Weather : Quite cold, a bit wet, but it feels like spring is coming.
Notes : Absolutely no interest yet in either of the nest boxes. There’s nothing happening inside the boxes and hardly any visits are being picked up on the trail camera pointed at the Tit nest box.
The Great Tit is still roosting every night in the swift box.
Weather : Cold but dry. Overnight frost most mornings.
Notes : I’m now approaching the annual crunch time of the year to see if any Tits, probably Great Tits, will accept to nest in my loving prepared Nest Box. I’ve now had 2 blank years, after a good run in the years before, but I remain hopeful for better.
I have a single Tit Nest box in the back garden and Robin Nest Box, which was also not used last year, in front of the house. The Robin’s could start nesting any time during the year, but for the Tits if it hasn’t happened in the next 4-6 weeks it probably isn’t going to be. Again.
I’ve also set up a trail camera on the Tit nest box and so far this week I’ve had just one visit from an interested Great Tit.
The camera also allows me to get some other nice bird shots, just like this Song Thrush.
The other camera equipped nest box that I have in the garden is the swift box, which has never been used by any swifts.
However, as was the case last year, it has been used during the winter as a nightime roosting place by a Great Tit. I took this little video sequence in November but it still there now, coming every night.
Weather : Still hot, still dry.
Notes : I think that the Swifts have left. I’ve been away for a few days but coming back this weekend, looking up, there were none.
It’s not an exact science but the date of departure is always around the end July or the beginning of August. I’m already looking forward to their return next April.
Maybe now the Great Tit can move back into the swift nest box.
Weather : Slightly Cooler with a few rain showers.
Notes : This is now the hottest part of the year and in general the garden bird activity is at its’ most subdued.
I keep putting out food and importantly water and I caught a shot on camera of a Robin taking a bath. I thought it nice enough to share.
Weather : Very hot, dry weather.
Notes : I found a pretty well formed egg on the ground, so of course the question is ‘name that egg’.
It’s largely white and shiny, for scale I included the obligatory 1Euro coin in the photo, but the egg measures about 40mm in ‘height’.
Very interestingly it is splashed with yellow. But a give away is that the yellow is on both the outside and the inside.
So this is not a marking but it shows that the egg has been predated, that’s the egg yolk.
Without the yellow it is a perfectly white egg, around 40mm with a shiny coating. I also found it in my garden so it is from a bird typically found on my watchlist, no guesses for Avocets or Reshanks.
Well the answer, I believe, is that it’s a wood pigeon egg. A very, very common bird indeed.
Who would of predated it, I would guess either a magpie or a jay. Wood pigeon nests are very open affairs made from a loose gathering of sticks and twigs, normally quite high up in trees, so quite accessible for a predator.
But it’s was nice to find a little clue as to what is going on in the trees around me.
Weather : Very, very hot.
Notes : It’s mid June and the weather is already extremely hot. Our first heat wave of the year, with temperatures at 40oC is already with us.
The garden bird activity has been very quiet but I’ve finally recorded my 30th different bird species in the garden. The lucky bird number 30 was a Redstart and I was also very fortunate to record it on my trail camera drinking from the water dish.
I didn’t actually see the bird live, so I’ve only got the video as proof, but I’m pretty sure that it’s a Redstart.
This is a migratory bird, about the size of a Robin, that spends Summers in Northern Europe and winters in Africa. They are not uncommon in general, although they visit gardens pretty rarely.
But I’m very glad that this one visited mine.
Weather : Very Warm sunny weather, no rain.
Notes : No sign of the swifts paying any interest to the nest box, although I haven’t managed to keep up playing the swift calls.
Interestingly over the last couple of nights the Great tit, who disappeared with the arrival of the swifts, has come back. It’s roosting again in the nest box during the night.
No other news to report although the bird activity, like last week, has definitely dipped.
Weather : Warm, still very little rain.
Notes : The major event of Spring has finally arrived for me as yesterday the Swifts have finally returned here to Paris.
The exact date this year of my first sighting of a group above the house was the 7th May, which was at least a couple of weeks later than last year. I was beginning to get a bit twitching, for some reason I always have a doubt that they will actually come back and I’m always relieved when they do. For me it is a bit of a confirmation that all is right with the world, which sometimes can be difficult to imagine.
As ever my huge hope is that they’ll use the nest box, which has been up now for a couple of years without any interest so far.
To try and attract them towards the nest I have a recording of swift calls which I play on a small speaker out of the window next to the box. I think it’s best to play it every morning and evening, although I generally don’t quite manage to be so regular. I also always feel slightly guilty for my neighbours although they have never, yet, complained.
I will also say it has also never, yet, actually worked. So perhaps it is rather academic as an exercise.
I have had a Great Tit sleeping in the box every night, starting some time during the Winter. I was thinking that if a Swift did arrive to use the box it might provoke a little tussle between the two.
But I won’t get to see this as last night, for the first time in months, the Great Tit didn’t come back. It is just surely too much of a coincidence that the first night after the swifts arrive back in the area the Great Tit abandons the nest. It must be linked.
The Great Tit must in some way know that it’s in a site ideal for another bird, in this case a Swift, who has that day arrived back in the neighbourhood, so it decides to avoid any possible confrontation by finding somewhere else to sleep. Certainly the Great Tit thinks that a swift might use the box, which is encouraging for me.
As a farewell to my now departed Great Tit Friend here he is again from earlier in the year arriving into the box for a nights sleep.
Weather : Slightly cooler weather, no rain.
Notes : Still no Swifts, or perhaps I’m just not paying enough attention. This afternoon I’ll have a very good stare at the sky to double check.
This week there was also a really prolonged period when I heard a pair of Robins alarm calling, somewhere outside the bounds of my back garden, in one of the neighbours. It seemed to be coming from the neighbour to the back left.
I remembered this alarming from when I have a Robin nest last year and I surmised that there must be a Robin nest near by and that it was under threat, likely from a cat, possibly one of my cats. When this occurs the Adult Robins moved a short way off any make long and loud alarm calls, I guess trying to distract the threat to the nest.
Then unfortunately a couple of days later one of my cats did come back into the garden with a baby Robin in its’ mouth. The bird was still alive so we rescued it from the cat and tried to put it somewhere safe. But it was obviously damaged and now of course separated from the adults, and later that night it was finally found and killed by the cat. Not a happy ending for this young Robin and adds to my guilt about owning cats, even if they seem to take very few birds.
However I think it is standard attrition rate for a nest of Robins, I’m afraid they will loose a couple of chicks from a nest, one way or another. It’s also clear evidence that there was a Robin nest somewhere near by behind the house and that the chicks are already fledging. Typically, the female of this pair will already be looking for the next nesting site as they will have multiple broods during the year.
The nest was started in my Robin nest box at the start of June last year, but I think the front area of my house is in the territory of a different pair.
However I was rather proud of myself that I was able to guess what was going on just by listening to the Robin calls. I’m learning.
Weather : Warm Spring weather.
Notes : It’s approaching the time for the arrival of the swifts although no sign yet. Last year my first sighting was on the 28th April and I think this was quite a late arrival, so it could be any day now.
The Great Tit is still using the Swift nest box as a nighttime roost, I’m not sure what will happen in the event that a Swift actually wishes to move in.
No other big news from the garden. The tit nest box is still empty so I think at this stage 2022 will be another blank year. The Robin box is also still empty but I can hope for a nest later in the year.
Weather : Cold Weather, several overnight frosts and even snow showers.
Notes : We are now into April and I’m still looking at empty nest boxes. It looks like another barren year for me!
This is true for the two tit boxes as typically by now, for both Blue and Great Tits, nesting would be underway. As both of these species, in this area anyway, only tend to have one brood per year, it looks like the moment has passed.
It’s now the second year when I’ve had no active Tit nests, For the 4 or 5 years up to then I was always getting one. I really don’t know what has changed.
I have still got an occasional visitor checking out the box, the latest from this week, so perhaps all hope is not lost and I may get a late breeding pair.
I do though have hope for the Robin Nest Box. Robins have multiple broods per year, usually using different nest sites. My Box was used last year by a pair which started building their nest in June, so plenty of time.
And I also still have my Swift nest box. I think my chances of getting a nesting swift are quite remote, and they will anyway not return until late April or early May. But happily the nest box is still being used every night by a roosting Great Tit. (Who also shows no signs of building a nest).
Unlike my other boxes the image quality is a bit low but it is still nice to see it arrive every night for a nice, warm, safe sleep.
Weather : Warm Spring weather.
Notes : Oh Dear, no action at all in either of the Tit nest boxes and I think I may be heading towards a second blank year. The weather has been fantastic over the last week and now is the time for the Tits to start building there nests, so I think the lack of action is telling.
It’s a bit of a disappointment but I guess the cats are an additional facture which mitigate against the birds using the nest boxes.
I still have hopes for the Robin nest box and even the Swift nest box, both of which will come more into play later in the year.
The last week, since the really excellent spring weather arrived, has also been quieter in the garden, perhaps some birds busy building their nests and others are ready to move out of the suburban garden environment.
The Great Tit has however continued to roost every night in the swift nest box, still there from evening to the early morning.
Weather : Warm, a little rain towards the end of the week.
