Robin Nest 2021 – The Last Post

Although the six Robin chicks fledged the nest last Monday it was just the start of a very difficult time for them. Once out of the nest they can’t fly and are dependent on the adults for food.

In the case of my brood the problems started straight away as last Tuesday here was a day of non-stop heavy rain. So keeping warm, dry and fed was particularly challenging. The chicks spent the two days after fledging in the immediate vicinity of the nest box and I’m afraid to say that their presence was noticed by my cats, who suddenly became very interested in the area. At one point I intervened as the cat had one of the chicks in its’ mouth. It was still flapping around and moved it onto higher, and safer ground, but I rather fear it was damaged.

I tried spraying the ground with cat deterrent but this wasn’t very successful so I ended up keeping my cats indoors for a couple of days. I also did my best to avoid the area so as not to unduly stress the birds.

The chicks are really well camouflaged and they were still pretty silent during these first days so as not to attract attention to themselves. The adults though were very vocal. As soon as any threat was spotted they started to call very loudly, I don’t know if this was to alert the chicks or to attract attention of the threat away from the chicks. I guess a mixture of both, but this must be a very draining activity for the adults, who already have a lot on their plate to feed all the different chicks which are now in different locations.

During the rain of Tuesday, one day after fledging I found one of the chicks on the ground, trying to shelter from the rain by my bins.

This seemed to be quite a weak individual, maybe the one which had already been taken by the cat.

The sixth and last chick of the brood hatched one day later than the first five but fledged on the same day. I can therefore imagine that this last chick would have been smaller and weaker than the others and although it made it out of the nest it would surely have been the most vulnerable.

By the end of Tuesday, the day after fledging I had found a dead chick not far from where I photographer the sheltering chick. I don’t know if it was the same but I would guess so.

By the end of the day on Wednesday I stopped hearing and seeing the adults in the vicinity so I think they and the five remaining chicks had managed to move off, hopefully to a more secure environment. The chicks can typically fly, although I guess quite unsteadily, after two days but they will still be dependent on the adults for feeding for several weeks yet. They will still be very vulnerable.

Unfortunately life is tough and the mortality rate of young Robins is huge, only around 25% will live for more than one year. Those that survive the immediate threats, and obviously at least one of my brood immediately succumbed, will then still need to make it through the Winter.

Good luck to each of them.

The nest has remained untouched and empty since fledging. I think that it is now late in the year for another brood but I’ll leave it in place for a while before taking it down for a clean before the Winter. Removing the lice and bugs hiding in the nesting material should make the box a much more attractive nesting proposition, but I would want it back up and in position for the start of December.

Will the Robins use the nest box again? I hope so. I’ve read that only around 57% of robin eggs make it to fledged chicks and in my case this figure was 100%. Despite the cats it did proof a winning location for a nest, hopefully they remember this for next year.

Update on the Garden Mice

The last Mouse Log entry was over a month ago and since this time there has been quite a bit of activity going on in the garden, starting with my garden shed.

It was in the shed that I caught a rat in my newly installed, and very humane, trap back in May. Since then I’ve kept the trap open and over the last weeks I’ve been catching lots of little Wood Mice. Typically one every couple of nights.

Although the mouse keeps getting caught I’ve seen that maybe it is learning. Here it is not going in, deciding against taking the risk.

Also trying to get at the cheese without going inside.

First thing to say is that each time I release the trapped mouse at the end of my garden, somewhere near the mouse house I installed under a pile of garden debris, my habitat pile. I’ve really no way of knowing if it is the same mouse that keeps coming back to the shed, there is always a gap of a couple of days, or if it is a different member of a group.

I can say that I’ve never captured more than one mouse on camera at the same time, which does appear to be a clue.

But I have also started to see a mouse using more regularly the mouse house at the bottom of the garden? Near where I release the captives.  Very obligingly this time the mouse seems to be installing himself in the opposite corner to the camera, so I can see him!

I’ve not been watching very much whilst I was concentrating on the Robin nest so I’m not sure how often or for how long the mouse has been back using the house. What I can see is clear evidence of mouse poo, basically in the same corner of the box.

