Tuesday, 31 May 2011

NestCam Update

 Today I rigged up an external camera to view the birds from outside the nest box and that's why there are now two images on the live video stream.  Unfortunately I won't be able to leave it out overnight or in bad weather as I haven't managed to protect the power supply from getting wet safely enough for my liking.  I'll probably put some recordings on the left side when the live camera is not available.

The three chicks seem to be doing pretty well and are now getting on top of the nest material quite frequently.  They are stretching and fluttering their wings quite a lot and I don't think it will be long before they fledge.  Hopefully the external camera might catch them as they leave the nest for the first time.  Currently all three are huddled together and seem to be asleep and I have a feeling they might be gone by tomorrow night.

This morning was quite stressing for Sarah and me as one of our cats (Millie) briefly caught a baby House Sparrow and had it her mouth for a while.  Luckily Sarah saw it happen and was out like a shot to rescue it.  After locking Millie up in the house, I managed to get the sparrow into a box where we had a look it.  At first it seemed OK but then Sarah discovered it had a puncture wound on its back.  It did attempt to fly across the lawn but didn't seem able to take off, so we kept it in the box for a couple of hours with some ripped up newspapers, mealworms and seed. 

We did ponder taking the sparrow to the vet but in the end didn't think they'd have much time for it.  Anyway, after a couple of hours we went back to the box and it had gone - as the cats had been confined to the house duriong this time, we'd like to think it flew off by itself having recovered from its ordeal.

It's going to be really hard ensuring that the cats don't catch our fledgling Blue Tits.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

NestCam Update

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.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

NestCam Update Update

Just a quick update on what for the most part has been a quite depressing day.  I thought that there were only six live chicks this morning, but actually I was wrong, there must have been seven.  However, during the course of the morning I saw a chick die on the NestCam.  Seeing this made me wonder about this whole NestCam thing and whether I want to witness the struggle for life live on camera like this.

The dead chick was much smaller than the others and struggled to get fed when the parents came with food. At one point one of the other chicks seemed to put a wing over its neck when it was straining to get fed and it never recovered from that.  It lay on the nest floor for a while without moving and although it did move again at some point, I later found it lying motionless and it didn't move again.  I don't know what will happen to the dead chick, whether they'll be able to take it out or if it will just stay at the bottom of the nest.

So then I thought we were down to just five chicks as they have been out of view for most of the day due the overhanging nest I mentioned in the previous post.  For most of the day I only ever saw five mouths at once and so I assumed this must be right.  However, my mood has lifted a little now as I've just managed to count six live chicks and they all seem OK.  One must have been hidden in the nest this morning or perhaps it was too weak to get out into the open.

So that's good news with which to end I suppose, isn't it?

NestCam Update

Yesterday was a worry for us as there were many times in the day when there didn't seem to be much sign of life the nest box.  However, it now seems that the nest material has been undercut at its base and that the chicks are staying tucked under the overhanging edges out of view for most of the day.  The nest is very deep now and even Kate almost disappears when she sits in it.

This morning I've counted only six chicks popping up for food, and so we might have lost another one since Friday.  If it is staying under the overhang, it's not getting fed and there was a very small chick yesterday which always seemed to miss out at feeding time.

I used the internet to investigate what might be happening to the missing chicks and here are some possibilities: the nest might have been raided by a Magpie, Crow or even a Woodpecker, but this seems unlikely as the hole seem too small for them to get in.  Fleas might suck a chick's blood and cause it to die, but Kate is constantly checking the nest and removing unwanted stuff.  Another male bird might have entered and killed a chick to establish it's territory or gain control of the nest.  But what seems most likely is that the last born chicks are much smaller and weaker than the first born and they can't compete for food when the parents present it to them.

There's nothing much we can do about any of this except to let nature take it's course - infant mortality is very high in birds and that's one reason why they lay so many eggs.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Nestam Update

It's been several days since my last post because not much has been happening except for the usual routine of feeding, removing poop (and presumably fleas) and sitting on the nest.  That was, until yesterday.  The sad news is that we can only count seven chicks now when there had been eight alive a couple of days ago. 

