Blue tit box

For Christmas, I was given a new blue tit box. Not just any box, but one with space for a camera in the roof. Within days, it was out in the garden, but not connected up. It is on a fence, about 5 feet up, and faces north. Soon, about 8 blue tits flew by, and some stopped by the box to look inside. The next stage was to wire everything up. The camera had to be adjusted for focus. We put in some sawdust. And then waited. During the week, it looked like the sawdust had been moved, but maybe it was just the stormy weather.

January

dsc03053 Jan 7: Then, on Saturday, the blue tits came to visit. They started by tapping at the doorway, and then flew off. Later they were back, and went inside.
From that point on, there have been bouts of activity, with a blue tit going in, scooping up some sawdust in its beak and then depositing it outside, flying up in to a tree about 10 feet away and dropping it. Obviously the decor is not to their taste. At times there is a pair, darting around the box. At one stage more blue tits appeared. There was a bit of a disagreement going on, and one pair saw the others off. They then resumed, disappearing for a while when other birds like wood pigeons were around and then returning.
8 Jan: The box is empty overnight. The blue tits are soon back. They continue to assiduously empty out the sawdust, so now the bottom of the box is visible. Sometime we hear the blue tits sing.
31 Jan: Charlie comes back every night to roost. he is back in every night at about 4:40, or even earlier lately. He sets out in the morning at about 8am. At the weekend he popped back in the day, with another blue tit. dsc03039
He often shuffles round in the night and preens himself, fanning out his tail and wings, and then returning to being a ball of soft feathers. preening feathers

February

Feb 9: He dropped into the nest box during the day. He has been tearing a hole in the floor. Tapping and pecking, and then wrenching out slivers of wood. There seems to be a particular spot that he goes for. As the nest box is new, I doubt whether he’s looking for insects. So, why?
The first morning with snow was fascinating to watch. Charlie sorted his feathers out, and jumped to the door. at this point s/he disappears off. However, this time Charlie stopped for a few moments and them jumped down into the box again. S/he shuffled around for a bit, and then took another, longer, look. Again, s/he came back inside and fluttered around a bit. The third time, she waited again, and then diappeared off. I guess it took a little while to work out where the landmarks were.
dsc03121dsc03111 I was reading one rspb site on blue tits, which suggested that it is the females that roost. The fluttering in the box may relate to preparing for nest building, along with checking out the floor to ensure it is robust.

March

March 15: There was a lot of activity over the weekend, with a pair darting in and out of the box. One seemed to be exploring the box, checking out the nooks and crannies and stretching their wings to check the size. There was much pecking at the hole. Maybe to mark territory? Get a better foothold? Last night, all of a sudden, the nest building has started. Some moss has been put in. One bird still sleeps in the box overnight. dsc03163
nest building started
Nest building started
March 16: Well, this is intriguing. When I checked in the evening, all the moss had been emptied out of the box. A few odds and ends were swept to one end, and the blue tit was sleeping there as usual. 6:30 am, the box was empty; the blue tit was out. 8:30 am - checked again and there’s a whole new lot of moss been delivered. Is this courtship? Was the previous batch of insufficient quality?
fresh nesting materials March 19: Still the to-ing and fro-ing with ridiculously large twigs continues. And the hammering. Is this attention-seeking? Sometimes the blue tit stops to look out of the hole. And some flapping in the box - testing for size?
March 20: What a difference a day makes! Tonight the box looks like the enchanted forest with dainty wisps of moss piled up on one side. The blue tit is keeping a triangular area in the centre clear by stretching out its right wing. March 21: Longer strands of grass have arrived. The nest is growing rapidly every day. Every time I return to look at the screen, more is added. The nesting materials now cover the floor. The blue tit is now sleeping in the middle. spreading the moss. In the morning, it taps near the door to summon its partner.
dsc032981 dsc03399

