Incubation - April 2004
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20 April - I haven't spent much time watching the box as I have been doing other jobs today, so I've only got a few details to record.
The female started stirring around 5.08am and left the box at 5.48am. There was no sign of egg laying this morning, so it looks as though that stage is now at an end.
She saw back in for a few moments at 6.36am when she brought a bit of fluffy material.
This webcam image was captured when she returned for a second visit with a bit more of the same material.
I saw her being fed on two occasions during the day. The top two images, recorded at 8.40am show the first feed. The male came to the entrance but although the female responded in the way I described yesterday, he seemed reluctant to hand over the food. He withdrew his head four times before the food was finally passed to his partner. It was only afterwards that he entered the nest, just stopping for a moment before leaving again.
He did not enter the box during the lunchtime feed, shown in the webcam image.
In the above images the video time/date display is missing as a result of a silly mistake by me this morning. I intended to replace the low voltage unit that powers the device, but mistakenly plugged in another one that had its connections reversed - the device died. Fortunately it's back in action now. I managed to pinpoint the component that had failed and found a replacement in my shed!
I haven't been keeping any record of her comings and goings today, but I'm pretty sure that she has been in the box even more than yesterday, and she settled in for the night much earlier.
21 April - A quiet day in the box which started slowly.
Between 4 - 5am she slept pretty soundly, changing position and turning the eggs five times. Another three shuffles happened in the next half hour and by 5.30am she was starting to stretch her wings. She nearly left at 5,46am but had second thoughts and waited until 5.54 before she headed out.
It was just over twelve hours later that she settled back in the box for the night at 5.58pm. during those hours, she left the box eighteen times for a total of around 164 minutes. This means that she again spent about 77% of the day sitting on the eggs.
I saw the male bring food to her just twice today. At the first visit (top left image) he seems to have brought her a large caterpillar. The second visit (lower images) brought a much smaller green larva.
The Great Tits continue to avoid the house end of the garden. I may make a second mealworm feeder, with larger entrances and put it up somewhere down the bottom of the garden to see if they would be interested.
22 April - I have spent very little time watching the box today as I had various jobs to do and I didn't attempt to record her comings and goings during the day. The picture shows the female as she prepared to leave the box for the first time this morning, and tonight she is again safely tucked down in the nest
I spent time working out in the garden, sometimes near the box, so I was concerned about disturbing her. Most of the time she appeared to ignore the sounds of activity and continued with the job of incubation - I went back to the house to check on her from time to time.
Our Great Tit's day started when she left the box for the first time at 5.34am and she didn't make her last return to the box until 7.13pm tonight (after lights out!).
As far as I can tell the day went without any major problems. She was not disturbed by the presence of people on the West Wing for much of the day.
I did notice that a number of times she moved off the eggs and was holding her beak open as though panting. Each time I saw her doing this she soon returned to the nest cup.
With good weather forecast for the next couple of days I may rearrange a couple of Bamboo plants on the West Wing so that the tallest provide more shade around noon. I may also put a white panel over the box roof if I get the chance, without disturbing her.
It is another brilliantly sunny day, and with warmer temperatures than yesterday forecast I've taken measures to improve the shade for the box by shifting the bamboo plants and resting a plywood extension on the roof (weighted down with stones).
This picture shows the shade provided at 10.18am. I will be making a permanent improvement before next year.
This morning started a bit more slowly for the Great Tit. At the official time for sunrise (pic 1) she was still snug in the nest cup, but ten minutes later she suddenly popped up, stretched her wings (pic 2), flapped them (pic 3) and was out of the box at very nearly 6am.
Ten minutes later she was back, with one of the most undignified entrances I have seen her making so far (pic 1).
No sooner had she settled when her partner arrived with a large green caterpillar for her (pics 2 & 3). As usual he did not enter the box.
Later in the morning we were treated to a close view as she spent time preening her shoulder feathers, the first time I have seen her doing this in the box.
As I wrote this around mid-day, she was again preening herself after standing out of the nest cup and panting for a short time. She has stood like this several times now during the morning.
Outside in the shade at that end of the garden the temperature had reached 21C (18C outside the house) by noon, having been just over 6C during the night. By 2pm it had peaked at around 23C.
During the afternoon she left the box seven times for periods ranging from 5 to 27 minutes, the longest occurring just after 1pm. While in the box she kept her beak open for much of the time and stood away from the eggs some 24 times, usually holding her head as shown in this image. Most of these lasted two minutes or less, but one occasion just after 2pm ( the hottest period) she stayed in the corner for some seven minutes
The temperature had dropped to 21C by 4pm and to 19.6C by 6pm but she was still taking time away from the eggs after this.
Tonight at 7.45pm she seems to be settled with her head down as normal. Tomorrow is forecast to be dry but a little bit cooler. It will be interesting to watch how she reacts.
25 April - Today was rather overcast and as a result it didn't reached yesterday's high. However, last night was milder (min 8C). It was 19C at 9am and it reached 22C by 1pm but then started to cool slowly.
Our Great tit started her day by leaving the box at 5.47am. Between then and 6.46pm, when she came in for the night, she left the box 22 times for an average of 9˝minutes. She was in the box for about 73% of the day. Interestingly, she spent much more time on the nest during the afternoon. From 2.40pm onwards she was out of the box for only 55 minutes (in five trips).