The last egg did seem to take a long time to hatch and the chick was obviously a lot smaller than the others - perhaps it couldn't compete for food in the rough and tumble of the nest.  We don't know if it's the last chick than has died or another one, but we're fairly sure it's gone and it looks like it might not even be in the nest any more.

Of the remaining seven, six seem about the same size and pretty active but there is another one which looks a bit smaller and it seems not to get fed as often.  Hopefully it will survive as the parents are doing their best in terms of looking after their brood.

Monday, 16 May 2011

NestCam Update

I didn't have time to post this morning before going to work, but I could only count seven chicks.  However, the last remaining egg wasn't in view either, and so I was hopeful that it might have hatched.  At work I had trouble logging on to my NestCam, so I had to phone up my wife Sarah who was at home to reset the WebCamXP server.  When this was done the picture came back, but I still couldn't see eight chicks.

All eight chicks present and correct !

Anyway, I've just looked now as the chicks are active and currently being fed and I'm pretty certain there are eight mouths popping up when Kate calls them to receive food.  And the egg is nowhere to be seen, so that's really good news.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Today in My Garden

You lookin' at  me?

Today I saw the following birds in and around my back garden in Tyldesley, Wigan:
  • Blue Tits (obviously!)
  • A Coal Tit
  • Greenfinches
  • Goldfinches
  • House Sparrows
  • A Blackbird
  • Collared Doves
  • Woodpigeons
  • A Magpie
  • Starlings
  • A Great Tit
  • Swifts (over)
  • Black-headed Gulls (over)
Here are some pictures I took from my garden today and a couple from last week - the light was very poor today and so the pictures are a little grainy:

Greenfinch at the top of a neighbour's tree

Goldfinches on my feeder

Female house sparrow on my feeder

A very shy Coal Tit

A noisy Starling

Swift over my garden

Swift silhouette

A frog in a tree, but not a Tree Frog though
Here's the Dandelion, now where's the Burdock?

NestCam Update

There were seven in the bed, and the little one said ...

Well it's Sunday evening now and I can confirm that there are seven live Blue Tit chicks and only 1 egg that's not hatched yet.  It's taken all day for me to see seven mouths all pop up at once, and that's the only way I can be sure they're all OK.

Kate removes a white fecal 'poop' sac

There is a distinctive 'cheeping' sound coming from the chicks now and Kate doesn't half squawk when she wants to them to pop their heads up and be fed.  Wills is bringing food in regularly and Kate still leaves the nest from time to time to do her own thing.
Kate feeding the chicks

We can now recognise the different sounds the birds make when they are warning of some kind of danger such as one of our cats (or me) nearby, and when they have returned with food.  Wills makes a noise from a perch outside the nest box and Kate replies to tell him to come in with the food.  It's great to hear and watch.

Only one egg left now, let's hope it hatches

During the day I took some photos of Wills and Kate outside in my garden and here'e the best of them:

Lovely grub !!!

Wills - a handsome dude isn't he?

Wills in a Rowan tree

Wills with his hackles raised because I was too close.

Is there anybody at home?

Wills passing food to Kate
Kate taking a break

NestCam Update

Easy like Sunday Morning and I can only see one egg left, so I'm presuming that seven chicks have hatched.  I find them impossible to count and be certain unless their mouths are open, even though the picture on my DVD recorder screen is much better than the live images I'm broadcasting over the web.  Someone else has commented that there are seven chicks and so I'll take their word for it.

The chicks have little tufts of hair on their heads which makes them look quite cute, especially with their black sunglassess on! On the other hand they do have a certain gremlin-like quality about them at present.  They're making very faint 'cheeping' noises now too.

I've seen Kate removing white poop sacs, so the food must be going down and coming out of the other end OK. I hope we get eight healthy chicks and that they all survive and fledge, but you never know with this Circle of Life thing, do you?

