Introduction: Side View Bird Box Camera and BlueTit Diary

About: Black sheep engineer, Chartered, and very silly. Currently living in the UK. I have been fortunate to have lived, studied and worked in Hong Kong, Norway and California. I believe physical models help people…
“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.” - .

For me, this sums up the beautiful, arresting, tense, heartbreaking, occasionally funny, and truly joyous experience of watching a nest of BlueTits over 46 days, from nest-building to egg-laying to hatching to growing to fledging.

  • You begin by being in awe of the shear effort these birds put into making a nest.
  • You ponder how on earth a creature lays an egg about 1/11th of it's body weight, for 8-16 days (eggs).
  • Compared to a human baby, it's extraordinary how energetic the chicks are to rove around for food.
  • They are super cute, even if slightly crazed in their zeal for eating bugs, often almost 1/4 of their size!
  • You try to remain 'scientific' and 'matter of fact', but it's still sad to realise some will simply will not make it.
  • And yet the 100-bugs per day per chick is a tall order for any animal. How do they do it?
  • You realise those headlines about 'fragile ecosystems' relate, even to this small entity.
  • Like pseudo parents, you watch them 'leave the nest' and reflect on your own kid's future...
  • ...even when they are 'all grown up', it's a 50/50 chance they will have chicks of their own.

  • And stepping back, you see how it is interconnected, as Goldsworthy says, and in ways we rarely take the time to fully contemplate.
  • Be warned, this is far more addictive than Netflix, though you'd never believe me unless you've been there!
  • Even if you're not religious, it bends the mind to see something go from an egg to a sentient creature, with something that I'd not call 'personality', but certainly clear individual characteristics. You feel like you blinked, and feathers and feature tumble after each other at a staggering pace.
  • There's the humour of watching the parents get in a muddle, and squabble sometimes - and yet pull through together.
  • You see gross things (kids absolutely love), and then things you'd wish you hadn't, so much to learn!
  • These things are so small, and yet oddly, so epic and universal at the same time.

So yes, this is a Instructables, it does involve some cool woodworking tips, but it's also a diary on what to expect, and some musings about why this stuff matters more than I'd ever imagined. I'm not sure I can call them 'pets', as we don't own them, but we came to really care about them deeply, and it's a profound and joyous experience (on the whole!).

I'm not sure, but it could be the best £55 I've spent in my life. I'll see what my son tells me, when he flies the nest...


OK, so this is for the DIY enthusiasts. Anyone too busy for that, you can buy a Green Feathers 'side view' for around £55, (with the Full Kit being ~£250, which I think is a bit much when just 'starting out'). I personally think the (only) is best value, and DIY the Box if, like me, you enjoy that sort of thing anyway - and it's a nice build with kids also, with lots of small, safe, repetitive/incremental jobs to do!

The Box can be as complex or as simple as you like, but I personally think the most critical part is the 'top rebate joint' - rather than 'butt joint' the wood (face to face), where you create a 'step' which makes a more elaborate path for water to travel - and hopefully not at all - to keep your birds dry, even as the wood twists and warps over time and weathering. In short - we're doing a 'proper job'...

All the tools are pretty familiar to what you'd expect when making a Bird Box, but I recommend the following:

  • Skill Saw ()
  • Drill ()
  • About 1.5m/5ft of 9" x 3/4" Pine planking. Ideally Treated for outdoors, but paint if not.*
  • 1/2" Plywood Sheet (about 2ft square)*
  • Screws, Nails, Wood Glue, Pencil, Drill Bits. a 25mm Drill bit may be useful also ().
  • Dowel (4mm) is really handy if you have it.
  • Roofing Felt (), and thick plastic bag*

*These items I 'skip dived' - so were 'free'. At least between now and Autumn, you have time time to keep an eye out for these!

Step 1: An Accidental Success

If you're reading this in Summer / Early Autumn - great! Get building and install it asap!

To give some background, I had put bird boxes out previous years, but with no luck. Apparently most birds 'flat hunt' from Autumn, and then make nests in Spring, in ones they liked the look of the previous year! [Remarkably human-like, don't you think?]. Anyway, so I'd assumed as I made this at the end of March, that I'd 'missed the season' and I was more just setting it up to not 'get too busy' like last year.

