Great Tit Nesting Log – 2020

Great Tit Nest – 2020 – ‘THE LAST POST’

As promised just one final post, obviously ‘The Last Post’, to conclude the Great Tit Nest blog for 2020.

The nest remains empty and the adults and chicks are now out and about. I have seen them, and more often heard them, during the day in the garden. At one point the adult was feeding one of the chicks from a fat ball on the bird feeder. All good signs that things are progressing well. The weather promises to be nice for the next week so I think that they will have every chance.

With the fledging I have been able to complete my table below, the first year for which I have all the info. A scientific upside to staying at home.

I had a look at the inside of the box today, pictured below.

I removed the nest material and had a prod around just to see if there were any traces of the two unhatched eggs. I confirm that they were nowhere to be seen. I last saw one of the eggs intact on Day 46 so I assume that since then they must have been crushed and the contents eaten. It happens.

So that is the end of the Great Tit Nest Blog 2020. I do have some other nature projects under preparation, one of which is a Hedgehog box with a nesting compartment. So if you are interested stay subscribed to the blog and I may post some news as and when it arrives.

Many thanks to you all for following and for your always lovely comments. It’s been a real pleasure for me to be able to share the story with you.

I’ll finish with a slideshow of the nest Box photos from Day 1 to 56, the full story in under 2 minutes.

Many Thanks Again.


Day 56 – Wednesday 13/05/20

Weather : Dry day, sunny although still quite cold and windy.

Notes : Good news Blog followers. I can confirm that all five chicks are gone, successfully fledged today. The story of the day requires some telling.

I was anticipating that the action may happen quite early but actually the first chick did not leave until around 12:05 with all chicks having left by 13:20.

The first two left one following the other, the event captured in the first video below. We can see that the chicks were really bouncing around the nest and beginning to crowd the nest hole. At this point both adults enter the nest to feed. As the second adult leaves the first chick follows, after a very short hesitation in the nest hole. Then after a gap of around 30 seconds the second chick goes.

It was a difficult day to get good pictures on the exterior cameras as they are triggered by movement and the wind was constantly blowing the bushes. However I did manage to get the moment of this first departure.

From the outside view we see the second adult leave followed by the first chick. The chick is obviously a bit less sure footed as it lands in the bush but quickly manages to follows its’ parent away.

This left three chicks in the nest and they had a good think about it for half an hour before the third chick departed at 12:30.

The last two chicks then hesitated for another 30 minutes before the 4th chick left at 13:12 leaving just one in the box.

I got a picture of this fourth chick just as it left the box and it is interesting to compare it to a similar picture of the adult.

Although superficially similar it is easy to see the differences between the two. The chick still has some days to go before it will fully resemble the adult.

Then the 5th and final chick left at 13:20, leaving an empty nest.

The 5th chick was by far the wobbliest and spent several minutes in the bush just outside the nest before heading off. Excellent work from the Great Tits to get all five safely fledged.

The adults did come back to the empty nest box several times, perhaps indicating some problems in locating all five. I hope that they managed to find them as the chicks will initially be dependent on the adults for feeding even though they are now outside the nest box.

A final note on the predators who, in the final reckoning, didn’t get any joy from our nest this year. The Jays were back in force and very present around the box this morning.

Both pictures above were taken today as they mounted a final blockade to try and catch the chicks. The second picture was at 11:30, around 30 minutes before the 1st chicks left. But all managed to avoid the danger and get safely into the nearby trees and bushes. The Jay blockade was breached!

So the nest is finished for 2020, a successful season for the Great Tits who have fledged five chicks. There will be one final blog post tomorrow to make a wrap up, maybe there will be an answer to the ‘riddle’ of the unhatched eggs.

However for now, at the end of Day 56, the last day of the nest 2020, the image of the empty nest says it all.

Day 55 – Tuesday 12/05/20

Weather : Quite cold and windy but with no rain.

Notes : All five chicks are still in the nest. No departures today. They seem to be aware of the confinement rules about not going out!

Today for the first time the chicks seemed to be taking a greater interest in the outside world, popping up to the entrance hole for a look. This is a good sign that they are getting ready to leave and I managed to capture one of these moments on the video below.

I’ve still not seen the adult feeding through the entrance hole or trying to entice the chicks out by reducing the amount of food being brought in. This may be something we see tomorrow.

Back on predator watch, what I have seen, contradicting my statement in yesterdays’ blog, is that the nest is again getting a lot of attention from the jays. A couple of separate visits shown below.

Then during the afternoon one had a go at the nest entrance hole. It was either taking a closer look at what was inside or trying to pinch one of the chicks as it popped up.

So the Jays are definitely keeping an eye on the nest and may be waiting for the chicks as they leave. They will need to be alert just after fledging as it’s a key moment when the Jay will look to swoop in and take one away.

The weather is predicted to be cool but with no rain for the rest of the week, not bad conditions. The chicks will probably fledge as early as they can in the morning so I might need to set an early alarm for the next couple of days.

Nearly, but not quite there. Nest photo to close day 55 is below.

Day 54 – Monday 11/05/20

Weather : Wet in the morning. Drying up but a cold and very windy day

Notes : No change in the nest today. The adults continued to feed the chicks and the weather, particularly the strong winds, prevented any thoughts of emerging from the nest. The chicks really did hunker down low, back into the nest cup through the worst of the cold and windy weather this morning.

It did warm a little in the afternoon and the chicks got more animated. A sign that the birds are getting ready to leave is that there is a lot more wing exercise going on and I caught some top flapping in the video below.

