There has been a nestbox or two in the garden for some years now, and occasionally in spring the blue tits would show some interest, but no nest building occurred. At last, in April 2005, after I added extra boxes, they began to nest, but chose the oldest nest box - the one that's been there on the house wall for years.

Courtship and nest box selection

Lots of charming wing-fluttering and chirping was involved in the process of selecting the nest site, and many an April morning's washing up at the kitchen sink was enlivened by the view of the blue tits apparently discussing the available options. I've read that it's the male who does the fluttering and chirping at this stage, trying to attract his mate to the nest box. He would stand on the trellis post opposite the nest box and spread his wings a little, in a pose that appeared to be designed to impress and attract attention, while the female blue tit close by seemed disinterested, and carried on feeding at the bird table. But as April advanced, and the weather warmed up, something shifted, and on the morning of 15 April a blue tit was seen carrying nesting materials into the nest box.

The photos here are all of the blue tits at the nest box, but they have been busy around other parts of the garden, where it's harder to get photos as they're a bit further away. Something not photographed, but witnessed, was a lot of wing-fluttering and excited calling which, as I guessed when I saw it, was a prelude to mating. This seemed to be followed immediately by some beak-to-beak contact rather like human kissing. This happened in the honeysuckle in the entrance to Millennium Shed, this afternoon, as I was sitting out there having a tea break. The birds then flew to the rowan tree and carried on chattering away. Bless them.

I'm hoping that no sparrowhawks or cats cause any problems. The nest boxes were sited carefully, and all are designed to be inaccessible to Rosie the cat and other neighbourhood felines, but I know that there's a sparrowhawk in the area, and also know from previous experience of other species in the garden that so many things can go wrong for nesting birds. Despite this awareness, I'm putting gloomy thoughts to one side, and thinking of the blue tits nesting with the same attitude that they have, all bright and chirpy and enthusiastic.

Photographing the blue tits

By chance, I've located the nest box so that it is fairly close not only to the kitchen window but also to the outhouse, which joins the kitchen at right angles.

This meant that I could take photos of the birds through the window of the outhouse (once I'd cleaned it of all the accumulated cobwebs and muck). I now have hundreds of photos of blue tits at the nest box. Here on this page is just a selection. Possibly more than anyone wants to see, but what the heck - I'm really pleased because blue tits have made a nest here for the first time.

Blue tit (male) at nest box - 1Blue tit (male) at nest box - 2

Blue tit (male) at nest box - 3 Blue tit (male) at nest box - 4

Above (four photos): Blue tit - the male I think - at the entrance to the nest box.

Update: 25 May 2005

The eggs have obviously hatched as over the last few days I've been able to hear chicks cheeping, and the parents are dashing around backwards and forwards bringing caterpillars and other food at regular intervals.

Update: 31 May 2005

Not sure what happened with the nesting blue tits.

All went quiet, as I noticed on Friday after we returned in the late afternoon and there wasn't the usual frenetic feeding activity. Neither parent bird was to be seen, all that evening and into the next day. The parents did appear eventually, but no young birds were visible. I thought it was maybe too early for them to have fledged.

After a day or two of no activity at the nest box, I took it down from the wall, expecting it to contain dead fledglings. There was only one tiny bird, probably I would guess no more than a couple of days old. I don't know if there were originally more, or what happened to them. I think it was perhaps too early for them to have fledged, and flown off elsewhere, which is what I'd hoped when the nest box seemed deserted.

Perhaps now the blue tits have built a nest once they'll return next year. As long as they're still around in some way, whether nest-building or not.

Blue tits: 1 | 2
Blue tit (female) with nesting materials, at nest box - 1

Blue tit (female) with nesting materials, at nest box - 2

Photos above and below: Female blue tit at the nest box entrance, with nesting materials.

Blue tit (female) with nesting materials, at nest box - 3

Blue tit (female) with nesting materials, at nest box - 5

Blue tit (female) with nesting materials, at nest box - 6