Blue Tit Big Brother

And other stories from the garden


The babies fledged over about two hours yesterday morning. The first one had gone before the recording started, but this film shows the rest of them going. I’ve managed to get it down to about ten minutes. The parents were in and out throughout and went back several times after the babies had gone, just to be sure!

Bye bye birdies

The blue tit chicks all fledged today. By the time the recorder came on (about 6:30 I think) one had already gone. It was well over two hours later by the time the last one left the nest box, with big gaps between each one. Which doesn’t really make for a nice snappy video clip I’m afraid! Besides, I’ve been out dancing and don’t have time to sort the video out this evening.

It’s late. They went on May 19th last year and on May 23rd in 2008. They’re 22 days old now, which is also the longest we’ve had them stay in the nest. They fledged at 20 days last year, and 19 the year before. We really expected them to go yesterday; they’d been jumping up and looking out at the world a lot the day before. Must be quite a sight when you’ve only ever seen the inside of wooden box.

Maybe we’ll try and get some film up tomorrow. There was a plan to post a bit the other day, but, er, technical difficulties resulted in everything we’ve ever recorded on the recorder’s hard drive disappearing 🙁

Growing fast

There are seven chicks and they’re looking very different in this film to the last one. Their eyes are open, they’re stretching their wings, competing for space and food, being fed very frequently. Oh yes, and pooing frequently too.

The chicks hatch

Turning the telly on this morning we saw a single chick in the nest. By the time I got home from work there were five. Or at least I think there were. They’re kind of difficult to count—but there were still three eggs of the eight left unhatched.

It’s later than we’ve had before, by a small margin. Last year they hatched on April 29, whilst in 2008 it was May 4. They’ve always managed to hatch whilst the recorder has been off before, but this year we recorded most of the day. So here’s some highlights.

We start off with one of the parents apparently eating the shell of a newly hatched chicks. Later one poor soul gets his head stuck in a shell for a good long while. This is seriously edited—he must have been left the shell on his head for a good eight minutes or so! There are four hatchings in here altogether, so it’s over 10 minutes of video.

Squillions of tadpoles

It has been a gorgeous, warm sunny day at last and I’ve had an afternoon in the garden! The pond is seething with tadpoles—there are great wriggling balls of them. This film only really shows them up where they are a bit more spread out.

The fritillaries are out and so are the comma butterflies

Fritillary and comma

And there are great clumps of primroses


Busy day

The blue tits have had a busy day nest building today. Here’s a few minutes out of their day:

And this is what they finished up with:

The nest

Spring almost arrived

I did mean to post something on Saturday, but I kind of got distracted. I feel I should record the events of Saturday though, if only so that in future years we can look back and see when it all happened.

So, as reported on Twitter, on Saturday 27th March we saw the first signs of nest building going on in the blue tit nestbox. And it was a blue tit doing the work—we have seen great tits in there earlier and the occasional squabble, but it seems to be the blue tits that have prevailed again. Last year the first nesting was a good bit earlier, on 16th March. But I’m not sure we can really blame the cold winter for this year’s late start as in 2008 it was 26th March.

Saturday was a gorgeous day. We went for our first kayak paddle of the year on the Avon. It was pleasantly warm, and after the rain the previous week the river was full and flowing fast. Not anticipating the warmth I had far too many layers on to be working so hard to get upstream. What a contrast today! It was about 3°C when I got up this morning, and not much warmer when I had a site meeting around lunchtime. Looking at the nestcam now I can’t help wondering if the birds have decided they got it all wrong—they seem to have dragged half the nesting material out again! Let’s hope they return and bring up another brood in the Blue Tit Big Brother House

Bully at the bird table

Fieldfare on the ground feeder

I made marmalade today—a rewarding but messy business that consequently involves a lot of time standing at the kitchen sink washing things up. The window by the kitchen sink looks out across the patio, where we have a ground feeder and various other things to attract birds.

The cold weather seems to have brought in a new visitor to our garden. A fieldfare, or so I’m told by people who know more about birds than I do (ie Sophie). And it’s a right bully.

It seems to have taken a liking to the apples that we put out for the blackbirds. It’s a fat looking thing, and you can tell why. All afternoon he’s done nothing but eat and fight off other birds. Sparrows, robins, blackbirds, starlings, none of them can get a look in. The ground feeder currently has several apples on it and large handfuls of suet and assorted seed. The fieldfare seems interested only in the apples, but he’s not letting anything else get close enough to eat the other stuff.


What do we do? Of course, the fieldfare is welcome to come and eat, but it seems determined to stop any of the regular visitors from eating at just the time when they most need to. Should we let nature take it’s course, or should we intervene somehow?


There seem to be an awful lot of butterflies around the garden at the moment. Moth on water mintMostly it’s white things fluttering around the nasturtiums but we’ve spotted the occasional more interesting butterfly. Or moth. I’m not even sure what the difference between butterflies and moths is, so no hope of working out the species!

This little beastie was on the water mint in the pond the other day. And this evening Sophie went out to get some chives for supper and spotted a tiny little blue butterfly.

Butterfly on chives

Which moved on later to the green house, giving us a glimpse of the top side of the wings

Butterfly on green house

If anyone can tell us what they are I’d love to know.

The Scilly excursion

Since this is a blog about the wildlife in our garden it seems only right to say a few words about the wildlife in our garden of the moment. Right now we’re on holiday and ‘our garden’ is the gorgeous St Martins Campsite on the Isles of Scilly. Brother fetching water in 1972I first came here 40 years ago, when fetching water meant taking the water container half a mile up the road in a rickety old push chair to pump spring water with an ancient pump in the farmhouse garden. The less said about the toilets the better! Nowadays there’s a fine and well kept toilet block with running water, and wi-fi throughout the campsite. But surprisingly little else has changed.

One of the delightful things about the islands is the wildlife. We’ve been out kayaking past puffins and over star fish, seen anenomes and crabs whilst snorkelling and been sized up by passing seals. But on the campsite itself there’s plenty to see too, and often at much closer quarters than usual.

ThrushThe birds are fearless. Sparrows, blackbirds and thrushes wander about the site scrounging, quite happy to eat the crumbs beneath your table whilst you’re still sitting at it, or helping with the washing up by picking the remaining grains out of your muesli bowl. Sophie managed to get a thrush to pick up cake from within about 15cm of her, though it wouldn’t quite take that final step and eat from her hand. swallow in flight

Swallows dart about the campsite at low altitude feeding. Up at the farm barn there’s a nest and the adults seem quite happy to dart in and out whilst Ben, one the campsite owners, works on his landrover. This photo is a couple of days old now—when we walked past yesterday most of the chicks had moved out to sit on rafters or the light fitting. On our way back a few hours later one or two had returned to the nest and were being fed.

Swallows nest

Even the campsite sward looks as if it might be interesting flower in swardto those that know about these things; which doesn’t include me. I recognize the eggs and bacon, but I’ve no idea what this little flower is.

In far too few days time we will have to make our way back home. But the journey, too, can bring encounters with wildlife. In the past we have seen both dolphins and basking sharks from the ferry back to the mainland, and some friends we met here have just told us that they have seen minke whales on the journey.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Feed on: