As you can see from the above picture, the first blackbird egg has been laid! Since my my most recent post about the blackbird nest, there has been very little activity at the nest site. I assumed this was because the female finished building the nest but wasn't yet ready to lay eggs, although I did worry that, because I hadn't seen her for about a week, she might have changed her mind about laying there.
It turns out I was worrying over nothing. When I went to make a cup of tea at 8am, I glanced out of the window and I was thrilled to see the shape of the female blackbird sitting on her nest. Her fan-shaped tail was what alerted me and I could also just about make out the top of her head. Through binoculars I was able to spot her eye and beak as well. Of course, it was great to see her back at the nest site and I knew the possibility of her having laid an egg was extremely high; this realisation really ramped up my level of excitement.
When I came back from Chichester this afternoon, (I'm a volunteer on the Chichester Cathedral Peregrines project, more on that in a future post) I had a quick peek at the hedge she's occupying and saw that she was away from the nest. I'm fortunate to be able to see inside the nest quite easily, by standing on a chair and using my handheld camera. I always make sure I am in no way at risk of disturbing the nest or damaging it; you can tell by the quality of the photos I'm getting that I'm only sticking my arm into the hedge. There it was, a bright blue egg speckled with brownish-red spots! Well done, Mrs Blackbird. I'm glad I was able to confirm that she has started laying as these are all observations that I can list for the BTO Nest Box Challenge. If only the long-tailed tits would make it so easy for me to see inside!
One thing that really did concern me was that, since taking the above photo at around 2pm, I haven't yet seen the female return to incubate the egg. This was worrying as I was sure that several hours of exposure would make the egg far too cold. I did some reading up on this subject and confirmed from several sources that blackbirds don't start full incubation periods until all of the clutch has been laid and even then, the vast majority of incubation is done by the female with only the occasional bout of help from the male. I'm expecting an egg a day to be laid until she has between three and five so hopefully by Easter Monday, I will see her begin incubation properly.