The 2008 Nestbox Diary

May - Part 4


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18 May - Fledging Day for the Great Tits

It's 8am on a sunny morning, just perfect for maiden flights, and while the Starling chicks are very excitable but don't look as though they are ready to leave quite yet, I'm looking at just two chicks left in the Great Tit box.  - more details later, but no 'real' photographs of them today as I decided not to risk any possibility of disturbance during fledging.


By lunchtime, all the Great Tit chicks had fledged, but the Starlings are still with us this evening - this picture was taken during the morning when the skies were blue.

As the afternoon approached it became more cloudy, although it remained bright with some sunshine.





For the Great Tit chicks the day started with the first food delivery being made at 5.36am. There were eleven visits by the parents before 6.19am, but then the feeding stopped.




After the feeds the chicks settled down for a short time before they started to get agitated again. Every so often one would take off as it tested its wings,




and then at 7.04am one headed for the exit. It was a false alarm, but it triggered an interesting response from three of the other chicks. They seemed to assume that a bird at the entrance meant that food was arriving, so they started begging.

The chick on the left even vibrated its wings in the way you see fledglings behaving when they want to be fed out in the garden.




It was just before 7.27am when the first chick decided it was time to leave.





It looked as though it would be followed within a minute, but




the fledging process was then interrupted when food was brought in.




After the parent left there was an air of excitement in the box and the second chick fledged at 7.28am.





It was 7.34am when chick #3 decided to head for the exit, taking a last look back before leaving.





The fourth chick waited some fifteen minutes before it joined those already outside at 7.50am. Before it left, there was a feed for one chick at 7.42am.





Once we were down to two chicks there was along wait before the next fledging took place.




During the quarter of an hour following the fourth chick's departure, the last two chicks received ten feeds between them, and for one last time both parents were in the box together.



I guess it may have been the effect of the all the food they received, but the pair of chicks became quite lethargic for a while,




and it was not until after 10am that either showed any great enthusiasm to head out.  It was 10.14am by the time the fifth chick looked back at its last sibling and left.



The last chick wasn't going to be rushed. It flapped a bit, but didn't really show a great deal of interest in leaving. In fact, at just after 11.15am it cowered in a corner when buzzed by a fly!



At 11.53am it received the first of five feeds over a twenty minute period which included this large caterpillar.





After that meal another rest was in order!




Finally, at approaching 12.50pm it tested its wings, headed for the exit and, like several of the earlier chicks, took one last look behind it as it left the box.




And that was the end of a couple of months of fascinating daytime TV - an absolutely fascinating process that continues to amaze me.



There is likely to be a some delay before I add the large images to this entry.

One last pair of pictures to end today's marathon. I have all but ignored the House Sparrows this Spring. There are three pairs nesting here at the moment, and I can hear chirping coming from one of the boxes.

There are no chicks to be seen at the entrances yet, so I thought I'd record the two parents that are using a box at the side of the house. The female (right) appears to have a small larva in her beak.



Finally, at 8.40pm the Starling chicks are huddled together in the nest cup. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will fledge tomorrow.


19 May - At the end of a cool but dry, bright day the Starling chicks are still with us.



There was no sign of them wanting to leave, and their appearances at the entrance were only watch out for the approach of parents and call for food.





Here it is just possible to see what I assume is an insect's leg in the beak of the parents.




On one occasion while I watched, this parent turned up with what looked like bread, but although it landed at the entrance it didn't actually give any to the chicks. It flew up to the roof above the box and returned several times before it finally passed the food to a chick.




While I took these pictures during the morning, there was a gusty easterly wind which made it cold enough for me to wear gloves, but more importantly it played havoc with the photography.

The only time I saw all three chicks at the entrance the photographs were spoilt by either camera or nest box shake - the Starling boxes have that large aluminium screen at one end which would have been vibrating in the wind.


Two observations (without photographs) to note -

While I was taking the photographs, a male Blackbird landed in the driveway below the Starling boxes. It had obviously discovered that a lot of food is dropped as the Starlings feed at the entrance and was collecting up the easy pickings to take away for its own young. On one visit it arrived with three small earthworms in its beak. It put these down while gathering dropped food, flew off to feed its youngster, and then returned for the worms!

During the rest of the day I was quite busy doing various jobs in the garden and driveway and in the middle of the afternoon I heard Starling panic calls and looked up. Sitting on the corner of the roof, just above the Starling box was a Sparrowhawk, and just a foot or so below a young Starling was look out to see what the fuss was about. A group of six adult Starlings flew over and the hawk left.

As I mentioned yesterday there is going to be a bit of a delay (perhaps several weeks) before I can add the large images to this page, but they will appear eventually!



20 May - The Starlings have fledged, the last of the three leaving just before 6.27am.

I'm afraid that there are no photographs to go with the fledging, nor any cctv images - the image quality for the nest box is now too poor to provide useable images.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed before next year's nesting season. I suspect that the mites are attracted to the low level of heat generated by the camera's electronics. I may  try rebuilding the boxes to put the camera 'outside' the nesting area behind a glass screen.

Anyway, I'm now going to take a break from the diaries for a couple of weeks, although during that time I will still be monitoring the nestboxes - 27/7 monitoring of the House Martin boxes and morning/evening monitoring of the Swift and Starling boxes (the latter in case of a second brood).

For the next few weeks the webcam show a composite image that includes the Swift boxes and two of the House Martin nests.

If you should see anything happen in the webcam, especially in the swift boxes during the day (between 8am and 7pm), any captured images would be gratefully received!


13 August - A disappointing end to the nesting season -

There was no second brood of Starlings, and the Swift boxes remained unused. Next year I intend to make use of a recording of Swift calls in an attempt to attract the Swifts to the boxes. I may even make a new 'side by side' pair of boxes to replace the 'twp storey' arrangement that I have at present, possibly using a different entrance arrangement.

The House Martins failed to appear, apart from the single individual that I saw over us just a few times during the nesting season. I had wondered if we would see any after last year's nesting failed during bad weather, but it is still a great disappointment to not have them nesting here this year. At least the nests and cameras are in place ready for 2009!

All nestbox cameras have now been switched off until next Spring.


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