So much to my surprise, my Son spotted a BlueTit going back and forth one morning, after it had only been up a week, and we put the camera on, and were amazed to see a good amount of nesting material already in there!

What I realised in contrast with the 'failed' bird boxes, and this, was that I was sloppy with two key things:

1.Position - Birds like to get up and see the sun rise, and not be roasted by midsummer day. So they MUST face North by North East. All the failed ones were pointing something other than this (North, West, South! I really did get unlikely in my missing the Eastward one).

2. Put it up HIGH! My other boxes were around 1.5-2m high. I put this at 2.5m. I don't actually think it's just the height - I think it's that it is too far away from a Cat being able to pounce. So about 1.5m away from any surface a cat could hide/wait on, like a windowsill.

So in all the renewed excitement, I actually ended up making this all over again, as I plan to give one to a friend, ready for next year, as there is something beyond just watching birds on a feeder (although this is great of course!), but this is a much more intimate, and at times *emotional* insight into the natural world, in high definition, close up. Just as Nature Documentaries are often classified as 'Universal' or 'U', but you can still see a Lion tearing the head off a Gazelle, similarly, do not expect BlueTits to be any less gory, so if you do have a sensitive disposition, or young kids, I would consider this a 'Parental Guidance' or 'PG' experience at times! [You have been warned]. That said, 92% of the experience was truly wonderful, on levels that I find hard to put into words. You witness the infinitesimal details of a creature go from something no bigger than a broad bean, to a full-sized, pugnacious, little fledgeling in a few weeks.

Indeed, part of the reason I've written this Instructable - as Part 1: The Build, and Part 2: The Diary, is that I think as parents, it helps massively to know 'what's in store' for your kids, so you can emotionally prepare them (and perhaps even yourself) for it, and I hope to also share some of the fascinating, hilarious, and awesome things I learned along the way. Hope you find it useful...

Step 2: Part 1: the Build

Step 3: Sketches of Assembly

Hopefully these give you a general overview of the build. It can be more or less complex as you like.

Step 4: Special Rebate Joint - "Cowboy Style"

My dad was a builder for some years, and a good friend of the family was a master carpenter - he'd certainly disapprove of this technique. He'd call this sort of thing "Cowboy", and indeed, I do have a router to do this 'properly'!

However, I have always been a fan of finding ways to do it with the minimum of tools! So this is how you 'route out' a rebate joint using a skillsaw, my argument being that if done with care it is no more dangerous, and of course if you don't have a router, this is a useful thing to know...

Mark out your area. Set the 'drop' of the blade to 1/2 the thickness of the plank. Whist holding the saw very steadily as you cut, slice (from the outsider edge, in) a series of cuts. You will be left with a very fragile series of 'ribs' which are so fragile they simply 'snap off' with a push of your fingers. Next sand them down using some plank as a profile.

If you are not fairly experienced in using a skill saw, perhaps give this a miss, and just do a butt joint. It'll still be fine, as I also show a following step where we add some plastic / asphalt roofing, so really don't worry! This is just sharing tips!

Step 5: Dowel Joints - 90 Degrees

After my son gave the edges a good sanding down (as you don't want our chicks getting any splinters, right?), then you could also dowel-pin the planks together. This is a nice trick to know, as if you want to build something like this in a day, you don't have time for the PVA wood glue to dry fully, so using dowels means you can keep working, as the pins hold it sturdy enough, and it'll 'set' later.

If you have time and the inclination, of course clamp it, and do it the 'proper way'.

Step 6: Angled Cuts

This is a surprisingly satisfying way to assemble the bird box, and in the spirit of learning, this is a good project to learn, as it's not the end of the world if you make a small mistake here and there. I found that I needed 5 angled cuts: 3 at 45 degrees, and 2 at 22.5 degrees. See diagram to see where and why.

The main learning is to have any two pieces of wood *share* the angle, (I did learn and take that onboard from the master carpenter!), so don't put a 45 degree joint against a 90 degree joint instead split the 45 degree difference - divide by 2 and get 22.5, each side.

See diagram, and this will make sense. You can set your skillsaw as shown, but do cut with care!

