April 19th   Leave a comment

I have a pair of blue tits prospecting in my garden at the moment. It reminds me that I need to put up some more bird boxes. The tits usually make do with holes in the large, old stone wall running the length of my garden. Tits – blue, coal or great – just need a cavity and a small hole to prevent the entry of predators or larger competitors like starlings and so a hole in a wall is probably as good as one in a tree. Perhaps better. A weasel would find it hard to scale a vertical wall and a stone dyke is proof against any woodpecker. When tits nest in natural tree cavities or in wooden nest boxes in woodland with a high density of great spotted woodpeckers then the woodpeckers may knock their way in to eat the tit chicks. Another hazard for nest box using tits is the box being taken over by bumble-bees or wasps. Only a small percentage of nest boxes typically end up as insect homes although one study in Poland found 35% of their nest boxes taken over. Who gets the box is probably determined by who gets in first, or who is most determined. I’d always put my money on the tits – a bee or wasp colony is started only by a single queen in the spring and blue tits strike me as tenacious as a couple of jack russells. If ever a small bird had attitude it is a blue tit.

A prospecting blue tit

A prospecting blue tit

Another interesting thing about blue tits is their song and call. There isn’t much difference between the two and I am often fooled by a singing male at this time of year into thinking there is a sparrowhawk around. The rest of the year, a strident burst of blue tit song is the most reliable cue (apart from perhaps a swallow alarm calling) that a bird of prey is about. I watched “my” blue tits in the garden today and became convinced that one of them was acting as a sentry while the other prospected for nest holes. It perched on a wire occasionally “singing” as a crow came over and most vigorously as a sparrowhawk passed. Perhaps blue tit males impress their females not by the loudness or complexity of their song but by its utility as a signal of danger.

There seem to be a good number of lapwing pairs trying to breed in the fields around Crail this year. They are very obvious just now as they display: flashing black and white, tumbling from side to side like huge butterflies low over the field where they will nest.

Posted April 19, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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