Bluetit Diary 2011 -  May (19)

Tuesday 24th May, 2011

Now it is the turn of the chicks in Box1 and Box3 to have the limelight.  We expected Zoe's chicks to fledge today and indeed they did.  Amy's chicks were always going to be more difficult to predict as it was not clear which eggs had hatched, as they were laid by two different females, and when they did so.  At this stage we still hadn't cottoned on to the fact that one of Amy's chicks had already fledged!  We just assumed that three, rather than two chicks also flew the nest today.

We shall therefore start with Zoe's chicks.

This image was recorded yesterday.  All the chicks are looking healthy and very grown up.  Surely they must leave the nest box today!

As a result of seeing this, we decided to leave the computer running overnight to ensure that we captured pictures of any of the chicks that flew the nest early today.

Well at least they were not early fledgers.

At ten minutes to ten, when this picture was taken, all nine chicks were still present!

Twenty minutes later and there has been no change.  You should be able to make out all nine chicks in this picture.
After much hesitation and changes of mind, at just after 10.30am, the first chick jumped up to the exit hole yet again ...
... and suddenly flew the nest!
Here he is on his way.

One down and eight to go!

The next chick fledged only nine minutes later.  Unfortunately, we have no picture of its flight from the box.  Here he is about to fly.
Chick number three went 13 minutes later and this time the system caught his departure.
Now the ice is broken, several chicks followed in quick succession.  Chick number 4 went about three minutes later ...
... and chick number 5 only a minute later.

None of the chicks from Box3 has far to travel before it gets to safety.  Directly opposite the nest box, only about 6 feet away, is a thick hornbeam hedge.

It now seems that all the bold chicks have flown the nest, as the next chick to fledge takes much longer to make up its mind.
The next chick (number 6) waited over an hour before joining the others in the hedge.
Chick number 7 fledged 40 minutes later.
This left the last two chicks, each of whom is, as usual, trying to hide under the other.
At last, one of the pair decided that its time had come ...
... and so chick number 8 fledged too.
The chick that is the last of a brood to fledge, is usually a sad sight.  It is probably one of the youngest chicks, ie one of the latest to hatch, and probably one of the most timid.  Its chances of survival out in the wide world cannot be high.

Sometimes it tries to hide in the corner ...

... and sometimes it seems to be checking his wings by stretching them out.
Its parents don't desert it.  They visit it fairly frequently, bringing food ...
... and removing the consequent faecal sacs when it appears!
Finally, nearly two hours after he was left on his own, the last chick hops up onto the exit hole and looks outside.
Will he take the plunge and fly?
So another nest box is empty until next year.
Well, not quite.  Both parents came back with food once or twice more in case there were any chicks still in the box.  But then it really was over for this box until next year.

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