The 2009 Nestbox Diary

March (part 1)

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1 March - A quiet start to the month although I guess that things will get busier as March progresses.

The Great Tits did another one of their change-over sequences at 9.55am. Then, after one of the pair looked in at 11.30am, the female entered the box again at 11.36am for a visits that lasted just short of two minutes.

The Robin box saw less activity today. Although something moved the Ivy above the box at 7.45am the first visit didn't occur until 8.15am. While I saw nesting material being taken in I don't think that this happened on the majority of visits. On a couple of occasions the Robin stayed in the box for a more than a minute.

I had to go through the afternoon recording a couple of times to confirm that the last recorded visit to the box took place at 2.28pm. Recording in effect finished when the image faded just after 6pm.

The Starlings continue to with their quiet spell. They were alert (both in box R) by 6.35am and there was no aggression between them before they left at 6.51am.

The female's first visit took place at 7.12am and it was only she who made visits over the next hour or so. After 9am there was a break until the male appeared briefly in box L at 10.30am. There was no calling and he left almost immediately. The female appeared almost immediately, calling in both boxes. Another hour passed by before she again visited both boxes around 11.30am.

After that the next activity was when the pair arrived at 5.30pm heading into separate boxes. The male didn't stay in box R. He left a minute later and ten minutes later he entered box L. The female obviously didn't appreciate his arrival and he left quickly, returning to box R by 5.43pm, after which both birds settled down to roost.



2 March - Very quiet for the Starlings and the Robins, and the Great Tits made two visits.

The Great Tit female made her first visit of the day at 8.13am when she stayed for about half a minute.

Great Tit visit to nestbox - 1


At 9.41am the male arrived outside and entered after a delay of about a minute.

When the female arrived outside he was caught by surprise and ducked into a front corner. When she disappeared again he stood back up, only to drop down at the back of the box with is beak open ( but remaining quite) when she returned and entered the box.

Great Tit visit to nestbox - 2


At the earliest opportunity he flew up over his partner and left.

His partner went on to make her longest inspection yet, staying for nearly six minutes. She didn't get to shuffle but the last frame shows what I think was very close to one - the first shuffle won't be long now!

The male was at the entrance again at 4.04pm, just after he had been very vocal in the Birch tree.


The Robin seemed to have a very short day. Although the cctv image was readable from just before 6.30am I didn't see a visit to the box until 7.09am when it arrived with some plant bits in its beak. The next visit didn't come until 9.06am. There were numerous visits during the rest of the morning, but the last one recorded today took place at 11.17am ( useable camera recording went on until 6.30pm).

I have to say that I was doing some work across the garden for the box for a couple of hours in the early afternoon, but I deliberately took frequent breaks and was finished soon after 3pm. During the time I was out there I didn't see the Robin once, although I could hear the male singing from various trees as I worked.

The Starlings were both looking out by 6.30am and had left by 6.33am. The female made her first visits at 6.55am, and after 9.18am she didn't appear again until she entered box R briefly at 11.54am.

The Starlings roosting tonightAs usual, she visited both boxes at 5pm before arriving in box L to roost at 5.28pm. The male arrived in box R at the same time, but he left again at 5.45pm before finally returning five minutes later. So once again they are in separate boxes.



3 March - The lack of activity at the Robin's box had me a bit concerned last night, but I've just seen a Robin go in at just after 8am, so all is well!

The Robin camera housing was bumped repeatedly between 7.30-7.50am and on one of those occasions a very blurred image appeared of what must have been the yellow beak of a male Blackbird. However, the visit at 8.08am was actually the first of the day by the Robin. After that there were quite frequent visits all the way until just after 2.30pm when they finally stopped for the day ( by now it had started to rain).

The Robin brought in quite a bit of material during the morning, and as the morning progressed she tended to spend longer in the box - her longest stay being just over two minutes. Several times I saw her go in quickly, drop whatever was in her beak, and come back out to look around before going back inside to organise things.

The Great Tit box only received one inspection today, at 7.55am. It was another of the basic change-over visits. This time, after the male had left, his partner only stayed for about a minute.

The Starlings had another quiet day. Alert by 6.14am, they left the box at 6.33am, and the female make her first visit an hour later.

The two birds did get together briefly at 7.55am. First, the male entered box L and his partner went into box R. She then moved across to box L and the male left immediately, with his partner following soon afterwards.

After that there were only a few more visits by the female before the morning visits ended at 9.31am.

The day ended in a straightforward way when the pair arrived at 5.15pm, the female going straight into box L and the male into box R. Both birds settled down to roost very slowly, with preening going on well past 6pm.