Notes : It’s nearing the nesting season and hopefully I will have some action in my nest boxes this year. This week I started to see a few exploratory visits to the boxes, both from the Tits and also a Robin checking out the Robin Nest Box.
I filmed the visit below on the 8th March.
The other news is that a Great Tit has continued to use the Swift Nest Box as a night time roost, never missing a night.
Weather : Sunny with the occasional overnight frost.
Notes : The highlight of the week has been the sight of a bird using the Swift nest box, only, obviously at this time of year, it is not a swift.
A Great tit is using the box as a roosting sight. It’s been in there every night this week and by the state of the box I’m guessing for quite a while before that. It must have been using it as a Winter roosting location.
I sent a Blog Post on it here.
Apart from this of interest this week I’ve seen a pair of Robins in the garden. As they are solitary during the Winter, only coming together to share a breeding territory for the Spring, the pair in the back garden must be a breeding pair.
Weather : A big storm passed through this week, wind and rain, otherwise warm springlike weather.
Notes : Over in the UK it’s just been national Nest Box week, possibly not THE biggest event of the year but a nice one none the less. And it’s now as a way of giving everybody a reminder that it’s the ideal time to get your nest boxes up, before the start of the breeding season, which is only a few weeks away.
All of mine are now up and ready to go and I have four spread around the garden.
Firstly I’ve got two boxes in the back garden ideal for Great Tits and Blue tits. For the first time in several years I didn’t have a brood in my regular nest box last year so I’ve added another one. Hopefully to increasing my chances. Tits like a nice open line of flight into the entry hole of the nest box so they need to be placed in an open location, you can see mine below.
My third box is the open fronted nest box which was successfully used last year by a pair of Robins to raise a brood.
The two difficulties I had with this box were that firstly the camera didn’t give very good images, so I’ve changed this over the Winter, but also the box was a bit too accessible for the cats. Indeed one of the newly fledged chicks was taken from under the box by one of the cats.
The Robins like their nests to be well concealed, in or behind thick hedges are favourite locations, I even remember when I was a kid we had a nest hidden inside our garden shed.
My Robin nest box is placed behind a conifer hedge and I haven’t moved it for this year. However I’ve added an extra barrier around it which I hope should keep the cats, or any other predators away.
My fourth nest Box is for the swifts, high up on the side of the house.
This has now been up for 2 years without any success, and really I’ve tried. I’ve been playing swift calls morning and evening with swifts circling overhead and all I’ve managed to do is to annoy the neighbours.
I did have ambitions of moving the box to perhaps a better location so over the Winter I disconnected the camera. However the move never happened and I had a little surprise when I reconnected the camera this week and took a look inside. The box was previously completely empty but now there is some debris inside, it looks like something has been inside over the winter.
Now the camera is connected again it’ll be interesting to see if it comes back. The swifts won’t be back until much later in Spring so I’ll have plenty of time to see.
The other work I’ve been doing over Winter to prepare myself for the new nesting season is to upgrade my PC and Video equipment. Happily I can now live stream and record several cameras at the same time.
I haven’t yet fully connected the swift nest box but the other three are up and for the time being can be seen here.
I’m ready for the new nesting season, now I just need the birds to oblige.
Weather : A few hard overnight frosts otherwise quite mild.
Notes : A clear highlight this week was a new visitor to the garden, my first ever Serin, described here.
I don’t know if it is my memory playing tricks, perhaps the empty weeks of Winter have made me forget, but there seems to be a lot of bird activity and especially bird calls and song in the mornings. I’m beginning to get a real feel of Spring already.
I’ve been keeping the feeders topped up, also the small feeder I have at the front of the house. I keep it filled with dried mealworms and the objective was to attract Robins, in the hope that they’ll also notice the nearby Nest Box. Perhaps it worked last year as I did have a Robin nest in the box.
The mealworms have been disappearing and I wanted to see if I was indeed attracting the targeted Robins, so I set up a camera. The initial results have concluded otherwise.
No sign this time of any Robins, the Great Tits are at it again.
Weather : Cold and very wet after the mild start to the year.
Notes : I do enjoy a bit of record keeping and number crunching and now that we’re convincingly into 2022 I’ve had a look at my bird records for 2021 and particularly the comparison with the previous year.
The main record that I keep is simply to log on a weekly basis the bird species that I see in the garden. The bird has to be in the garden or in a tree overhanging the garden, flying overhead doesn’t count. The log in this way doesn’t take account of the number of birds seen, for example if I saw 1 Starling or 20 Starlings. I just note for the week in question that a starling was seen in the garden.
I did a similar analysis last year for the records of 2020 which can be found here, and I’ve compared 2021 with this.
The first conclusion is that across the year I had fewer different bird species in the garden in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2020 the total was 27 different species compared to only 24 in 2021. Last year I didn’t spot any Green Woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Marsh Tits or Firecrests.
However I did have 1 new addition compared to 2021, the Chiffchaff, described in more detail here.
The comparison on a weekly basis, shown in the graph below, is also quite telling.
In the graph, the Blue line is 2020 and the Red is 2021, and they are very comparable for the first 6 months of the year. But for the second 6 months of 2021 the trend is that there were fewer species compared to 2020.
My conclusion is that this is due to the introduction of my two domestic cats into the garden. As a family we’ve greatly enjoyed having them, and the positives have been many, but undoubtedly it has had a negative impact on the bird activity in the garden. The cats have only caught and killed a very few birds, maybe 4, but their presence does scare them away. Especially those which feed on the ground, and which are therefore much more vulnerable.
I’m learning how to make the garden safer for the birds by repositioning the feeders and bird boxes and also adding some protective measures. So hopefully there will be some rebound in 2022.
The only bird that still has a 100% presence record, that is to say I’ve seen it in the garden every week since January 2020 is, unsurprisingly the Great Tit. My No 1 garden bird friend.
I’ve already said that there were some birds completely missing in 2021 compared to 2020. Ignoring these, the records of 2021 also show some bird species on the rise and others on the decline, in my garden at least, compared to 2020. The big winners and losers are shown below.
As said earlier all of the losers are ground feeding birds, looks like the cat factor again. I think that the reason for the Blackcap being the big winner was that I had some individuals over-winter in my garden last year. Typically they are summer visitors which head South for the winter. I’ve read that one of the impacts of climate change, and the generally warmer temperatures, is that birds which typically migrate South for the European winter may not need to head so far. Blackcaps are in this category and the individuals which spend the winter in my garden, regularly using the fat ball feeders, may have come down from somewhere like the UK.
My Bird year highlight from 2021 was the Robin Nest in one of the camera nest boxes. It was really fascinating to watch this, and in particularly the differences with the Great Tit nest. It was much quicker and much more secretive. Without the camera I would never have known that it was there, the chicks maintain a strict radio silence to protect themselves from potential predators.
It also provided lots of lovely images, it’s difficult to pick a favourite but I’ll go with this.
My last comment on the weekly records is that I find it impossible to take records 52 weeks of the year, sometimes I’m just not here! But I did a bit better in 2021 with 47 weeks compared to 2020 with 41 weeks. I’m becoming borderline neurotic about keeping my records!
So onwards into 2022. I’m hoping for a good bird year, particularly wishing for a pair of swifts to use my lovely nest box.
If you are at all interested in the bird activity in your garden or environment I would really encourage you to participate to the annual Garden Bird count weekend which this year is on 29-30th January. Wonderfully it’s run on the same weekend in both the UK and France and you can find the necessary information at the links below.
For the UK : Big Garden Birdwatch | The RSPB
For France : Toutes les nouvelles – www.oiseauxdesjardins.fr
I manage to do it most years, the results from last year were noted here, and I’ll share them again for this year in a couple of weeks.
Wishing you all a very good Bird year.
Weather : A very warm new year, daytime temperatures have been in the mid teens.
Notes : The bird activity has increased throughout December, as is normal for the time of the year, although still not quite at the same levels of last year.
I seem to be missing a few birds such as Coal Tits, which were very regular visitors last year. I know have a full set of records for 2021 which I can now compared to 2020 and I plan to do this in the next days.
I took a moment to have a look at the Nest Box I have on one of the road side trees, my guerilla nest boxing. I wanted to check if it had been used.
I found some nesting material inside, a nest had been started, but never finished and it had never been occupied.
Interestingly it was heavily covered with fire bugs, in French they are often called gendarmes. Maybe a nice over wintering spot for these insects.
Weather : Colder wetter week. First wintery weather of the year.
Notes : The parakeets are now definitely back in force in the garden, the best shot of the weekend was a group of 8 really mobbing the bird feeders.
This week I also made a couple of changes to the garden to make it more difficult for the cats to disturb the birds.
Firstly I install a device on one of the trees which should hopefully stop the cats climbing it and getting to the area with the bird feeders.
It looks a little scary and because of the anatomy of the tree, which is quite a small crab apple tree, I had to install it much lower than the recommended height. Hopefully it will deter the cats but I’ll remove it if looks like it may pose a risk to them.
The second change was a bit easier in that I made and set up a new bird table.
I like having a variety of bird feeders in the garden, they can be used with different foods and attracts a greater variety of birds. Unfortunately the cats took my original flat bird table out of play. It was too low and also, as it was free standing, too easy for them to knock over.
