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NORTHERN IMAGES


CAMERA IN A NEST BOX

For several years I have used webcams in nest boxes some videos can be seen in
my Flickr pages.

After several tries, the last photograph in this set, is displayed on the
BBC Look North weather competition gallery for June 2004.


I have several nest boxes around my garden with designs suitable for great tits, blue tits and house sparrows (in decline across the UK and in need of support with housing). In 2003 I fitted a webcam (a small, low resolution camera designed for use with a computer) inside a specially extended nest box. Blue tits and geat tits used three other boxes but ignored the 'bugged' one.

I decided to try again this year but modified the front of the box by drilling two extra 28 mm holes in the front to allow extra light to enter.

Nest box February      Nest box March

I put some pieces of string inside the box - these allowed me to check whether birds had visited the box or not. I was delighted to watch a pair of blue tits starting to build a nest during the last few days of March. An important task for one of the birds was to remove a piece of wood left over from drilling the box.

Blue tit at nest box

This photograph (courtesy of Michael Randall) shows the design of the box - the extended section above the holes contains the camera which is linked to a computer inside the house.

Nest box April      Nest box April

During the first week in April the nest was developed and right from the start the depression for the eggs was being created. By the second week, plenty of moss had been collected and the technique of using the breast and spread wings to create the depression was observed.

Nest box April      Nest box May

By the end of the third week, work on the nest seemed to stop and it looked complete. We noticed little activity until the 1st of May when there were 5 eggs present. I presume they had been laid over the previous few days.

Nest box May      Nest box May

On the 6th May the total had risen to ten eggs and she had started to incubate them.

On the morning of 18th May we saw the first two eggs had hatched and by the following morning the nest was full of naked, pink nestlings.

Hatching begins      A full

During the afternoon of 20th, Irene noticed that one of the nestlings was outside the nest cup. The parents were both delivering food and were oblivious to the one lost ’sheep’. It seems that all their instincts are locked onto the gaping beaks and they were not aware of the lost nestling as one of their brood. On several occasions I saw the nestling (which was struggling to get back with its siblings) being stepped on as the parents brought food to the rest. We were relieved to notice, about 2 hours later, that all the young were in the nest

A lost nestling

Sadly, the next morning, one of the brood was outside the nest cup. This time there was no sign of life although the nest cup seemed just as full as before.

Nestling with green caterpillar

A couple of days later it became obvious that only 7 nestlings remained. I wondered if the losses were due to the natural deaths of weaker members or the result of sibling rivalry forcing the weakest out of the nest cup. On the 25th May they were eating morsels which could be seen clearly. One nestling seems unsure what to do with the green caterpillar in its gaping beak.

Five saying feed-me

By the 29th, they had grown by an amazing amount and the remaining 7 were competing hard for the incoming food.

Nestlings with full colour      A fecal sac

By the 1st June, the nestlings had got most of their colour. They were very active and were spending time stretching wings and legs. To get rid of fecal matter, the nestlings raise their tails and offer a white sac of waste which is then taken away from the nest by one of the adults. The right hand picture shows this happening.

Almost ready      The empty nest

It was obvious on the 4th June (above left) that they would soon be ready to fly. Their feathers seemed fully formed and they had started flapping wildly in the box, often landing on top of their siblings. On the afternoon of 6th June, I was lucky enough to see the first young blue tit fly the nest. Two others joined it later in the afternoon but the remaining four stayed put. We assume that they flew early the next morning because on the 7th June the nest was empty.

First one out      Number two getting ready

Above is the first one to fly as it rested on a roof and the second gets ready.

Adult brings food      Launching

The adult birds continued to bring food to those still (if only just) in the box. The third young one prepared itself for launching itself into the big, wide world.

I'm not coming out yet

The remaining four stayed put although they did take a look out from time to time.

Aaahhh

One of the first three to leave waited in a bush for its siblings and parents. Sadly we haven't seen any more of our foster family but, hopefully, some will return to feed when times become harder and perhaps they will use some of our nest boxes next year.

No need to watch this space any more.


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