Our garden is visited by many birds and each year we’ve enjoyed watching them on the bird feeders. House martins have nested in the gable ends of the house and given us splendid aerial displays. Pheasants are regular visitors, Other birds have also made nests, some in bird boxes and this year we got a new blue tit box – one with a camera and waited to see whether it would be occupied.
We were lucky, as one blue tit spotted it and she started to occupy it, flying in and out and pecking the edges of the hole. For a while she was on her own. She spent quite a lot of time knocking with her beak on the walls of the box and then a male came flying in and joined her hopping around the box to inspect it. They looked so funny as their feet skidded on the smooth floor of the box, but then they began to bring in bits of plant material, scattering it around, then re-arranging it haphazardly. And then they removed all of it and I thought they’d decided to go elsewhere – but no, they came back and more material appeared and then they took it all out. This went on for a while.
I wondered if this was normal and decided I needed to find out more about their nesting habits. After checking several bird websites, I found this little book – Blue Tits in My Nest Box by David Gains, a mine of information.
And I was relieved to read that this was exactly what the blue tits in his bird box did too. I breathed a sigh of relief and waited to see what would happen next. It’s the female that does most of the nest building And she kept on bringing in more plant material and feathers, tossing it all around, then sitting in the middle of the mass, holding out her wings and shuffling round and round, she made a hollow with her body.
This doesn’t look like the nests you see on TV wildlife programmes, but eventually she was satisfied with it and laid her eggs. We were so excited as one by one five little featherless chicks hatched. Sadly one of them died and we had to remove it from the nest. In the photo below you can see their open mouths as they waved the heads around when the adult birds came in to feed them. The fourth bird was smaller than the others – you can just see its little mouth behind the others. I’m sure it didn’t get as much as the others as they jumped on top of it to get fed!
As they got bigger they began to flatten the nest, jumping up and down, trying out their wings. Eventually the day came when one by one they left the nest until there was just the smallest one left. It kept trying to jump up to the hole and I didn’t think it was big enough to survive outside, but it made it. And we next saw them in the garden on the bird feeders and trees, fluttering their wings and opening their beaks as the parents continued to feed them.
I began writing this post earlier this year when the blue tits were hatching and never finished it. I spent so much time watching what was going on in the nest I got so behind with everything. It was fascinating.