Last breaths

It is just after 10am as I begin to write this and at the moment there is a very sad picture in our Camera Nestbox. The last two remaining chicks are lying in the bottom of the nest cup on their sides. They are just breathing – I can see them move up and down with just the faintest of moments. They also have some company and unfortunately it is not the parents – there are two flies crawling over them. Perhaps the third last chick was not removed when it died later yesterday and has drawn the flies in.

The Camera in our Nestbox has given us a rare insight into any bird that builds a nest and attempts to raise chicks – there is so much more work involved than we ever imagined. I am in no doubt, as a gardener for many years, that the changes in temperatures this year with the hot dry April (very unusual for my part of Scotland) and the very cool wet May have had a knock on effect on the flowering of my plants and in turn the availability of food for our Blue Tits.

Nestbox Update: The Blue Tit female has just entered the nest and dealt with the flies – what a surprise to see her. I had no idea whether she would return at all now. I am very glad the flies are gone now as one chick is still slowly breathing. She looked into the nest cup at the chicks and briefly looked for other bugs beside them. I recorded her visit which lasted almost three minutes. As I wondered if she would return again – I have just heard her at the entrance calling to the male. I have to say in had been fascinating to see the communication that goes on between them. She has just briefly returned again and looked over and had a peck at the chicks. She then turned and looked to the entrance hole in a way that she has done before when she has looked for the male to join her to show him something. How amazing nature is.

I have considered that although this breeding season is over for our Blue Tits, they only have one brood each year, that on a more positive note other birds may have an extra brood. It will be very interesting to see the results of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2008 as I have heard many stories of other failed Blue Tit broods and unused Nestboxes. I have also heard that this spring fewer Blue Tits have been seen in gardens.

Nestbox Update: The Blue Tit female has just returned again and chased of another fly and I never saw that one! As she jumped about the nest she seems to have disturbed the chicks and I can now see that they are both moving a little. She has left and I can see another fly walking on top of the nest! I can also see the dead, third last, chick which will be attracting them. I know it is just a matter of time now. She returned again and removed another fly – I saw it in her mouth. I wonder how many more visits she will make and if the male will join her at any point. As I was about to publish this the male came in with a beautiful bright green caterpillar – he left with it calling to the female. I now wonder if they will visit together and if they will eventually remove the last chicks. I will look in again on the box this evening.

Selecting pieces of video has been quite tricky sometimes but I have many more clips that I haven’t shown. I will look through them all and perhaps over the weekend show some more of this wonderful insight into nature and a Nesting Blue Tit pair.

22 thoughts on “Last breaths

  1. Shirl,we are so sorry about your bluetits. Down in Fife we are more fortunate. Our two bluetit boxes have live chicks being frequently fed by both parents.By the way how do you tell mum from dad?
    Our birds have had to survive a neighbours’ cat climbing on top of the box and trying to force its paw through the entrance.We are hoping they fledge OK. How long is it from hatching to fledging?

  2. What a shame that it has not worked out this time. The weather has been bad for raising bird babies. 🙁

    Do bluetits nest only once in Scotland? Over here they nest twice sometimes 3 times a year. My dad now has the second batch of bluetit eggs in his nestingbox.

  3. Hi again, Doug, Jackie and Yolanda,

    Thanks for your comments – we are all sorry here too. It is strange to switch on the PC and not look in on the Nestbox.

    Doug and Jackie,

    I am delighted to hear that both your Blue Tit Nestboxes have chicks getting plenty of food – especially when you are in Fife and perhaps not that far away.

    I am not sure how you will tell Mum from Dad as we could see inside the box when Mum was in there. Our male could be seen perched outside waiting for her – he was also chubbier.

    Sorry to hear you’ve had a curious cat at your box – we had Starlings when the female was in there! She reacted to them by sitting in the nest facing the entrance. She then leaned back and forward opening and closing her beak towards the entrance like she was trying to catch flies – tough little thing!

    I am not certain how long it is from hatching to fledging – but I have just looked up the overview page of Elizabeth and Malcolm’s Blue Tit pages, one of my links, and calculated an average for you. From first hatching to fledging it could be 29 days. We wish your chicks well and also hope they fledge okay – good luck.


    I agree – the cold wet days did not help our chicks at all especially when May is usually so warm here.

    Yes, sadly Blue Tits only nest once in Scotland and the rest of the UK too. How interesting to hear that in the Netherlands they can have up to three broods in a year. Best wishes for the broods in your Dad’s Nestbox.

