minutes.
At 7.09am the male returned and this time the female headed for the far end as he went into the nest cup. He appeared to be doing his regular task of cleaning the nest cup while the female would bring the occasional bit of straw across to add to the corner.
Eventually they both left for the first time at 7.28am.
That was quite amazing, with the male so involved in a way that I have not see before with the other birds I've followed here.
By this afternoon their attention seemed to be back with nest building, and as I look at the live cctv image at 2.40pm there is no sign of the egg!
26 April - Sparrows' egg#2 laid
More details about the egg laying later, but while I've been watching between 7.20-7.40am, both Sparrows have been very attentive, taking it in turns to sit on the two eggs,
and sometimes ending up side by side on them!
In the meantime, incubation continues in the Great Tit box without incident.
Up in the House Martin nests, in the absence of the birds themselves it looks as though nest 1 has the potential to provide a 'spidercam'!
The spider moved in yesterday evening. With the male Sparrow occasionally paying this nest a visit, it may not be a good place to stay in too long (at least, not in a couple of weeks time when chicks need feeding).
I've looked at the morning's recording and so far I have been unable to pinpoint when the egg was laid beyond it was some time between 6.45-7am. The pair's behaviour was very similar to what I saw yesterday, but with no opportunity to spot the egg during change-overs.
I haven't been able to follow their activities during the day, but one look at the webcam this evening confirms that they have been very busy!
I can verify that both birds are in their usual places, you can just make out the female's tail. However, it doesn't look as though the view will be cleared by the time the next egg is laid tomorrow morning - we shall see, or not!
Since I saw the Swifts and House Martins on the 23rd, I've seen no more of them. Tomorrow morning the winds are forecast to swing around to a more southerly direction and then stay that way for a couple of days. that should be much more favourable as they move up from the continent.
27 April - Sparrows' egg #3 laid
A warm and sunny day with a slight breeze from the south-west, and around noon I saw a group of six Swifts high over us. They stayed in sight for just a couple of minutes.
House Sparrows normally lay 3-5 eggs, and while the pair are visiting during the day incubation is not yet underway and I would expect to see at least one more egg laid.
28 April - Sparrows' egg #4 laid
It seems that the canopy over the Sparrows' nest may not be such a problem after all. This morning I have a clearer view of the female, and her fourth egg, although in this picture one of the clutch is almost hidden by a thick twig.
This morning, the female left the nest cup numerous times before 7am, and the male didn't start making his visits to the nest cup until 7.06am. Over the next fifteen minutes he was back frequently, and at 7.22am he brought some soft bedding which he passed to the female. After that he stayed at the other end of the box. At this point there were still just three eggs. A couple of minutes later, and with the soft stuff still in her beak, the female's breathing started to become heavier. At 7.28am it also became faster and I suspect that the egg was laid some time in the next minute or so, as by 7.30am she was relaxed again.
The male returned with more 'soft stuff' at 7.40am, but it was 7.54am before I was able to confirm the fourth egg.
Later during the morning I had this clear view of the eggs.
Down at the bottom of the garden incubation of the Great Tits' eggs goes on without problem, and the spider is still in residence in House Martin nest 1.
There is a potential problem over at the converted Starling boxes in that a Starling has been in one of them this morning. I may carry out a slight modification to the entrances after breakfast.
During the day I've made changes not only to those boxes but also to two of the double swift boxes that I put up on neighbours' houses. I hope to do the same to a third box by the weekend. On all the boxes I had made the entrance dimensions 35x65mm, based on the advice given on several websites. However, to prevent entry by Starlings I needed to reduce the height to nearer 30mm.
In order to do this quickly I simply screwed pieces of wood across the tops of the entrances, using a cardboard guide to ensure that the openings didn't end up too short.
In the fourth of the boxes that I put up, the Starlings that moved in on 24 March are feeding their quite noisy chicks at the moment, an activity that attracted the attention of a Magpie this morning. Despite having food hanging from its beak, one of the adult Starlings kept up quite a dim as it tried to discourage the Magpie, which eventually gave up and left.
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