The 2009 Nestbox Diary

April (part 1)

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1 April - On a bright morning, with scattered cloud and a north-easterly breeze, the Starlings could be said to have fooled around very appropriately for today's date.

They had a very active period during the first part of the morning, starting to bring materials to the boxes. Unfortunately it was to both boxes, and things became complicated as bits brought in subsequently were removed, or transferred from right to left, or vice versa.

The Starling boxes at breakfast and then lunch time today


This set of images shows (top) the two boxes at just before 9am and then again at 12.44pm, after the end of the morning's activities.

By lunchtime, while there is now more material in box R there has been very little overall change in box L. There continues to be a slight preference for box L, but there is still little sign of any attempt to organise things.

I only saw a couple of half-hearted shuffles all morning.



The Great Tit female has continued to bring in hair (and wool?), but on a very quiet morning she only made seven deliveries. I only saw the male at the entrance twice, at 9.25am and then a very late 6.38pm.

The Great Tit nest tonight



Even though there was little added, here is the nest tonight.



The Robin continues her uneventful  incubation. With the end of the two week incubation period approaching hatching must be no more than a couple of days away, so it won't be long before there is a lot more activity in that corner of the webcam.

A common Carder Bumblebee visits the Robin box this morning


There was one event at 11.40am that could have caused a problem. An other bumblebee decided to visit the Robin's box while the female was out, having left at 11.38am. Significantly, this was the first time I've recorded a Carder Bumblebee this year (It looks like a Common Carder - Bombus pascuorum).

It remained in the box for four minutes before leaving. The female Robin returned at 11.51am.



2 April - A bright, sunny day with some significant developments.

The Starling boxes at 6.35am


First, the Starlings - Their day started early as usual, leaving the boxes at 6.35am. The pictures show the boxes at that time.


The Starling boxes at 2pmOver the next five hours the pair were pretty active, bringing in nesting materials, but as usual taking them out again and transferring bits from box to box. However, by the time the morning session had finished progress had been made in both boxes, suggesting that the final decision on which box to nest in has yet to be made.

These images were recorded in the early afternoon. The papery pieces are bits of bark from our Himalayan Birch tree.


At the end of the afternoon The female reappeared first at 5.25pm in box L, and again at 5.52pm and 6.33pm. A minute later she started a sequence of visits to both boxes which lasted until 6.40pm.

The Starling boxes, empty at 8pmShe appeared two more times before  she entered box L briefly for the last time at 7.21pm. There was no sign of her partner, and tonight the boxes are empty (seen here at 8pm) for the first time since the cameras were switched on after Christmas.


The Great Tit day started at and over the next few hours there were a small number of deliveries of soft bedding, starting at 7.03am and finishing around 10.15am.

Great Tit courtship feeding sequence at 9.12am - 1At 9.12am there was an interesting encounter in the box. The female entered with bedding in her beak, which she proceeded to push into the side of the nest.

Then, she suddenly hopped up out of the nest cup to face the corner of the box, and response to the call of the male outside she started to beg for food with her head held high and her wings drooped and vibrating.

When the male failed to appear she returned to the nest cup and performed a couple of shuffles, continuing to call as she did so.

Great Tit courtship feeding sequence at 9.12am - 2


Then the male appeared and she opened her beak wide. He leaned over and put his beak into her open mouth (although I saw no sign of food). She closed her beak around his and he withdrew to the side of the box.

The female obviously wanted more attention for her partner, and when he failed to respond she lunged towards him and grabbed a chunk of his yellow plumage.


Great Tit courtship feeding sequence at 9.12am - 3


He appeared to offer his beak once more, but when she couldn't reach it the female grabbed at his plumage once again. She was still holding onto it when he headed for the exit. There was a a short pause before she followed him out.

There is a sound recording of the interaction which you can access if you click on one of the sequence images.



Great Tit female is roosting in her nest tonightOnce the female's 10.15am visit was over I saw neither bird visit the box during the rest of the day, but at 7.24pm I was surprised to see the female entering the box, and the male appearing at the entrance. She left again at 7.31pm but was back in a minute later.

She is spending her first night in the box!

On the basis of past nesting seasons,  it could be that egg-laying is imminent.


CCTV images tonight

Finally, the Robin - I haven't gone through this female's routine for today, but as far as I can tell, everything has gone smoothly (no bumblebees today), but I did get a bit concerned when I checked on the cctv coverage at 8pm and saw that the Robin box was empty.

For a few minutes I had visions of just one bird being left to watch, but the female Robin returned to her nest at 8.07pm.


The day has ended with questions to be answered for all three species -

Will the Starlings return in the morning?

Will the Robin eggs hatch?

Will the Great Tit lay her first egg?

Tomorrow could be a busy day!


3 April - Not Yet! The Great Tit female left the nest at 6.32am with no egg laid, and she was back in just before 8am with her beak full of brown hair.

At 8am the Robin is still sitting on her eggs. She took her first trip out at 6.15am, was back in six minutes later and has since been fed four times by her partner.

The Starling boxes were visited by the female between 7.25and 7.40am.

The Starlings return this morning


Confirmation that we still have two Starlings came at just after 8.30am.


The state of the Starling boxes at noonPerhaps it was a case of having a break before getting started with nest building, because during the morning there has been a steady flow of straw and the occasional twig into  box R predominantly, although box L hasn't been forgotten!

These pictures show the state of the boxes at noon, and there have been several more deliveries in the few minutes since I captured the images. The deliveries carried on until just after 2pm.


After the delivery of hair into the Great Tit box at 8am there was no further activity until the male entered at 9.15am and again an hour later. The female brought in some white coloured wool(?) at 10.17am and 11am.

Courtship feeding in the Great Tit box this morningFour minutes later she was in again. Once she had released the bedding she turned to one side and started calling.

 Moments later the male entered. This time he had a spider in his beak which he handed over to his partner. Once she had eaten it she begged for more, but this time there was no pecking of the male before he left.

You can hear the encounter here (24 seconds, 381KB). It starts with the female entering and after a pause, calling to her mate. He enters with a crash before calling, giving the spider to her, and leaving again.


This evening the female returned to the box to roost at around 7.08pm.

It is of course pure coincidence that on the night the Great Tit started to roost in her box, the Starlings moved out. Their boxes are unoccupied again tonight. While it has been normal in previous years for the male to stop roosting in the boxes once nesting starts, this is the first time that the female has done so. I wonder where they have chosen to roost.


- Click on the images to see larger versions -

2009 Nestbox Diary Index............Start of the Year.........  ..April (part 2)