This would indicate that it is being used quite regularly.

Is it the same mouse that is also getting caught in the trap in the shed or are they different individuals? I don’t know.  I’ve never filmed or logged a mouse in the shed and the mouse house at the same time but as the visits to both are quite brief and irregular it is very difficult to say. I imagine in my garden there could or perhaps should be multiple mice, but without ringing them, as you do with birds, there is really no way I can tell. And rank amateur as I am, I’m not going to start ringing mice!

But the level of activity is encouraging, potentially showing a healthy population and this despite the fact that I’ve introduced two domestic cats into my garden, a huge predator threat. I’ve been letting my cats out for around a month and although unfortunately they have killed a couple of small birds, they have not to my knowledge taken any mice. Yet.

Robin Nest Day 35 – Leaving Day

Not for the first time with this nature blog I can say that ‘I got it wrong’. I was firmly expecting the Robin chicks to fledge tomorrow, which would have been 14 days after hatching.

However the happy news is that all six of the chicks successfully fledged from the nest today.

I missed the fledging of the first chick but it I think it left this morning sometime between 7-8.

However the second chick left at 09:12 and this time I got the video.

Each chick seemed to spend a little time on the nest ledge before finally deciding to take the plunge, it this case encouraged by the adult.

The chick departures were quite spaced out throughout the day and the next departure was at 12:11, this time seemingly encouraged by one of it’s siblings.

The chicks are launching themselves into the shrubs surrounding the nest box were they will try and remain hidden for the next days. They’ll still be dependent on the adults for food until they can start to fend for themselves.

The fourth chick left the nest at 17:28 and the fifth at 18:09 leaving just one remaining chick, the sixth and smallest. I was unsure if this last one would be big and strong enough to leave today but then at 20:27 this evening it took the plunge.

So all six have successfully left although the operation took most of the day, starting around 7 this morning and the last one leaving more than 12 hours later.

I’ll make one more blog post to wrap up this nest but for now I conclude with a picture of the empty nest at the end of the day today.

Robin Nest Day 34

Coming up to the last days for the chicks in the nest and today I saw the first signs that they’re starting to think about leaving.

The adult flies away after feeding and obviously one of the chicks has a flap and is already thinking about following it. Although right now it’s still too early.

I think that the majority of the chicks should be leaving the nest on Tuesday although it will be interesting to see what happens with the sixth one. It was born one day later than the others, I don’t know if this means that it will stay a day longer on the nest, creating feeding complications for the hard working parents. If if does leave with the others it will be a little weaker and more at risk.

The other news of the day is that my cats have started to pay a little more attention to the area around the nest. It’s interesting to see how low the chicks hunker down, they know there is danger around, but also how well their camouflage works.

I’m pretty sure that they can’t get access to the nest, I’ve also made it a little more difficult, but it will increase the risks for the chicks when they first fledge. They will be very unsteady in a new environment and really at maximum risk.

Unfortunately, domestic cats are the number one predator threat for all small songbirds.

However for now all is well in the nest as shown by the end of day photo.

Double Beech Marten

I’ve been having a bit of a lean period for Beech Marten activity in the garden this year. So far only 2 sightings and nothing at all during June, which, based on previous years, should be a good period.

I have been quite busy though and I must admit I have not very assiduous in the setting up of the camera and food.

But then a couple of nights ago I recorded this.

Wow oh Wow. Double Beech Marten. A Pair. This is a first for me.

They’ve had a good look around the hedgehog feed station and taken a drink from the water dish before seemingly getting started and jumping off. One also very kindly walked directly passed the camera and clearly shows a very distinct missing chunk of fur on its tale.

They both seem of a similar size which is interesting. Beech Martens are solitary except for family groups, typically Mothers with Kits, or mating pairs. A Kit from this year would I think look smaller than the adult and a Kit from last year would now be independent. Therefore I’m assuming from the sizes that this is a mating pair.

I’ve read that mating happens between June-August, so this would also fit. The gestation period for a female lasts up to 9 months, so if they are mating it is for kits that would be born next spring.

