The 2010 Nestbox Diary
May (part 1)
29 April - An early start to the May page, because on a day when the skies were largely grey and we even had a few drops of rain, the Sparrows' luck ran out with the return of a Swift!
For the Sparrows it was a perfectly normal day, although details were had to come by thanks to the canopy over the nest. I sent much of the day outside and through the morning and afternoon I saw no sign of Swifts, just a single House Martin around 10am.
Then, at just after 6pm I spotted a group of eight Swifts flying around to the south-west of us, over an area where there are fields and a stream. They were quite high, and remained that was when they came overhead a short while later. The focusing scale on my lens suggested that they were staying at least 200ft up.
By 6.40pm six of the Swifts had moved on, leaving just a pair that carried on flying high overhead. They were still there when I came back inside at just before 8pm.
I could see it moving about for a couple of minutes before it started to climb up over the canopy and showing itself to the camera as a Swift for the first time.
Over the next five minutes it made itself a place to roost in the back corner of the box below the camera, so that only part of it was visible.
I'm probably wrong, but having looked at the recording several times I can see no indication that the female left the nest. I shall look again in the morning.
30 April - My uncertainty about the female Sparrow was proved to be well founded when I checked through last night's recording.
The Swift appeared settled in the corner until soon after midnight when something disturbed it and it attacked something in the front top corner of the box, to the left of the camera. Perhaps it was an insect - there are no camera associated bits up there.
After that she settled once more,
until 2.24am when she was disturbed once again. This time she poked her head down into the straw and moments later there was frantic activity. I had to go through the next few seconds to see what happened.
She must have pushed a foot down into gap in the straw, because up popped the head of the female Sparrow with the Swifts leg in its beak!
a strenuous pulling and tugging ensued, with the Swift trying to reverse towards the far end of the box.
Then the tables were turned and she came back across the nest, grabbed the Sparrow in her beak and having extracted it form the straw, dragged it to the exit - all over in a few seconds.
After that, it was back onto the nest where she soon settled again until dawn.
Its day started at 5.38am when she moved across to the exit, and anyone watching the webcam could easily have been forgiven that it already had a clutch of four eggs....
It actually left at 5.44am, returning at 5.55am when it stayed until 7.29am.
It didn't return again this morning. At noon there were at least six Swifts flying about.
As for the female Sparrow, I've checked the driveway and there is no sign of it on the ground so I hope it survived.
Neither it nor its partner have been in the box so far today (written at 2.25pm), but the male has been in Swift box (lower), and he is spending a great deal of time perched on the roof of the box, or the speaker enclosure attached to its side, being extremely noisy.
Also, I'm not sure if it was the same one, but a male Sparrow made a number of visits to the House Martin nests during the day, and spent time trying to enlarge the entrances. The nests have a fibre-glass skeleton so he would have found it hard going.
The sky remained empty of Swifts all through the afternoon, but at 6pm I saw a solitary bird overhead once more.
Some of those twigs that are remnants of the Sparrows' canopy are causing the Swift some problems. If all is quiet in the morning (see below) and it isn't raining, I may get the ladder out, take a pair of scissors up to the box and trim them, as I did last year.
I have a lot of catching up to do in order to get the big pictures added, both in this and the garden diaries. Hopefully I can get this done before much longer.
We are waiting for an addition to the family in the form of a second grandchild. It's birth is already overdue and will happen sometime this weekend. Consequently there will be a gap in the diary which could last for a couple of days.
1 May - It's a GIRL - and she waited just long enough for May to begin before joining us! Mum and baby (along with big sister and dad) were well enough to go to a park this afternoon, and we are all happy!
Now, back to the birds -
The Swift first left the box at 9am this morning. At around 10am anyone watching the webcam may well have caught a glimpse of me as I trimmed the nest (as mentioned yesterday). The Swift didn't return until 5.37pm, staying just under an hour before leaving again.
Her departure at 6.36pm was no surprise as it closely followed the first low level screaming Swifts that I've seen this year. I had been outside from around 6pm to watch for Swifts and Martins and spotted a group of a dozen or so to the south-west of us again. As I watched, the group increased in size and gradually moved towards us. By the time they were overhead there were at least forty birds, most of which carried on to the north-east. When I turned back to the west there was another, perhaps larger group following in the same direction.
As they passed, as many as thirty stayed over us. Up to now they were all high (mostly >200ft), but some were now lower, and I could hear some feint screaming. Then, at just after 6.30pm there were a couple of low level passes of pairs of birds screaming loudly.