  4. Hi Pete, thanks – so are we.

    It does seem to be a bad year from what I have heard. I haven’t managed to see all of Springwatch with Bill Oddie has he mentioned it at all?

  5. I don’t remember it being mentioned. there boxes seemed to go early.

    But I’ve heard of lots of blue tit boxes failing. I wonder if it was the warm april coupled with a lousey april that caused it? Great Tits don’t seem to have been hit so badly.

  6. Sorry to hear about your babies dying.This is our first year with a camera box and we have watched with joy the rearing of 5 out of 6 strong chicks.Then, two days ago they began to sicken, and 2 or maybe now 3 have died.I think they may have starved as we have seen very little live food being brought in.I thought they ate caterpillars. We have only seen two of these,and the other food looked more like chunks of fat. Anyway here’s hoping.Jo

  7. Our two families are still doing well, but one gets fewer feeds. we put out a fat/seed ball and the less frequent feeding parents thought this ‘fast food’ option a marvellous idea! However I am not so sure. The older family didn’t touch the new food, sticking to live morsals, and having read Jo’s comment and checked the RSPB site I am going to let them fend for themselves. Here’s hoping for two successful fledgings

  8. Hi again, Hope you’ve had a good day at the garden show. Checked our other nestbox where I thought the blue tits had flown. No such luck -four dead babies.My friend then found three dead in hers. What a tragic season. I blame the early hot weather. There are no aphids, caterpillars or any bugs at all in my garden, and that is most unusual at this time of year. If my two remaining chicks do leave the nest what will they live on? Jo

  9. Hi again Pete,

    That’s what I thought – the Springwatch Blue Tit chicks went early. I think they probably got the food etc when it was still warm – its good though to hear that some have survived.

    What about the owl chicks on Springwatch the other night where the larger chick ate the smaller one. Imagine if you caught that footage in a box in your own garden!!

    Yes, the Great Tits have a better year it seems and they have more than one brood – don’t they? They are so handsome.

  10. Hi there Jo,

    I was just about to answer your first comment when the second came in.

    Thank-you, we were all sad too when our first chicks in our first year of a camera Nestbox died so quickly.

    We too were concerned that not enough live food went into our box – at a guess I would have to say that the fat cake helped a little as the chicks were definitely much livelier after they ate some.

    I was so sorry to read your second comment! I definitely agree about the bugs etc on plants – my garden appears to have less too. You know, I have just thought too that I haven’t seen as many spiders’ webs either.

    Thinking about your last two chicks – yes food for them could be scarce. Sadly, I have to suggest that chicks can die within a day of fledging too – even when they look like they are okay. However, I will be positive for yours and wish them good luck and good food!!

    Thank-you I had a good day at the show although I was a tad disappointed with some of the gardens and no plants jumped out at me this year! However, I didn’t come home empty handed as my hunt for silver plants for a shadier spot was successful – it’s great to see selections from the nurseries that take part in shows.

    Good luck again for your Blue Tit chicks – what a shame that both you and your friend have lost chicks too.

  11. Hi again, Doug and Jackie

    I was delighted to hear that your two families are doing well – especially when I am still hearing of so many Blue Tit chicks that are dying.

    Yesterday, I was in New Hopetoun Garden Centre, near South Queensferry, and heard bad news for Blue Tit chicks there too. They had six chicks and the other day they started to die and today when I popped in on the way back from the Garden Show I saw only two left. They have a Nestbox high on a tree outside with a camera and a TV inside beside the bird foods etc. The chicks looked well to me but you just don’t know. You would think that the Blue Tit here would have their pick of bugs etc with all the plants, being in a wood and all the hedgerows that are close by! BTW what a great idea to have a box at a garden centre – I bet it was Leslie Watson’s idea.

    I had a fat cake in my garden already and when I saw the Blue Tit’s take food from there I added more as they weren’t taking the live mealworms I put out. If it was the right thing to do I do not know – but the chicks seemed to really brighten up after being fed it.

    I really wish your chicks all the very best!!

  12. Well Shirl, I don’t understand it. We must have our own little micro eco system here in Dunfermline.Live food keeps going in, I have seen greenfly on the apple trees and the blue tits are getting something good off the blackcurrants.I have been bitten all over by something whilst out weeding this evening and am feeling quite positive for the blue tits’ nutrition. Glad you enjoyed the garden show. We went to the new Dobie’s,worth a visit and no bridge to cross!

