Sunday, 22 March 2015

Flying Teaspoons and Blackbird DIY

 Nest construction is well under way in our garden. I'll begin with the apex nest box in our oak tree which housed a family of blue tits last year. This year I have observed both blues and great tits inspecting the box and gradually I began to see only the greats popping in and out. Yesterday the greats started to bring in nesting materials, their beaks stuffed with moss, which is a promising sign and exactly what I'd hoped for. I obviously did a decent enough job of clearing out the box.

Over the past week or so, I have noticed a female blackbird spending quite a lot of time in one of the bushes just across from our kitchen window and I wondered whether she might be building a nest there. Balancing on a chair, I ventured a peek through the branches and saw that I was right! A very neat, well-shaped nest it is too. I managed to take a few snaps, though not particularly good ones but enough to see inside and spot the mud lining. She has been back and forth with new materials since I discovered it and watching her sitting and squashing everything down has been wonderful.
Based on when I originally saw nest material start to appear on this site, I have estimated that she has been building for around a week and a half which suggests that she should more or less be done now. I am really hoping that she does choose to lay a clutch of eggs as I will be able to monitor her progress and make observations. With the visibility of the nest site being so clear, I am keen to watch the eggs hatch and the chicks fledge and hang around to be fed by their parents. We shall see what the next few weeks hold!

Today, I actually discovered another new nest site and this was purely by chance. I happened to be taking a photo of a patch of primroses at the edge of our driveway when a "chuck chuck" sound caught my attention and brought my gaze up, where a long-tailed tit, affectionately known as flying teaspoons (!) was perched on an overhanging branch, its beak filled with a white, fluffy material that looked to me like cotton wool. I stood up slowly, keeping my eyes on the bird and watched it flit around, still chuck chucking before it flew inside the hedgerow in front of me. It didn't seem particularly fazed by my which is surprising, given that they are quite a timid species. I was stood very still and quiet so it's likely it didn't know I was still there. 

It was soon joined by another long-tail and the pair of them chuck chucked for a while before darting out of the hedge. I waited for them to leave the area before I had a look at their handiwork, as I didn't want them to become distressed. From what I could see, they are at the very early stages of building a nest as there was a layer of moss, some feathers and leaves starting to form the foundations. Long-tails are similar to wrens in that they build a dome-like structure that fully surrounds them and their chicks. Although there were no signs of a dome just yet, I will most certainly be keeping my eyes on their progress. It can take up to three weeks before they complete it so it will be interesting to see how it takes shape.  
The nest site is quite well-hidden in dense vegetation so the chance of predation is unlikely, though the threat is always there, no matter the location. I'm pleased that they've chosen a spot where I will be able to observe them with relative ease. In the below photo, you can see one of the pair leaving the hedge; the nest is located in the top right section.
I read up on the nesting and breeding habits of long-tails and I am quite amazed that they can lay between eight and fifteen eggs in one clutch! I wouldn't have thought such a compact nest structure would be enough to house that many chicks, once they all hatch out.

I have registered both of these new nests with the BTO Nest Box Challenge as I can monitor the progress of them with relative ease. I now have three nest sites and more importantly, three different nesting species to observe so, assuming they all successfully lay eggs in their chosen spots, I will be kept quite busy!

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