This picture shows her leaving for her last trip of the day, leaving seven of the eggs visible.
She continued the practice of standing away from the eggs for short periods. This started around 10.20am right through to 6.20pm despite the fact that it was cooler by then.
In this webcam image she was caught stretching her wing at the end of one of the long stays this afternoon. She had been standing in this corner for over 4 minutes, and after stretching, left the box for about 14 minutes.
She was heading out for the first time at 5.49am this morning. Her partner brought food at 6.17am but she stayed snuggled down in the nest cup. When he returned a minute later, she accepted the food.
The picture shows her being fed again a bit later. This time she left straight away afterwards, with the food still in her beak.
I'm afraid I didn't keep the video recording through the day so I can't give any more details. However, the day started very mild (19C at 8.30am) and daytime temperature reached 21C around noon and I did see her standing at the side of the eggs a couple of times.
The forecast is for cooler and wet weather during the rest of the week so it will be interesting to see how she behaves then.
27 April - Well, the sunshine has stayed with us for much of the day, albeit very hazing most of the time. The temperature didn't drop below 11C last night and peaked at about 20C in the garden at lunchtime. At almost 6pm it is still 15C although the skies are now getting darker as a thunderstorm approaches.
This morning started early for our Great Tit, with her leaving the box at 5.31am, getting back at 5.38am. It was a relatively active morning with her going out of the box 14 times before noon.
The male made appearances five times, although his partner was out for one of those visits.
For this first feed, recorded at 7.41am, it seems that he has brought a sunflower heart. I put some of these on the bird table last thing at night ready for the early visitors, perhaps he went there for it.
When he reappeared at 8.13am (bottom image), his partner had left a short time before. She had looked out of the box before flying off (top images), so perhaps he was late!
Whatever was in his beak, it had legs and was still moving.
Just after 9am he appeared again, this time with a very much alive green larva.
He fed her again just once more during the day, at 10.37am.
Having recorded the box right through the day, I have just gone through the tapes and they show that between the time she first left (5.31am) and her final return this evening (a very early 5.20pm), the female was in the box a total of 522 minutes, 74% of the day, which is incredibly consistent with the 77% and 73% already noted on previous days. She went out 22 times for an average of 8˝ minutes.
She continued to take short breaks off the eggs during the afternoon, despite the hazy conditions. As usual she spent some of that time preening herself, so it is unlikely that she was being stressed.
28 April - Yesterday evening we had some rain but most of the the storm missed us. Before dawn this morning we did have a thunderstorm with heavy rain. The temperature dropped only to 10C last night but it has remained cloudy all day today (but dry) so daytime temperatures only crept up to nearly 15C during a slightly brighter spell around lunchtime.
These changes in conditions were reflected in the female's activities today. She left the box for the first time at 5.52am and between then and mid-day she made 13 trips out, but spent 299 minutes (81%) sitting on the eggs. Between noon and her last return at 6.29pm she made another 12 trips out and spent a little less time on the eggs (293 minutes - 75%). Overall, it means she sat on the eggs for some 78% of the day - the highest figure yet.
The cooler conditions meant that she did not find the need to stand at the side of the nest today.
One of the feeds was another sunflower kernel which she took out of the box, presumably so that she could hold it firmly against a branch while pecking it.
Today I can confirm that the male has started visiting the bird table. However, he rejected the 'shelled' sunflower kernels, choosing instead to peel his own to take it to his partner!
29 April - A thoroughly miserable day - damp, dismal, and with temperatures not reaching 9C all day after falling to under 7C first thing this morning.
Our Great Tit's response to the conditions was to get up later, at 6.06am and to retire for the night at 6.19pm. Between those times she spent over 83% of the day in the box, going out 20 times for an average time of about 6 minutes.
Each time it was an insect or a larva that was brought, several were large brownish coloured caterpillars (I think), like the one in this webcam image. The female left the box immediately after this feed. On another occasion the larva was so big she seemed to have difficulty swallowing it.
I didn't see him at the bird table today.
30 April - With hatching due in the next couple of days I have taken advantage of the bad weather to spent a bit of time rearranging the diaries for April. The changes seem to work but of I've missed anything I would be grateful for any corrections.
Today has been a thoroughly miserable, wet day, although the temperature managed to get a degree higher, to 10C this afternoon ( - I'm not sure where the extra heating came from!). It seems as though the female has spent even more time in the box, but I haven't had chance to go through the video recording as yet.
She made another late start, not leaving the box for the first time until 6.18am Between 7.14 and 7.55am the male brought food for his partner four times.
The first visit was as usual with him coming to the entrance and his partner reaching up to take a small green larva. He left immediately.
Then there was a significant change seen in his behaviour and during the next three visits he entered the box.
Here, he passed the food to his partner at the entrance, but once she had swallowed it he came in and there was a sequence of beak touching before he left.
In this sequence he entered the box with the food and, for the first time fed her as she remained in the nest cup.
Again, the feeding was followed by a short session of beak touching. Is this part of the bonding ritual, or is it as mundane as the female simply trying to get more food form the male?
After a brief pause he ate the rather large item and gave the eggs a close inspection before leaving.
Could his new habit of bringing food into the box signify that he is preparing for the imminent hatching of the eggs?
January to March
..April nest building..
Egg laying (p. 1)..