This new platform is slightly higher and I’ve attached it to an existing metal frame that the cats certainly can’t climb, at least I don’t think so. Hopefully it will again bring a few more birds back into the garden.
The positioning is also done so that I can see it on the bird feeder camera, one of my first visitors from earlier today was a Jay.
Weather : Typical Autumn weather, little rain during the week.
Notes : Last week was the return of the Parakeets but this week an even better return to the garden. Crested Tits, seen below on the feeder camera.
Coming from the UK, where these birds are really rare, I’ve never really got over the excitement of being able to see Crested Tits in my garden. Throughout the year they are occasional visitors but during the Winter, from November to February, they are more or less permanent.
Certainly in my garden they are drawn to the food on the feeders and I guess in general that is why they come into these suburban environments, protection from the harsh weather and easy access to food.
Although I think they generally leave my area at the end of the Winter I did see last May a family group, adults with newly fledged chicks, which spent a couple of days in the garden. This would indicate that this pair at least had stayed long enough to nest fairly nearby.
A Crested Tit nest would just be too much excitement for me.
Weather : Several cold nights during the week with the first frost in the garden.
Notes : I’ve spent a lot of time watching the bird feeder action this week and although no new birds have turned up in the garden the Parakeets have made a bit of a return.
They are not fully back in their previous numbers but when they do come in they seem to be the dominant force and are able to push the still ever present Jays away. The Jay in the video below was one such victim.
I have seen the Dunnocks again this week but feeding on the ground is still a risky business for the birds in my Garden. The cats tend to be more active in the morning and one of them has firmly staked out an ambush point in the bushes to the left of the feeders.
He’s pretty well hidden but he’s there.
Thankfully they are not very successful at actually catching anything but it does have the effect of keeping the birds away from the garden.
I’m very happy with the bird feeder camera I set up using only a very cheap, 10Euro camera. Due to my technical limitations I can’t keep it streaming 24/7 but you can find the link here and I will keep it streaming today for any of you that are interested to have a look.
Weather : Quite mild Autumn weather but several very wet days..
Notes : Highlight of this week has been the return of a Dunnock to the garden. These were more or less ever presents until the arrival of the cats when they disappeared. They feed on the ground and are therefore quite vulnerable. However I’ve seen an individual, only one, bouncing around the garden this week.
They’re remarkably non-descript small birds, easily confused with a Sparrow on first sight.
But they have an interesting and dramatic side to life when it comes to breeding. Unusually among birds they have very flexible pairing and mating arrangements. They don’t go in for the traditional single pair, male-female malarkey.
The most typical arrangement is that a single female will raise a brood with eggs from several males. Therefore a Dunnock nest will contain a single female with the chicks being supported and fed by several males at the same time.
Other arrangements can exist with several females mating with the same male or a group of females mating with a group of males.
This makes watching a nest in the garden, and they nest quite often in garden hedges, quite confusing but very interesting. Worth keeping an eye open for a nest in Spring.
Weather : Perfect Autumn Weather, Cold mornings, Sunny afternoons. No rain for the last week.
Notes : Now that we’re into the autumn the garden bird activity has picked up a little. The cats are spending a bit less time outside during the day, compensated by more time outside during the night. This is bad news for the mice, who are active, and therefore vulnerable at night but much better for the birds.
The overall number of bird species in the garden is still less than ‘pre-cat’ but it’s recovering from the lows of August. There are lots of Great and Blue tits on the feeders but most of the ground feeders are still staying away, I haven’t seen a Dunnock for several weeks.
The change in the behaviour of the Parakeets has also been remarkable. For years they have been ever present and pest like in the garden, but over the last weeks they have largely disappeared, not just from my garden but also the immediate neighbourhood. I’m not sure why this is but I doubt that it can be related to my two cats. It will be interesting to see if this change is permanent.
As Winter is probably the peak time on the bird feeders I’ve reconnected a camera so that I can watch and record some of the action. I’ll keep this going on and off during the winter. I’ll try and live stream the camera during any particularly cold snaps as these are the moments with the most visitors and potentially also the most interesting.
For now I got a short snippet from the camera, including a visit from one of the many Jays who seem to have taken over from the Parakeets as the dominant bird force in the garden.
Weather : Quite cool temperatures but little rain.
Notes : It really is right now the low garden point of the year. Stillness reins.
This is a seasonal phenomenon but I’m also very worried about the impacts of the cats in the garden. I feel sure that they are keeping away some birds, as said before particularly those that feed on the ground. Also the famous Parakeets seemed to have disappeared! It’s eerily quiet.
My last sighted Swift this year was the 1st August, a group circling high over the garden. Slightly later than last year, which was the 25th July, but consistent with the later arrival time.
Weather : Finally starting to see some summer temperatures after a period of cool, wet weather.
Notes : I haven’t made an update to the general Garden Bird Log as I’ve been concentrating on the Robin Nest, from which six chicks successfully fledged earlier this week.
I had a lot of technical difficulties with recording the activity in this nest location but I still managed to follow everything and the full story of the nest can be found here.
The other big change I’ve introduced wince the last update is that I’ve started to let my two cats roam freely in the garden during the day. I’ve introduced two alpha predators of garden birds.
This goes quite against the odds of the overall experiment which was to make the garden a more friendly space for nature and all it’s flora and fauna. But it was a family decision to have pets, there have been a lot of benefits for us all during the COVID period and we’ll just have to see how the nature project responds.
Watching the cats it is clear that the birds at biggest risk are those that feed on the ground. Straight away I’ve seen a big decrease in the numbers of chaffinches, dunnocks, pigeons and collared doves in the garden.
Also there are a lot of juvenile birds around at this time, particularly great tits, and they are clearly easier prey for the cats. So far in total I’ve seen them take 3 birds, including a Great Tit and one juvenile Robin fresh out of the Nest I was following.
I’ve also been moving the bird feeders to try and find a spot providing maximum safety but I think I’ll really have to install something new for the autumn/winter as none of my locations are particularly safe. The cats are fantastic climbers so anything in a tree is not safe.
The swifts are still here and screeching away in the evenings. I again didn’t manage to attract them into my nest box, I’m already thinking of a better location for 2022? But it’s still a great pleasure to see and hear them overhead. It’s time to really enjoy this as in a couple of weeks they’ll be gone, heading back to Africa.
The pond hasn’t yet drawn in any different bird visitors. Again it’s obviously at ground level and therefore completely inside the cat zone, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this.
Weather : Warm Sunny week.
Notes : I had pretty much given up hope of having a bird’s nest in one of my boxes this year. Certainly the Great Tit/Blue Tit box, for the first year ever, had no takers and I have also drawn a blank again this year with my Swift nest box, although there are plenty of swifts around.
As for the open fronted ‘Robin Nest box’, I tried a new location this year, all wired up with a camera but had seen no signs of interest. I also understood that it is a little more difficult to get Robins to use a prepared box, they are quite happy nesting in natural environments, so my hopes were not high.
But, but, but. Never give up hope. I had my cameras off during the day and when I turned them back on in the evening a nest had started in my ‘Robin Nest Box’. I was very happy indeed.
It’s definitely a Robin building the nest.
The box is located behind a Pine bush and I think a lot of the material used, especially at the bottom of the nest are fallen pine needles, so quite coarse. I can however also see some softer moss at the top.
The rather remarkable point is the speed with which the nest was built. By day 2 it was complete.
My only previous experience of watching the daily progress of a nest construction was with great tits, and for them it took a week to 10 days to build.
I guess this may be because Robins nest multiple times throughout the Summer and therefore build multiple nests. A great tit pair will probably only nest once, maybe at the maximum twice, but generally speaking they can spend more time over their one precious nest. The Robin, and the nest building is the responsibility of the female, is working to a different time scale.
The first egg was laid on the 12th June, which is Day 5 of the Nest and the second was laid this morning.
The Robin should continue to lay an egg a day until it has around 5 and then it should start to incubate for around 13 Days.
I hope it gets that far but I’ve started a specific nest Log to track the activity and I’ll now be keeping some more detailed updates there.
Weather : Warm Sunny week with a couple of days of thunderstorms in the middle.
Notes : I think I’m going to have to declare a year with no active bird nests in the garden as the swifts are still not showing any interest in the box. There are lots of them overhead and they’ve been getting lower as the weeks have gone on. I’ve also seen them approaching several buildings in the neighbourhood, I guess to access or establish nests. I even saw a case of the typical example where a building had replaced the roof over the winter and the Swifts were no longer able to access their nests, which I guess had been removed. But still no takers for my beautiful box.
Since the last log update I’ve seen several family groups in the garden, adults with juvenile birds, so I guess in general it has been a successful nesting season. This despite the cold, wet weather during May. I’ve seen family groups of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins, Dunnocks, Crested Tits and Magpies. However generally they’ve moved on now so we are really coming into the quite time for the garden birds.
One new arrival is the Blackcap. I haven’t yet seen one but I’ve definitely heard it in the vicinity. Last year a pair spend the summer nesting in the neighbours sycamore tree so hopefully they’ll do the same this year and I’ll spot them in the coming days.
My pond is also now in so I’ll be keeping an eye to see if it brings in any new bird visitors.
Weather : Generally cool and wet week, plenty of showers, some heavy.
