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Blue Tit's Nest

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Old Wednesday 30th April 2003, 18:37   #1
LezH
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Blue Tit's Nest

Having just returned from a 'mixed-bag break' down (or perhaps that should read 'breakdown') in West Sussex, where most things that could go wrong did just that - though at least the weather was good - I thought I'd try posting a photo of our little family in the making. A pair of blue tits have decided to brave my carpentry and set up house. I'm pleased to report that, unlike myself after crouching at the curtain for endless hours watching them, they seem in great shape. I, on the other hand, look like Max Wall but I expect I'll straighten up eventually. The black tights are just a fun thing...

What was particularly rewarding about the nest (and the three eggs it contained by the first day of my Easter break - one-and-a-bit visible in the photo), was seeing how my previous autumn laziness, leaving masses of fading lobelia hanging like straw wigs on their troughs and pots 'for the birds', had been completely vindicated. As you can see in the photos, quite a lot of the stuff has been used in the construction. I would have thought the birds could have used it all and not have left quite so much for me to pull out this Spring, but you can't have everything. Next year I'll supervise!

Even more gratifying was the sight of Japanese Akita hair being used as a liner and insulation. My old boy Franklin could moult for England (or Japan) and I often wonder if there will be a dog left at the end of the process. In late February I compressed a carrier-bag load of his hair into the coconut shell that hangs in the cherry tree and I would imagine there will be some pretty hot chicks (can't wait!) in a few weeks' time. Akita hair is wonderfully warm and, if the fledgelings grow up smelling ever-so-slightly of a large powerful canine, it might give a marauding cat just enough to think about to mean the birds get an extra micro-second to escape. I like to think so anyway...

By the time I returned to London last Tuesday week, there were eight tiny white and slightly translucent eggs with pretty brown speckles like a dusting of Easter-chocolate. Much too small for an omlette so I left them there.

My next-door neighbour, with utter selfishness, has gone on holiday and had the cheek to take her digital camera with her, so you'll have to take my word for the extra five eggs.

By the time I get back this weekend, car permitting, I expect to be deafened by the noise of demand feeding.

Lez
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Old Tuesday 6th May 2003, 12:17   #2
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Follow-up

A quick update on my Blue Tit family: the clutch eventually grew to 10 eggs as far as I could tell and, by yesterday, there were at least 5 chicks hatched: little pink blobs with wobbly tops.

The 2 strongest were quick to raise their open beaks when I lifted the lid of the nestbox to take a quick snap. Unfortunately, my neighbour having wrested her posh camera from my vice-like grip, I am reduced to using a very cheap pencam; you can see just how cheap by the result.

No birds were harmed in the making of this picture.

Lez
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Old Tuesday 6th May 2003, 15:47   #3
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And what a wonderful picture it is! Hope all works out well. Keep us posted please!
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Old Sunday 11th May 2003, 21:45   #4
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I thought it was a pretty good picture myself, so how big are the new additions? Have you managed to take any more pictures?
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Old Tuesday 13th May 2003, 08:07   #5
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Further update

Thanks for your kind remarks about the chix pix. I suppose the pen-cam image is as good as you'd get with a pen-cam but it doesn't begin to compare with most of the stuff in BF Gallery.

Anyway, you're obviously thirsting for more so I've attached a pictorial update. The whole brood is now hatched but, even though it would seem to be a simple matter of counting either the wings and dividing by 2 or the beaks, I'm not exactly sure of how many there are. I can definitely see eight but I think there may be one or two more than that.

As you can see they are all, as you'd expect, in a little huddle and now it looks as though they've been spray-painted with blue-grey felt finish, it's difficult to tell where one chick ends and another begins.

Anyway, without getting too technical, they're very cute.

Lez
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 12:43   #6
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Final update?

Hi.

Here is the latest and possibly last update on my little blue tit family. I say little, but that can only apply to the birds themselves. With the adult pair and nine or ten chicks, the size of the family is positively Victorian.

The primary feathers can be seen on the top bird and I expect they will be leaving the nest by this Thursday or very soon after.

Not having done this before, I wonder if anyone can answer a couple of questions for me...

After their 'maiden' flight, do the chicks return to the nest to sleep - and if so, how long does that go on for?

Are the adults likely to breed again and, if they are, would they use the same nest. I understand that the actual nest-making process is an important part of the whole breeding programme so perhaps they would want the first nest removed so they can build another?

I'd be grateful for any advice.

Thanks,

Lez.
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 13:01   #7
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It's been great reading through this thread LezH, and following the story of your little nestlings.

May I point out, however, that you have unfortunately missed the final "g" of the attachement name (perhaps it was truncated) so I can't download it.

If anyone out there can't wait for LezH to make the small correction, if you are using a suitable system, you should be able to right-click on the link and "Save as" remembering to add the "g" yourself to the file name. Then, if you have .jpg viewing software, you can double-click for the final photo.

Well worth it!!!
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 13:22   #8
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Thanks birdman.