Tomorrow will be the 20th day since the first hatching and the 18th day since the last two eggs hatched. I assume the chick that died was one of these last two. My Wikipedia fact file tells me a typical fledging time for great tits is between 16-22 days. So we are really right in the zone and hopefully just waiting for the weather conditions to turn our way.

A positive sign is that I have not had many sightings of jays or magpies hanging around the nest. Therefore hopefully the chicks will get a fair run when they first hop out into the nearby bushes.

Below is a picture from the nest this morning to close day 54, the chicks hunkering down into the nest cup during the bad weather.

Day 53 – Sunday 10/05/20

Weather : Heavy rain morning and evening with some warm sun in-between.

Notes : The weather has been a bit difficult for the great tits since yesterday. We had a big storm with very heavy rain overnight continuing through to this morning. It was predicted to rain pretty much all day, very tricky conditions for finding food.

However the chicks had a bit of luck with some good weather during the middle of the day before the rain closed in again in the evening. So overall the chicks did quite well. The video below shows the smallest chick having a tricky time with a nice big spider. It goes down in the end.

The weather was so bad this morning that the chicks surely had no thoughts of leaving the nest. As it’s likely to continue in a similar fashion for the next couple of days, I imagine they are going to hold tight until things dry up a bit. So maybe a mid-week departure at best.

All five chicks are doing well though and I hope that they keep warm and dry tonight. A photo of the nest at the end of Day 53 below.

Day 52 – Saturday 09/05/20

Weather : Warm day but with showery rain.

Notes : All is well in the nest with the 5 chicks continuing their progress. We can see in the video really quite big insect food now coming in and being easily gobbled up.

One thing I haven’t seen yet is the adult not coming into the box to give the food but doing it from the nest hole. They do this when it is nearly fledging time as a way of encouraging the chicks out of the nest. As I haven’t seen it perhaps it is an indication that the chicks are not quite ready for fledging, although hopefully we should see this behaviour in the next days.

A couple of pictures from the outside camera to share below. Actually taken yesterday. Adults looking quite healthy.

And that’s it for day 52. Getting closer to departure day but not there yet!

Day 51 – Friday 08/05/20

Weather : Warm day. Cloudy but no rain.

Notes : All five chicks continue to do well and are rapidly growing. They will soon be ready to fledge the nest. Based on the typical calendar it could be Monday or Tuesday. Unfortunately it may be a little cold and rainy on these days so we shall have to see. As interesting point that I saw today was the adult bringing in fresh nesting material, I captured this in the video below.

It seems odd that the adult is bringing in fresh nesting material so close to the time of fledging. I don’t know if this means that the adult intends to use the nest again, perhaps to raise a second brood? It is uncommon for a Great tit to have a second brood but not impossible. It was true that the first nest this year was quite early.

However I’m afraid that if they do go again I will watch and post news but not a daily blog. I don’t think time will permit!

I did also today allow myself a quick look and photo inside the box. I don’t really like to disturb them this much but it is nice to get a colour photo.

So we are getting close to the time for the chicks to fledge and nearly the end of the nest. In the picture to close day 51 we can see from their size that they are nearly ready to go.

Day 50 – Thursday 07/05/20

Weather : Another warm sunny day, no rain.

Notes : All five chicks still going strong, getting bigger and more active inside the nest. They are now beginning to bounce around much more as can be seen in the video below.

The biggest chick is getting as close to the entrance hole as possible, a strategy which paid off in the above clip. However they need to be careful as if they get too close they could be at risk from a predator, such as our friend the Jay. They can quickly snatch a chick through the hole if the opportunity arises.

At night the chicks do return to the safety of the nest cup to stay warm and safe. The photo below to close Day 50.

Day 49 – Wednesday 06/05/20

Weather : Warm sunny day, no rain.

Notes : All five chicks doing well in the nest. They are indeed beginning to stretch themselves a bit more around the nest box as they get bigger. Actually when they leave the nest cup they seem already quite big. I got a video below of one of the bigger chicks exercising its’ wings.

Unfortunately I have spotted nearly every day a Jay returning to take a look at the nest box.

So the nest box is being watched. As said previously a Jay will be waiting for the moment of fledging and hoping to find some ‘wobbly’ chicks in the bushes just after leaving the nest. As the chicks will likely fledge quite early in the morning, so that they have the whole day to acclimatise, it will be interesting to see if the Jay generally passes early in the morning. It was the case today although the photo yesterday was taken in the afternoon.

Final photo to close Day 49 in the nest gives a good indication of how big the chicks are now getting.

Day 48 – Tuesday 05/05/20

Weather : Chilly day with rain showers.

Notes : Everything continues to progress well in the nest. All five chicks are still going strong although, without any particular evidence, it did seem to me that there was less food coming in today. This was possibly weather related as it was a cold, damp day.

Perhaps it is because the chicks are getting bigger or because there was a bit less food but competition is hotting up in the nest at feeding time. Quite a feisty exchange is shown below.

The chicks are really starting to take on the colouring of the adult and look like mini Great Tits. There have been a few moments of wing flapping and also short excursions out of the nest cup as they get bigger. I’ve also noticed that the adults has taken to sleeping at least part of the night next to the nest rather than directly on it, as shown below from last night.

All of the above are good indications of the chicks getting bigger and more mature.

Looking forward to few days of better weather now which should offer easier food pickings for the adults. Photo of the nest at the end of day 48 is shown below.

Day 47 – Monday 04/05/20

Weather : Chilly day, overcast with no rain.

