The 2011 Nestbox Diary
June (part 1)
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1 June - A bright and mainly sunny day as high pressure starts moving in once more.
For much of the day both Swift pairs followed a similar pattern, with more than usual change-overs seen as there was increased Swift activity in the skies overhead, suggesting that the second wave of juveniles is arriving.
In SW-le the first bird, the male, headed out at 6.51am and his return at 7.12am prompted the first of eight change-overs seen between this pair today. As usual, the day ended with a short period when the eggs were left unattended. This time for fourteen minutes immediately before the pair returned for the night at 9.23pm (f) and 9.34 (m).
In SW-up their day started with the first bird leaving at 6.47am, and its return at 8.30am prompted the first of nine change-overs between that pair today. The final one took place just before 9.30pm with the Swift that left returning for the night at 9.37pm.
As I mentioned above, there were more Swifts in the neighbourhood today, at least six confirmed in addition to the four in our boxes, and our hopes were raised for a couple of minutes tonight when a Swift entered SW-ri.
I can't confirm that this was a 'new' Swift as there was only one in each of the two occupied boxes, and it hasn't stayed for the night, so we will be watching with interest tomorrow.
2 June - A dry, bright day with some high cloud and a maximum temperature of 23C, and for the first time both boxes were occupied all day.
In SW-le the day started with the male going out at 4.59am for the next 54 minutes. He left again at 6.34am and this time didn't return until 9.11am when the first change-over of the day took place. There were four more by 2.30pm before a slight hiccup disrupted the pattern. The female returned to the box at 2.50pm and although it headed for the exit, the male returned to the nest cup and at 3.02pm the female left once more. After that the change-over sequence resumed with four more taking place before the female returned at 9.42pm and the pair settled down for the night.
In SW-up the first departure was at 6.05am and the return of that bird triggered the first of nine change-overs today. Having said that, when one Swift returned at 9.11am, the pair remained together for the next 42 minutes and I'm not certain that it was the other bird that left after that period. The final return took place at 9.36pm.
No birds entered either SW-lo or SW-ri today, but there was an increase in Swift activity in the area around us. While there were two birds accounted for in the boxes I counted up to twenty flying overhead, with group of up to eight sometimes flying very low and screaming.
3 June - It was a sunny day with a high temperature of 25C and a sometimes brisk breeze from the North North-East. The Swifts certainly appeared to enjoy the conditions and between ten and twenty could be seen overhead for much of the day.
In the boxes things were also busy today with more coming and going than ever.
In SW-le the day started with the male leaving at 4.33am. he returned eleven minutes later and the female left at 4.46am, marking the first change-over of the day. When she returned at 5am the pair remained together for the next hour, until the male left at 6.05am. Between then and 1pm there were ten change-overs. Each time she returned, the female brought in a feather. While the male did likewise to begin with from 10.20am onwards he started bringing in what I suspect was thistledown.
It looked around the box and left after about half a minute with its beak still full.
Within the next minute the male returned to SW-le with what looks like an identical mouthful - too much of a coincidence for two different birds to turn up like this!
I have to assume that for some reason the male went into the wrong box. Could he have done the same thing on the 1st?
Just after noon, while the male was absent form SW-le once more, a bird approached the entrance to SW-ri several times without entering. This activity caused the female to look out for a short time, although she didn't leave.
Anyway, when the male returned to SW-le at 1.05pm he had the largest amount yet of the down. This time, after the pair paid some attention to each other he headed out again, returning just under ten minutes later with another beak full. Two 'normal' change-overs followed before the male again did a double shift in the air, returning each time with more down. During the rest of the afternoon/evening there were five more change-overs (more down brought in by the male, but always feathers by the female).
At just after 9pm the male left the nest unattended, a situation that lasted just two minutes before the female returned. The male returned at 9.31pm, ending the day's activities in that box.
Things were also busy in SW-up, although not to the same extent. The first bird left at 5.42am and the first change-over took place when it returned at 6.27am. During the rest of the day there were twelve more change-overs before the two birds returned for the night at 8.51/9.21pm.
Apart from the first three change-overs, each time one of the birds returned it brought in a feather - I saw no evidence of down being brought in.
This evening there was a rare opportunity to see all five eggs at the same time.
On the basis that the eggs in SW-up were laid on 16/18/21 May, and that incubation lasts 18-20 days, I estimate that hatching will occur in the second half of next week, 8-10 June.
As the eggs in SW-le were laid 21/23 May, that should mean hatching on 10-12 June, but the timing is complicated by the part-time incubation during the first few days.
4 June - The first egg hatches in SW-up!
Another bright, sunny morning with the temperature 17C at 8.45am, rising to quite a humid 25C in the afternoon with the breeze variable around a north-easterly direction.
Last night I suspected that the visitor to SW-ri was in fact the male from SW-le, and when I switched on the monitor at 8.30am this morning I wondered if it was him there again - it is the female who is looking out of SW-le in this image.
However, ten minutes later and that possibility was ruled out when the male returned to SW-le with a large feather while the visitor was still in SW-ri.
That bird left shortly afterwards but returned briefly just before 9am, and again half an hour later. It looks as though we may have a prospective tenant for that box! It's early days yet, but my fingers are crossed...
By 1.15pm there had been five more visits to that box.
Swift aerial activity was quite entertaining at times during the afternoon, and while there were no further visits to SW-ri, a lot of attention was given to both the edge of our roof and to the Sparrow terrace that is positioned between the Swift boxes.
As far as I can tell, only one of the four boxes in that group are being used by Sparrows at the moment, and they stayed away as the Swifts screamed through the driveway
and made the occasional 'knock on the door'!