4 March - As short report, as all three species remain on course.

The Great Tits made just the one appearance today, and it was another change-over sequence, taking place at 9.32am, with the female leaving a minute after the male left.

The Robin made a much earlier appearance this morning, at 6.58am, and by 7.10am she was taking materials into the box. She remained active all day, although at her busiest in the morning, and the last visit I saw 'on camera' was by far the latest yet, at 5.50pm - she didn't stay in there. Of course, I cannot be sure that she doesn't return after the camera image fails (at 6.05pm tonight).

The Starlings were alert by 6.20am and out by 6.25am. The female's first visit of the morning took place at 6.53am and her last at 9.25am. I didn't see the male make any visits.

At the end of the day the female made brief visits to both boxes at 5.32pm, and it was 5.36pm when the two arrived in their separate boxes to roost, before the Robin had finished of the day.



5 March - The Great Tits had two change-over visits today, the first at 7.36am and the second at 12.29pm. In addition, the male visited the box  at around 12.15pm.

The Robin made its first visit of the day at 7.20am, complete with a beakful of nesting material. It's next visit wasn't until 8.33am and then returned four more times by 9am. Over the next hour it went into the box 9 times, between 10-11am 11 times; 11-12am just once; 12-1pm 16 times; 1-2pm 10 times. After that it just made two more visits, with the last at 2.11pm.

I didn't go down the garden at all in the afternoon so I wouldn't have disturbed it.

The Starlings were alert by 6.20am, out at 6.37am and the female was making her first visit at 7.07am.  At 7.09am the male entered box R and started singing. The female joined him and after a brief fight he left first, followed by her. She made just three more visits before they stopped at 10.23am. However, at 2.15pm she did appear briefly in box L.

At the end of the afternoon there was a bit of coming and going by both birds, starting at 5.37pm, but the female was in box L to roost by 5.46pm and the male in box R by 5.51pm.



6 March - Today, There was a Great Tit at the entrance to their box twice during the morning, at 8.26am and 10.22am before a change-over visit took place at 11.13am, with the female staying for two minutes after the male left.

The Robin didn't make its first visit until 8.10am and she continued to bring nesting materials in, including moss, all day. Although I didn't count them, visits were clearly less frequent today, although the last visit wasn't until 5.31pm.

The Starlings were alert by 6.15am, out at 6.23am and the first visit by the female was at 6.46am. The morning session was very quiet and finished early, at 8.25am, neither bird appearing in the boxes again until the end of the afternoon.

At 5.17pm the male entered box L and started singing. The female soon followed him in but this time there was no aggression between the pair. She paused and simply left again with him following close behind. Over the next forty minutes both birds visited the boxes independently several times before they entered their separate boxes to roost at 5.56pm.



7 March - The most active day yet at the Great Tit box. One of the pair appeared at the entrance at 8.06am and a minute later the male entered. He was in there for two minutes before his partner joined him. As usual he left immediately and she stayed for another minute before leaving.

She was in again at for a minute at 8.51am. There was a bird at the entrance again at 9.11am. The female entered the box twice more during the morning, at 9.17am and 11.16am just about a minute each time. We are still waiting for the first shuffle.

The Robin continues to take in nesting materials, right from the first recorded visit at 7.11am through to her last visit of the day at 3.32pm. So far I have not seen any sign that she is roosting in the box.

The Starlings had a staggered start today. The male was active by 6.15am but the female didn't get started until six minutes later. When it came to leaving, she was the first out at 6.30am while the male waited another minute before departing.

The female's first visit was at 6.54am and her last appearance of the morning came at 9.29am. The male did go into box L at 7.28am but the pair didn't meet up in the boxes at all today, not even at the end of the day when they arrived to roost at 5.33pm - as usual with the female in box L and the male in box R.


8 March - Nestbox details will come later, but in the meantime, a picture -

Starling male displays and sings


Bright morning sunshine often brings the Starlings to the top of the Hawthorn, and this morning was no exception. While the female wasn't in a position to photograph, the male most definitely was, as he displayed and sang.

In addition to his spiky throat feathers, notice his slightly crouched posture, with tail and wings drooped - best seen in the larger image.




The Starlings' day started early, with the female alert by 6am and the male looking out by 6.12am. The female was also the first out, at 6.22am with here partner following a minute later. The female's first visit was to box L at 6.41am.

At 7.48am the male arrived in box L and started singing. The female followed him in and there was an uneasy encounter at the end of which it was unusually the female who left first, followed soon after by the male.