Step 7: Slimming Down

The ply I used was is 9mm thick. and need to 'inset' into the back, and the 'front', so this means we need to take away about 20mm from the pine we cut angles in, for the bits that are not the roof, and to do this I suggest using a sacrificial plank to cut against. If not confident doing this (it's unclamped wood and a saw) I suggest using a table saw or hacksaw instead.

If of course you're more prepared, you can do this FIRST of course, but I still think this is a handy thing to know when needing to adjust things 'on the fly'.

Step 8: Angled Cuts & Dowel Pinning - "Cowboy Style"

My father's friend should 'look away now'! And those of you in the Comments, can hang-fire, as I am aware 'Drill Jigs' exist! (), but if you'r enot making a fire oak table, this technique will do! I had no complains from my tenants.

To dowel at an angle, you need to drill at an angle. To do this imagine roughly where the drill will go to be in the middle of the other piece of wood. Start about 1 drill's width further back still - and drill in perpendicular a little way, about as deep as the drill bit is wide (4mm in this case).

Now with the drill bit still in the hole, pivot the drill and bit toward the angle you'd need. What is key here is that the drill will not 'skid about'. (If you tried to do this at an agle right away it's be very hard!). So then you proceed to drill through the first piece in to the second piece. I find a high speed with very little force will allow you to engage the next piece of wood.

Of this all seems a bit tricky, and you might slip an hurt yourself, either clamp it, or instead use superglue. But this technique has got me out of a fair few jams when doing some unusual builds. Improvisation, like Music or Comedy, is as much about having some tricks up your sleeve...

Step 9: Cut Out Profiles in Ply - Front & Back

Now that you have the two basic elements, of the 'roof' in 5 1/2 inch pine, and the 'lower body' in 5 inch pine, you can line them up, and draw around the OUTSIDE of the lower body, and INSIDE of the 'roof'. See sketch if not sure.

Cut out, using skillsaw.

Then copy this to another piece and do the same.

Step 10: Optional - Lighten the Wood

I realised from my first build, I had quite a light interior, and this ply was dark by finish. So luckily I had a sander and removed the top 0.5mm, but you could perhaps paint it, if not.

My point being the ambient light will make for better pictures if it is reasonably light wood colours.

Step 11: Attach the Back

I suggest Piloting the holes, so as not to split the wood. I used a 2mm drill bit for the screws with about a 3mm shaft. My son did the handiwork, and if there were any 'master craftsman' skills I did learn it was to do this technique to avoid splitting the wood, whenever possible.

Step 12: Attach the Roof

You may well realise of course when building this, that there is no wood to screw the Ply to on the Roof - as by design - it is 'inset'. So here we can just use Nails. I piloted these also, but probably could have got away with it.

Top Tip (again, from the same guy) - is to turn a nail over, hit it on the point (gently), and then hammer it in as you would normally - it will be less likely to split the natural wood (if you've not pre-drilled). This is because a sharp point of a nail splits wood, where as a bunt point 'crushes' it.

Step 13: Add Support Posts

This is a small off-cut used to allow the 'outer' plywood board to have a secure fixing(s).

The first is in the corner, and doubles as another rooftop leak prevention, which perhaps makes the rebate redundant, I dunno! And the other is a smaller piece a little further along. (Don't go too far or it will end up in the field of vision of the camera).

Pilot all the holes around the 'front' cover of the Bird Box as shown.

Step 14: Drainage & Wiring Grooves

I added two grooves to the lowermost part of the Bird House, to allow any water that did get in to drain (I read this on a few sites as being a good move).

Secondly, I added a grove where the camera would end up, so the cables could get out.

Step 15: Add the Bird Hole

I used 'Spade' drill bits, to drill a 25mm hole. This is specific to BlueTits and a few other birds. Cornell has a great Guide () depending on what you want to attract.

Step 16: Optional - Treating the Wood (Exterior)

Not critical, but will certainly keep things weatherproof for longer. I used water based wood stain for fences. Main point was I avoided the insides, in case it was not suitable for birds, but mostly so as to keep the interior as light (for the camera) as possible).

Step 17: Optional - Waterproofing Plastic

I added a pieces of thick plastic bag to keep the water out. I used a staple gun, but you can use a household stapler or drawing pins.