This one very nearly squeezed into one entrance, The opening is 32mm (I seem to remember), and the dimensions of the interior are far too small for a Swift.
Yesterday I did something very foolish in predicting when the first egg would hatch.
Soon after 5pm I noticed that the bird in SW-up was fussing about a great deal with the eggs(?) beneath it wasn't until its partner arrived at 5.21pm that the reason became obvious. The broken edge of a shell appeared as the sitting bird turned to greet its partner.
Confirmation came of the first chick having hatched a few minutes later as the change-over was completed and the chick received a great deal of attention from the newly returned Swift.
Unfortunately, at the time I was not recording the better quality full frame image from that box so these poor quality pictures are from the quad images recorded on the time-lapse recorder.
When I made my prediction I based the timing on when the final egg was laid. In this case the egg has hatched nineteen days after the first egg was laid. As this pair started serious incubation right from the start perhaps I should have expected this.
Finally, a quick summary of the day's comings and goings in the two boxes -
The day started at 4.50am in SW-le with the male going out until 5.29am when the first of the day's twelve change-overs took place. During four of those the pair remained in the box for a prolonged periods, twice for more than an hour, and in addition there was one time when the male returned, and stayed with his partner for nearly forty minutes before leaving again. Each time the female returned she brought in a feather, and once again the male brought in what sometimes looked quite wooly. He was the last to return at 9.23pm.
In SW-up, apart from the excitement of the hatched egg the first of the pair left at 7.06am, returning at 7.59am to trigger the first of fourteen change-overs today, ending when the last arrival took place at 9.36pm. Only on some returns before the hatching of their chick did I see feathers brought in, and on one occasion a long, slender leaf was brought in, resembling a small bamboo leaf - perhaps caught up in the breeze!
5 June - Egg #2 hatches in SW-up
After yesterday's sunshine today we were cloud-bound all day, with light rain starting to fall soon after 11am and continuing for the rest of the day with a high temperature of just 17C this afternoon.
For the bird in Sw-le it was an early start and an early finish to the day. The female was first out at 4.55am, returning six minutes later. The pair huddled up together for the next two hours until the male headed out at 7.18am. He stayed out for nearly an hour and then the pair remained together for another hour before he left once more. When he reappeared an hour later the first proper change-over of the day took place.
Once the female left she remained out for the next hour. When she returned the male headed out and this time didn't return for over four hours. The change-over that took place on his return at 3.15pm turned out to be the last of the day. The female stayed away from 3.17pm to 6.41pm and once she returned the pair settled down for the rest of the evening.
The contrast couldn't be greater between that abbreviated day and what went on in SW-up.
In SW-up the first Swift left the box for just eleven minutes at 4.57am before the pair rested again until 7.07am at which point the second bird left. When it returned at 7.21am the first change-over of the day took place, followed by thirteen more by 5pm.
After that things started to slow down, with the pair spending longer together (5.39 - 6.51pm; 7.34 - 8.28pm; 8.44 - 9.06pm) before the day came to an end with the final return at 9.17pm.
During the second session together (7.34 - 8.28pm) there was a great deal of fussing going on with both birds having their heads down in the nest cup, and when one of the pair turned away briefly at 8.12pm I caught a glimpse of a broken shell, indicating that a second chick had hatched during this period. About an hour later I caught a fleeting glimpse of two chicks moving their heads as the adults fussed over them.
This image was captured a short time afterwards. You can still see the remains of the first egg in the background.
As for the second shell, that was dealt with by the nearest bird picking it up and flinging it over its shoulder so that the egg bounced off the back of the box and landed on the back of the Swift's partner!
That second egg hatched eighteen days after it was laid. On this basis I expect the third egg (laid on 21 May) to hatch on the 8th.
There were no visitors to SW-ri today, although there were numerous approaches to the box entrance between 9 - 10am, while it was still relatively bright outside before the approach of the rain.
6 June - Yesterday's rain continued right through last night and into the first part of this morning, although it has stopped by 11am - great for the garden, but an excuse for a very late start in SW-le.
It wasn't until 9.47am that the male left for the first time, staying out for just a minute! The female followed suite at 9.54am and returned six minutes later. The male left again at 10.29am and stayed out for twenty minutes this time as the weather conditions started to improve.
When he returned there was a long pause before the female headed out at 11.41am and remained away until 2.18pm. Her partner left almost straight away this time and he stayed out for the rest of the afternoon, not returning until 6.49pm. The change-over that took place was the last of just five (including the long stays that took place) today, with the female heading out at 6.52pm.
At 9.05pm the male decided that he couldn't wait any longer for her to return and he left, giving me a chance to capture this image of the nest after all the feathers and down that have been brought in during the last week or so.
If all goes well, the first of these eggs will hatch in two or so days time.
After a gap of nearly 25 minutes the male returned at 9.29pm, followed by his partner four minutes later to end the day's activities.
Even in SW-up the weather slowed the start of the day somewhat, but with a couple of chicks to take care of they got into their stride as soon as the rain started to ease.
The first bird was out between 5.17 and 5.24am, while its partner didn't go out until 8.45 - 8.57am. There was another pause before the first bird left again at 9.57am. This was the start of the day's sequence of twelve change-overs, the final one taking place at 9.21 / 9.23pm.
During the late morning and afternoon the humid conditions clearly encouraged insects to fly as the Swifts had something to give the chicks on each return to the box.
This image was captured during a change over just after 2pm, when we had our best view yet of the two chicks.
It confirms my wish to get a couple of higher resolution cameras installed in these boxes for 2012.
The last bird returned to SW-up at 9.35pm
- Click on the images to see larger versions -
2011 Nestbox Diary Index .......... .................................................... ..June (part 2)