An absolutely fantastic sighting, the jam sandwiches are going back in the garden and I’ll see if I can lure them back.

Robin Nest Day 32 – (Friday 9th)

Something I haven’t mentioned before but which is striking is that the activity in the nest happens in absolute silence. For a long time I thought it was likely a problem with my recording equipment, but I’m now pretty sure that these chicks do not make a squeak!

Again this is quite a contrast to the Great Tit chicks that I filmed last year and which make a lot of noise, particularly as they beg for food from the adults.

As before this contrast and the silence of the Robin chicks, is I guess linked to their concealment strategy. They are doing everything to keep the nest hidden.

As the chicks are now getting bigger keeping it clean is becoming much more of a problem. Especially during the night it’s easy to see lots of insects moving around the nest. One of the principal attractions is the Poo, which during the night tends to accumulate.

This creates a challenge for the adults who do their best to keep it clean.

Final shot from the nest yesterday, showing six healthy looking chicks.

Robin Nest Day 31

The Robin nest activity is continuing perfectly.

Both adults are still feeding the chicks which are developing fast. In the clip below, after a feed and a poo the chick has a flap around, showing how far advanced the wings and feathers are.

I’ve been playing around with my video set up and I finally seem to have an improvement in the image quality.

Unfortunately to do so I’ve had to sacrifice the live stream which I’m no longer going to keep active. It’s all a bit of a learning curve.

The nest box condition from this evening is shown below.

Robin Nest Day 29

Onwards the chicks go, getting bigger and bigger thanks to the large amount of food coming in, another example below.

The image quality is still not great I’m afraid.

We are now entering the final week as by the normal schedule they should fledge next Tuesday, 14 days after hatching. Still a way to go but so far there have been no signs of alarm and everything is going well. I thought at the start that the sixth chick, which hatched a day later, may be at risk of not making it, but it seems that all of them are on track.

Hopefully they’ll be no nasty surprises round the corner.

Robin Nest Day 27

Weather : Warm with occasional heavy rain showers.

Notes : We’re now getting to the ‘business’ end of this nest with just over 1 week to go until the chicks should fledge.

The chicks are still being supplied by both adults and today they have again increased the frequency of the feeding trips. They’ll both be working on a hot pace for the next two weeks. Unfortunately the video quality in this nest box is not great, I can see a Winter upgrade project coming, so it’s quite difficult to distinguish the different insects being provided to the chicks. In the video below there seems to be quite a large grasshopper type insect which the chick takes down remarkably easily.

As from yesterday the Female is no longer sitting on the nest during the night, obviously this additional warmth is no longer required. It means that the adults stay active much later into the evening with feeding going on until they really lose the light around 22:00.

The nest box photo today, taken at 19:30, shows the beaks of all six chicks, waiting for more food.

Robin Nest Day 26

It’s  becoming much easier to see all of the chicks in the nest and there are clearly Six, all doing well.

The parents are bringing in lots of winged insects for food with the occasional caterpillar. I hope that the winged insects include mosquitos, I could do with a bit of natural control on these pests.

The chicks have developed their first feathers which ensures that they can start to regulate their own temperature. The Female therefore doesn’t need to spend so much time on the nest keeping them warm, more time for gathering food enabling the chicks to grow as quickly as possible.

The first feathers give the chicks quite a dark appearance and although it will turn into a slightly lighter colour, they remain brown. They will not develop the famous red breast of the Robin until much later in life, well after they have left the nest.

This is very different from the Great Tits who develope their distinctive Blue colouring as chicks inside the nest.

The reason the Robins don’t do this is because the brown offers better camouflage. The open nest is vulnerable, being brown enables them to blend in much better. Also, because of it’s vulnerability the Robin chicks leave the nest as soon as possible which means before they are capable of flying. So the first days of their life outside the nest is spend hoping around the nearby bushes. At this time, without the possibility to escape from predators by flying, a bit of extra camouflage is a good defense mechanism.

I’m trying to keep the live stream up most of the time so don’t hesitate to check it out here.