Step 18: Optional - Roof Felting

And then a piece of asphalt roofing felt. As with the plastic, you can secure with staples or drawing pins if no Staple Gun.

Step 19: Ventilation / Drainage

Summer can get quite hot, (even in the UK), so having some ventilation is important. After a useful reminder from someone on YouTube I added these to the 'latest version' here, and also suggest leaving a 2mm gap perhaps when adding the main front cover on.

Lastly, I added 4x 5mm drainage holes, which also allow ventilation through convection also.

Step 20: Camera Installation

Camera Installation varies depending on what you use, but the general principle of course is to screw it in, and have it connected up to the monitor / computer so you can set focus. Put a object in the place of where the birds would be to ensure it's nicely in focus - as of course when it's set and birds are nesting, you can't disturb them.

Step 21: Bird Box Placement

I drilled 3 holes in the back of the bird box, and passed screws through this into wall-plugs in the bricks of my house. If you've not done this, here's a handy guide. ()

Step 22: All Set!

The best time to make this is in Summer/Autumn.

As mentioned, I was surprised they nested so late in the season, so I didn't really get fully into the whole recording software and IP camera thing (I may well do next!), so this was my setup for recording on my phone. I think all considered, I did ok, but I did miss one fledge (doh!), but got most of the big moments.

After speaking with an AI specialist and bird enthusiast, who happens to work at a big tech company, I also feel I have a lot to learn about how AI can be used here to record the 'key moments' and this saves a bit of hard drive space (!!) and also means we don't miss something small, but potentially critical.

Which is to say, as a technologist, I find it fascinating to imagine what additional layer we'll add to this in post-processing, data collections, ecological reporting and more!

However, one thing still sticks with me, and that like Football, or sports in general - watching it *live* is somehow just that bit more exciting than watching it on playback! One wonders why that is (as really, how can one tell with sport, in principle!), and there is something special about seeing the bird fly to the box, and then have it magnified as to what they are doing, from feeding, grooming, cleaning, adjusting...etc. It's a wonderful thing to observe.

Step 23:

I have 'quick links' to all the videos via this PDF. Videos are below...


Step 24: Video - 22 April

Setup - Live Feed to Camera - all working nicely.

Step 25: Day 1 - 22 April

It was with great excitement I took this picture!

If you're curious I posted some more stuff on my IG feed: ()

Step 26: Timelapse - 23 April

To give you an impression of just how hard-working these birds are, just seeing them fly back and forth with nesting material is impressive. Interestingly I had see a small bird try to pluck synthetic fibres off a bit of material I had outside my kitchen, but apparently 'natural is best', and one of the best isDog Fur, so if you're grooming your dog in Spring - do it in the park!

Step 27: Day 2

As mentioned above, you can see how the types of material change as it builds. Some more coarse structure stuff at first, then mosses (not just one type), and then more soft fibres, then animal hair/fur.

It really is an engineering expert process. Hard to imagine we've taken so long to create mattresses which have multiple layers of various materials to the same effect!

Step 28: Checks to Home - 24 April

Many moments like this - the Mother BlueTit really just checking everything is just so! Ensuring there are no splinters on the hole, etc.

Step 29: Day 4 - 25 April

Fluffing up the nest. Nothing that amazing, but it's a super cute clip. Hard to to slightly imagine it enjoying itself!

The nest seems 'done' pretty soon, and I think between now and 2 days later (see note below) we get the first egg!

Step 30: Day 8 - 29 April - 3 Eggs

'You snooze, you lose' as they say - and I'll be honest and say I missed that there were 2 eggs laid, and here's the third! So busy was the nest building it's easy to miss. But for future (and you reading this!) this is a useful time-stamp to consider looking more closely!

BlueTits lay 1 egg per day, so this would place this back at 27th April for the first.

Step 31: Laying Eggs - I Think?

I'm not 100% sure on this (please let me know in the comments), but I wonder if this rapid breathing, followed by another egg, was actual laying of the egg. It's hard to tell as the Mother bird stays on them, but I saw her look more 'laboured' in her breathing around these times of the day. Hope someone can confirm...??