Notes : The five chicks are still going strong in the nest. From time to time I worry about chick number five, who is smaller and as space becomes a premium, sometimes gets trapped at the bottom of the nest. However, for most of the time all five are visible and feeding and this is a good sign.

Both adults continue to be very active feeds and sometimes too keen. In the Video below it looks like they are both trying to do the same jobs at the same time.

I would imagine that at some point this week the five will start to spread out from the original nest cup. When they leave the nest, probably sometime next week, they will be only slightly smaller than the adult. So they will not all fit in the cup indefinitely. Still a lot of insects to be eaten before then though!

Nest Box photo for Day 47 is below.

Day 46 – Sunday 03/05/20

Weather : Temperatures quite cool with some light rain

Notes : Very busy today as the two adults continue to feed the five remaining chicks. To give some idea of the rate of feeding a video below showing the typical activity at the nest box entrance. The adults manage to keep up this pace for most of the day from 06:30-20:30.

Inside the nest the chicks are now getting bigger quite quickly. All five seem to be getting enough food at the moment even though the competition is fierce. I think I have also seen some nuts and seeds from the bird table coming into the nest today, the first time the chicks have taken non-insect food.

In my humble opinion, after watching a lot, I think the best place for a hungry chick to be is the back of the nest furthest away from the hole. It appears to be the prime spot as the adults, on arrival head for the sides or the back of the nest cup.

On predator watch we have had an interesting development as a Jay has been spotted taking an interest.

Unlike the beech marten, which was probably attracted to the nest by smell, the Jay may have been alerted by the noise of the chicks. A jay will take a great tit chick for food although it cannot get into the nest as the entrance hole is too small. It may now be keeping an eye on the nest as the moment to strike will be when the chicks first fledge. The last time this box was used a couple of years ago one of the chicks was nearly taken by a jay in this way just after it left the nest. We will see if it keeps coming back or if it was just a passing interest.

On the subject of the unhatched eggs I got a photo last night where an egg was visible, highlighted in the picture below.

So at least one of the eggs is still there. It will be interesting to see if it remains after the nest empties.

Good progress today for the chicks, and the nest box photo at the end of Day 46 is below.

Day 45 – Saturday 02/05/20

Weather : Slightly warmer today, no rain.

Notes : A good day in the nest today with all five chicks progressing well. A video below showing all five and both adults.

I decided to take quick peek and a couple of photos inside the nest this afternoon. It’s always good to have a colour reference for the chicks as unfortunately the video camera is only black and white.

The two pictures are shown below.

In the photos I can only really make out three of the chicks, although obviously all five are there. The key thing to look for is the mouths. I think that they are brightly coloured to provide a nice obvious target for the food being delivered by the adult.

So all good in the nest today and a nice photo showing all five mouths to finish Day 45.

Day 44 – Friday 01/05/20

Weather : Again quite chilly with a few rain showers.

Notes : Bad news today from the nest as unfortunately chick number 6 has died. As said yesterday one of the chicks was definitely smaller and it looks like in the end there was just not enough food coming in to keep all six going. Obviously most of the food goes to the bigger chicks and the smaller ones get out-competed. Perhaps it was linked to the cooler, wetter weather that we have been having.

The adult removed the dead chick from the nest and I just about got a video of the moment below, although it is a little difficult to see what is happening. It is however clear that it was not easy for the adult to remove it from the nest.

So we now have five chicks in the nest. One of the remaining chicks is definitely smaller and it looks like a larger portion of the incoming food is going to the other four. However at this point all five are being fed and hopefully with better weather arriving again tomorrow the amount of food coming in will increase.

A video below from this afternoon clearly showing all five.

I’m afraid it is a little said but is quite natural that not all the chicks fledge the nest, it is the reason why the brood size is relatively large.

Two photos today showing all 5 chicks to close Day 44.

Day 43 – Thursday 30/04/20

Weather : Chilly day with frequent, sometimes heavy rain.

Notes : The nest is progressing well and all six chicks are active and feeding. It is now 9 days after the first chicks hatched and the typical nestling period, according to my Wikipedia, is 16-22 days. So halfway there for the six.

I keep saying that all are doing well but one of the six is definitely smaller than the others although it is still showing for food which is a good sign.

Below a typical feeding visit where only five of the six are visible.

They are obviously getting bigger and so beginning to push out the sides of the nest cup more and more.

To end Day 43 a couple of photos of the nest.

Day 42 – Wednesday 29/04/20

Weather : Cooler with more rain in the afternoon and evening.

Notes : More rain for the birds to deal with today but the rate of feeding doesn’t seem to have slowed. All six chicks are still visible and growing in the nest.

There is some size variation between the six chicks with two definitely smaller than the others but whilst there is still lots of food coming in I think that they should be OK. The chicks continue to develop feathers and also the definition of their wings becomes much more obvious.

A good example is shown in the video below where the developing wing of the chick on the left is clearly visible.

Most of the insect food necessary for the chicks is not coming directly from my garden, the birds are going further afield to gather this. However I see that the adults are using the bird feeders in the garden. They eat high energy nuts and seeds for themselves before heading off to find the chick food. So keep those garden feeders stocked up guys, they are a big help to the nesting birds.

That’s all for today. An image on the Nest at the end of day 42 is shown below.

Day 41 – Tuesday 28/04/20

Weather : A cooler day with some rain.

Notes : As predicated a slight turn in the weather today but nothing significant and nothing that appears to have perturbed the great tits. The nest continues to progress well. I always feel the need to provide evidence so a typical video showing all six chicks and both adults is included below.