April

April 5; The first egg is laid! Daisy is out all day and leaves the egg. first egg is laid
April 6: At 6am, there may have been another egg laid, but this time the eggs are covered over so it is hard to tell. She returns in the evening and takes a long time to settle down. The nest is now deep. and she turns and shuffles, and then dives down to make adjustments. flattening down the nest
Each morning, between 6 and 6:15, an egg is laid. There is a lot of shuffling and turning, and then Daisy stretches out and braces her wings. Shortly after, she relaxes and peeps down into the nest. Then she pulls soft nesting materials under her. When she leaves at 6:30am, all the eggs are covered over. April 8: We think there are four eggs now and have named them Alfie, Ben, Emily and Freddy. Been finding out about blue tits. Seems like this is quite early for the first egg to be laid - mid-April is more usual. There can be up to 15 eggs laid, and 8-10 is fairly usual. It takes about 2 weeks to hatching, and then about 2-3 weeks before they leave the nest.
April 10: not sure if there are any more eggs. Daisy was restless in the night and we can clearly see four eggs. She has popped in and out frequently during the day. 20120410_021301
10 april: 6 eggs Charlie and Daisy
April 14: Ten eggs 14 April: Charlie feeding Daisy This morning, Daisy didn’t do her usual morning rituals. She dipped down into the nest; it looks like she is moving the eggs around. Then she tapped on the side of the box. Soon after, Charlie appeared, and came back and forth feeding her. Later on she left the nest, and ten eggs were visible.
twelve blue tit eggs 19 April: Daisy stays on the nest. There are now twelve eggs. Charlie is popping to feed her frequently. A friend tells me there is a special warm patch on her tummy which she uses to trigger all the eggs hatching, by giving each an individual special warming. This happens when there are enough green caterpillars around. We’ve had wet weather recently, so don’t know if this means hatching will be delayed
The nest has twelve blue tit eggs in. I think this is the final number. 20 April: male feeding female
20 April: Daisy leaves the eggs for short periods, but then comes back and snuggles right down into the nest. She makes small tweets when she is hungry and Charlie soon appears. She dives down into the nest and moves the eggs around, changing which ones are at the top. The weather was warmer today…I think they are close to hatching 27 April There are still 12 eggs, Charlie is popping in to feed Daisy. She continues to sit on the eggs patiently, trying to warm all of them by moving them round. The weather has been stormy and very wet, but more is forecast. Maybe they will hatch this weekend?
28 April 10:04 this morning. Looks like two have hatched. A shot of the proud parents! Looks like Daisy is eating the egg shell – maybe to restore her calcium levels? The first tiny little mouth… dsc03538
29 April There is a mass of tiny pink bodies intertwined. They move about with swimming motions, having little stubby wings. When there is a sound, even of the wind blowing, a few raise their heads and their beaks form a bright diamond. They only wait a few seconds before their heads seem to heavy for their fragile necks and they drop back down again. sometimes they seem to be almost upside down and have to do quite a lot of struggling to turn upright when the parents return to feed them. The heads of the newest ones have little horny protusions, and round grey patches where the eyes are forming. The ones that are developing faster have small downy wisps of feathers on their heads. There are some eggs at the bottom of the nest. I can count seven little mouths, but its hard to be sure if there are more as they are constantly on the move. It’s a stormy, wet day here. Not sure if that’s affecting the camera, but it is needing quite a few restarts. The parents seem to be making quite a good job of finding food despite the wet April weather. dsc035391

May

1 May Last night, at about 10 pm, the mother pulled one of the blue tit chicks out of the nest. She put it by the side and seemed to be toying with it a little. She placed it back in and then did the same thing again. She then placed her legs across its neck and proceeded to pull it apart and eat it. It was the same size as the other chicks, and appeared to be no different from the rest. Are they struggling to feed so many chicks and this is their way of reducing numbers? Was this chick not viable in some way? dsc03602
4 May: At night, Daisy is still busy. She was using her head to push against the side of the nest to make it larger. The grass and moss to the left side are looking more compressed. dsc03616
6 May Yesterday there were eight little mouths. Today I can only count seven. The wings are now developing, becoming jointed and looking stripey. The nest is now the shape of a goldfish bowl, so some of the chicks appear to be hidden under the left hand edge. Space is at a premium, with little heads appearing around the side of the mother when she is sitting on the nest. dsc03648
7 May: Heard a cuckoo this morning. It has become harder to count the chicks, as Daisy has excavated quite a deep cave. The chicks are getting strong, and spring up like a jack-in-the-box if they think food is near. They are getting a light covering of feathers. When a chick needs to do droppings, it presents its bottom to Daisy, who promptly removes the droppings from the nest. dsc03721
12 May: The parents are still hard at work feeding, and it looks like they are finding some caterpillars now. A couple of the chicks are looking very robust, with their wing feathers well-developed, and feathers all over their bodies. Their tummies are covered in soft feathers and they are starting to preen themselves, and stretch their wings. Others are still quite tufty on their heads, and under the wing areas there is still pink flesh. Still seem to be six of them. A couple of crows and magpies are often in the trees nearby. Hope they choose the moment to emerge carefully. dsc03726
16 May:
This morning, Daisy dug down into the nest. This time she took a beakful of grass out. The larger chicks are trying out their wings, having a quick flap. They are becoming more independent, moving round the nest box.
Sometimes, one is a bit cheeky and covers the others with his wing, so he can get more food.
20120517_155600 18 May: After much pushing and shoving this evening, Daisy decided to sleep elsewhere. She kept moving the chicks about and then perching in the doorway, and finally decided to leave the nest.
19 May: The strongest chick has been moving round the nest box a lot, and this morning went to the doorway. Another has been using its beak, practising picking up bits of grass.
20 May:
They are all out, just leaving some eggs behind.
This morning, all the chicks seemed to be lining themselves up to jump. The first couple went fairly quickly. The next hung around a bit. Then the dramas started. The couple first out were sittnig on the fence, and then a squirrel ran along the fence towards them and was scared off by the parents. The the parents were encouraging the others to fly by going to and from the box and waiting on a nearby branch. Suddenly a huge woodpecker landed on the box – pretty much the same size as the box. Normally i would have marvelled at the beautiful red, black and white plumage, but this was not the time or place! He was scared off, and the chicks shuffled to the back of the box. Then there were crows and magpies. One magpie flew across the garden being chased by two blue tits.
Finally it quietened down and the next one jumped. The others had reached the trees. The last two landed on the ground about four feet away. They shuffled into the flowers, and then into the cover.