Here's a link to an interesting article on Blue Tit chicks: The Growing Pains of Blue Tits

Saturday, 14 May 2011

NestCam Update

I think we've got another chick this morning, but it's very hard to tell when there's just a mass of pink flesh all huddled together covering the remaining eggs!  It's best to count them when their heads pop up for feeding, but as yet I've only see a couple do this today.  Here's some of this morning's photos:

This is Wills passing some food he has just collected to Kate:

Kate squawks to let the chicks know that there's some food available and their heads pop up with gaping mouths ready to be fed.

If the chicks don't take the food, Kate seems to swallow it and I don't think she regurgitates it for them later.  However, she might be able to keep some in her beak and give it to them in smaller anounts, but it's difficult to tell if this is happening.

Friday, 13 May 2011

NestCam Update: Stop Press

I've not been able to post here for the last couple of days because Blogger has been down, but at about 6:10am this morning our first Blue Tit chick hatched.  Immediately mum (Kate) tried to feed it without much success - the chick didn't seem able to take the caterpillar grubs which did seem quite large.  Dad (Wills) brought a regular supply of grubs and insects for a good ten minutes, but the chick didn't take these either.  I left for work not knowing if it was feeding properly or not.

When I got to work at 9am I had a quick look to see if any more chicks had hatched, but none had.  Then at 10am a work colleague who reads my blog told me there were three chicks and later my wife told me another had hatched by 11.38am.  She also said that during the day they had started to feed better as Wills and Kate brought in a regular supply of food.

Great news and only four more eggs to hatch, which will probably be tomorrow now.  I need to get over the BTO's Nest Box Challenge website now to update our report data there.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

NestCam Update

Still no news I'm afraid - here's this morning's picture of the eight Blue Tit eggs in the nest:

Using another nest of which I know, I've recalculated the date of hatching to be Friday or Saturday this week.  Here's this evening's picture:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

NestCam Update

Well yesterday (Day 14) came and went with no sign of any eggs hatching and so now we're in to Day 15 and still awaiting our first baby Blue Tit.  Here's this morning's picture from the NestCam:

Sunday, 8 May 2011

NestCam Update

I haven't posted for a couple of days because Kate has stopped laying, with a total of eight eggs.  She now spends quite a lot of time on the nest turning the eggs, improving the nest, sleeping or preening.  No new feathers have been brought in for a few days now, so she must have decided the nest is warm enough.

Whilst on the nest Wills is bringing her caterpillar grubs and she does still leave occasionally to look for food herself.  We're just playing the waiting game now, looking forward for the first egg to hatch, which could be today or tomorrow if they stick to a 14 day schedule.

The commenting system on my blog has not been working properly and I hope that's why we haven't had any comments from all the many people who've visited the blog to see the NestCam. I've changed it to pop up in a window now - We'd really appreciate any comments that people would care to make under any post message.  Cheers!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Rindle Road and Astley Moss

I went out down Rindle Road for a couple of hours after work tonight hoping to see the Hobbies that have been reported catching dragonflies over the Moss in the last few days.  When I arrived there were at least five cars parked up (there are usually no more than two and often none) with other birders presumably looking for the same thing or the Cuckoos.

I parked at the top of the feeding station track and the farmer was driving his tractor up towards the gate.  As he got out to close the gate I asked him about the crops he was growing in the fields here. He's a nice bloke who I've met before and he's always stopped for a chat. He told me that barley was being grown in two fields, potatoes in the ploughed field and two fields were grass for silage. I checked that it was alright to leave my car here and he said that as long as he could get past with the tractor it was fine.

The first thing that struck me as I walked down the track towards Rindle Wood was the sound of Yellowhammers making their 'little bit of bread with no cheeeese' call. They weren't in the usual hawthornes and trees along the feeding track but somewhere out in the fields.  When I looked through my binoculars I saw a couple sitting on a fence wire bordering two of the fields.  This loud calling went on most of the time I was out tonight - I've never heard it so loud and clearly before.

