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Video clips from GreatTit-Cam 2009

{click on an image to enlarge}

For 3 weeks a solitary great tit sang from the tops of the high trees to attract a mate.

He went through his entire repertoire, including great classics such as "teee-cher, teee-cher, teee-cher" and the memorable "tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet" before getting lucky after humming a couple of Des O'Conner tunes.

To Play a video clip below, left click on the image.

If this doesn't work, or the video is jerky, right click & select "Save target as..." or "Save link as..."  then run the saved file with your media player.

Video clips now include sound (mpeg-4)

28th March; 30sec half size video clip (2.7MB)

28th March

Although blue tits have checked this box out several times, this is the first time we have captured a great tit conducting an inspection.

Notice the slow, deliberate way he looks around. Compare this to the jerky, rapid movements of the blue tits.

2nd April; 45sec half size video clip (4.5MB)
2nd April

OK, I admit it. I put GreatTitCam on the pergola just 5.5.m from BlueTitCam. I wasn't expecting any trouble. After all, it's no nearer than it has been in previous years when we have had successful families of blue tits & great tits in residence.
But maybe we had problems before, and just were not around to see them. Either way, the great tits have been under continual attack from their neighbours, the smaller blue tits, for the last few days. Each time a great tit arrived to inspect the nest box, the pair of blue tits would swoop across and intimidate them.
This morning was a turning point as the great tits stood their ground instead of taking flight, and have been in and out of the box all afternoon, tapping the woodwork, tidying, and bringing in bits & pieces. Hopefully the blue tits have now given up and they can all get on with some serious nest building.

The sounds the great tits make when "talking" to each other are completely different to the blue tits.

7th April; 22sec half size video clip (2.7MB)
6th - 7th April

We were out of the house most of yesterday & today, which allowed the birds to make many visits to the nest boxes without being disturbed. The great tits are probably now ahead of the blue tits with their nest.

When the great tits put their heads down, they seem to use their beaks as anchors while kicking out with their feet to arrange the nest material.

7th/8th April; Shhh! Sleeping bird (2.4MB)
7th/8th April

OK, its not the most exciting video, but last night a great tit spent the night in the nest box for the first time.

With its feathers plumped up for extra insulation, the bird (probably the female) looks quite different. She arrived about 7pm (well before dark) and didn't rise until after 6am.

14th April

The female has been coming back to the nest box each evening at 7.15pm (by which I mean 7.15 +/-5 mins) to settle down for the night. Quite an accurate body clock! But last night she arrived about 45mins earlier. We thought this might be significant, and as they lay eggs in the morning we checked via the camera this morning but could see no eggs.

However, this evening when she return to the nest box she uncovered an egg that had been lying there concealed all day. She will now lay an egg each morning for (hopefully) 10 to 14 days before settling down to incubate them.

2 eggs in the great tit nest (4.1MB)
15th April

The DVD recorder kicked into life at 6am this morning, just in time to catch a glimpse of the two eggs now in the nest.

The female left the nest for a while, leaving both eggs uncovered. But she returned within 15minutes to cover them up, before leaving the nest for most of the rest of the day.

She now retires for the evening earlier than before, typically 6.15pm.

Unfortunately a spider has also been building a home (a web) in front of the camera lens. Initially this wasn't too much of a problem, but now debris has started to collect in it, creating an unwanted soft focus effect. You may also notice a short length of grass hanging across the left of the picture.

Six shiny eggs
19th April

The female continues to settle into the nest before the blue tit each evening, and is later to rise.

Last night the female covered her head with a wing and appeared to be sleeping, but when the male arrived in a tree about 25ft away, she suddenly started "tweeting" and adopted the infantile "feed-me" wing fluttering gesture. The male flew into the nest box and fed her some kind of insect. Unfortunately we didn't catch it on film!

As of today she has 6 eggs. So incubation might be underway by next weekend, by which time she should have laid all the eggs in this clutch.

"I thought I ordered onion with ice cream!..."
21st April

The female spends all day away from the nest feeding, and is now returning for the night before 6pm to recharge her batteries.

Each evening she calls for more food. In a few days she will become dependant upon the male to feed her while she sits on the eggs for about 2 weeks.

Time for a stretch...

22nd April

It looks like the female has decided that 9 eggs are enough. She spent most of today sitting on them, but left the nest around 3 times per hour for 10-15 minutes at a time.

There was no sign of the male entering the nest to feed the female during 4 hours of recording, which is a surprise, as we expected the male to keep his mate stocked up with caterpillars.

This morning we noticed the female calling, first from within the box, then on an adjacent tree. But there was no sign of the male until later in the afternoon.

about 1 hour of fidgeting edited into 1 minute
1st May

I used to think that a bird just sat on her eggs for a couple of weeks and then they would hatch. But if you look at the instructions for using an incubator to hatch eggs these include; keep at a constant temperature of xx degrees, away from draughts, turn eggs every hour of every day, but not during the last 3 days before they hatch. So how does our female great tit meet these requirements?

