The Bird Box Diary 2004

The Chicks' second week - May 2004

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8 May - One week on from the hatching of all but two of the chicks.


As this is a new page for the second week, I thought I would start it off with these images for last week to make comparisons easier.



It was a wet start to the day and has remained overcast all morning. The temperature during the night got down to about 8C and it is still just 9C in the middle of the day.

The miserable conditions were reflected in a later start at 5.10am.



Mum was back in without any food eight minutes later, and the stretched necks of the chicks made it clear that they expected something to eat.




The first food arrived at 5.49am, and this was followed by 16 more items in the next hour.

Despite the cool temperatures and the dampness, up to noon the female was only in the box some 21% of the time since going out for the first time at 5.10am. During the same period there have been 84 food deliveries to the chicks.

Shortly before 1pm I took today's chick close-up pictures. The position of the mirror, along with the shifting shape of the nest restricts visibility today, but the images still give some idea of how much progress has been made over the last week.


This first image shows how much the feathers have grown on their heads since the first close-up image on 4 May.



This second image gives us the first glimpse of the back of a chick, showing the band of feathers that runs down the line of its spine, spreading out at the bottom end, where the tail feathers will develop (bottom right of image).

You can also see how development of the primary (flight) feathers is progressing on the wing.


This afternoon Sheila assures me that when the parent brings food in she can hear high pitched squeaking from the chicks. I can't, but that isn't surprising as I continue to be badly congested as a result of my on-going Spring pollen (or something) allergy, which, as usual seems to get worst on damp days. A correction to that - I have just heard one!

With the weather continuing unchanged, except for a slight rise in temperature to 11C, here are some figures from this afternoon - In the four hours from mid-day to 4pm mum was in the box just 30 minutes (16.6%), spread over five sessions. During the same time there were 51 food deliveries for the chicks.

This evening, feeding went on right up to 7.59pm. The female entered for the night just two minutes later.

In the four hours since 4pm she spent another 30 minutes in six sessions in the box and another 47 food deliveries were made, making the day's total up to 182 items. This equates to nearly 23 feeds per chick!


Once she was in the box for the night, mum took some time to settle down. She seemed to be uncomfortable sitting on the fidgeting chicks and stood in the corner of the box several times.

At 8.27pm she not only went to the corner but, as this webcam image shows, she tucked her head under her wing and stayed like this until 8.42pm before settling again.


She has been at the side of the box again since then. When she is settled you occasionally catch a glimpse of one of the chicks popping its head up at her side.

Just once in a while, mum causes chaos amongst the chicks when she goes head-down in the nest cup, apparently sorting things out at the bottom.

In fact we sometimes hear her beak hitting the wooden base. In the meantime, the chicks all get pushed as she turns almost upside-down!


9 May - I'm afraid that I've taken the day off looking through videos, so there won't be a summary today. However, one follow-up from last night - when we went to bed at around 11.30pm she was perched in the corner again, but from 3am, when the computer was recording, she was tucked into the nest cup.



By 4am she was restless, and then left the box for the first time at 4.50am. When she returned eighteen minutes later it was still dark.



I have taken a few pictures today, and here are a few of them. First of all, a couple of close-ups of the chicks.

This first one, taken via the mirror shows the development of the yellow feathers on the breast of the chick.

The changing shape of the nest, and the increasing size of the chicks now severely restricts the photo-opportunities when using the mirror.



This second picture was taken directly from behind the glass as a couple of the chicks stretched up to beg for food.

You can see the developing feathers under the mouth, and their eyes open.



The open eye shows up more clearly in this image of dad delivering yet another caterpillar at 4.18pm this afternoon.



I had packed up for the night, with the computer and video set to record the next morning, when there were sudden sounds of activity from the box at just before 10.45pm. A quick look at the tv screen revealed the problem - one of the chicks had been 'caught short' and mum was left holding a faecal sac in her beak.

While in the first couple of days these were promptly eaten, the sacs are now all taken out of the box for disposal, so mum had a problem. She spent several minutes of indecision which included going to the entrance a couple of times, and actually going out once, although the sounds I could hear suggested that she didn't actually let go of the box.

