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The Sitting Room Nest Box......some background & our first nuthatch chicks!

After a rather too long a gap in blog posts, I am attempting to make the time to get back into it. Life is pretty hectic at the moment and there is so much going on, it is difficult to fit everything in! I am trying to make the process of recording and sharing footage a little slicker... so bear with me!

There has been a huge amount of interest in my sitting room nest box... and the same questions keep coming up. There is also concern about the safety of the birds and criticism as to why I do this. I thought I would try to explain a little in this post.

After setting up my little sitting room nest box, there was interest from blue tit, as expected and I thought that they would be the most likely to take to this box.

Why create artificial set-ups like this?

For many years, I have created mini 'human' set-ups for birds and mammals. The materials are all 1/12th dolls house furniture and it is fun to create a novel nest box environment like this. All parts are securely glued in. There is no danger to the adult or the chicks. In the wild, bird nest in natural tree cavities and there will be lots of different shaped holes, with all sorts of natural hazards. I create them to generate interest, so I can capture an audience, who may not usually watch a wildlife nest box video like this. Once I have the interest, I can use it as a platform to enthuse and educate people about the species they are watching and may be inspire them to put up a nest box for their wildlife as well.

Why do the birds look at all the items like that?

It is easy to believe that the blue tit is looking at the picture or evaluating the ornaments, as this is what it appears to be doing. Of course, they have no concept of what they are looking at! In fact, the behaviour displayed in this box is exactly the same as in a box without the human set-up. The birds evaluate the space by exploring it. This can mean pecking it, examining it and trying to remove anything they do not want. The same would happen inside a tree cavity or other natural nesting space. By using videos with this kind of behaviour, I can weave a story that generates lots of interest and interactions and then that opens up the portal to learning. I am also a teacher, so you can imagine that this footage can bring much joy and excitement to children, getting them interested in learning more about these species.....

Very soon, the nuthatches started to take an interest! They had also looked in three other 'normal' nest boxes!

It was not long before they had decided that this was the space they wanted... and now they were very uch going to make it their own. That meant removing anything that was not to their liking!

Some items were too well glued down to remove, but this little nest box was definitely going to go!

Nuthatches are a species I have never filmed before so I was pretty excited to have them here! They are a woodland species, easily recognised by their habit of climbing, head-first down trees, in search of food.

I am very familiar with blue and great tit nest building... lots of moss, then a soft lining of feathers, fur and wool. Nuthatches have a different approach! They use tree bark and leaves and soon the pari were busy filling the space ...

It really did not look very comfortable at all!

Why is there so much mud plastered in this space?

Nuthatches also use mud within their nesting process. Many natural tree holes will have an entrance larger than they need. They will take mud and plaster it around the entrance hole until they remodel it to meet their needs. This makes the nest space much safer from predators. This nest hole is 32 mm. They did not need to make it smaller, but the instinct to use the mud was strong, so they used it inside! A lot of mud is out of sight, as they filled in some tiny spaces between the lid and the sides of the box. Interestingly, they also built it up over the picture on the wall and up the sides of the wall. They placed it around the ornaments in the same way that they would cover up lumps and bumps inside a tree cavity, I would imagine. It was totally fascinating (and rather amusing) to watch!

After a few weeks of leaf and bark collecting and mud plastering, the female, who I have called 'Nora', settled to lay. Nigel, the male regularly appeared and was very attentive, even in these early stages! It was impossible to see how many eggs had been laid as they just disappeared into all the leaves! She incubated for 2 weeks and then, on the 13th May, they started to hatch. Whereas the blue tit and great tit chicks emerge into a lovely soft bed, these chicks had to struggle up through dry leaves... they seem pretty resilient from the start!

Very quickly, they were fed by Nora, with food that Nigel bought in to her. He seems to want to feed the chicks himself, but Nora insists he gives it to her. She waits for him to leave the box before proceeding to feed it to the chicks.

By 5pm, 4 chicks could clearly be seen....

and by the evening, at least 5 had hatched. They all look strong and healthy with a funky hair style!

I will be uploading videos onto my YouTube channel playlist, so do keep an eye out there, if you are interested. If you subscribe, you will get a notification when I post a new video.

It is going to be fascinating to watch these little nuthatch ninjas grow up! I have a feeling that they are going to be pretty entertaining!


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