What we have noticed from our camera is that she changes her position several times an hour (just when you are convinced she always rotates counter clockwise by about 60deg, she will upset the pattern by going the other way). This must be an attempt to heat the eggs evenly. She also leaves the nest once or twice an hour which means the eggs must start to cool (and the nest box has gaps where the panels join, so must be draughty). In addition to turning, she also rotates the eggs. The is done with the head and beak, but she also appears to be pedalling with her feet from time to time.

Anyway, lets hope she knows what she's doing, and in just a few days we might see chicks breaking out of those egg shells.

First chicks in the nest
3rd May

We were out most of the day and didn't fire up the cameras until 6pm. Something looked odd in the great tit nest!

There was a clear outline of 6 eggs but the rest looked out of shape. Closer observation, aided by adjusting the brightness, showed 3 tiny white chicks.

In this video clip the female appears to feed a small caterpillar to a (not much larger) chick.

Eggs: 3, Chicks: 6
4th May

During the day more chicks hatched out until we could not see any remaining eggs.

The stronger chicks cover the eggs and any weaker chicks. They also lift their heads and open their mouths periodically, even when there are no parents in the nest. The ones that can lift their heads the highest, with mouth wide open, seem to get fed first.

As far as we could tell, we ended the day with all but 1 or possibly 2 eggs left to hatch.

An unwelcome guest...
5th May

We have seen this a couple of times. A fly comes into the nest, gets beneath the chicks, and after about 2 minutes it leaves.
Maybe it lays eggs so when the maggots hatch they can feed on any dead chicks?

Unfortunately the male great tit does not seem to notice the fly.

Trying to swallow a moth...

(highlighted above are developing wing feathers)

10th May

The great tit chicks have completed their first week. They have been growing fast and now have the beginings of wing feathers. They have also started to make faint, high-pitched sounds when a parent arrives back in the nest.

The female still sits on the nest periodically during the day (far more that the blue tit female) and also all through the night. Presumably it is as important to keep the chicks warm as it is to keep them stocked up with caterpillars, spiders and other insects.

Its impossible to count them as they jostle for position in the nest, but this evening we had several attempts and could only account for 7 out of the original 9. A couple of the chicks look smaller than the others.

Male arrives with big spider...then eats it !

12th May

Things are not going too well for the great tits. Yesterday morning there were only 6 chicks, and this morning only 3.

Its easy to jump to conclusions, but comparing these parents to the blue tits, it seems they don't feed the chicks so often or so successfully. By fast-forwarding through 4hrs of recordings, we could see that only the male was carrying food into the nest yesterday, and at the rate of only 7 or 8 times per hour (the blue tits managed 4 times this amount). He supplied mostly caterpillers, spiders, a moth and other winged UFOs.

During the same period the female left the nest a few times but never came back with food. The parents often attempt to push the food into an open gape, then pull it out again and try the next chick. If the chicks are unable/unwilling to swallow, one of the parents may pull it back out and eat it themselves.

This evening there are just 2 chicks left, plus the remains of 3.

14th May

The 2 remaining chicks are now very vocal and appear to have little beady eyes. The smaller of the two often falls onto its back and looks like its about to expire, but its still eating and struggles on.

The male parent often brings food that is way too big for the chicks and either eats it himself or carries it away again.

The female has been seen to carry food in occasionally and feed the chicks. She has also started to bring in fresh nesting material (maybe she wants to start a second brood?).

...and then there was one!
16th May

So now we only have one great tit chick, and he shares the nest with a dead sibling that his parents have not even bothered to drag out of the nest cup.

Just when you thought things could not get any worse, this evening we heard loud banging from the tv connected to the nest. Looking out of the window we could see a greater spotted woodpecker tapping at the front of the box!

We have not seen any woodpeckers in the garden this year, so this guy must be looking specifically for meat rather than peanuts. Unfortunately, neither of our bird boxes are fitted with protective metal plates, so it would not take long for a woodpecker to break in and eat the contents.

Hopefully (woodpeckers aside) our little chick will survive another 7 days and will leave the nest next weekend.

Right wing stretch...
18th May

Our chick is doing OK.

Dad still provides almost all the meals, while mum just sits on (or next to) junior for most of the day.

When it stretches its wings it looks like a proper bird. We have not seen it flapping its wings so far, although the blue tit chicks are already doing this.

Pre-flight tests...
20th May

Just 3 or 4 days before our great tit chick is due to leave the nest, and it is now performing regular pre-flight testing.

21st May

We were watching the monitors up until about 8:15 this evening, and then we briefly left the conservatory to tidy the kitchen. When we returned 15minutes later, the great tit chick was gone!

Looking around the garden I found him in the hazel tree, with his dad close by. By the time I returned with a camera they had both disappeared.

Still want more?...

...take a look at this excellent site by David Jones ...

...and here is more info on great tits

...and for propeller heads only, the tekkie page