The Swift returned once more at 8.32pm, and this time it was not alone - its partner has arrived - brilliant!
I mustn't forget that I'm also following other birds -
My cameras have recorded quite a bit of Sparrow activity today, all involving a male.
During the day it made single, brief visits to each of the upper and lower Swift boxes, although while it explored all parts of the lower box it ventured no further than the entrance of the upper box.
Starting at 5.30am it visited the House Martin nests over thirty times, and tonight it is using box 2 to roost.
The Great Tit female is well into the incubation of her eggs, which are due to hatch around 5-6 May, just five days time.
Today she left the nest for the first time at 5.51am and finally returned for the night at 7.52pm. During that 13 hour period she left the nest 22 times for a total of 168 minutes, (an average absence of just over 7½ minutes)
The male visited the box just four times.
Soon after 6am a Starling tried to gain access to both the converted Starling boxes. Although it was able to reach in far enough for its beak to register on the cctv image it wasn't able to enter.
I've rechecked that the openings are a generous 30mm tall, and should be accessible to Swifts, although I'm still waiting for that to happen.
The quad image shown here covers all four Swift boxes, and should another pair arrive then the webcam will probably be changed to give this view.
In both cases these are recorded from before dawn until after dusk.
However, if I happen to see something interesting in one box, I can switch recording to cover that single image (as I did for a short time in the case of the Sparrow in the House Martin nest and in the Swift box).
2 May - A grey day with rain during the morning and early afternoon, although the cloud lifted during the evening. Unfortunately, the winds has swung round to the north-east, and were quite strong, keeping the temperature down. Those conditions had an effect on today's activities -
The Great Tit female spent a total of just two hours outside the box during 20 excursions, while the male visited the box 23 times (including twice while his partner was absent).
After leaving its roost at 5.52am, the Sparrow was more active than yesterday, visiting all three Martin nests a large number of times during the day before it returned to nest 2 to roost again at 7.31pm.
The Swifts first left their box at 8.27am, one returning at just after 9am, its partner staying out another hour. It was shortly before 1pm before one of them left again, this time returning after just six minutes.
At the end of the afternoon the pair left three minutes apart, at 4.23 and 4.26pm, the first returning after just five minutes but its partner remaining out until nearly 5pm.
There was one last outing for the pair, leaving at 7.08/7.09pm, but this time they returned together at 7.21pm and quickly settled down with one bird (I presume the male) resting so that he covers most of his partner's body.
During my times outside (one the rain had stopped, and while 'our' pair of Swifts were in their box) I only saw a single Swift - what a difference to yesterday! I see that the north to north-easterly winds are in for much of the coming week, with the temperatures remaining cooler as a result, but at least it should be mainly sunny.
3 May - A day of short sunny spells, but still with the cold winds blowing in from the north (11C at 1.30pm).
There has been an interesting development involving the Sparrow(s) this morning. The male seems to have persuaded a female that one of the House Martin nests may not be a bad place to consider as a possible nest site.
The two birds have been in and out of the nests all morning. The male clearly regards nest 2 as the best choice (bottom- right in each quad image) and has spent much time pecking at every corner of its interior as well as performing an occasional shuffle.
The female on the other hand has been spending time in all three, shuffling in each, although since noon she seems to be spending most of her time in nest 3 (bottom-left in each quad image).
Perhaps I will get another chance to follow House Sparrow nesting - as long as the House Martins don't turn up!
I need to go through the recordings this evening to be more specific, but with higher cloud and sunshine the Swift pair are spending more time out of their box today. I'll be continuing to check the skies during the rest of the day, but so far I haven't seen any more 'new' Swifts overhead.
Our pair actually had a very late start this morning. They didn't even move to the exit until after 10.15am before leaving at 10.22 and 10.28am. Once out they disappeared from overhead and the next time I spotted them was after 6pm. At that time there were three flying low over us - I think the third bird is one of the pair that have nested in my neighbour's loft, but I need to spend some time watching to see if the pair have returned. The first Swift returned to our box at 6.17pm, but it had to wait until 7.05pm before it was joined by its partner for the night.
There is still no sign as to what has happened to the Sparrow eggs in the Swifts' box.
Activity by both male and female sparrows continued during the afternoon, although with less frequency as time went on.
This evening a male Sparrow also got into Swift box (right), which is one of the converted Starling boxes, although it ventured no further than just inside the entrance,
and tonight there is a male roosting in Martin nest 2 once more, but with no sign of the female.
- Click on the images to see larger versions -