The six chicks are getting bigger and are changing to a much darker colour as the first feathers begin to appear. Also a distinct black line is appearing on their backs, again part of their colour change.

Great tits are a little unique in that the chicks take on the same colour pattern as the adults. The chicks of many small birds, such as robins, are initially a brown colour, providing them with camouflage when they fledge the nest and are not such agile flyers. Only later do they take on the same colouring as the adults. But the great tits leave the nest looking more or less like the adults. So as the days go on now we should start to see this colour change happening.

Another change is that the chicks are now much more audible. This started yesterday but they are getting progressively louder at feeding time when the adults enter the nest.

I’ve had quite a few questions about the remaining eggs and what will happen to them, the answer is unfortunately I don’t know. I thought that they might be pushed to the corners of the box as the chicks get bigger, or perhaps they will get crushed. (Maybe Mr Baugh knows?)

However in the nest box photo for Day 41 it is still possible to see, on the right hand side of the cup, one of the remaining eggs. So at this point I think the unhatched eggs are still in the bottom of the nest.

Day 40 – Monday 27/04/20

Weather : Warm but with less sun, a few spots of rain in the afternoon

Notes : The chicks are progressing well in the nest, lots of food being brought in by both adults, no predator problems. In the video below we can clearly see that the chicks are getting bigger and they are beginning to outgrow the space in the nest cup.

Perhaps the big event of the day was that we had a little rain, with more forecast tonight and we should enter now into a week of lower temperatures and rain.

I’m interested in this potentially critical period because of my experience last year. In 2019 a pair of great tits had 7 chicks in one of my garden nest boxes, hatching on 1st May, and unfortunately all had died by 11th May.

Going back I found a video of last years’ nest from 7th May, which is more or less equivalent with the situation of the nest today. By this stage last year already five of the chicks had died. I would also say that the chicks in the video below seem smaller and frailer than those of this year.

Now look at the weather from last year, below.

This year, since the chicks have been born, we have had warm sunny weather, with daytime temperatures normally between 20-25oC. Last year the daytime temperatures were typically no more than 15oC and going down to as low as 2-3oC at night. All mixed in with some rain.

Chicks this small are very vulnerable and keeping warm can be a big problem, especially with only two in the nest. Add in the restricted supply of insect food and it’s likely the weather, and not beech marten predators, which pose the biggest risk to small nesting birds.

So we need to hope that the either the weather will not be too bad or our chicks have had such a good start that they can overcome this difficult period. They do have two adults working hard for food and this will be a big advantage.

But all is still well in the nest at the end of Day 40. I conclude with a photo of all six chicks doing a good job of keeping each other snug and warm.

Day 39 – Sunday 26/04/20

Weather : Again warm and sunny with no rain.

Notes : After yesterdays visit of the beech marten, today has been drama free for the Great Tits.

More weather ideal for finding food and the adults have been busy all day feeding the chicks. There is a clear variation in size between the chicks but it is not dramatic. Hopefully two active adults should be able to find sufficient food, weather and predators aside, for six chicks, which is not a very large brood for a pair of Great Tits.  

A typical feeding video from the day is shown below. It is possible to see all six chicks and also in the bottom right hand side of the nest one of the unhatched eggs.

The weather is still predicted to be cooler and wetter for some days next week, likely starting on Tuesday. I’m quite cautious as last year a period of cold, wet weather was enough to finish of a nest of Great Tit chicks that I had in one of the garden boxes. It is very hard for the chicks at this age, without feathers, to keep warm and this is without the problems of feeding.

However as of today all is well. It is really difficult to get a still photo clearly showing all six chicks, below is by best effort for today.

Day 38 – Saturday 25/04/20

Weather : Again warm and sunny with no rain.

Notes : Still 2 of the eggs are not hatched and it seems unlikely at this stage that we will have more than 6 chicks. It is actually quite hard to still see the eggs in the nest as the chicks get bigger. When they are visible they now look very small indeed.

It will be interesting to see what happens to them if they don’t hatch. I assume that they will be pushed to the corners of the box as space becomes more of a premium. We shall see.

So far the feeding of the 6 chicks is going well with lots of visits by both adults. The birds are active from around 06:45-20:45 each day with the female adult staying in the nest and brooding the chicks overnight.

Significantly the weather is predicted to take a turn for the worse next week with lower temperatures and rain. This will make it much more difficult for the birds to find insect food. Therefore it could be critical for the birds make maximum use of the good weather now and for the chicks to feed as much as possible.

A typical feeding visit from earlier today is captured on the video. Both adults arrive to feed the chicks and you can see 5, maybe 6 mouths. Also, for the keen eyed one of the remaining eggs is visible in the top part of the nest.

But the big news of the day is that the nest box had an early visitor this morning at around 05:20. I only got 1 picture and it’s a big mammal.

It’s A Beech Marten, a close relative of the Pine Marten and a serious predator of birds’ nests. They are not uncommon in the Il de France and I’ve had them turn up on my garden cameras before, although not frequently. For those unfamiliar, a colour picture of a Beech Marten is shown below.

Now I don’t know how clever it is, but if it can unhook the lid of the box I’m afraid that will be the end of the nest.

I understand that the beech marten has to eat as well but I’ve come down on the side of the Great tits. I’m a little bit more invested in the bird family! So I’ve increased the security, screwed the lid of the nest box down more securely and added additional ties between the box and the fence.

I’ve also installed a video trail camera to watch the exterior of the box. If it comes back we should see if, which if nothing else will be very interesting.

