This week I’ve had absolute confirmation that our tenants, Mr & Mrs Blue-Tit are now parents. For some weeks I’ve seen one of them making frequent visits to the Tit Box. I’ve read up about their nesting habits and have gleaned that this will be the male – he feeds the female while she keeps the eggs cosy – I believe it’s known as ‘courtship feeding‘. I hope he brought her some treats and had read up what is and isn’t advisable to eat during pregnancy. When I was expecting Rosie I had no idea I shouldn’t be eating prawns, brie, pate and peanuts – luckily no ill effects for me or her (at least I don’t think so).
Poor Mrs B-T will most likely have laid between 8 and 10 eggs. Apparently she’ll have laid one each day and it’s pretty precise – this will have been at around 0600 – no “stretch & sweep” or inducing medications needed for her. Imagine how convenient it would be if we could time our children’s births this exactly – even an elective Caesarean wouldn’t give you this level of certainty. I hope it’s not been too painful for her as no gas & air or pethidine available here – I’ve not heard any wailing or swearing at Mr B-T – hopefully he hasn’t said anything ridiculous like ‘you’re nearly there‘ when you’re only 2cm dilated. You could say she has plenty of time to recover between deliveries, but of course as every day goes by she’ll have more and more hungry mouths in the same bed, demanding to be fed, while she continues to pop out their siblings. The eggs can exceed her body weight (combined, not one – that would be positively eye-watering). Imagine if our babies exceeded our body weight – in my case, even if I had sextuplets, that would mean each baby would weigh around a stone or, to be fair, maybe slightly more.
According to my research Mrs B-T will have started sitting on her eggs when she knows there’s only one more to go – how does she know that? It’s not like she has a photo of her scan to refer to? This phase lasts around 13–15 days – heaven – she can put her feet up while Mr B-T delivers tasty morsels. I do know we’ve passed the hatching stage now as I can hear lots of high pitched chirping coming from the nest box and Mr & Mrs B-T are spending what seems like all day flying back and forth carrying tiny portions of food. They swoop at some considerable speed, straight into the box through a hole that is only a few centimetres in diameter. Goodness knows what it must be like for the babies – it must be akin to a jumbo jet landing inside your house! Mummy & Daddy must be exhausted – much the same as we are when we’re new parents – although duties don’t tend to be quite so equally shared for us humans – Grumbling Rose was pretty good, but not keen on the night shift.
I’ve no idea where we are up to time-wise and I’m getting increasingly anxious about the fledging stage which is due to be around 3 weeks after hatching. The Tit Box is high up on our house wall, above our flagged terrace, so not a soft landing for the babies. I was wondering if I should cover the area beneath with our garden chair covers to act as a crash mat – what do you think? I really hope I get to see them fly the nest and that they all live to tell the tale. I’m determined to install TV in the Tit Box in time for next year’s breeding season – hopefully that will be an added incentive for our tenants to return and if they do, we’ll be able to spy on them.