Notes : No interest in the swift nest box. I’ve been trying to play the swift calls regularly, morning and evening, although I must say that I’ve missed quite a few days. I am seeing the swifts above the house regularly feeding, although we are still in a period of cold, damp weather which I guess is not ideal for insects.
Another highlight from the week has been a family of blackbirds, adults and newly fledged chicks that I’ve spotted. I’ve now seen young Blackbirds, crested tits, robins, dunnocks, blue tits and great tits. So there have been lots of successful nest in the area this year.
Weather : Mixed week of sunshine and showers.
Notes : Highlight of the week was the presence for a couple of das of a family of crested tits, parents and chicks using the fat ball feeder. I haven’t seen any crested tits in the garden for several weeks but I guess they must have nested quite close by. They hung around for a couple of days before heading off.
It is now the time of the year when newly fledged chicks can be spotted and I’ve also seen Great Tit and blue tit chicks in the garden during the week. Generally making too much noise and bouncing around in the bushes as they get use to the outside world. So although no nests in my boxes this year plenty of successful nests are around.
The swifts have been increasing in activity during the week and are now often flying low over the house. Without unduly bothering the neighbours I’m trying to play the swift calls as much as possible to try and attract them into the nest box, at least they should know it’s there.
And to finish I caught a Song Thrush on the hedgehog Trail camera, ahh.
Weather : Becoming colder and wetter as the week progressed. Some much needed rain.
Notes : Highlight of the week has been the return of the swifts. I saw a group circling high feeding on insects on the 28th April. They haven’t been very present above the garden since but it is a sign that the swift season is starting.
Unfortunately apart from this it has been another rather unremarkable week for bird activity. I did see a few more jays in the garden, an a particular episode when they started to make a lot of noise. I took a look and it was actually the presence of a cat under the bird table that was creating the problem.
Weather : Dry and clear, very warm in the afternoons, no rain.
Notes : A slow week for the birds in the garden and it seems to be confirming a slow year, certainly in comparison with last year. Very few Jays, blackbirds and crows.
I can imagine that part of the change is linked to the absence of active nests in the garden this year. The smaller birds are busy nesting elsewhere and the nest predator, for example the jays, are therefore absent, nothing for them in my garden.
No sign yet of the swifts but I would be very hopefully indeed for the week ahead.
Weather : General dry and clear, cold during the nights but warming in the afternoons.
Notes : Highlight of the week was the sighting of a dunnock family in the garden, parents feeding newly fledged chicks. I saw them but heard them first as the chicks were very loud.
This is my first sighting of newly hatched chicks of any variety this year. The dunnocks, like robins and several others, will plan to have several broods during the year hence they start earlier. I guess that they must have nested nearby, probably one of the hedges, although it would be nice to find out where exactly.
No activity in any of the nest boxes or in the roof and no sign yet of any swifts. Their return is a little later than last year.
Other significant note from the week is that I didn’t record any chaffinches in the garden. The Chaffinches are nearly permanent residents in the garden so it is quite unusual for them to be absent. I checked my records and last year I only recorded 2 weeks without any in the garden, and last year this was the end of March, so nearly the same time of year. Maybe they are very busy nesting elsewhere, hence the absence.
Weather : Very cold, a few hard overnight frost, and then a lot of rain at the end of the week.
Notes : Very quiet in the garden this week and a drop in the number of species recorded. No Blackcaps for example, perhaps my overwintering individuals have pushed North and the Summer residents have yet to arrive.
No interest in any of the nest boxes or the rood nest. I think part of the reduction in activity may be that the birds are all busy nesting elsewhere at the moment. It’s keeping them, and the predators, such as the jays, away from my garden.
Luckily I have the hedgehogs to watch and if I’m lucky I may see the first swifts this year.
Weather : Sunny Spring weather, very warm in the afternoons.
Notes : Little to report in the garden this week. No interest in any of the nest boxes and no signs of the Great Tits nesting in the roof. Very strange that this year, at least the early part seems so barren of activity here.
Also no variation in the typical garden bird activity this week. Little to report.
Weather : Chilly nights but generally warm sunny days, a few heavy rain showers.
Notes : I recorded a new bird in the garden this week, a Chiffchaff, bird number 28 on the list.
I saw it in the bushes to the side of the garden and it was only present for 10 minutes or so, but I’m pretty sure it was the first one, not a rare bird but a new garden visitor. I sent out a blog post that you can find here.
I also saw a bat circling overhead for a couple of evenings, which again is the first sighting this year. Both of these show that we are now progressing into Spring proper.
Still no sign of any activity in the Great Tit nest box and it now begins to look less likely that I’ll have a nest. Looking back at my records the latest a Great Tit nest has been started in one of the boxes in the back garden was the 28th March, today. We are now into uncharted territory. Another bad sign is that the Great Tits have stopped coming up to the entrance hole to check out the box. It would seem that they have probably found an alternative nest site this year, which is a shame because it will be the first year that I’ve not had a nest in the back garden boxes. I don’t know if the new box or more probably the newly installed light has put them off.
If I’m clutching at straws I would say that every year we have also had a Great Tit nest under the roof at the front of the house. However again this nest has not yet started. Perhaps it is a late year for nesting, but then again I know many friends currently recording nest building in full swing.
I would certainly say that the next week will be key and if at the end of that there is no action I will need to write it off as a fallow year.
I have this week re-installed the swift box in advance of their return. I went as high as I could manage on the rented ladders. It would probably have been ideal to get right under the eaves but honestly that was just a little too much for me.
I will happily settle for a swift nest this year.
Weather : Cold week, some heavy showers.
Notes : No activity in the Great Tit nest box, and in fact very few visits inside the box, much fewer than a couple of weeks ago. I’m also getting alerts from friends and contacts of the start of nesting activity for Great Tits and Blue Tits. So I very, very much hope to see something next week, we are due for better weather.
Couple of nice spots in the garden this week have been the first Jay of the year. I see lots out and about but they come into my garden mainly during the spring nesting season. I would expect to see lots more of them in the next weeks and months.
Other nice spots have been a tree creeper, actually on the seed feeder, which I’ve never seen before, and also a visit from a pair of long tailed tits. Again not new or rare birds but only very occasional garden visitors.
Weather: Cold and Clear and then turning windy with some heavy rain showers.
Notes: I haven’t seen a coal tit for a couple of weeks now and also much fewer visits from the created tits. Perhaps there is a bit of a change happening as we move into Spring.
The food in the feeders is also disappearing faster and I think this is mainly because of the Parakeets and Starlings. I did a Garden Bird count this week and I had 8 Starlings and 8 Parakeets all in the garden feeding at the same time.
The Great Tit is still visiting the nest box. Last year the first day of Nest building was the 19th March, so this coming week could be the start. The weather forecast for the week is quite cold though, back down to freezing at night, maybe this can have an impact.
Weather: Colder week. Very little rain.
Notes: First visit of a bird to the Robin Box this week, unfortunately it was just a Great Tit. Apart from this no sign of any activity for this potential nest.
I’m seeing more and more visits inside the Great Tit Nest Box, this week I recorded 4. I’ve made a little Graph.
It quite nicely shows the increasing activity as we approach spring and get near to the nest building season. So all seems in order for the Great Tit Nest Box. Hopes remain high.
Weather: Sunny and warm. Getting slightly colder as the week went on. Very little rain.
Notes: The frequency of the Great Tit visits to the nest box have been increasing this week. I’m capturing a visit nearly everyday now, the best sequence was probably that below.
I also managed to record one visit where both birds where present and also the communication between the two can be heard.
No other notably activity during the week and still no signs of any Robins taking an interest in the other Nest Box.
Weather: Warm week, sunny with only a little rain. Spring!
Notes: Fantastic spring like weather all week and a couple of interesting birds spotted in the garden. I saw my first Goldcrest and also the first Wren of the year. Perhaps the nice weather brought out these very small birds.
Lots of active around the Great Tit nest Box. I recorded several visits on the camera.
They started to come into the box nearly every other day this week. I also had two visits on the same day, 17th February.
I also getting some quite nice exterior pictures on the trail camera which I’ve installed and I’ll leave in place until the end of the nesting period.
So all is going well for the potential Great Tit Nest but still no interest in the Robin nest box. Also my rather fragile looking one legged Robin, who was around last week seems to have disappeared. Maybe he was just passing through or perhaps he is no more. I hope it is the first but I fear it is more likely the second.
Weather: Very Cold all week. Snow on the ground and freezing temperatures at night.
Notes: This week we have seen the harshest winter weather of the year, snow on the ground and bird baths, ponds, etc, all frozen over. I was interested to see if this would bring in any new birds to the garden. The answer was a resounding no, I saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.
I captured another visit of the Great Tit to the nest box so everything is going well there.
I’ve also had some success with the temporary feeder installed at the front of the house. It has attracted a Robin that is regularly using it. I’ve also seen this robin in the hedge around the nest box, so it has certainly been found. This Robin is however injured, it only has one foot. I don’t know if it is male or female but I guess a one footed Robin may have some difficulty defending a territory and bringing up a brood.
I remember last year I had a one footed Robin that was regular visitor to the back garden. It may be the same bird or perhaps it is a typical injury for a Robin? I did get a rather low quality picture of the one footed Robin on the feeder.
