The Robins - Week 1

Thursday 15 June 2000. -When I built the bird box for the blue tits I used up some scrap timber by adding an open fronted box at the back of the structure. It faces west and is in the cover of the leylandii trees. Like the BT box, it has lain idle for years and I wondered whether I ought to remove it and replace it with a different shaped box.

This morning I was spending some time in the garden watching the female blackbird feeding one of her offspring. A robin was singing loudly in the beech tree and as I watched the blackbird a second robin appeared on the ground and headed for a small pile of old grass cuttings. She took a beakful and flew off into the leylandiis. When I had seen her do this several times I followed her and then watched at close quarters as she went back and forth bringing grass, twigs, dead leaves and moss to the box.

She has continued with only a couple of short breaks for the rest of the day and did not seem to be at all worried as I set up a couple of the IR ccd cameras that were used previously to monitor the blue tits. Interesting daytime TV has been restored in our house!

I spent most of the winter months feeding the robins with mealworms so perhaps they are hoping for the same treatment for their offspring, if they are successful with this nesting attempt.

I will move one of the cameras nearer the box once she has got used to them. It is a pity that I will not be able to get one into the box this tme. Tomorrow I will wire the box for sound using the same equipment as for the BTs.

Here is a picture of the box. It measures approximately 11in wide by 4in deep. It is nearly 8in high at the back and 5in high at the front. The leylandii foliage shows up white in infra-red.

Friday 16 June, 5pm. The box was not occupied last night. At just after 5am this morning a robin appeared, the female I assume, and was soon bringing nesting material. The two picture below show (left) the box at 5am and (right) a closer view at 9.30am. You can see that a lot of work had gone on between these times.

At just before 6am, While she was away from the box, the male appeared with food in his beak. He perched briefly on a branch near the box and then left. When the female returned to the box he reappeared, flew to the box and fed the female.

Camera shake suggested that he used the camera as a perch before this visit.

The female carried on bringing bits to the box until about mid-day while the male(?) spent a lot of time singing in the trees. I spotted the two together under the cover of the Leylandii and they seemed to be going through courtship/mating rituals, although I could not get a good view of them.

She has not been to the box this afternoon, although she is still in the garden for most of the time, doing a lot of feeding, while the male sings on.

Between 9-9.40pm she made several visits during which she spent time settled down in the nest cup, turning to face different directions and shuffling about, presumably using her feet to pack and shape the nest lining. Shortly after her last departure the singing stopped, leaving only a blackbird's evening chorus to finish off the day.

Today has seen one of the blackbird offspring down on the ground in the garden for the first time since they left the nest on Wednesday 8 June. Needless to say I did not have a camera ready and when I did it had retreated to the cover of the shrubbery!

Saturday 17 June. The female made her first visit at about 5.50am, very soon after the first robin song of the day was heard. In the next two hours she made 20 more. Between 7 and 9am she only returned five times and then made only a few visits through the rest of the morning. I saw her picking up some dried grass around mid-day but after that there were no further visits today.

At about 6.15am the male arrived with food but the female was not in the box. He returned and fed her soon afterwards, giving a brief 'squeeky' call as he arrived. Those appeared to be his only visits to the box today.

The pair remained in or around the garden for the rest of the day - as yesterday, it was a mixture of singing and feeding.

Sunday 18 June. The first egg is laid

A bright, sunny start to what was to be a hot day ( it reached 34C in the shade in my garden) saw the female robin arrive at the box for the first time about 7.50am. She did not bring any nesting material and spent time shuffling about in the nest. She left after a few minutes but was back very soon and settled down to the business of shaping the nest cup. She gradually rotated , usually anti-clockwise, continually shuffling down into the cup.

By about 8.15am she was keeping still a lot more and a couple of minutes later I heard a clicking and then she could be seen raising her body up gradually (The clicking and raising of the body was characteristic of the moment before each egg laying by the blue tit). She held her body in a raised position for a short time before sinking down into the nest cup.

For the next few minutes she stayed still, keeping her beak wide open.

She spent a further 25 minutes resting before leaving the nest suddenly.Once away from the nest she did not return again all day.