Step 32: Day 9 - 30 April

Everything looking nice. It may interest you to know, apparently the Mother plucks breast-feathers form herself to add extra warmth for the eggs, and presumably, comfort of the hatchlings.

Step 33: Day 10 - 1 May - 5 Eggs

Now we were at 5! Apparently they lay between 8-16. So objectively our was a low clutch, at 7 (or 8). From my bird watching friends, a lot depends on seasonality and the number of caterpillars.

Not to imply one Bird Box is a barometer for the entire ecosystem, but certainly this Spring has been unusual. More date needed, huh...

Step 34: Day 11 - 2 May - "Go Daddy Bird"

This one took me by surprise - the Mother seems to be doing a staggering amount of 'heat-butting' and 'pecking' at the nest. Hard to tell if this is to compact it, or engage it, or reshape it for more eggs. But either way, no eggs were harmed it seems.

I also loved this moment where the Father turned up with a particularly good caterpillar for Mother! Certainly any 'fathers-to-be' out there, take note.

Step 35: Side View - Day 14

The speed at which the birds come in to land/perch is extraordinary! It almost looks as if they'd been 'thrown' against the Bird Box! Truly amazing when you also consider how they rotate their body to 'post' through the hole. I still find it mazing how fluffy they are relative to their actual bone structure.

Step 36: Food Prep

A small interlude, as I was out with my family in the forest, and found the Angle Shades Moth in leaves and bits of bark. Easy to see how these are spotted on bark, but still amazing how they spot them on leaves. One would guess that they look at leaves with holes in...?

Anyway, a really nice way to get to see the broader ecosystem at play here with kids...

Step 37: Raining

Not to be overly romantic about nature, but I can remember building a den when I was a kid, and loving sitting inside dry, (especially when dry in fact, as they sometimes leaked!), and loving the sound of rain. It seems trivial but it's only when you go camping you feel that bit closer to the elements again when you rest at night.

Many birds however, also enjoy a 'bird bath', so it's also entirely possibly she just popped out for a freshen-up.

Step 38: Day 17 - 8 May - Incubation in Progress

One of the most incredible things about many birds is they can lay up to 16 eggs, and have them hatch all at the same time! If you think about it, this means one egg is on 'hold' for almost 2 weeks! Not developing, just in a sort of stasis.

Apparently this all comes down to incubation. I'm not sure if this is where it officially started, but I noticed a marked change in how much the Mother Bird was sitting on the eggs, and her posture - really pressing herself down into the next it seemed.

Step 39: Day 23 - 14 May

More often turning the eggs now. 2 Days until hatching (I realise now).

Step 40: 1st Chick Hatches! - 15 May

Happy Birthday Chick #1.

We didn't name it. I'm not sure why. I wonder if my son was apprehensive about the fact that naming them would a. be hard to identify in the chaos, and b. that we'd have to say goodbye to some.

In case curious, Mum was called 'Deeps' and Dad was called 'Peeps' on account of their calls. Perhaps slightly different, I dunno, but that's what we're sticking to!

Step 41: First Chick

I took some stills of this, as it was pretty incredible to see first time.

Firstly, the Mother, as like so many wonderful mothers in the natural world, is expertly tender and careful, to remove the egg half from the chick...

...and then if you're not expecting it, eats it up in about 15 seconds! Just like that.

It is surprising, and quite comical to see, and my son and I sadly missed a fair bit of these moments, as it's around 8am in the morning just on the school run, so I left the camera running, and we watched the clips later.

Step 42: New Parents

I remember when my son was born, and I was so overjoyed, but also terrified I'd hurt him, I dared not hold him right away. I let the doctor take him. I'm of course reading too much into the life of these Birds, but I love that there is clearly some confusion or debate about what to do next.

I'm sure a proper ornithologist will tell me I'm wrong (please do - I'm curious to know really), but my point about this whole project is it's hard not to empathise in quite surprisingly deep ways about this whole thing unfolding in fornt of you. It's a small drama, of miniature scale, where you have to find the poetry in the small moments, not the artificially manufactured scripting.

I think it was round this time, I really was 'hooked' on this, and every morning at 7:30am, I'd go in to check on this little family in the making...