In addition to this Robin at the front of the house, there is another in the back garden which is using the hanging seed feeders. During the summer months the Robins will find enough insects so that they do not need to bother with the feeders. But during the winter, especially periods of harsh weather like we have had this week, they will happily take from them.
Weather: Very wet again this week lots of rain.
Notes: Another visit to the Great Tit box this week, so all is still looking very positive for the Spring.
To try and encourage the Robins to check out the other Nest Box I installed a temporary feeder on the door of the garage, filled up with mealworms. I haven’t seen anything on the Nest Box Camera but earlier today I did see a Robin near to the feeder, in the hedge in front of the Box. So they have found the location and I’m sure the also the box. Of course they still might not use it.
The weather next week promises to be cold, maybe with snow, so this could provoke some interesting bird activity in the garden.
Weather: Warmer but much wetter again this week. Lots of Rain.
Notes: No sign of any interest in the Robin Nest Box but I did record another visit by a Great Tit to the fence nest box.
So all the signs continue to indicate that the Great Tits are preparing to use the Nest Box again this year.
My other point of interest from the week was watching a small male Blackcap that was present on most days. It was a much smaller individual than the other Blackcaps I’ve seen this year, although again still a male. I haven’t seen a female blackcap all winter.
This new Blackcap was a keen feeder from the hanging bird feeders, particularly on the fatballs. I found this interesting as I’ve never seen a Blackcap on the feeders. They normally stick to the hedgerows where they feed on berries, in my garden this means Ivy berries.
Not sure if this is change of diet during the harshest point of the year is typical in Blackcaps or if this individual is a bit unique. I am interested though, and must look into it, as to why I’m only seeing males during the winter.
Weather: Cold and week all week. A couple of snow flurries
Notes: The Great Tits continued to keep an eye on the nest box this week with several visits to the entrance hole. Although they are not going in, only checking it out.
No activity at all around the Robin box. I have put some mealworms in a feeder close by as this may get them into the area. I’m hoping that if they found the box they might like it.
Highlight of the week was nice picture of a Blackbird from one of the trail cameras.
Weather: Cold and Wet. We also had one day of snow. The snow was cleared by rain the following day.
Notes: A cold week including a day of snow saw a slight drop in the overall bird activity in the garden. No Blackcaps were seen and I’m not sure if this is related to the cold weather or not.
It was interesting that during the day of snow the crested tits suddenly became very prominent on the feeders throughout the day. Typically I see them a few times during the week but they were present throughout the day when it snowed. I don’t know if this feeding behaviour is triggered by the snow but it seemed very coincidental.
The other event of the week was the first recorded visit of a Great Tit into the new nest box.
I saw the bird as it left and it was definitely the female. For Great Tits it is the sole responsibility of the female to build the nest so I take it as a very good sign that this female spent some time in the box.
Weather: Cold all week. Daytime temperatures between 1-4oC. A very little rain. No snow
Notes: The weather was finally not so cold last week, nor was there any snow, and perhaps as a consequence there was no big evolution in the garden bird activity. No new or exotic visitors but the Winter is of course not yet over so I’ll keep my eyes open.
The Great Tits are very active and also very vocal, they’re already marking and defending their territories. At the front of the house, where typically we have a pair which nest in the house roof, their is already a particular Male which is singing very loudly.
There has also been plenty of activity around the nest box in the back garden. Typically each day a Great Tit comes by and pops it’s head into the box to check it out. I also captured a nice sequence of photos below.
At one point a Blue Tit thought to take a look at the box, likely as a potential nest sight and it provoked an immediate response from a Male great tit. He arrived, scared off the Blue Tit and then made sure to check out that everything was OK in the box.
I’ve noted before the the Great Tits are keeping a close eye on the box and all of the evidence seems to indicate that this is the case and that they are working to defend it as their nest site.
Weather: First cold snap of the year started from Friday. Temperatures regularly below 0oC at night. Plenty of rain.
Notes: Our first cold snap of the winter arrived a few days ago and looks set to continue for at least the next week. We should have regular overnight frosts and potentially some snow. Apart from the fact that I really like snow, I have been waiting for such a change in weather to see if it has any impact on the activity in the garden, particularly the birds.
I undertook an hourly garden bird survey on the 30th, just before the arrival of the cold weather, and already the recorded activity was much higher than anything previously noted. This was both in terms of number of different species seen during the hour and the number of birds.
The activity at the feeders was fierce during the hour, I guess that they knew cold weather was coming.
A couple of things which took my interest were firstly the Blackcaps. During the hour observation I actually saw three in the garden at the same time, which is alot. But the point I found interesting were that they were all males. I would have expected to see a female as well. One theory could be that the females have migrated further south but the males are staying so that they can be the firstly to claim the best territories in the Spring.
The second point is that I’m seeing more Blue Tits in the garden, not necessarily indicated in the hourly survey but it seems to be a cofnirmed trend. It seems that the roaming flocks of tits which sometimes pass through the garden are mainly made up of Blue or Long Tailed Tits whereas the Great Tit presence seems more stable.
At this stage I haven’t particularly seen any different birds in the garden, nothing to add to the log of 27 garden bird species. A few I may be looking out for during a cold snap could be Hawfinch, Redwing, Redpoll and Siskins. My very good friend and very knowledge naturalist Roger Baugh is often telling me to keep an eye out for these during the cold weather. So I’ll be hoping for some luck.
It is also a good idea to keep on an eye on your nest boxes. In bad weather groups of small birds may decide to use them as an overnight roost to keep warm. I’ve seen this for example with wrens where big groups may bundle together inside a box.
I also have a nice new, warm and dry nest box to offer the birds in my garden as following the problem of the damp in the Great Tit bird box I have now replaced it for a more watertight model.
In the end I went for a box of a different design as I had one which I’d purchased a couple of years ago already available. I think it came with my very first nest box camera kit, but I had never used it.
A few hours after installation it was interesting to see a Great Tit checking it out, you can see the beak in the video below.
I’m sure that the resident Great Tit pair are carefully watching the box and fully intend to use it for nesting. I hope that the change of design and the light does not put them off this year. I did tape over the side window as I thought it was providing a bit too much light and visibility. Not a very beautiful job, with masking tape, but it will do for now.
I’ve updated the web page with all the info on the new Great Tit box and you can find more details here.
I’ve also cleaned and equiped with a camera a Robin nest box. I’ll add some details onto the website for this box and also the Robin in general. I’m hopeful I’ve got a good location for the box which will temp my resident pair. If it does it will of course be available to follow on my site during the Spring.
An image below of the inside of this new box. The light quality is not fantastic but I think it will be good enough to follow any activity.
I have also been working to refurbish and equip the Swift nest box but I have a little more time as they will not be back until April. The Great Tits and Robins will be checking out their nest sites from January and depending on the weather nest building may start in February, especially for the Robins. All this is only a few weeks away, exciting times ahead.
Weather: Generally cold and wet with a short warm peak before Christmas. Arrival of Storm Bella on 27th with strong winds and heavy rain.
Notes: The weather is getting progressively colder and wetter, so conditions gradually worsening for the birds. I’m keeping lots of food available in all the feeders and now that the starlings are back I’m replenishing more frequently.
In this area of France we don’t get a lot of snow but the forecast indicates that we may be getting some over the next weeks. If so it may increase the bird activity in the garden and on the feeders, I’ll be keeping an eye out for this.
I’ve rehashed and improved the record keeping in time for the final analysis of 2020 and to ease the record keeping in 2021. There is still one more week left in the year so I’ll give the final summary of the recorded activity next week.
We are also now coming towards the end of the period for sorting out nest boxes for next spring. I would like everything to be done for Mid January at the latest.
To this end I’m going to equip the Robin nest box with a camera and light. I’m not sure that the Robin’s will actually use the provided box, but I do think it is well situated and therefore the odds are reasonable. Robin’s are though quite temperamental and will abandon a nest site if the are disturbed, it would be difficult to fit a camera after the nesting has started. Therefore I will gamble a little and commit one of the cameras to the Robin nest Box now.
My second box under work is for the swifts. I plan to re-install it higher up, fully under the eaves of the house. Last year was my first trying for a swift nest and unfortunately I was unsuccessful. I’m hoping that a higher position will help. The other change I plan to make is to paint the inside black. I’ve done some reading and studies show that Swifts prefer a very dark environment in which to nest and that boxes painted black have a higher chance of occupation.
My last problem is the Great Tit nest box. This is my ‘banker’, however I have a problem. Earlier in the year I noticed that the inside of the box was getting damp. If the inside is liable to get damp and therefore cold it would certainly increase the chances of mortality of any young chicks.
The box has been up and outside for 3 years now and it is a bit warn so I took it down this autumn and tried to patch it up. This week we had a reasonable storm pass through, Storm Bella, carrying lots of rain and I’m afraid that it seems that my repairs have not been successful.
The inside of the box is still clearly damp. Therefore I need to decide whether to replace it with another box that I have, repair this one or perhaps remake a new box on the same model. I want to take the course that will disturb the birds the least as they are well used to this box in this location and it has been very successful in the past.
Hopefully I will resolve all of my bird box issues in the coming weeks and I’ll update the various pages on the site.
Weather: Cold and wet all week.
