The trouble with watching inside nest boxes with cameras, is that you can’t help but get emotionally involved with the stories that are unfolding in front of your eyes. When you have watched a blue tit build her nest, from the first piece of moss, to her laying her eggs, incubating and then hatching her tiny babies, if anything goes wrong, it can be surprisingly upsetting. In a way, you have to detach yourself somewhat from the dramas that are unfolding and let nature take its course, but that is definitely easier said than done.
A few years ago, I had a Great tit box, with 6 lovely fledglings, all doing well. I went away for a weekend and came back to see that all 6 had died over the weekend. Recorded footage showed that on the Saturday, the female failed to show to feed them. The male appeared, but as the chicks were still small, he seemed unsure what to do without the female around. Over the course of the day, all the chicks died. I asked myself what I would have done if I had been around. Would I have opened the box and attempted to raise the chicks myself to save their lives? This scenario must happen constantly…. adults get killed or succumb, leaving chicks to die. If all the new lives survived, we would be over-run with birds.
I can see my Tawny story developing and I just know it is going to be stressful… it already has been. Despite trying not to get emotionally attached to this beautiful bird sitting a matter of metres from my bedroom window, it is impossible not to! I can watch her incubating 24-7, as can you on my live stream and the 1st thing I do in the morning is to check she was fed by the male. On returning from a long weekend away in Yorkshire over Easter, I became increasingly concerned. The male had only visited once a night, sometimes delivering something so small, I could not even see what it was; a beetle or a slug maybe. This is not enough to sustain a female who is incubating and not feeding herself. She can last about 3 days, with almost no food, after which she would be likely to have to go and hunt for herself before she became too weak. This would mean leaving the egg. If it was left for more than about 40 minutes at our current temperatures, the developing chick would die.
This morning, I rose and went straight to the computer. Thank goodness, at around 01.24 this morning, the male finally appeared and with a HUGE vole! To say she was pleased to see him is an understatement… and that goes for me too!
With the egg due to hatch over the weekend, this male will then need to provide for both of them and I hope he can rise to the challenge! Of course, the egg may not hatch… it could be infertile. The chick may hatch and not survive…. there are so many scenarios possible and I can feel my stress levels rising simply at the thought of it!!
Part of me feels I should not interfere at all, but the other part of me knows that, if things get tough on the hunting front, that me offering food on a platform nearby, may make the difference to that chick surviving or not. Is that any different to me offering my garden birds food on the bird table in a harsh winter? I think not.
I’m off to build an emergency Tawny Owl snack feeding platform…. watch this space….