So it’s going to be tough bringing up a nest full of chicks. Predators on the prowl and the weather predicted to get worse.

For now though the challenges are being surmounted and as proof the Nest Box Photo from Day 38 shows 5 of the chicks at feeding time.

Day 37 – Friday 24/04/20

Weather : Warm and Sunny with no rain. Warm for the time of year.

Notes : A further chick hatched overnight to bring the total to 6. I was rather expecting and hoping that the remaining 2 would hatch during the day but this didn’t happen. As the hatched chicks get bigger it becomes harder to spot the remaining eggs and verify that they are actually still there. The best indicator I have of when a chick hatches is the adult disposing of the shell. However in the video below of a typical feed you can just about make out the 6 chicks and see also one of the remaining eggs.

Both adults have been feeding regularly and all the chicks seem to be getting food. I was hoping to make a record during a given couple of hours of the number of visits and maybe the type of food. I have seen the birds picking insects out of the ivy just around the box, and also in the surrounding trees. However I had to work instead! Maybe the weekend.

Like all babies at this stage the key functions are eating and pooing. Typically straight after a feed the chick upends itself for the poo which the adult collects and takes out of the nest. A video below captures very well this typical behaviour.

So all is going well although I hope that the remaining 2 chicks hatch quickly now.

Nest box photo for the end of Day 37 below.

Day 36 – Thursday 23/04/20

Weather : Warm Sunny day, No Rain

Notes : 2 additional chicks have hatched today. I think the first hatched overnight and the second quite early in the morning. So now a total of 5 chicks hatched. Both adult birds are feeding diligently and I imagine that the weather is assuring a relatively good supply of food. Chicks can only eat caterpillars and insects, so unfortunately the bird tables are no good. A video of a typical feeding moment, one of numerous during the day is shown below.

I am surprised that none of the remaining three eggs have hatched, the female did still spend times incubating during the day to try and encourage this. Hopefully all chicks will be hatched by tomorrow as those born yesterday will already be getting quite a head start.

I tried to get a photo of all 5 chicks visible but it is very difficult to get them easily in shot at the same time. When their mouths are not visible it is hard to distinguish them.

Nest box photo for the end of Day 36 is the best that my patience would allow.

Day 35 – Wednesday 22/04/20

Weather : Warm, sunny day. No rain.

Notes : Excellent news today with the first eggs hatching, absolutely right on the predicted schedule. The first egg hatched at 11:10 this morning, the moment is captured for posterity below.

Then a further 2 eggs hatched around 14:40 in the afternoon and that has been it for the day. So out of the 8 eggs 3 have hatched today.

Both adults were busy as soon as the hatching started, either incubating or feeding. Interestingly the female took the first egg shell away and disposed of it outside of the nest, somewhere distant I suppose. However the shells of the 2nd and 3rd eggs to hatch were eaten. The chicks started to feed very quickly and both adults were active feeders. A video below showing a typical moment.

So tomorrow we should hopefully see the remaining eggs hatch. I assume that the bigger the gap between the first and last chick to hatch the greater the risks of survival for the last.

Nest box photo for the end of Day 35 shows the 3 chicks offering for food.

Day 34 – Tuesday 21/04/20

Weather : Sunny day, warm. No rain.

Notes : No hatching today I’m afraid. Both birds are still visible around the nest and the male did some more feeding today. A quick video below of the male popping in to the box for feeding.

So the incubation continues although hopefully the hatching will start tomorrow.

As evidence the nest box photo for the end of Day 34 showing the 8 eggs.

Day 33 – Monday 20/04/20

Weather : Sunny day, but not as warm as yesterday. No rain.

Notes : More incubation today with not much else to report. I was watching the nest for nearly the entire day and I only saw the male enter to feed the female once. I caught on camera a little ‘moment’ they had together outside the nest.

So we are now at Day 33. I think, I hope, that hatching will start by Day 35 at the latest and that will undoubtedly change the activity in the nest.

Nest Box photo for Day 33 is below. An image of intense incubation.

Day 32 – Sunday 19/04/20

Weather : Another warm sunny day. No rain. Good for birds but bad for the garden!

Notes : No changes today. Continuing incubation of the eggs with no dramas to note. In the video below the female seems to need a stretch after a hard days’ work sitting on eggs.

Something which is potentially a good sign is that I haven’t seen any likely predators, particularly magpies or jays, being inquisitive around the nest. However it might be a bit early and they will certainly be more attracted when the future chicks start to make some noise.

Nest Box photo for Day 32 is below.

Day 31 – Saturday 18/04/20

Weather : Warm sunny day. Few spots of rain in the afternoon.

Notes : All fine in the nest as the incubation continues. The male is not very interested in feeding the female in the nest box and this is quite a rare occurrence.

When the female was absent from the nest I took a colour photo of the eggs. This is quite interesting as the marks on the white eggs do not show up on the nest box video camera.

Still probably have 4 or 5 more days to go before hatching starts.

Nest Box photo for Day 31 is below.

Day 30 – Friday 17/04/20

Weather : Warm sunny day. No Rain

Notes : No great news to report from the day. The pattern of behaviour is continuing with the female incubating and the male occasionally feeding.

The female also keeps the nest in good order and continues to bring in a little additional nesting material from time to time. I did notice a lot of preening and cleaning from the female today. But really I’m looking for a story. Nothing to report here today.

Nest box photo at the end of the day 30 is shown below.