He was singing in box R at 8am but although she looked in the female didn't enter the box. After that he tried again in box L a few minutes later. This time the female did go in, and on this occasion it was the male who left after a brief squabble between the pair.

The last visit of the morning took place at 9am, with the female into box L.

It was interesting that although there were no further visits to the boxes during the day, the Starlings were about, and the pictures of the male in the Hawthorn were taken at just before 10am.

The Great Tits had a quieter day. One of them was outside the box for a couple of minutes at 8.51am, and at 9.40am there was the one 'change-over' visit of the day. By the time the female left, the visit lasted some three minutes.

The Robin had an even quieter day. The first visit to the box was recorded at 8.52am. After that there were just four more visits, at 9.06, 9.32, 9.39 and 9.47am, and then nothing for the rest of the day. Does this mean that nest building is complete? I can rule out human disturbance. I was the only person to go down to the bottom of the garden today, and I didn't do that until after 5pm. Perhaps it was weather related - the bright morning sunshine gave way to cloud and rain, but that wasn't until mid-afternoon. I shall be watching with interest tomorrow morning.


9 March - On another bright, sunny morning, any concerns I had yesterday about the Robin have been put on hold as I've just seen her visiting the box at 8.22am. As I write this she is perched outside it and I think her partner just flew across the picture.

Starling female on bird table



At the same time, what I assume is our pair of Starlings is tucking into breakfast on the bird table.

Assuming that I'm correct, his will be the female,


Starling male on bird table



and this her partner.

If he hadn't already picked up that mealworm you would have seen the dark tip on his upper beak.




The Starling boxes had yet another quiet day. The birds were active by 6.11am, they left at 6.23am and the first visit by the female was at 6.48am. Her last of the morning was at 9.08am and the male didn't appear at all.

The end of the day was simplicity itself - they arrived in their separate boxes at 5.42pm, and settled down for the night.


Great Tit female performs her first shuffle of the year


The Great Tits appeared for the first time, and did a 'change-over' inspection at 7.55am, the female was in again at 8.43am and a couple of minutes later there was another change-over, with the male coming back in again, twice, something I cannot recall seeing before.

If that wasn't enough, the female has performed her first shuffles of the year - things are beginning to look serious! She left the box after about two minutes during which she pecked vigorously at all four corners of the box. The whole sequence lasted about five minutes.


Robin and Blue Tit at the Robin box


The Robin's visit at 8.22am that I mentioned at the beginning of the entry was her first of the day. After that there were nine more visits before her last appearance of the day at 10.30am.

However, the box did get another visitor after lunch. At 1.16pm a Blue Tit spent a short time hunting amongst the Ivy around the entrance, and took a quick look in the box without actually entering it.


I'm not happy with the quality of the image from the main camera in the Great Tit box. If possible I hope to change the camera this week - a job that will have to be done after dusk.



10 March - Great Tit nesting took another Step forward this morning with the delivery of the first instalment of nesting materials!

Their morning started with a change-over visit, with the male arriving at 7.27am, and the female leaving at 7.39am. At 8.18am the female was back in for a short visit which included a very abbreviated shuffle. Another change-over visit took place at 8.56am, with the male pecking furiously at the entrance before entering. One of the pair appeared at the entrance again at 9.22am and the female paid another solo visit at 9.31am, with her pecking vigorously this time, at both the entrance and the floor!

Great Tit female brings in the first bit for her nest


Then, at 9.39am she returned for the last of the sequence of visits, and this time she had a single 'twig' in her beak. After dropping it onto the floor she spent the next minute pecking at the edge of the floor below the glass panel before she had another very brief shuffle and left.

It looks like a root-like moss rhizoid(? - I need to check on moss structure terms!).  There were no further visits during the day.


It will be interesting to see if this is just a 'false start'. Last year, the female didn't start bringing in materials until 29th March.

In contrast, the Starlings are now later than last year, when bits were being brought in from the start of March, and by the 10th the floor of box R was well on the way to being covered.

This morning, the male Starling was alert by 6am and his partner 7 minutes later, and they left at 6.28am. The female made her first visit at 6.42am, and these continued until 11.37am. During that time the male appeared three times but the two only met in a box once, in box L at 7.14am when there was no physical interaction between the pair.

At the end of the day the female popped into box L briefly at 5.23pm, the male arrived in box R to roost at 5.32pm and the female finally ended up in box L at 5.35pm.

The robins were also more active today, the first visit recorded at 7.10am. They continued all through the day, with the last visit at 5.10pm.

- Click on the images to see larger versions -

2009 Nestbox Diary Index...........Start of the Year....c.....( March (part2)