My previous edit was to try and correct the problem - obviously to no avail! I'm having all sorts of trouble with graphics and imaging on my laptop at the moment but I'll assume the filename's too long and that's creating the trouble.

I've tried shortening it and reposting and it now seems to work okay.

Lez
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 17:40   #9
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Thanks so much for the pictorial version of this family growing up! It's been wonderful and I'll be you'll miss them like crazy when they leave!
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Old Tuesday 20th May 2003, 20:43   #10
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Once the babies leave the nest, that's it, they won't return. The parents won't have a second brood either. They sometimes try again if the first brood fails. Your blue tits are more advanced than mine. I have only six babies who hatched last Thursday. Did you know that each baby has about 30 feeds a day, they are in the nest for about 20 days, multiplied by 10 babies - 6000 feeds!! The parents really work hard and it doesn't stop when they leave the nest.
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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 09:06   #11
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LMG

Thanks for your help and interesting statistics. I knew it was damned hard work but 6000 meals is something even McDonalds would be impressed by. Perhaps I'll set up a PIR counter next time out of interest (at the same time as I make my cat an electronic bleep collar!).

As you're obviously an old hand at this, do you know what happens next: do they have a 'family tree' where they all roost on their designated branches ('Night John-boy', 'Night ma', 'Night Jenny', 'Night pa' ...) or do they just all go their separate ways and take their chances? And are they monogamous?

Thanks again.

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Old Wednesday 21st May 2003, 12:24   #12
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Tammie

Thanks for following the family saga. Yes I shall be sad when they leave: doubtless I'll shed nine or ten tiny tears - and two slightly larger ones - and make a determined effort to keep the feeders full.

Lez
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 19:01   #13
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LezH:
I'm not sure what they do when they leave the nest. Many parents (like the great spotted woodpeckers and blackbirds) split the brood up and each parent looks after each half separately. Blue tits though, seem to stay together. They flit from one tree to another and back to the feeding station. I can't tell one blue tit from another, so I don't know if they are monogamous. I'd like to think they were. Perhaps someone else knows?
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Old Friday 23rd May 2003, 23:22   #14
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Interesting again LMG. Thanks. A case for ringing perhaps (don't worry, not by me).

When I was a kid we used to ring our breeding budgies. Of course it was a controlled environment (though a pretty big aviary) but it was fascinating nevertheless to watch the lineage as is spread through passing generations. I can't remember much about it now after all those years but I recall there was a numbered ring on one leg (breeder's number, I think) and combined coloured rings on the other denoting the family information. My granddad used to sell them for 7s 6d (37.5p) for a cock and 5s (25p) for a hen and he'd cry every time one was sold. It was hardly enough to keep the birds in seed, even in those days!

By the way (nothing to do with blue tits!), for those that don't know, 'budgerigar' is, I believe, from the aboriginal 'betcherry gah' (almost certainly spelt wrong!) which means 'good to eat'.

Doubtless there will now be a torrent from down under (a most unfortunate turn of phrase) telling me I'm talking through my billabong...
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Old Monday 2nd June 2003, 09:14   #15
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Hi All

There has been a little discussion behind the scenes, between a few of the moderators about this thread.
While I appreciate that these bird were not disturbed and that the chicks successfully fledged, (did they?) the view of a few others and myself is that this was perhaps a little unnecessary. Obviously you were careful not to disturb the birds, but I personally would not want other people perhaps with less experience of birds thinking that it is ok to whip the lid of the box regularly throughout the nesting season, and take pictures.

The fact that you are unnecessarily ‘risking’ disturbing them, is perhaps the issue, there is not doubt that in this case there was little if any disturbance. But is it really worth the risk just for a photo?
Perhaps the main point is that we would not wish to encourage other people to do this.

I hope you’re not offended and that this slight criticism is not taken harshly.
I would only ask you to consider not just the birds, but also other factors and consequences.

All the best

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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 18:12   #16
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Hi.

I was disappointed to discover that my thread had raised hackles, ruffled feathers or at least caused mild consternation among the birding fraternity. Anyone reading my posts would, I hope, see that it wouldn't be my intention to create harm to any wildlife or to upset or offend anyone (well I'm not too worried about giving offence, the wife chips in. Thank you darling).

Having said that, though I'm not desperately anxious to 'defend my corner' - if I'm in the wrong then so be it and I'm sorry - I'm not convinced that the detractors are right. (I should say at this point that a healthy brood of 9 sturdy blue-tit chicks left the nest last Sunday week - before I got up, wouldn't you know, so I missed it! - leaving just one, presumably, infertile egg behind, for which I'm almost certainly to blame?).

I was watching Bill Oddie last week (who wasn't? - UK reference only!) and he was talking about the decline in Blue Tit numbers and, generally, the reduction in clutch size, so I was pleased to think that I had, in some small way, helped contribute to redressing that (im)balance. Laudable, but so what? you may ask.

[Indeed, you may well ask. Where was I? Damned phone! Oh yes...]