Notes: Key news of the week is the return of the starlings. I saw a couple of large groups in the neighbourhood before they finally hid the bird feeders, and the lawn, in my garden. They were ever present in the garden from the start of the year until July before disappearing. I guess they flock into the countryside in late summer and autumn due to available food. But they are now back for the winter and spring.
My other point of interest during the week was watching the feeding behaviour of the Magpies. When there was an abundance of food on the bird table they would quickly hide as much as possible beneath grass tufts in the garden. Basically stashing the food. But this didn’t seem to be stashing for later in the winter as they would only wait a few hours before coming back to eat the hidden food. Another subject I know nothing about but should look up for more info.
Weather: Generally cold and wet and the first overnight frost of the year.
Notes: No developments in the garden this week. We had the first overnight frost but no prolonged period of cold weather which might increase the mix and number of different birds in the garden. The positive aspect is that in general the small birds, such as the Great Tits, will suffer in a period of prolonged cold, when the competition for the available food would be greater. Hopefully my local nesting pair will be keeping in good condition and if this continues they’ll be really ready for the spring.
Weather: Generally cold with a few more rain showers. Nightime temperatures between 2-5oC.
Notes: No remarkable action in the garden this week. Some of the winter visitors are now regularly visiting the feeders, such as the coal tits and again the Blackcap was present.
Still no photo of the illusive Blackcap but I did get a little image of the Great Tit guarding the next box.
Weather: Generally cold and clear. Temperatures typical for the time of year. No Rain.
Notes: I installed a camera onto the bird feeder this week so I’ve been paying a particular attention to the visitors. This week again I’ve seen a crested Tit and also the coal tit is now a very regular visitor.
I’ve also repeatedly seen a Blackcap in the garden, feeding on the Ivy hedge. I spent some time trying to get a photo but no joy.
Weather: Weather progressively colder during the week. Temperatures now in single figures. Some rain.
Notes: A good week for birds in the garden. The number of different species has again increased, so it looks like the summer garden bird lull is officially over.
Two highlights from the week. Firstly I saw a Coal Tit, the first since March. I installed some new squirrel proof feeders this week. Not because I have a problem with squirrels but to try and make it a little harder for the parakeets. I filled the new feeder with sunflower hearts, rather than my more typical mixed seeds and within minutes a coal tit had arrived. Hopefully I will now see this bird on a regular basis throughout the winter.
My second highlight was a Goldcrest. I have seen these, and also Firecrests, before in the garden. They are more likely to visit in the winter but they are not regulars at any time of year. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of the actual bird visitor but a Goldcrest is shown below.
It is tiny, I believe the smallest bird in Europe. It can be hard to see as it’s constantly moving, bouncing around bushes and trees. It particularly likes coniferous trees and I when I saw it this week it was on the cedar tree in my back garden.
It is however extremely loud, making a noise like a very squeaky bike wheel. As it often moves with a group the combined noise can be really quite remarkable and easily audible from inside a house or even a car moving through an area with an active group. And if you hear them it is worth going for a look as they are not bothered but humans. They tend to ignore us entirely and therefore it can be possible to get quite close.
So if you are indoors and you hear a loud racket of squeaky wheels in the back garden, go and have a look as you may well have a group of Goldcrests coming through.
Finally this week I repurposed one of my old bird nest boxes and made it into a box suitable for a Blackbird. That is to say open fronted with a large hole and a shallow ledge. I’ve installed it 3m up in the cedar tree. It is a bit of an experiment, perhaps out of lockdown boredom, but I don’t think it will do any harm. It shouldn’t create any nesting competition with the Great Tits and it may attract some Blackbird interest. Although a nest in this location will be lucky not to be predated by other birds or even the Beech Marten.
I may take it down in the future but I’ll leave it up for a bit anyway.
Weather : Quite warm and wet this week. Temperatures slightly above the seasonal norm.
Notes : In the last couple of weeks’ I’ve seen a slightly greater variety of Bird species in the garden. I’ve spotted my first Green woodpecker of the year and also Crested Tits, Long-Tailed Tits and Wrens. All of them occasional visitors that typically I see more of during the winter.
With this in mind I produced a little graph to show the weekly variation of different bird species recorded throughout the year. As would be expected the results show generally fewer different species during the summer months but I’ll keep recording to confirm the trends.
Following the last Bird Log update, where I had undertaken the regular Garden Bird survey, I was contacted by the LPO, the French version of the RSPB, as I share the results on their website. They had a few questions. They were surprised at the number of birds, specifically Great Tits, that I was recording.
I had an exchange with a very nice chap called Christian.
I explained my method of performing the survey, recording the number of times a bird enters the garden during the hour, taking no consideration if these were different individual birds. The very nice man, still Christian, pointed out that I was doing it wrong.
The correct way to make the survey is to record the maximum number of birds seen in the garden simultaneous during the hour of observation. So, for example the maximum number of Great Tits seen at the same time, not the number of times a Great Tit enters and leaves the garden.
Therefore I modified my method, I made the first survey on the 11th November 2020 and I will keep adding the results, hopefully on a weekly basis as we go through the Winter.
I’ve also been closely watching the Great Tit behaviour and to help my understanding I’ve been doing some supplementary reading. The book is shown below. It’s quite heavy going, not for the casual reader, but it does contain a lot of good info.
In my garden I’ve definitely noticed territorial behaviour. Whenever a Great Tit or a Blue Tit lands on the bush just in front of the next box, shown in the photo below, they are within minutes chased away by another Great Tit. I can’ tell if it is always a male doing this chasing or not.
This indicates that a Male or perhaps a pair are permanently based in the garden, it is their home territory and they are defending it from other birds. They will tolerate other ‘roaming’ birds on the feeders in the garden but not so close to the nest Box.
My ‘heavy’ reading tells me that this is quite normal behaviour. A Great Tit will defend a territory during winter and stay there, especially if there is sufficient food, as there is in my garden. If food becomes scarcer or the weather turns very bad, they may start moving, typically by joining a roaming flock. Only coming back to reclaim and defend their territory when the weather gets better in late winter or early spring.
So it looks like my home Great Tit(s) are still here and are defending the nest box for use next spring.
Tiny final note. Again I’ve seen a bat circling low over the garden in the early evening. I still haven’t been able to identify it or to see where it is coming from, but the bat sighting was clearly not a one-off.
Weather : Quite warm and wet this week. Temperatures slightly above the seasonal norm.
Notes : Clear highlight of the week was that I spotted a Green Woodpecker. The first one that I have seen in the garden this year, hopefully not the last.
I did the one hour monthly bird survey last week and the results show a very low level of activity.
Obviously it is only a one hour snap shot and I have very few samples, only 7. So it is not yet possible to make any detailed analysis of the data or draw any conclusions.
In theory the winter period should see a progressive increase in garden activity, both the number of visitors and also the number of different species. To try and track this increase and to give myself a bit more data to play with I may try to move to a weekly survey for the next months.
Weather : Generally wet week with moderate temperatures
Notes : I haven’t updated the weekly log for a few weeks as the garden activity has been very unremarkable. Aside from the presence of the permanent residents there has been not much of significance.
Perhaps one note would go to the Robin which has been more vocal and visible in the back garden. One of its favoured feeding points is the compost heap and I managed to get a shot of it.
Robin pairs separate for the winter and defend their own territories, which means that there are more and much smaller territories. I therefore assume that a particular bird has established it’s winter territory centred on my back garden and is now busy defending it. A long winter lies ahead for this little bird.
The other point of note is not strictly bird related but I have seen a bat hunting quite low over the garden in the early evening. I can’t remember ever noticing a bat before over the garden, certainly not so low or obvious. I’m afraid that my bat ID abilities are not up to much so I can’t do better than guessing that is was a common pipistrelle, which is more a guess based on likely probability than any great knowledge. I’ll keep an eye out for it’s return.
Weather : Cold, wet and windy all week.
Notes : Little of significance this week in the garden. I’m watching for the return of a slightly wider range of garden visitors but I think for this more severe weather will be needed. Still a bit early on in the autumn/winter cycle for this.
What I did notice during the week was that the wet weather was getting into the great tit nesting box. The base was definitely getting wet after a few days of rain.
The problem here is that if there was a period of wet weather during the nesting seasons, particularly when the chicks are new born, they may get wet and this would dramatically reduce their chances of survival.
The box is quite old and the wood is getting a bit warped but I have taken it down during the week to feel the gaps I can and give the outside of the box a new coat of protection. Hopefully it will help.
Weather : First week of Autumn. Much colder with several windy, rainy days.
Notes : Officially the first week of autumn and the weather changed exactly to schedule. From the warm sun of last week to very wet, windy, cold autumnal weather this week.
A Great tit has been back again to the empty nest box. Spending a little time and also keeping in clear of mites. As a point of technical interest the sound of the bird is clearly audible in this clip therefore my problems of audio recording seemed to have been solved. This is good as during the whole nesting period of 2020 I had no audio, only video.
I’m not able to tell if this is the same bird as last week and whether it is a specific individual keeping it’s future nesting site spic and span. Birds will continue to visit the box during the winter, perhaps if I’m lucky and the weather gets bad enjoy it may be used as a roosting site during the occasion night.
This week I checked all of the other boxes I have dotted around, also a couple I put up in the poplar trees which line our road. My ‘Guerilla’ nest boxes.