  13. Hi again, Doug & Jackie

    I am delighted to hear that your garden has enough to sustain the appetites of young Blue Tit chicks! I really do wish them well.

    Evening weeding doesn’t exactly go with young teenagers – but I can remember the evening midge …. ahhh I am itching at the thought of it!!!

    Yes, I have enjoyed a number of visits to your new Dobbies already!! I am sure it will do very well indeed where it is located. But …. another favourite of mine is Fairley’s in Cairney Hill. I have a lot of favourites though. I still remember my first visits to Bridgemere Garden World near Nantwich many years ago – I’m sure I still have plants that I bought there yet – via cuttings etc.

  14. Hi shirl, Doug has just had a bonus birthday present,the first brood fledged this morning. I have seen at least four young but what a difference in maturity as evidenced by their plumage and flying abilities.The smallest doesn’t really seem ready for the outside world yet and will have to learn quickly about feline danger.I can hardly tear myself away from the action to join our own young for doug’s birthday bash!

  15. Good Morning,and it is. Just wanted to let you know that our two remaining chicks flew the nest this morning.This was 20 days from hatching I think. It has been so interesting watching them on camera, and I’m delighted that so far they’ve managed reproduce themselves, if you see what I mean. Perhaps some birds have flown from the other nests I mentioned. I feel I have been a bit pessimistic and maybe this is what happens in Nature – the survival of the fittest.I have spent a considerable amount of time watching my kitchen t.v. and now perhaps will be able to get the house and garden organised ! – still I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.I’ve learned so much.
    Best wishes to you.Keep up the blog and post those photos you mentioned. Thank you so much. Jo

  16. Hi again, Doug and Jackie

    I am just catching up on mail now – I am delighted to hear of the successful fledging of your Blue Tit chicks. As you may have read above, Jo has been lucky with two chicks fledging also! So good news all round.

    We were lucky last year to have had five chicks from our terrace box so I can picture what you will be seeing now. They look fluffy and more greenish than blue at the moment don’t they? Feline danger – yes I worried about that last year and the visits we were getting from a young Sparrowhawk. I expect your chicks will be sticking together coming to the feeders in a group. I remember that they stayed longer at the feeders when the other birds were spooked showing no signs of any instincts of danger!

    I wish your young Blue Tits well and I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy watching them – grow up!! I would also like to wish Doug a belated Happy Birthday – I will imagine you went on to have a great day.

  17. Good Evening, Jo

    I hope this finds you still the optimist and finally getting your life back after the Nestbox journey – I know exactly what you mean! I too enjoyed the journey despite having a somewhat different ending than yours – however I will be optimistic for next year.

    I was delighted to hear your good news that the last two blue tit chicks managed to fledge from your Nestbox. It must have been great to see – did you see the parents feed them in your garden after? Thanks for sharing your Nestbox story.

    I will definitely keep up the blog – so do visit again. I was busy at the weekend and didn’t mange to look through my Nestbox video’s – was it them or my garden photos you would like to see?

  18. Hi Shirl, It was the garden photos I was interested in.I seem to have recorded 20 D.V.D.’s of my own birds which should be enough if I have withdrawal symptoms !Thanks,Jo

  19. Hi again, Jo

    Twenty DVD’s – WOW!! I forgot you had a camera too – I have yet to sort and edit my footage to DVD. No, I don’t suppose you will have withdrawal symptoms 😉

    Some days I can take 200 photos in my garden – and it is small! My difficulty is in choosing the ones to show. I love to look through them on the PC – I am having great fun with my camera and will now have a good record of my plants and when they have flowered. I will post more photos soon.

  20. The second box is now empty of blue tits. we missed the exodus so don’t know how many there were.We are tempted to get one with a camera next year but the addiction factor is a concern.
    Shirl your garden pictures are a joy to see. We will continue to visit your site.

  21. Hi again, Doug and Jackie

    Delighted to hear you’ve had a second brood of chicks fledge – pity you missed them go. We missed ours from our Terrace box last year, however, we did get to see them in the garden at the feeders after.

    Having the camera has been great. We hadn’t planned to get one this year but I am so glad we did. Is it addictive? Well, perhaps a little – looking in the Nestbox became the first thing I did when I switched on the PC! As Jo has said, it is fascinating and you do learn so much.

    Thank-you, I am glad you like to see my garden pictures – you will now be able to see more on shirls plantphotos. I am thoroughly enjoying taking them all. It is nice to know that you will continue to visit as I had thought I might loose visitors now the Nestbox is finished.

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