Instead of just dropping the sac outside she brought it back in and eventually decided to eat it. Judging by her actions it was a reluctant decision, but by 10.50pm normality returned and she settled down again.


10 May - A much brighter day, but for our female it was a restless start. My video started recording at 3am and she was already being disturbed by the chicks.

The first picture shows some of the chicks push themselves up around her at 4.36am, but it wasn't until 5am that she finally left the box.

Once out, it was 52 minutes before the first food was brought in, the first of some 195 items brought in during the day before she retired for the night at 8pm.


Also, she only spent a total of just 36 minutes in the nest all day.

It wasn't possible to get any pictures via the mirror today, but the chicks showed themselves enough to get a couple of useful images.

As well as the yellow feathers and the open eyes, notice how there are lines of feathers developing below the beak and down the neck. Also, the beak is changing shape and getting darker.



In this second image the development of the neck feathers is very clear.



Three of the chicks vie for a chance to have a caterpillar pushed into their throat.



Tonight mum has obviously decided almost straight away to spend time resting away from the chicks and she has spent most of the time (up to 10.15pm) in the corner of the box.

The webcam image shows a moment when a noise outside prompted the chicks into a begging posture for a few moments, while mum stayed put!

When I went to bed at 11pm she was back on the chicks, just about, but when I came back downstairs half an hour later I was astonished to see a chick with its head up, and no mum in sight - she had left the box!

I am surprised that she has done this so soon.  I have seen the Blue Tit female do this in the past, but not until the last few days before fledging.


11 May - I came to the computer with fingers crossed this morning, after last night's action by mum, but as I walked into the room I was greeted by the sight of a group of noisy chicks being fed - so all is well.

When she left last night the outside temperature was around 13C and during the night the temperature reached a low of around 11C for a short time.


It was 4.56am when she made her first appearance in the box this morning.

She settled on the chicks for about ten minutes before leaving again to get on with the daily business of finding food supplies.



I spent just a couple of minutes down the box at lunchtime and these are two close-ups of the same chick taken while I was there, giving a view of the top of the head that I couldn't get yesterday.



12 May - Last night the temperature dropped below 9C, and perhaps for that reason our mum stayed in the box.

Some of the time was spent to the side but most of the night she was on the chicks. The right hand image, captured at 3am shows where she has put several faecal sacs to the right side of the box, rather than risk going out as she did the previous night.



Her first trip out this morning was at 5.09am, and she took with her the first of those sacs.



When she returned at 5.24am she brought the first food of the day in the form of a very small larva. This time mum had to deal with a fresh faecal sac which was taken out immediately.



On her next visit another small grub was brought in, and this time she removed another of the night's sacs (with a few bits of straw attached).


As the chicks grow, so does the space they take up in the nest cup, and at lunchtime the side nearest the glass started to give way.

After mum had fed one of the chicks (pics 1 & 2) she went down into the nest cup (pics 3 & 4) and by the time she had finished the front of the nest had been lowered, providing a better view of the chicks (pic 5) for both the webcam and for still photography.


This change gave me the chance to take some pictures of the chicks via the mirror again.

Here they are resting, and keeping quiet between feeds, huddled together at the bottom of the nest cup.



This is a close-up of the chick centre-right in the above picture, showing the rapid development of the feathers.



In the periods that I've been watching the box I have seen less caterpillars being delivered today. Is this a sign that the caterpillars on the local Oak trees are now eating more mature leaves that contain chemicals less palatable to the chicks?

I see a lot more small larvae like this one brought in.



Here, a cranefly is brought in.



Of course, after many of the feeds, the parent waits to see if one of the chicks produces a faecal sac. This picture of the mum just about to collect one gives us a chance to see the underside of a chick - It this moment the chick is virtually upside-down. There is great deal of bare skin between the tracts of feathers.

The top image shows the same moment from a different angle - captured via the mirror.