None of them had been used for nesting during 2020. All of these nest boxes are at the front of the house and I guess that they are too close to the nest located in the roof of the house which is used every year by a pair of Great tits. However I’ve left them all in place for next year as you never know.
Weather : Extremely warm and sunny week. Temperatures far exceeding the seasonal norm.
Notes : Clear highlight of the week was the first visit into the next box by a great tit since I cleaned it out a couple of weeks ago.
Firstly it was very nice to see the images in colour, although I made a little mistake and forgot to record the wound. However it is a nice technical test of the upgraded box which seems to be working fine. The bird does not seem bothered by the presence of the light although at one point he does take quite a close look at the camera, light and cables all stuffed in the roof of the box.
It is interesting to see that they are already looking at potential nesting sites many months in advance.
Apart from this a fairly standard week of bird activity. I spotted again Crested tits but apart from this the variety of birds regularly spotted seems to be less in summer than winter. I understand that if we get a particularly hard period during the winter it should bring more birds into the suburban environments looking for food. I have been making regular weekly and monthly records of the bird activity and it will be interesting to see any seasonal variations as we head into Autumn and Winter.
Weather : Warm and sunny all week. No rain.
Notes : Watching the birds in the garden this week I have solved a little mystery related to my bug hotels.
Back in April I was very happy to watch the Red Mason bees laying their eggs into the bamboo tubes in the bug hotels. They lay several eggs in each tube, each one in an individual chamber which is sealed off with mud.
The eggs should turn into grubs which would normal hatch in the spring of next year.
However I had noticed that the first chambers in all of the tubes had been broken into. Unfortunately the eggs/grubs in the chambers at the ends of the tubes had been taken. In the photos below I’ve circled some of the tubes that have been broken into.
I was watching quite attentively this week and although I have no video evidence I can confirm that it has been the work of the great tits. I spent some time watching them hammering away at the bug hotels. Obviously it is a food source and they need to eat but I do hope that there are still some intact chambers further into the tubes that will hatch next spring.
I had no particular visitors of note this week but I did finally manage to get a couple of shots of a visiting Marsh tit. One even in flight!
Weather : Generally warm and sunny. Only a very little rain.
Notes : No interest this week from any Robins in the new nest box. The only visitor thus far, very predictably, has been a great tit having a poke around.
I have however seen and heard the robins busy defending their territories. The robin who nested in a hedge across the road has been on the neighbours fence busily defending the same site. My nest box would fall within this territory.
Robins will normally have a couple of broods per year and will use different sites within their territory so hopefully this one will eventually find, and like, my nest box.
Bird of the week in the garden has been the long tailed tit. I happened to be having a quiet moment outside when a flock came bouncing through the nearby trees. They move as a flock and make quite a noise however they don’t tend to hang around long, just passing through.
Also this week as I was doing some cleaning of the hedgehog house I emptied out and disinfected the Great Tit Box. It’s all clean again and ready to go. I know that it is a long time until next spring but I’m excited already.
Weather : Sunny with occasional rain showers. Not particularly warm.
Notes : Made a further update of the monthly bird survey for August. Lots of Great Tit activity but also I recorded an increased number of Dunnocks. Looks like there was a successful nest nearby.
I have moved the robin nest box to the front of the house, behind a fir hedge. I know that it is really quite difficult to get a pair of robins nesting but this is a good possible location.
The box is within the territory of a pair of Robins which although often present in my garden actually nested last year in the hedge of the house on the opposite side of the road. I think that robins enjoy being concealed within hedges but also like to have a clear entrance into the box, if they are using a box that is. Therefore this location, concealed on a wall behind an evergreen hedge would seem to offer good potential. It is also quite close to the house so I should be able to get a nest box camera in it without too much trouble.
For now I have placed a trail camera on the entrance and I’ll see over the next weeks if there is any initial interest.
Weather : Very warm this week, temperatures up to 40oC.
Notes : I’ve been paying attention this week and I haven’t seen a swift circling above the house therefore we can conclude that they have left for the year. I wanted to put a date on the last sighting so I’ve gone for 25/07/20. I’ve also updated the swift log and records on the site with the info. I now have until March next year to rewire and reinstall the nest box. I’m going to install a new nest box camera and also to reposition the box so it is fully under the eaves of the house.
In the back garden this week I have made an update of the monthly bird survey, actually for July I did it on 01st August. The marsh tit is still present in the garden and I logged it in the garden during the survey hour.
Weather : Warm sunny weather all week, rain overnight during 1 night.
Notes: The most significant event last week was the unfortunate death of a little tree creeper. We had just repainted oliver’s window and it was open for drying. It seems the little bird managed to get itself stuck and died. It was a shame and I was also surprised to see a tree creeper on the side of the house.
I’ve still been seeing swifts in the evening but I think that they should be preparing to leave quite soon for their return migration. It would be nice to record the last day a swift is spotted, although this may be tricky to accurately log, however I’ll give it a go.
Weather : Warm sunny weather, no rain.
Notes: Little of note this week in the garden. The most vocal garden occupants are certainly the great tits who are still very numerous. Other highlight is again the marsh tits who are still present and are regular users of the seed feeders.
Weather : Warm this week, not as hot as previously, with a few rain showers.
Notes: I did the monthly survey this week and although it is only a snapshot it does show much more activity than the previous month.
There seem to be a high number of great tits in the garden including many juveniles. They are very vocal and also there appears to be some battling for territory. I have also definitely seen juvenile chaffinches, which have much less defined markings than the adults, less sharp, but also very clear stripes on their heads.
The other highlight of the week was a passage of a group of tits including long tailed tits and again marsh tits. So I’ve now seen the marsh tits in the garden a few times over the last couple of weeks after a very long gap.
Weather : Very hot temperatures nearly all week, up to 35oC.
Notes: I spent a little time this week making an upgrade of the Great Tit nest box. I have added a light into it so that the images are now in colour.
The light has a sensor so it automatically turns off during the night and activates only during the day. I understand that it should not adversely affect the birds when they are in the nest although it seems a little odd.
Unfortunately at this time I can’t test the theory as the nest is not attracting any visitors at this time of year. We shall have to wait and see.
The other upgrade that I would like to make is to fix the audio so that I can record the nest sounds. I’ve got plenty of time but I’ll get onto that next.
An unremarkable week for birds in the garden with no out-of-the-ordinary visitors or behaviours. Still plenty of juvenile birds and in particular this week I noted some young starlings which have much duller markings than the adults, a lot less sparkle.
Weather : Cool weather for most of the week with a few rain showers.
Notes : The great tits in the roof finally fledged on Tuesday 16th June. This is over 1 month later than the Nest Box brood which fledged on 13th May. I have no idea of the reasons for this large gap between two nests of the same species in the same location and whether this is typical.
I spent a lot of time this week recording the activity in and around the new Robin nest box, to see if it was attracting any interest.
The answer to this is not a lot of interest and certainly none from any Robins. The box did see some visits from the great tits and especially the juvenile birds.
In the video below the great tit seems to be chased into the box by a starling which then in turns get chased away.
I also got quite a nice picture of one of the birds, on a different occasion, having a look.
I will continue to keep an eye but it probably is too late in the year to attract any nesting interest, however it would be nice to see a Robin visit.
The swifts are still very vocal and active in the skies above the house. I also saw them this week coming very low and close to the house. I had not seen them so close before.
Weather : Cool and overcast for most of the week with some heavy rain showers.
Notes : The great tit nest in the roof is still going and is occupied by the chicks, who make a lot of noise right by our bedroom. I imagine that these should fledge next week but it is interesting to note that this is so long after the nest box brood. So the nesting activity of the same bird species in this case is quite spread out.
Again lots of juvenile birds in the garden this week. I tried to set up a camera on the water dish, which they often visit. My returns were rather thin and I just got a view of a juvenile Robin and a juvenile great tit. At different times there were lots of young great tits in the garden, I spotted a group of 3 or 4 together with the adults, but I rather messed up the camera work I’m afraid.
The young Robin has yet to get the famous red breast or the adult colourings. It is however still very well camouflaged. The great tit is paler and fluffier than the adults. The adult markings, including the black strip will become more defined and prominent as it get older in the coming weeks and months.
I also changed one of the nest boxes and put it in a location that I think could be interesting for the Robins, shown below.
It’s quite late in the year to attract any interest for this summer but I think in general it is a good location. It is further along the same ivy hedge where I have the great tit box. It is also the same Hedge where I saw a pair of Robins start to make a nest, which I think was abandoned in the end, earlier this year.
Perhaps the only problem is that it is quite close to the fir tree, where the beech marten is often sighted, and an open fronted nest box is I imagine quite an easy target. However we shall see. I’ll also leave a camera on it next week to log any visits.
It’s not equiped with a nest box camera but if it gets some use I can certainly set it up.
The bird sighting of the week was definitely a marsh tit. I didn’t get a picture of the actual visitor so I’ll cheat and use a library picture.
I spotted it in the garden on the 10TH June, feeding on the fat balls. I remember seeing this bird quite often when we first moved in 4 years ago but I haven’t seen one for a couple of years.
Weather : Very warm and sunny for the first half of the week followed by a dramatic change to cooler weather with some heavy rain showers.
