It's been a pretty depressing week here in the Big Birdie House and I've been avoiding posting until things settled down. We're down to just three live chicks remaining from the original eight that hatched and I've watched much of it unfold on the NestCam. There was a period when a chick was dying every day and I really thought we were going to lose all of them. At times when I looked in the nest there were no chicks in view at all and I thought they might have been taken by another bird, even though the entrance hole is quite small. It seems what is happening in our box is a common theme happening in nest boxes all over - I know of another Blue Tit nest which started with nine live chicks and is now down to just three, with some chicks dieing that were feathered and quite advanced in their development.
The dead chicks have sometimes remained in view for a day or two before vanishing. For a while I wasn't sure if they were being pushed under the nest by Wills and Kate or if they were being carried outside. One day I thought I saw Kate carry out what looked like a small leg bone and after talking to someone else it seems that the parents do break the dead chicks up in the nest and remove them in stages if they can't carry them out whole.
Well on the bright side, we've had three chicks for the last few days and they seem to be doing OK, although one does seem a little smaller and weaker than the other two. There's certainly no brotherly or sisterly love in the nest environment - the strong survive and the weak die. It even seems that one bird actively prevents the others from being fed by standing on them or putting its wings over them. And Kate the female bird doesn't seem to be able to share the food out evenly either - one chick in particular gets fed more than the others.
All three chicks now have feathers and their eyes are open so they look like proper little Blue Tits. They spend most of the day hiding under the nest matreial until the parents return with food. They're also making quite a lot of noise at times, with one chick cheeping after another in sequence. The largest bird occasionally pops out and tries to get on top of the nest.
I'll be trying to set up an external camera this week to get ready for the chicks fledging and leaving the nest box which should be sometime soon - if this is successful there'll be another live image available to see.