Day 29 – Thursday 16/04/20

Weather : After a cold start a warm sunny day. No Rain

Notes : The incubation period continues with the female spending the majority of time on the nest. Evidently the extremely cosy nest box can be of interest to various insects including the odd fly, but this one was swiftly dealt with.

The male continues to be a quite infrequent feeder of the female actually inside the nest box. There was an interesting behaviour this afternoon where the male had a caterpillar but was trying to entice the female out of the box. He would appear at the nest hole, showing the caterpillar and was then waiting in the nearby bushes. I’m not sure why he is so reluctant to feed in the box. I got a photo below of the Male waiting outside with the caterpillar food.

Nest box photo at the end of the day 29 is shown below.

Day 28 – Wednesday 15/04/20

Weather : Cold morning followed by a warm sunny afternoon. No Rain

Notes : Quiet day in the nest. Plenty of incubation punctuated by infrequent visits of the male. Much more frequently the female leaves for feeding.

I did get a not very good photo of the male feeding the female just outside of the bird box. I assume that when the female leaves and is in the surrounding trees she is quite often being fed by the male.

An image of the inside of the nest to close day 28 is shown below. The female and the 8 eggs.

Day 27 – Tuesday 14/04/20

Weather : Cold morning developing into a sunny afternoon. No rain.

Notes : A nice change today as the male started to enter the nest to feed the female whilst she incubates. First time that I’ve seen it from this pair and it has happened a few times already this morning. This allows the female to spend longer on the nest and improve the incubation. It was also a little colder this morning. I don’t imagine it is enough to provoke such a behavioural change but it is worth noting.

At first the male seemed quite hesitant to enter the nest box, and generally hung around for a moment or two, sometimes flying away, before finally returning and entering the nest.

I got a nice recording of the male bringing in what looks like a super juicy caterpillar for the female.

The majority of food being brought in was caterpillars although I saw the occasional spider and a few other insects. The key food for the chicks will be caterpillars so perhaps getting in practice.

A photo below of the male flying in with a mouth full of insects for the waiting female.

For the nest photo of the end of the day I’ve got an image of both birds in the nest, the male handing over a caterpillar.

Day 26 – Monday 13/04/20

Weather : Colder with a strong wind. No rain.

Notes : No change in the behavior from yesterday and unfortunately no significant news to report today. The incubation continues of the 8 eggs and everything seems to be going fine. Both birds still visible and vocal in the garden.

To keep the daily photo record going a picture from the afternoon showing the female entering the nest with the eggs visible.

Day 25 – Sunday 12/04/20

Weather : Warm again in the morning but turning to rain, occasionally heavy, in the afternoon.

Notes : The female continues to incubate the eggs with occasional excursions for food. Again no sign of the male bringing food into the nest. Both the male and female continue to be very vocal in the garden.

Looking back I tried to make a record of the Great Tits that we have had nesting in the back garden over the last years. The record gets progressively more detailed with the years and the info is a bit scant at the start. However it is interesting.

Nest Box UsedTreeFenceTreeFence
BirdGreat TitGreat TitGreat TitGreat Tit
Start of nest BuildingxxxxXx19/03/20
1st Night Time RoostxxxxXx30/03/20
1st Eggxxxx12/04/1903/04/20
Last eggxxxx18/04/1909/04/20
Clutch Sizexxxx78
Start of IncubationxxxxXx10/04/20
First Hatchingxx26/04/1801/05/1922/04/20?
Last HatchingxxxxXx 
1st FledglingxxxxNone 
Last Fledglingxx16/05/18None 
Number of chicks Fledgedxx70 

It seems that this is the earliest year for the Great Tits nesting and also a clutch size of 8 seems to be a good indication. If the calculations are right the hatching this year should be around 22nd or 23rd of April. Let’s see.

Just to provide a record a photo below of the nest during the day with the female about to leave.

Day 24 – Saturday 11/04/20

Weather : Crazy Warm and sunny, no rain. More like July than April. 

Notes : No new egg to report this morning so it looks like the total clutch size will be 8, which is about average for a Great Tit.

The female left the nest at around 07:20 this morning for a quick jaunt around the garden before returning. Video of this below.

The day continued as predicted with the female incubating the eggs with occasional forays for food. No sign of the male entering the nest to bring food for the female but hopefully we will see some of this feeding activity. 

Still a lot of territorial battles going on in the garden with other nesting pairs, much more so now than during the nest building phase.

Another point of interest is that the male and female are clearly calling and replying to each other. The male from nearby trees and the female from inside the nest. So they are often communicating.

I got this photo below of the female looking straight at the camera just prior to going into the nest. She looks kinda fierce, game face on!

Day 23 – Friday 10/04/20

Weather : Warm and sunny, no rain. 

Notes : This morning we do indeed have an 8th egg, so although incubation started yesterday the egg laying continues. I don’t know if this will have a negative impact on the survival chances of the chicks in last eggs laid. Basically incubation started earlier for the first 7 so I guess they should hatch slightly early and therefore be relatively bigger than the chicks in the last eggs. We will see. 

The female is leaving the nest from time to time, I guess to feed, I haven’t seen the male bringing in any food for the female. Perhaps this is normal.The pattern of the day continued with the female incubating but then occasionally leaving the nest to feed. The good thing about this is that it gives a clear view of the eight eggs.

The male continues to be very vocal in the garden, trying hard to defend the territory. However he is never entering the nest of feeding the female directly.

There may be a further egg tomorrow, the 9th, we shall see.

Day 22 – Thursday 09/04/20

Weather : Warm and sunny, no rain.

