Tag Archives: nesting

Bluetit chicks growing

The chicks are a week old now, and the change in them has been remarkable. Counting them is still a bit of a challenge, as there always seems to be one chick or another buried under a pile of siblings, but occasionally we do get a glimpse of all eight at once.

They’re a lot noisier now than when they first hatched, and while they still look a little bit like monsters, their feathers are beginning to grow, and they don’t like quite so much like they’ll snap whenever they fling their heads back for food.

The parents have both been kept busy catching insects to feed to the demanding crowd, and disposing of droppings. Sometimes when a chick eats a particularly large insect you can see the bulge move down its throat as it swallows.

In the last day or so one or two of the chicks have looked like they were trying to climb out of the bowl of the nest, and almost making it. They’re getting a lot stronger and their stubby wings are growing.

They’re behind most of the nests in the dormouse site I monitor – the chicks I saw there on Saturday looked like mini-bluetits, complete with proper feathers, almost ready to fledge.

This time next week the chicks may have fledged. They’ve got quite a lot of developing to do before then, but it’s remarkable how quickly they’ve grown already. Of course, life is precarious for chicks, so I’m not counting my bluetits before they fledge. But they’ve done well to make it this far.

Bluetits hatching

My weekend was made when I turned on the TV and saw the bluetits in our camera nest box were hatching.

The newly hatched chicks look so vulnerable, it’s amazing any ever survive to fledge. Their tiny necks look much to weak to support their heads, yet when a parent bird enters with an insect, the chicks manage to fling their heads back and open their beaks.

At first the chicks were silent, floppy little things. It’s hard to count how many there are as it’s not obvious what bits belong to which chick. By the end of Sunday, our best guess was that five chicks had hatched, and three eggs remained.

It’s wonderful to see chicks in the camera nest box. Last year a pair of bluetits started building a nest in it, but gave up. When we put the camera back in this February, we couldn’t remember if we had cleaned the box out last autumn, or if the nesting material in there was last year’s. It took a while to be sure that bluetits were adding to what was in there.

A few years ago we had two successful house sparrow broods, but nesting materials blocked the camera, so we couldn’t see what was going on.

The only previous time bluetits have hatched in the box, none of them survived to fledge, as one of the adults went missing, and the lone parent wasn’t able to keep up the supply of 100 caterpillars a day that each chick needs. I hope this year’s brood will be more successful.

It’s a privilege to be able to witness such a special moment.

Bird nerd part 14: ready for spring

March is here, and with it, blue skies, green shoots and birdsong. Fed up with winter, everything seems keen to get on with life. I’ve noticed birds in the garden hanging round in pairs, so it was high time I got ready for the bird breeding season as well.

The nest boxes were already clean, so all that remained to be done was to reinstall the camera in the box at the front of our house. Dr C, chivalrous as always, climbed the ladder, while I hung out of the upstairs window to pass him the cable.

That done, we’re ready for spring. Each day we can check the camera to see if there’s been any progress. I love the feeling of suspense as I wait for the telly to warm up and reveal any changes.

House sparrow about to fledge
House sparrow about to fledge (2014)

In previous years we’ve had bluetits and house sparrows nest there (not at the same time), although last year, for the first time, nothing showed any inclination to nest there. Still, the lengthening days make me an optimist, so I am hopeful we’ll have our own springwatch again this year. I will let you know how we get on!

Dormouse (or rather bluetit) box check, May 2015

Saturday morning was glorious, so I was feeling pretty optimistic as I set out for the May dormouse box check. We hadn’t seen any dormice in April at my site, but a month can make a big difference to small mammals. And Dr C was joining me (along with four other volunteers) for the first time.

The woods looked like a bride, dressed for a wedding in the freshest foliage and bedecked with flowers. Spring was everywhere, and the contents of the boxes reflected that.

Sadly, we had no dormice (nor any other mammals). But many, many birds nests, with lots of chicks. About a third of the boxes contained bird nests, which limits the nesting sites for dormice. But we can’t (and wouldn’t want to) disturb the birds.

Anyway, most of the nests were bluetits, who only have one brood a year. By next month most of the chicks will have fledged,  the nests will be empty, and dormice can move in. While dormice are more fastidious housekeepers than other mice, they’re not above building their nest on top of a used bird nest. And, when the bird nesting season is well and truly over, we will clean the old bird nests from the boxes, to give the dormice a more hygienic option.

So, I was a little disappointed we didn’t get any dormice. Especially when other site leaders posted photos on Facebook of all the lovely dormice they had found. But I refuse to give up hope, as we know there are dormice in the wood, and they did use the boxes late last year.