Step 43: Day 25 - Second, Third & Fourth Chick

And then like that - many more are hatching. You might think 'more of the same', and it's true on one level, but also fascinating to watch again and again, and see how they react to an increasingly dynamic and needy nest!

Step 44: Tasty Chick Poop! Yuk!!

My son ended up doing his school project on this, as what else was more novel in our house!

Safe to say, at 8 years old, few things are more attention grabbing, and hilarious than poop - and this one is about as crazy as it gets, as of course, like many animals without hand, baby wipes, nappies, etc. - you guessed it, they gotta get the poop away by the only means they can.

The very small, and presumably first poop is bright yellow, and I'd wager has more in common with the Yolk it fed on than the grubs it is yet to eat. So perhaps (let's hope anyway) that this why the Mother bird is ok eating it.

Safe to say, wrapped attention and a huge reaction from showing this video at school!

Step 45: The Fly!!

I usually tried to be quiet when filming, but this Fly had my wife and I on a cliff-hanger.

Safe to say, this is exactly why they parents dispense with the poop (one way or another) as attracting flies, not only risk disease, but also some flies bite.

So having grown up in Cumbria and you have 'Horse Flies' - which literally draw blood when they bite, I was somewhat keen for the Mother to get this dealt with!

Step 46: Baby Pictures

Some surprising differences can already be seen in who gets fed first and how the chicks present themselves. It's all very subtle, but as I often had this on in the corner of my eye whilst working on my laptop, it's remarkable stuff to see them develop so fast.

Step 47: Day 28 - 5th and 6th Chicks

A day later, we get the other 2 chicks, though one really starts to see in hindsight that a day's head start is a lot in nature. It's hard to see if it's for certain the first that become biggest, but seems fair to assume.

I do wonder if one could get enough detail on a camera to use Machine Learning to track each chick... perhaps time will tell....?

Step 48: Working Alongside

As mentioned, I was pretty obsessed now, and even enjoyed keeping these guys in on updates to my team-mates at RS DesignSpark working on a project on Environmental Sensing, and safety in workshops using IoT.

It's funny how you start to connect dots when following two projects in parallel and certainly the Bird Box gave me some interesting ideas and provocations about our relationship with Tech and Health I was not expecting.

Also as is often the case, the 'talking point' around the immediate aspect of work also tends to take you places, and at the time of writing this, I'm looking to explore some more AI and ML work, with and Intel engineer in Durham, when passing by on my way to Newcastle to give a talk. It may even evolve into some work on Ecology with RCA. Hard to say at the moment, but exciting stuff!

Serendipity is a wonderful thing, and I think having a good 'side project' or 'hobby' can really take you to some new places it seems!

Step 49: The Runt - Day 30

Looking back, I realise that all-too-often used term 'The Runt of the Litter' - and it was with some sorrow, I realised our next was no different.

I grew up in Cumbria, very much farming country in the UK, and so am not new to this, but when you have a son raised in London, you pause to think how to broach this subject, and when to 'hint' at the inevitable, or if to shield them if it's 'too much'.

I'm sure if you have kids, your kids will differ on sentiment, but I was surprised that I think initially he either didn't fully grasp it, or just needed some time to process it...and that way kids do, a day or two later, he asked a few more questions, which became more specific. Without alarm, or tears, I think he started to understand something of the mortality and necessity of nature needing to prioritise and invest in those which will survive.

You take a moment as a parent to realise how little we discuss mortality. One realises how taboo this subject is (at least for the English I can say), and how the emphasis seems to be something that is avoided, rather than adding contrast to how to live. It's not that I'm wanting to imply such huge human emotions to a few birds, but neither am I seeking to diminish it entirely either. Certainly for children to be shielded from any concept of this, perhaps leaves them in a more overwhelming place when perhaps grandparents pass away, even of 'natural causes' for example.

One wonders what a society looks like where Death is more of an impetus to live Life more fully, and to focus on what matters more than the small things we all to often sweat over needlessly. I've lost some close friends and family myself, and have often felt at a loss to develop the best way of reflecting on their life, as well as death. Some tragically cut short, others, you'd say (a very English phrase) 'a good innings', but I'm sure I'm not alone is feeling words fail me, and sometimes you process the most unlikely of emotions in nonverbal ways.