13 May - Last night was a quiet one in the box with mum sleeping very well, at least from 1am when I started recording.

At one stage she slept with a wing spread out as though she was covering the chicks, although she didn't stay like this for very long.




It was nearly 5am when she left for the first time this morning. Her departure was heralded by the eight chicks - the only time that I saw the whole clutch today.

I haven't been able to go through the videos today, so there are no figures for feeds etc, but I did take some photographs -



The amount of feather coverage means that the chicks are now starting to look like birds, if rather scruffy. Also, they are starting to climb up over the side of the nest cup, as this one has done.




In this second image there is some better detail of the wing feathers, and the bare areas, which were hidden in the first image.



I mentioned the reduced number of caterpillars being brought in, well they are still arriving, as you can see here. The male was having trouble keeping his balance as he reached across to offer the food to the furthest chick from him.



Craneflies were also on the menu today and I saw a couple brought in during the course of the day.



Finally, the varied diet includes spiders, although I was a bit slow on the shutter for this one as it was popped into the chick's mouth.



Tonight, mum has been quite restless. In fact she headed out for a couple of minutes at 9.12pm, and on her return had to deal with a couple of faecal sacs.

I think she ate one, but the other was put to the side of the box.

It doesn't look as though she is going to spend much time on the chicks tonight.



14 May - We are coming to the end of the second week of development for the chicks. The reference books say that fledging takes place at between 16 and 22 days, which means that sometime next week the chicks will be taking their first flights. Today they have certainly gone a long way to reaching that day and have been very active.

Lat night they were much more restless, and mum spent very little time actually on the chicks.  While some of the time she tried to keep them covered, sometimes with wing spread, at other times she was in the nest cup by their side or perched at the side of the box.

Her first trip out came shortly after 4.45am. First of all, everything seemed to be fairly quiet (pic 1) when the chicks suddenly leapt up (pic 2) In the flurry I first thought that mum had left, but as the chicks settled again her head could be seen at the right of the nest (pic 3).

The outburst obviously acted as a signal to her and, to a loud chorus of chirping she got up and left (pics 4 & 5).



This first still image shows how the chicks look today when not competing for food. The feathers on their heads are now developed enough to cover the bald areas and the ears.



This is one of the only pictures I managed to get today to show the state of the developing wings. There has been quite a lot of preening going on and I have seen a couple of chicks flapping their wings, but this has been an isolated exercise so far.

Notice that the chick has hauled itself right out of the nest cup.


Craneflies continue to be part of the menu, along with caterpillars and other larvae.

While Sheila and I were having lunch down the West Wing we watched one of the parents hunting around the lower parts of the Ivy tree, so they are obviously not just concentrating on the Oak trees at this stage.

Yesterday I was too slow on the shutter button, but today I was a bit quicker when mum brought in another spider. If you look closely at the larger version if the image you will see that she still has some of its web on her face.

The chick in the centre seemed to be using its wings in an effort to gain extra height as it reached for the spider.


I have been waiting for the moment when I can get a picture of all eight chicks during the daytime. I just about managed it this afternoon with this picture, although two are largely hidden in the back left of the group as a cranefly is delivered.



A short time later the nest became a different place when another bird peeped in through the entrance.

Notice how the chicks managed to disappear into the nest cup as mum went into a defensive posture over them. After an explosive flicking open of her wings she got into this position and  stayed still and quiet for a minute or so while something moved about on the roof.


It wasn't long before things got back to normal and mum was back at the work of feeding her offspring.

What I have seen for the first time is that on a couple of occasions chicks produced faecal sacs when neither parent was present. On some visits mum spends time checking the nest, perhaps diving down into the nestcup to retrieve the sacs which she then takes out of the box.


Tonight looks as though it will be another restless night for the mum, who will have a hard job keeping on top of the chicks from now on, judging by the way they are spread out in this image at 10.34pm.

Click on the images to see larger versions

2004 Bird Box Diary Index...........................Next - The chicks' final week

January to March .............. April Nest building................

Egg laying (p. 1).................. Egg laying (p.2)...................... Incubation.

Hatching.......................... The chicks' first week.