As I entered Rindle Wood I briefly met a lady birder who had come here in search of Cuckoos, but who was leaving disappointed.  I told her she must come back because they'd be here for a while and show quite well when they do appear.  I also met a new character called Gordon from Martin Mere as most people seem to know him and had a really good chat with him about allsorts of stuff. And then on towards the SSSI.

Willow Warbler

There were lots of very pale Mistle Thrushes in the ploughed field on the edge of the Wood, and the Yellowhammers were obviously there too although I didn't spot any. As I approached the edge of the SSSI there were a couple of Willow Warblers singing from what seems to a favourite place in some dead brich tree branches.  As the light wasn't too bad, I took this opportunity to photograph them, even though they were quite high up.  Whilst I was doing this someone was looking at me through binoculars a little further down the path - it was Dave Thacker and he gave me a wave when he recognised me.

Willow Warbler

I went to meet Dave and he was with another lady birder who's name I'm sorry to say I've forgotton already. They were looking for Hobbies and Cuckoos but hadn't seen either, despite having been here a while. They mentioned lots of people who had seen them today including John Tymon who'd been here earlier and so understanderably they were both a bit fed up!  We talked about a few things (during which time I think I spotted a Linnet in a dead tree) before Dave and moved on to walk round the trail past the scrapes.

Is this a Linnet?

There really wasn't very much about tonight save for a pair of Tufted Ducks which I accidentally flushed off one of the scrapes.  There were quite a few dragonflies about however and that's why this is good Hobby country.  In fact on our way back towards Rindle Hedge we met another birder who knew quite a lot about dragonflies and he and Dave had a good chat about them, but it was all lost on me!  I'll have to get a book.

As we approached the hedge, we looked across the ploughed potato field and Dave spotted two Grey Partridges on the edge of the ditch that separates the fields.  They were very hard to see as they crouched down in the grass and I wouldn't have spotted them on my own.  Apparently like many birds, they nest in the ditch and come out onto the ploughed field to feed.

Whilst we watching the Partridges we heard a Cuckoo calling for the first time tonight.  Dave scanned the trees with his bins and had soon found one sat some distance away across the fields. It was at the top of  a dead tree on the edge of the SSSI where we had first been talking some 20 minutes ago.  The calls continued for a while and another Cuckoo appeared briefly before they both flew off over the tree tops.  Well, at least we could report that we'd seen them tonight.


Dave and I walked back to the feeding station through Rindle Hedge where there were no birds at all tonight as far as I could see.  We looked in the barley field for the Whimbrel and Oystercatchers which had been there recently and couldn't see them until they popped their heads up above the long vegetation.  There was at least one Whimbrel and two Oystercatchers here tonight and we witnessed a very brief scuffle when one Oystercatcher moved the Whimbrel on its way.  And then they all disappeared into the long vegetation again.

Buzzard on fence post

It was at this point that Dave spotted a large Buzzard sitting on a fence post looking for voles.  It was some way off and close to the railway line, but it wasn't disturbed when a train went past - it must be used to this by now.  From time to time the Buzzard would drop down off its perch on to the ground before returning again a few minutes later, maybe after a meal.  Another birder joined us at this point who was an old friend of Dave's who he hadn't seen for a while.  We chatted for a while before deciding it was time to head for home.


I left Dave and his friend at the top of the feeding station track and decided to try to get a little closer to the Buzzard for some pictures.  I walked up towards the level crossing at the top of Rindle Road whilst perusing the hawthorne hedge and taller trees.  I saw a Chaffinch and a pair of Goldfinches on the telephone wires here.  I looked for the Curlew in the field next to Rindle Cottages, but instead found another pair of Oystercatchers which might have been the ones we saw previously.  I took some photos here before looking for the Buzzard on the other side of the road.  It was still perched on the same post but the light wasn't good and it was still some way off, so I didn't get any really good shots.


Well, I hadn't seen the Hobbies but I'd I met a few nice people and had a good birding session with Dave in which we saw a fair number of species this evening.  Happy Days!