Later, I was able to confirm the arrival of the first egg. Unfortunately I am not yet in a position to get images from inside the nest, so no pictures yet.

Monday 19 June - The Second Egg. A hot, sunny day (max 32C)

This picture of the nest this afternoon shows the two eggs produced so far. The ccd tv camera image was taken through a hole in the back of the box (covered with a glass pane) , via a mirror attached to the inside of the roof of the box. Unfortunately, the mirror is not front silvered so there is s slight problem with internal reflections - These are likely to show up more when I attempt to take colour photographs.

The female made her first visit of the day for a couple of minutes at about 5.45am. She did not re-appear until 7.25am. This time she settled in and spent her time shuffling and turning in the nest. She definitely prefers to turn anticlockwise! At 7.45 she became still and two minutes later, accompanied by the familiar clicking she suddenly rose up in the nest. After laying she flopped back down and spent the next two minutes panting, beak wide open.

Then she rested, often letting her eyes close for short periods, until 8.30am when she became more alert. She left the nest at 8.35am. The rest period had been interrupted once at 7.55am when the male brought food for her.

Only 3 visits were observed during the rest of the day and they appeared to be just to check the nest and eggs. Each lasted only a few moments.

Tuesday 20 June - The Third Egg. Today, in marked contrast to Monday, the morning was cloudy, cool (max 20C) and wet, with thunder rumbling around in the distance.

A series of quiet chirps marked the arrival of the female at 5.25am. She settled on the eggs straight away. Five minutes later the male arrived with food. As he approached she first of all flattened herself as low as possible in the nest and then lifted her head to greet him with a shorts series of scaccato chirps.For the next hour she remained on the eggs, occasionally putting her head down into the egg cup, but most of the time resting. She left the nest at 6.25am, returning at just before 7am. For the next 15 minutes she was in and out of the nest frequently.

Then, at 7.20 she started to settle down again. At 7.25 the familiar clicking accompanied her as she raised her body to lay the next egg. She held herself in this position, beak wide open for about two minutes. before settling back down. The male must have been nearby as shortly after there was a loud chirp from outside the nest.

She stayed on the nest for nearly an hour after egg laying. Unlike the female blue tit, the robin spent nearly all that time resting. She would often turn her head slightly to one side and close the eye that was facing into the box while keeping watch with the other. The left eye was the one closed most often.

She left the box at 8.30am and did not return to it during the day, although both parents were frequently seen feeding on the ground in the garden. The male is far less vocal than he was last week.

Late this afternoon we had a visit from the sparrowhawk which managed to grab a collared dove. As the feathers flew on the ground in front of us the dove managed to escape while the sparrowhawk was, perhaps, distracted by our presence.

Wednesday 21 June - The Fourth Egg. An overcast morning (17C at 11am)

The female arrived at the nest at about 5.15 an had a brief visit from the male 5 minutes later. She then settled down on the eggs until 6am when she left the box. She returned 8 minutes later and the rested until she laid her fourth egg at 6.54am.

She has remained in the nest (pic above, right) all day, except for twelve short excursions( of about 6 minutes each) so it looks as though the incubation stage has started. The male came to the box to feed her at 9.50am and again at about 3pm. When the female left the nest she usually found her way to a dish in which I leave mealworms. Although the male rarely visits the box I have seen him taking mealworms away, and once I caught sight of him feeding the female in a bush.

At one visit to the dish both birds were present and it gave me a chance to compare them. I was surprised to see the difference in size between them, the female being larger than the male. For a while this afternoon I put the dish on a callibrated kitchen scales. This confirmed the size difference.

The male robin weighs 19 grams and the female 26 grams

(The female blackbird got in on this experiment and weighed in at 98 grams).

The breast of the female is a more uniform orange-red colour while the male's breast is rather streaky. I have taken some colour photographs which I hope will show these differences.

The female does very little in the way of 'housework' in the nest compared with the blue tit. I wonder if this is partly because she is more exposed and excessive movement in the nest would be more likely to attract predators?

At 9.15pm the male sang briefly near to the box and the female responded. She looks as though she has settled in for the night.

The Robins - Week 2

The Robins - Week 3

The Robins - Week 4

The Robins - Week 5

To top of page.

Year 2000 Diary