Notes : Today the situation seems to have advanced and the female has started to incubate the eggs.

Firstly to say that a 7th egg was laid overnight and therefore there are now clearly 7 eggs in the nest. The morning passed as per the schedule of the last days, the female left the nest in the morning ensuring that the eggs were well hidden.

Then around 14:30 the female came back into the nest, uncovered the eggs and started to incubate. That is to say spending the day time in the nest on the eggs. If this is really the start of the incubation it means that the clutch size will probably stop at 7 and that if all goes well we can start to think of seeing the first eggs hatch in around 12 days. Also the male should start to bring food into the nest to feed the female whilst she incubates the eggs.

So it appears we have moved on a phase from egg laying to incubation.

The other noticeable change was that as soon as the female started to incubate the male became much more vocal in the garden and was clearly making more of an effort to defend the territory. This led to some confrontations with other Great Tits. There is definitely another pair nesting under the roof at the front of the house. I hope that there will be enough caterpillars for all!

At this there is not much point in showing a photo of the nest at the end of the day so I will try to vary. Today there is a video showing the female and the 7 eggs from mid-afternoon.

Day 21 – Wednesday 08/04/20

Weather : Nice and sunny, no rain. Same as yesterday but warmer.

Notes : I was not so quick out of bed this morning and the eggs were already party concealed. I assume that there are now 6 but I cannot be sure. Basically the bird is leaving the nest around 07:30. Then in a few visits during the morning it manages to bring in a little fresh material and totally conceal the eggs. During the afternoon the bird rarely visits, I guess spending most of its’ time feeding, before returning to the nest around 20:00 for roosting. At which point it, and I should say ‘she’, as it is surely the female, uncovers the eggs and settles down for the night.

It is exactly the same routine over the last days and even the times are almost identical one day to the next. It’s true that there has not been any bad weather to disturb the schedule.

Hopefully by tomorrow morning I should be able to see 7 eggs if all is going to plan.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 20 – Tuesday 07/04/20

Weather : Nice sunny, warmish springlike day. No rain.

Notes : I managed to get up just in time this morning to get evidence of the egg status. Therefore it is clear that there are now 5 eggs, so the one egg per day rhythm holds.

The day then progressed much as the others, a few visits to the nest, still bringing in more nesting material. The next key question will be the final clutch size, 7, 8, 9 we will see. At one egg per day this should see us up to the weekend.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 19 – Monday 06/04/20

Weather : Not so warm with a few hours of light rain in the afternoon.

Notes : Quiet day in the nest today. I assume that the 4th egg has been laid but the eggs were well hidden from early morning, so I have no visual ‘evidence’. See below my first photo taken at around 08:00. (I’m not up before that, even if the birds are).

A few visits during the day with again the female returning to roost around 20:00.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 18 – Sunday 05/04/20

Weather : A really warm and sunny day. Hardly any wind and no rain.

Notes : The third egg was laid last night so all progressing to plan on the one egg per day schedule. The birds are very good at hiding them within the nest material, this is normally done through the morning. A sequence of photos from today is shown below.

Bird came back to roost around 20:00 and spent a few moments regathering the eggs before settling down to roost for the night. Let’s hope we see a fourth egg in the morning.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 17 – Saturday 04/04/20

Weather : Spring. Sunny, warm and no rain.

Notes : Second egg was laid last night and was present in the nest in the morning, below.

There were very few visits during the day today and little activity. Hopefully we should keep seeing an egg a day over the next week.

The bird came back to roost around 20:00 and the nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 16 – Friday 03/04/20

Weather : Sunny, no rain and warmer again. Nearly back to spring temperatures.

Notes : Excellent news today with the first egg being laid overnight. Nice video below showing the egg.

The bird was a bit more present in the box during the morning bringing in more nesting material and hiding the egg quite nicely. A couple of picture below show this. First picture from early morning and the second around lunchtime.

Bird came back to roost around 20:00 and really we should now be getting an egg a day over the next week. So expecting a second egg tomorrow morning.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below

Day 15 – Thursday 02/04/20

Weather : Sunny, no rain. Slightly warmer than yesterday.

Notes : Same schedule for the birds, early departure with a few visits mainly during the morning, returning to roost nearly exactly at 20:00. The birds can often be seen together in the garden and the male is never far away when the female is in the nest. We are waiting for an egg!

Leaving the Box today – Wait for it!

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:30) is shown below.

Day 14 – Wednesday 01/04/20

Weather : Sunny with no rain. Slightly warmer than yesterday, still colder than seasonal norms.

Notes : Again an early departure for the bird with few visits during the day. Very much the pattern since the nest was essentially completed. Returning to roost around 20:00 tonight. Managed to get a video of the female entering with a little nesting material.

Female Great Tit entering the nest with some nesting Material

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:00) is shown below.

Day 13 – Tuesday 31/03/20

Weather : Sunny, cold and no rain. No wind.

Notes : The bird left the box at 06:30 in the morning, same as yesterday so a bit of a pattern. A few visits during the morning, bringing in a little material. Hardly any visits in the afternoon and then the bird returns to roost around 20:30.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (20:30) is shown below.

Day 12 – Monday 30/03/20

Weather : Very sunny but very cold and windy. No rain.

Notes : Few visits during the day, some additional material being brought into the nest. Bird came back into the next around 20:30 for roosting.

Day 11 – Sunday 29/03/20

Weather : No rain but cold with a very strong wind. May have an overnight frost tomorrow

Notes : Again the visits continue but at a lower frequency. The birds continue to bring in the white fluffy material. The female does occasionally linger a little, getting comfortable in the nest?