Now I know that building a nestbox and opening a nestbox (at no time did I 'whip it open' in the inferred sense!) are two different things and aren't mutually inclusive, but I did view this as a little project which I, perhaps misguidedly, thought others might enjoy sharing through the medium of humanely and carefully-taken pictures - albeit of indifferent quality. Going by the number of views to this thread, I'm either not entirely unjustified in that opinion or there are any number of 'Very Angry Indeeds' from Tunbridge Wells with pens poised even as I write. This 'project-based' approach was part of the whole motivation for me; I'm not saying that I wouldn't have built the nestbox otherwise but it's on the cards I may not quite have gotten round to it (too right, cries the wife, you don't finish anything. Thanks again, my angel).

So, to summarise, what's happened? I became enthused, provided a home for a family of Blue Tits along with a certain level of protection and dog hair, shared the joy with millions (well, a few) via the magic of poor photography and the Internet and helped put 9 strong birds into the next generation.

What might be the result of that?

[Positive thinkers read this paragraph]. I think next year I'll do that. I'll read all the dos and don'ts so I know not to disturb the nest unduly (just in case I'm completely devoid of any common-sense or imagination whatsoever), and help raise the numbers and profile of an attractive species of bird that may, at least locally, be in decline. Heck, I might even involve the kids if I can get them away from watching people kill each other on the TV for long enough.

[And for the negativists...]. What a great idea! I'll spend time and money building a nestbox for the sole purpose of either waving the lid about so it won't even be occupied, waiting for the nest to be built/eggs to be laid so I can scare off the nesting birds, or getting my kids to do something murderous to the chicks should events reach that point - always provided of course I can get the kids away from watching people kill each other on the TV for long enough.

In short, an individual can't be held responsible for the actions of others (leaders of governments et al exempt); the only way to do that is for everyone to do nothing which is just as daft. And what would happen to the disciples of chaos theory, poor souls! I can only hope that the ill-intentioned will be far outnumbered by the well-intentioned. Okay, so the way the world is, said hope makes the word 'folorn' seem positive, but may I be allowed one tiny illusion. Does the twitcher (I believe the word 'unnecessary' was levelled at my activity? - puts on tin hat, flak-jacket and assumes the prone position!) think, before paging the rare sighting to all and sundry, 'Hold on, this call will result in a massive burning of fossil-fuel, possible accidents as the others come a-speeding, a peaceful country scene ruined by the tramp of multiple muddy Gortex, egg thieves gunning it down the M1...'? Do we stop giving to Oxfam because a possible outcome is that some mad despot somewhere might end up with another palace while the people still starve'? There could be more examples than available space - but you catch my drift.

Having not been anxious to 'defend my corner' but having actually done so ad nauseum, I've only one more thing to say on the subject...

... which I will do after dinner - unless the BF Hit Squad arrive with the feathered gag (heaven forbid) first.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 18:46   #17
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I say Redwing I think the term "unessasary" is a bit hash. I would argee that there should have been a "dont try this at home" type warning for those people may try to do the same by simply lifting the lid to take pictures, but I think its obvious to most of us that Lez, has not done this, and has put considerable effort into creating a set-up to capture this event without causing any harm to the birds. (although it dont seem to have done his back much good. Try a webcam next year to cut out the back strain)

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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 19:32   #18
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The Moderators did discuss this issue at some length and it was felt that while Lez has taken reasonable steps in the manner in which he obtained his photos, other less experienced / researched members may try a similar thing with less successful results.

Certainly a webcam installed from the outset or a simple board camera connected to a TV/video card as I have in a nest box, will disturb the birds less.

Bird Forum doesn't condone the disturbance of any nesting birds, which has on several occasions caused 'ruffled feathers' with members. Not because we thought they were reckless/careless, it's just that we don't want to encourage others less experienced to do the same. Normally photos of nesting birds will be removed from the site.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 20:53   #19
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Perhaps I could have worded my post differently and I hope it did not cause offence, that was not the intention and I hoped I had been careful about that.
As Ian said the only concern was that other less knowledgeable members might try to obtain similar pictures.

If this discussion has draw attention to the consequences of doing this with less planning and knowledge then that’s exactly what I/we wanted to achieve.

Rich
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 21:45   #20
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As I was the moderator that initiated the discussion on this thread, I am going to put my 2 cents in here.

LezH, no one doubted your sincerity in this "project". My concern was that the less experienced member would think it was the normal thing to do and in a search for that photo, would try it and possibly cause a great deal of stress to the parents and leave the nestlings vunerable by leaving a scent for a predator to find the baby birds.

I think there are more than a few members here that can attest to hatchlings being taken and nests destroyed only a short period of time after the nest was visited by a human.

The fact that your hatchlings did so well is a testament to you for providing the nestbox and nesting material and keeping a watchful eye.

What we are trying to stress here is that it is not something that should be done by the inexperienced and/or for a photograph to post.

I do hope you understand where we are coming from on this issue.
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Old Wednesday 4th June 2003, 23:43   #21
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I surrender!!!
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Old Thursday 5th June 2003, 00:40   #22
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Aw LezH, your joy over your Blue tits was palpable and did not escape any of us. Thanks
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