Still, I think I may have to change what I call the box checks – not dormousing, but bluetiting.

Empty nest

This time last year the first brood of house sparrow chicks in our camera nest box were fledging. And the year before that, ill-fated bluetit chicks had just hatched. This year, for the first time since we put the box up, no birds have shown any inclination to nest in it.

I don’t know why. Our garden is still full of sparrows, emptying the feeders and chattering away. The box is well hidden by a rampant clematis, but it was last year as well. There’s no sign of nesting in our other bird boxes either. And I don’t think they are nesting in our gutter like they used to.

I miss watching them build the nest, brood the eggs, and wait expectantly for them to hatch. And I miss hearing the cheeps, and checking the camera footage to see the moment they fledge. (To cheer myself up, I’ve just rewatched the footage from last year).

Oh well, there’s always next year. And I should get to see plenty of bluetit chicks on my next dormouse box check.

Do you have any idea of why the sparrows aren’t nesting in the box this year?

More house sparrows fledging

A couple of weeks ago I reported that another brood of house sparrow chicks had hatched in our camera nest box. But we didn’t know how many as nesting material was blocking the camera’s view into the nest. Since then we’ve been listening carefully to try and work out how they were getting on.

We knew at least two chicks had hatched, but as the days went by we got concerned. One chick was cheeping noisily, but there was only occasionally another, fainter cheep at the same time. We feared the worst.

A couple of days ago the nest was finally trampled down enough to get a partial view inside. To our surprise, we saw one, then two, then three, then, finally, four chicks.

After a couple of days of wing stretching and looking rather crowded, .

The parents haven’t been so quick to start sprucing up the nest for the next brood as they were last time, but we’ll keep an eye on it just in case.

 

My Springwatch footage is a little disappointing…

The second brood of chicks in our camera box hatched yesterday (I think). Brilliant – we get to watch some more chicks grow, and hopefully fledge eventually! But the footage so far has been a bit dull.

I’m not complaining that the newly fledged chicks and their hard working parents aren’t doing enough – we can hear that plenty is going on. But the nest blocks the camera’s view, so while we can hear the cheeping, our picture is just a canopy of nesting material. Springwatch don’t seem to have these problems!

A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)
A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)

We had this problem (although not to the same extent) with the first brood. Hopefully over time the nest will get a bit trampled on by the growing chicks, and we’ll be able to get a glimpse of them. With the last brood our view got better as the chicks got bigger.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to try and interpret the sounds. There are at least two chicks, but that’s all I know.

The last brood of chicks fledged on 12th and 13th May, so the parents haven’t lost too much time in getting on with the next brood. Let’s hope the weather is kind to them, and there’s plenty of food around.

House sparrow chicks have fledged

More good news – both house sparrow chicks have now fledged. The last couple of days they’ve looked like proper sparrows, rather than merely cavernous beaks. There’s been lots of wing stretching and peering out of the hole.

The first chick fledged on Monday morning. The other chick seemed a bit reluctant to leave the nest. She waited until Tuesday morning, spending quite a bit of time peering out the hole, then hiding at the back of the nest before finally summoning up the courage… The parents didn’t waste much time after the chicks had left, before coming in to get it ready for the next brood.

This video shows the two chicks together in the nest, just before they fledged. It then goes to show the second chick fledging on Tuesday. Finally there’s a bit of the daddy doing some housework once the chicks had left.

It’s been very satisfying to watch the chicks’ progress each day. These are the first chicks that have been successfully raised in our camera box. In previous years we’ve had blue tits build partial nests then give up. The closest we got was when a large brood of blue tit chicks hatched, but sadly each day another one died, until there were none left. (It was a very wet spring that year.)

House sparrows can have several broods each year, so hopefully we may get to see some more.

House Sparrow chicks!

Very exciting news – we have some new arrivals! While Dr C and I were away last week the house sparrow chicks hatched.

I’m not entirely sure how many chicks there are.  The nest has an overhanging bit which means the camera can’t see all the way in. We’ve seen two chicks.

House sparrow chicks
House sparrow chicks – you should be able to spot two open beaks, and the tail of the mother sparrow (on the left)

I’m also not sure how old the chicks are. I had set the laptop up to monitor the nest in our absence, but despite my best efforts it seems to have shut itself down within hours of my departure.

The mother sparrow seems to be spending quite a lot of time keeping the chicks warm. According to the RSPB, sparrows brood their chicks for 6-8 days. The chicks fledge after 14-16 days, so that could be anytime next week. It will be interesting to follow their progress.