21:00 : The bird returned to the nest around 20:30 and is roosting for the first time tonight. Maybe it helps that the weather is so bad, very cold and windy.

So the photo of the nest box tonight includes the bird.

Roosting for the first time on Day 11.

Day 10 – Saturday 28/03/20

Weather : Still sunny with no rain but warmer. Afternoon reaching 17 oC, warmest day of the year so far.

Notes : Birds are now bringing different, white fluffy material into the nest. I guess a nice soft top layer. Took a sneak peek while they were absent a took a colour photo of the nest. Much fewer visits than during the height of the nest building last week.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

Day 9 – Friday 27/03/20

Weather : Same weather. Sunny, cold mornings, warming up later, no rain.

Notes :

08:00 : Checked the trail camera and last visit to the box was yesterday at 13:30, so my impression of absence was correct. No visits either this morning before 08:00. Perhaps the nest is complete and there is a pause in the process, I assume the next step is roosting. Or perhaps the birds have had a problem?

19:00 : The birds did eventually return later in the morning and were then active although a lot less so. Some material being brought in but the pace has reduced. At one point both birds where present and there was some mutual feeding, so confirmation that the pair are both present and doing well.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

As the nest looks pretty complete I thought it might be nice to show the day-by-day photos together.

Day 8 – Thursday 26/03/20

Weather : Same weather. Sunny no rain. Cold in the morning, although a bit warmer than yesterday and warming up in the afternoon.

Notes : Noted on the camera that the birds starting visiting from around 06:30, so very early. Lots of activity throughout the morning and the nest is looking pretty complete. Then very few visits in the afternoon, in fact I’m not sure I saw the birds enter after around 14:30. Hopefully no problems.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

Day 7 – Wednesday 25/03/20

Weather : Cold morning. Sunny and warming up in the afternoon but generally temperatures below seasonal average.

Notes : Birds very active, especially in the morning and the number of visits again increasing. A lot of material brought into the nest and it seems to be approaching completion. Perhaps the next step will soon be roosting in the nest. Material was again moss coming from the lawn but also stuff coming from the neighbours garden.

Quick Video below of some nest building action.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

Day 6 – Tuesday 24/03/20

Weather : Cold morning but a little warmer than yesterday, no frost. Quite warm and sunny in the afternoon. Top temperature around 13oC. No rain at all.

Notes : Again the birds were very active in the morning. I kept a pretty good log in the morning and noted the most visits so far, lots of material being brought in. Only saw the female inside the box today. As per normal very few visits in the afternoon. Noted that the birds are often hammering at the entrance hole, they did this a lot prior to starting the nest construction. I’m surprised as I thought that they would not want the hole to be larger to keep out bigger birds.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below

Day 5 – Monday 23/03/20

Weather : Cold morning. But warming up in the afternoon, quite sunny. Top temperature around 12 oC. No rain at all.

Notes : The birds were very active in the morning. Obviously not bothered by the cold temperatures. First visit noted was around 08:30 and lots of activity throughout the mornings. Several times both birds were present in the box at the same time. So the male is contributing to the next building.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

Day 4 – Sunday 22/03/20

Weather : Cold morning. No rain and some sunshine in the afternoon with a top temperature about 13oC which is about average.

Notes : Didn’t keep a really detailed log of visits but noted that the first visit wasn’t until 10:15. Much later but the mornings are much colder. Also during the next week the mornings are going to be colder with some frost. It will be interesting to see the impact of this weather on the activity. Activity today was quite slow and the condition of the nest did not advance much. The bird came into the nest a few times but didn’t seem to bring much material.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (18:40) is shown below.

Day 3 – Saturday 21/03/20

Weather : Morning quite cold. No rain but the top temperature is 11oC which is lower than the seasonal average.

Notes : Less detailed log today but the Nest building goes on. Noted visits at:

08:50, 10:15, 10:35, 11:35, 11:45, 13:30, 13:45, 14:00

Fewer visits compared to yesterday. I guess potentially linked to the colder weather. Again saw the bird gathering nesting material from the lawn just in front of the bird box which has a good covering of Moss. Keep moss in your lawn folks, good for nesting birds. A couple of pictures, rather low quality, of this from today are shown below. Again I think it is still the female although it is difficult to see from these pictures.

The nest box condition at the end of the day (18:40) is shown below.

Day 2 – Friday 20/03/20

Weather : No rain but the weather becomes progressively colder during the day. Less Spring like.

Notes : Kept a detailed log of the nest movements today. I missed some visits but the times I noted were visits at:

08:55, 09:08, 09:20, 10:01, 10:42, 10:46, 11:06, 11:26, 11:40, 14:36, 15:20, 16:45

So the birds were much more active in the morning when the weather was warmer. At least some of the material, especially in the morning was moss coming from the back lawn in front of the nest box. Unsure were the bigger pieces were coming from. Apparently the nest is built solely by the female, but on the camera it is difficult to see the bottom of the bird. The female does not appear to have any clear markings to help identification compared to other great tits. Got quite good picture of what I assume is the male great tit from the nesting pair

Male Great Tit

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

Day 1 – Thursday 19/03/20

Weather : Warm spring like day.

Notes : Possibly this is actually Day 2 of the nesting as there was a very small amount of material added yesterday but we will count it as day 1. Clearly a pair of great tits nesting and I’m not sure if the nearby robin nest is still active. The robins are still in the garden and feeding each other.  

The nest box condition at the end of the day (19:00) is shown below.

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