A Blog From The Blue Tit Box 2015 – Basic Instinct

Anyone following last years success inside the blue tit box would understandably be looking forward to springtime 2015. However the downside of a nestbox camera linked to your telly is having a ringside seat when things go wrong. This year things went wrong, just like disastrous 2013. If anything the events served to remind that nature is indeed a struggle.

Initially preparations had gone well with a blue tit roosting overnight from September, far earlier than before. This seemed to alternate between a male and female bird based on whether they tidied away their nightly droppings in the morning. I was experimenting to get more light into the box by fitting a sliding wood panel over one of the plastic windows. Bit of elastic band high tech stuff here 😉 The birds didn’t seem to like the ‘windows’ so the plan was to introduce more light gradually once the eggs had hatched. More light gives more colour, less light gives infrared black & white. Also bought a new large screen TV to view the events on, so just needed the birdies to cooperate….

Blue Tits Spring 2015-crop

Sleeping Blue Tit as nest building begins

  1. 19th March 2015 – Nest building began (5 days earlier than last year)
  2. 27th April 2015 – First egg laid
  3. 5th May 2015 – 7 eggs laid
  4. 16th May 2015 – First hatching
  5. 17th May 2015 – Sixth chick hatched (3 less than last year)

So this year 7 eggs, 6 of which hatched and all seemed fine. First similarities to 2013 started with an over reliance on using the garden suet bell feeder. Supposedly to help supplement the parents this was often used for the chicks. Was also a while before the male was seen bringing food in. Then things started to improve with increased feeding of mostly live food. All looking good on the telly…..

The Downside – One morning I was surprised to see a parent dragging a dead chick out. Next morning the same thing happened except this time another problem had developed. Surviving chicks had become tangled with dead ones, possibly due to breakage of the unhatched egg. The mother’s instinct was to clean the nest and nothing was going to stop her. Confused as to why she couldn’t remove the remains she frantically continued tugging away. And so began a grisly removal of a dead chick, piece by torn piece. Meanwhile the surviving chicks were being dragged around the nest, with physical damage seeming inevitable.

26th May 2015 – The end result of this process over two days was one surviving chick with a leg sticking out at a worrying angle. I could only hope this would somehow heal but this was not to be. The mother again sensed something was wrong and would peck at the damaged leg. Somehow the sole chick endured, with both parents still feeding by instinct.

The mother continued to be agitated often prodding at the chick or tapping the side of its beak to check it still opened. When tidying the base of the nest she would see the damaged leg and try to get it out. This desire became all consuming with the pecking increasing incessantly causing the joint to fray.

Finally next evening she tried to rip the damaged part of the leg off. I couldnt watch. Next day the leg was just a stump and the chick alive but not very steady. Again somehow it seemed to endure through this period and was still getting enough live food to survive.

Lone chick with parent

Lone chick with parent

8th June 2015 – By some miracle on a warm spring day the chick managed to leave the nestbox sometime during Monday 8th June 2015. With only one leg it’s ability to follow the parents and learn to feed effectively would be hugely reduced. Sadly I know it didn’t get too far – and that was the end of the Blue Tit experience for this year. All that effort for nothing, nature can be tough.

There’s often a tendency to humanise animals, Disney, Pixar, even Johnny Morris in the old days, cute animals with human characteristics. It’s tempting to imagine what they’re thinking but in reality some are just simple creatures governed by instinct and stimulus, struggling to breed and survive. Of course they can also often look cute in the process 🙂

BBC’s Springwatch aired at the time with excellent Chris Packham sharing interesting information. Their cameras followed 10 chicks that all eventually left the nest, however reports suggested 2015 was a bad year nationwide for Blue Tit’s after a damp spring.

Also the belief had always been that Blue Tits somehow timed their nesting to coincide with a profusion of juicy green tent caterpillars found in trees on new leaf growth. Latest research apparently suggests Blue Tit’s simply breed and hope for the best; sometimes timing is right, sometimes not. This year it wasn’t, but overall the species are doing very well, probably thanks to thousands of nest boxes around the country.

Without a camera box I’d never have realised how tough nesting can be. Always assumed an empty nest meant they all got out ok, obviously things are a little more complicated. Anyway here’s hoping for lots of juicy green caterpillars come Spring 2016, otherwise I’m on the wine again 😉

Links from a far happier 2014 nesting….

  1. Week 1 in the Blue Tit Box
  2. Week 2 in the Blue Tit Box
  3. Week 3 have they gone yet?

Link to the box supplier Handykam if you fancy setting this up yourself!

Happier times - 2014 box with young chick

Happier times – 2014 box with young chick

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
This entry was posted in Random Stuff, Tit Cam - Blue Tit Nest and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Blog From The Blue Tit Box 2015 – Basic Instinct

  1. So this could well be why all our chicks seemed to end up dead in the garden 😦

    • Hi Chrissie, from observation usually once out of the box the chicks follow the parents, who try to keep them moving in case of predators. May take a day to get them any distance so not sure why you would find them dead in the garden. Could it be dead chicks that have previously been removed from the nest? Or maybe a parent has died so they stay around & starve. There’s some bird forums on the net which may help.

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