Notes : Again this week I’ve spotted lots of juvenile birds in the garden. I’ve seen young blue tits, robins and great tits all either being feed by the parents or trying to feed themselves on one of the garden feeders.
I’m fairly sure that that the young great tits are those hatched from my nest box. At one point I saw an adult and juvenile come to visit the box, although they didn’t go in.
Interestingly the great tit nest under the roof at the front of the house is still going. The chicks can be heard on the nest and the parents are busy going in and out feeding. Assuming that these chicks fledge next week, although I have no way of knowing how many chicks are on the nest or how developed they are, it would be around 1 month after the chicks fledged from the nest box. Quite a large disparity for the same bird species in more or less exactly the same location.
Weather : Consistent warm sunny weather all week. Slightly warming than normal for the season and no rain.
Notes : First log update for a few weeks as I was rather too busy with the daily log of the Great Tit nest and then creating and updating the Chatou Nature Blog website. Trying to get back to the recording now.
A quiet week for the birds in the garden. Now that we have largely passed the spring nesting season the suburban garden becomes a little emptier. Many of the birds seen during winter and spring are quite widely distributed now and a little less vocal.
In an effort to improve my record keeping I repeated the 1 hour garden bird survey which I last did in January this year. I will look to do this once a month to start building up some decent records. I would not want to jump to any conclusion after only 2 surveys but the record, shown below, does clearly show the drop of activity from January.
My trusted great tits are still around, and whilst doing the survey I saw a juvenile bird, hopefully one of the chicks fledged from my nest which is still doing well.
Other sighting of the week was the juvenile robins from the nest in the neighbours garden. I saw 2 juveniles from this nest leave the neighbours and fly over into the garden at the front of my house. So this has also been a successful nest. Robins will nest more than once a year so hopefully they may find a suitable second nest location in my garden or even in one of my nest boxes.
Weather : Another warm sunny week with little if any rain. Unseasonably warm.
Notes : The weather continues to be exceptionally warm and mild for the time of year. This has been a big benefit to the nesting great tits. The first eggs hatched on 22/04 and in the end 6 of the 8 eggs opened. The remaining 2 eggs remained in the bottom of the nest. With the fine weather and two attentive adults the chicks have had a great start and up until the end of the week have been doing very well.
One of the most interesting moments of the week was when the nest box was visited by a beech marten.
No damage for the birds as it couldn’t get in the nest. But very interesting as I hadn’t had a marten on camera since last November I think. Amazingly it found the nest, I guess by smell, around 05:20 in the morning. Since then I’ve doubled up on the nature cameras on the nest but the marten has not return. Worth noting that as yet no other likely predators, especially jays and magpies have shown an interest in the nest.
I’m sure that there are other nesting birds close by, particularly Robins and dunnocks but I’ve not managed to spot any other nests. The Great tits are still nesting in the roof at the front of the house. At one point during the week I spent some time watching a wren in the nearby bushes and it would be fantastic if they are nesting nearby too. I think in general the compost heaps are helping to attract insect feeding birds.
Other top bird note of the week was the definite return of the swifts. They are quite obvious now and at times coming low over the house. I did have one go at activating the swift calls during the early evening, when they seem to be most active. Once the great tit nest finishes I will switch to the swift nest and I hope that I can entice a pair.
Weather : Another very warm week with little rain. Really the typical weather from June or July.
Notes : The female great tit spent the week incubating the eggs with little alarm. I got a colour picture of the 8 eggs below.
The male did start to feed her in the nest but it was really only occasional. I assume that there was still mutual feeding outside of the nest. When I did witness feeding it was mainly caterpillars with the rest being made up of a mixture of other small insects. Next week will become very interesting as the eggs should hatch around mid week.
No other dramatic bird activity during the week. I should say that I may have seen my first swift. But it was a sole sighting of a single bird so I’m not sure. Many people are reporting the arrival of swallows but we don’t really see them here. However we always see swifts and obviously this year I have the nest box to work with. I don’t know if the warm weather is going to have an impact on migration or not. I’ve heard that although the weather here is great in the south of France and Spain it is not so good.
Weather : Starting warm and getting remarkably hot by the end of the week. Some rain, light showers early in the week followed by some thundery rain during the warm days.
Notes : The great tit nest is progressing well. In total 8 eggs have been laid which is the final clutch size. The female started incubating around the 10th April so hatching should be around 22nd or 23rd April.
It was noticeable that once the incubation started the male was much more vocal around the garden and busy defending the territory. There is another pair of great tits nesting under the roof and the front of the house and there is often overlapping and some conflict. Also it was interesting to note that there is clearly communication between the male and the female. The male calls from nearby trees and bushes and the female replies from the nest. I have not seen either the male enter the nest to feed the female or any mutual feeding of the pair.
Other bird highlight of the week has been several blackcap sightings, always feeding on the ivy. Some of the smaller birds such as chaffinches are less frequent now and several have disappeared altogether, for example the coal tits.
Weather : Again Clear weather with no rain. It is now more than 3 weeks without rain. However cold and sometimes very cold in the mornings at the beginning of the week but by the end of the week spring had arrived with a couple of very warm days.
Notes : First night roosting of the Great tits on 30/03, followed by the first egg laid on 03/04. Then an egg has been laid each night so as I write this on Sunday 5th April there are three eggs in the nest. I’ve seen the male and female together around the garden so they are obviously doing well.
The robins are still around, still mutual feeding, but I don’t know where they are nesting. I think they have abandoned the potential nest site in the ivy hedge close to the great tit nest box.
I don’t seem to hear much singing of either the great tit of robin in the back garden. I hear a lot of the dunnock, especially in the evenings. The great tit which nests in the roof at the front of the house is however extremely vocal, and contrary to the Dunnocks sings much more in the mornings.
Weather : Clear weather, no rain but cold in the mornings.
Notes : The great tits continue to build the nest in the fence nest box, some white fluffy material coming in below.
I’m not sure if the Robins are still nesting close to the box. They are often in the garden and continue to mutual feed. Dunnocks are also often present and noticeably more visible later in the day. However again unfortunately no sign of activity in the wren nest box.
The bird highlight of the week was a female blackcap spotted feeding on the ivy berries on the back fence.
Also this was the first week without seeing any chaffinches in the garden.
Weather : Again less rain and improving temperatures. Some spring temperatures actually arriving. On 18/03 the first really spring like day with warm sun in the afternoon.
Notes : Seen a lot of the Robins in the back garden with the male clearly feeding the female. The female makes chick like noises.
Then the first signs of nesting material in the fence nest box on 18/03 with the nest developing well over the remaining days. The nest is being built by Great tits, or rather the female great tit. They were much more active during the middle of the week when the weather was warmer and much less towards the end of the week in the colder weather. A lot of the nesting material being used was moss coming straight from the lawn.
I think the Robin nest site is still active therefore we’ll have to see if the Great Tits continue and if both nests, so close together, will be used.
Weather : Less rain and improving temperatures. Afternoons quite spring-like.
Notes : Lots of great tit visits to the next box at least several per day. Once inside the bird spends it’s time hammering on the floors and walls. I’m not sure if this is digging out insect or ticks which might be present, a type of cleaning. However no great tit nesting yet in the box. Not sure if it is still because of the robins as they seem a little less visible as the week has progressed.
Indeed in general bird action in the garden is relatively quiet although the first crested tit for a long time was seen in the garden. No activity in the Wren nest box on the back fence.
Weather : Weather still much the same. Mild temperatures. Some very wet and windy days. A little cold in the mornings. No cold snap or spring like weather yet.
Notes : By the end of the week I have had lots of sightings of birds gathering nesting materials. So definitely nesting has started. In general they seem to be more active on this in the mornings.
The great tits are starting to build their nest in the roof above our bedroom, as per normal. Several visits to the Fence nest box of a great tit but no signs of a nest and nothing in the Wren nest box.
However after seeing alot of the robins in the garden and specially a prominent pair, I have spotted that they are trying to make a nest in the Ivy only about 1m from the fence nest box. This would explain why I’ve seen them so much on the trail camera. Perhaps also why no Great tit has taken up the box as I’m not sure that they will nest so close to a Robin nest. Let’s see if the Robins continue in the same spot. If they abandon the spot it may free up the nest box.
Few Wrens sighted, perhaps the only hope for the other camera nest box is a dunnock. These are also very visible and vocal in the garden. Saw a Goldcrest in the garden. May have been a firecrest, I didn’t get an amazing view but I’m 90% sure a Goldcrest.
Weather : Very wet and a little colder. Temperatures between 5-10oC. Snow on a couple of early mornings but not settling on the ground. Some periods of very high winds.
Notes : Visit to the Fence nest box from a pair of blue tits. Definitely a robin pair in the garden moving around the front and back gardens. I hope that they will nest nearby.
Weather : Very mild. Some rain.
Notes : Robins seem to be quite dominate in the garden. Even taking an interest in the Fence Nest Box. I got a fly-by image of the Robin below.
Weather : Mild Temperatures. Strong winds and rain.
Notes : 1st prolonged visit by the Great Tit to the Fence Nest Box. Spend 15 minutes inside during it’s one and only visit. Thoroughly checking it out. No action in the Wren nest Box but plenty of Wrenspotting in the garden.