At this point I could see why this, with all its nuances, is why there is not a bird box in every school! It takes a lot of careful work to broach this, and a whole class of kids will react very differently indeed.

I'd love to hear any advice from around the world on this subject...thanks in advance for comments or DMs.

Step 50: From Pink to Dark & Feathery

After hardly a week, and these ping squibs have definitive feathers. It's really hard to believe until you see it happen so fast! Safe to say the back-and-forth of the parents in non stop now, with dozens of food visits (and poop exits) per hour!

Step 51: Day 33 - Feeding & Competition

As mentioned earlier, we watched as the tell-tale signs of 'natural selection' started to present itself, like a for in the road. Looking back it was all too clear who was not going to get fed from now on.

I wondered if I should put out more bird feed, but apparently this does not make that much difference, as the parents do prioritise he live food, and besides, one should take care not to put nuts out without them being in a cage, as they can choke the young if the parent is inexperienced I read on one forum.

The old saying of 'let nature do its thing' was often said by us both with some resignation between by wife and I over breakfast...

Step 52: Day 33 - the Rummage - It's OK!

I was unsure if nature had turned 'savage' at this point, as infanticide is not unknown. However, reassuringly, this turned out to be just 'enlarging the nest' - so this is is at least some good news if you do have kids watching. It's apparently quite rare for things to deteriorate to that level, although it is documented to occasionally happen sadly.

What is more likely is that a chick simply starves, and its body is carried away from the next. In hindsight it's actually a better thing to have this happen sooner rather than later, as their size at this stage is quite easy to remove, and less energy would have been expended on feeding a chick that was not going to make it.

Which is to say, evidently, these parents made some hard choices early on, and clearly tried to raise a larger brood, but such things are a gamble and it's clearly a fine line between things working out and not fully as planned.

Step 53: Poop Removal & Why It's Important

On a lighter, or more scatalogical note - the poop removal is blessedly not ingested by the parents any more, probably as it is a. too big, and b. to foul tasting / risky as the digestive system is presumably more mature.

However, one interesting, and quite ingenious feature, si that the chick poops come out in 'mucus covered sacks' - meaning the parents can pick them up in their beaks, and carry them off without making a mess.

Say what you will about it being 'gross', but it's rather impressive when you think of the options for a creative with no hands and a beak!

Step 54: Day 35 - Body Feathers Coming In

At Day 35 / ~20 days old - the feathers are really looking like plumage now. And their size is rapidly growing.

This was the last we saw of the 6th chick, and can only presume it was taken away one night.

Step 55: Day 36 - Walking!

Taking their first steps after 3 weeks from hatching! Kinda amazing, when I think our soon took many months, but then also worth contrasting with Dear - which are up and about in hours. So it's quite interesting to discuss where we have significant similarities and differences between other animals - and to what reason/necessity.

It gives you a new respect for that early stage of life and how to survive long enough not to be predated upon.

Step 56: Night Shift

Much of the footage was in the day, but occasionally I was working late and these guys kept me company... safe to say it looks a bit of a squeeze!

Step 57: Warning - Dead Chick Shown in Video

I deliberated over adding this, and there is a 10 second warning, so really it's your choice.

On an ethical level and by T&Cs of this website, this is not unreasonable to post. Please kindly do not 'report' this as bad content. It falls in the same category as natural history documentaries which are rated 'Universal' or 'U'. But I have made it Rated 18, as a concession so as to imply your kids will not have casually happened upon this, if you have parental controls set. You are welcome to log on as an adult if you wish to see it with/out kids, for educational purposes.

Thanks for your understanding and sensitivity to the matter. Do avoid if you ware unsure or are easily upset.

Step 58: A Hard Night

Now down to 4 chicks. It was hard to see one of the more developed chicks go.

Step 59: Day 39 - a New Dawn

It's cleared there is a marked difference between the most boisterous chicks and one which is still not quite looking energetic, and in all frankness the parents have 'made a choice' over an it was not being fed much, if at all.

Step 60: Day 41 - Warning - Another Dead Chick Show in Video

The 4th chick left sadly didn't make it, and same as before, please do not watch if easily upset by images of dead chicks and the necessary disposal of their bodies by the adult bird, to ensure the survival of the other remaining three, to be free from disease.

Step 61: The Fortunate 3 Left to Fledge

The good news is - these 3 do make it!

For what it's worth I didn't feel my 8 year old needed to see the two videos of the chicks who died. This is not to say you might feel differently either way.

These things are never easy, but as to my earlier point, I think their poignancy not only is a valid emotion to process, but arguably gives us a provocation to enjoy more of the good fortune we do have.

Step 62: My Favourite Pictures

After all the ups and a few downs, this has to be one of my favourite photos - the parents, have successfully raised 3 healthy chicks, and their 'rude health' some might say is apparent here, with the adult bird looking somewhat on the back food, mobbed by her brood!

And indeed, to my earlier point, the slight nuance that the one of the right was that bit more calm, and less greedy, but hopefully will make it. An inquisitive bird, which often was found staring at the gaps of light, and pecking the screws. Again, I'm relevant to use 'personality', but certainly 'charters' is there, and I'll be honest I'd not expected that from a 'less complex' animal than say a Dog. So this was somewhat of a revelation, and certainly gives pause of thought on animal welfare and such discussions about our ethics. If you've not read any , now would be a good time to enjoy that rabbit hole of great provocations!

Step 63: Chicks Exploring Sunlight

I didn't expect to see 'wonder' in a BlueTit, but I think it's fair to call it this. Perhaps not in the sense of 'awe' but certainly processing what is going on, and dust in sunlight rays are kinda magical even as a human! It almost feels that this illustrates the cognition also needed to survive outside the box also...we shall see...

Step 64: Day 42 - Fair Feeding / Ready to Fly

Final feeds, before they go.

Step 65: Alert to Danger / Pre Flight

I found this an especially interesting clip. If you watch the third video, you can see how the parents coax the chicks outside by calling. They had been doing this when delivering food, so have created a form of Pavlovian response, to get them to associate the outside increasingly more so with food. Apparently this is the behaviour and seen in most birds like this.

However, what i didn't also expect was a different 'call' from the parents - which seemed to trigger a 'freeze' reaction and to bolt to the corners.

having seen some other videos online where chicks get eaten by birds that raid the nests, it's actually pretty smart they do this. Luckily a false alarm it seems!

Step 66: Pre-Flight Flaps

Some of my favourite moments, after all the heartache of seeing some not make it, and the grim bits, but here' they are - ready to explore!

Step 67: Fledging!!!

I was away in Glasgow for work at the moment when the first one left, darn it! So that is not here.

Luckily my wonderful wife caught the next two on camera, which was an excellent returning home present!!

I loved the interaction between the last one, with a almost indignant protest at the second one's looking ready to go. Perhaps siblings always have these bonds and differences. Seems no different even in nature.

Step 68: Empty Nest

And there we have it... All gone.

As you can imagine, my wife and I certainly could see each other wondering what the next 10 years might be like, before our son turns 18 and leaves for work or study.

I'll not bore on, but you get the idea I'm sure if you have young kids!

Step 69: Other Fledged Friends

As mentioned, I missed the moment of truth, but was rewarded when I came home, with what is a very similar experience - finding fledglings either on the ground or on a fence - both places expecting parents to feed them, and both places hoping no cats get them!

It's certainly a wild world out there, but it'd been a lovely experience on so many levels I've mentioned, and many more besides.

Step 70: Addicted to Nature Time

I have always loved going outdoors, and doing much like my son does now - quietly trying to observe nature. However, as with this instance, Nature, in this case more BlueTits with young, 'spook' and fly away all too easily (thankfully - as they rightly should!).

However, what is wonderful about the Camera, which seems such an obvious thing in hindsight, is that it's allowing that extra layer of intimacy - to observe something which nature wouldn't feel happy about if you were physically looking at it, and also that ability to play things back and give them a closer look. To conpare this with future years and other people's footage.

Somehow, the act of placing a small camera in a box, opens up a world of fascination, philosophy and introspection of the best kind - to care more deeply about nature, and as Goldsworthy said - to see us not just being in nature, but more importantly as nature also.

Thanks so much for going on this journey with me, and please do share any ideas, facts, or suggestions.


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