Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter hatchlings!

Hello everyone, hope you are all happy and well and having a happy Easter weekend. Sorry it's been a while since my last post, as usual, the excuse is me being a busy bee. So let me get straight to the point and start with some wonderful news! As I write this, the blue tit's eggs have started to hatch, ideal considering it's Easter. It started this morning when I woke up and checked on them to find this happening:

They both seem happy to see their new chick and are already eager to feed it, yet after all that struggle trying to break free from the egg, food is the last thing on the chick's mind I would imagine. As I continued to watch, number two made its entry:

As you can see it struggles quite a bit trying to remove the shell from its head, until mum pops in and assists by actually eating the shell. This is one way of replacing the calcium in her body used to lay the eggs I suppose.

I check back on them from time to time and my last check revealed that number 3 was here too.

So now it's a case of waiting and watching. I must admit, for new borns they seem quite active and are beginning to crawl around all over the place. It's also such a pleasure to watch considering we've had the box for 3 years now and this is the first time we've had something nesting in it.

On the subject of nest boxes, some of you may recall back in September last year whilst walking around Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Newbourne Springs site, I came across this nest box that had been taken over by Hornets (Vespa crabro).

Last years active Hornet nest in situ.
Well that was last year and as with all hives, winter has been and gone and so have the Hornets, leaving behind their amazing construction, which I saw still in place on the tree trunk last month. Which got me thinking, not many people have seen inside these amazing structures and as this one has been built inside a box, wouldn't it be great if I could turn it into a display hive to be used to educate people, especially as I now work for SWT as an Events & Education Volunteer. I spoke with my manager Angela and the reserve warden Andrew and we arranged to remove the box and replace it with a brand new one.

The box on the left before removal.
New box up to replace the old one.
 It was quite a simple task as the box wasn't too high up. Whilst this was being done, I actually heard my first Cuckoo of the year calling, such a nice sound for some, yet a dreaded sound for others as the call signals that it is the time when Cuckoos parasitise the nests of much smaller birds such as Warbler's or Dunnock's.

With the old hive removed and the replacement box in place I returned home to see what I could do with the hornets nest.

Much of the original outer hive has been destroyed by the winter weather.
Obviously, like this, people wouldn't be able to see much of the hive, I needed to remove the front panel from the bird box. Thankfully, the hornets had already helped me in doing this by creating the split down the front of the box. Some of you may have seen wasps sitting on fences or sheds during the summer, or even may have noticed strange patterns appearing on said objects. Wasps (Hornets are large wasps) create their nests by making paper mache from fence panels, etc. They find a suitable area and begin to scrap the wood off with their mandibles, they then take it back to the nest and add it to the structure. This is how the split would've been caused as well as the pale areas either side of the split. The wood has been constantly scraped away and used in the construction of the hive.

The box was in quite a rickety shape and this split meant I could remove the front panel without damaging the box further.

The lid and one side of the front panel removed.
A better angle showing the structure more clearly.
Removing the front panel showed the intricate design of the nest, the different levels of honeycomb structure, which at some point, each cell would have housed a developing hornet. It was at this point I was hoping to find a dead hornet which I could pin and display with the nest, but sadly, there were no remains inside.

I also wanted to keep the structure protected as things like this encourage people to touch and feel, which is a good thing, but unfortunately it doesn't do it any good as the structure is quite a fragile thing in itself. If people could poke and prod it, it won't last very long, so thanks to my Wifey's artwork in glass, I procured some pieces of her glass to front the box with. This would allow people to see the nest up close and keep the nest protected from prying fingers at the same time.

The finished (almost) article.
It would be good if I could display some pinned hornets with the box, but unfortunately, I don't have any. However, as nature lovers, we come across all sorts whilst we're out and about walking and I'm hoping one day that I might come across a dead hornet that I can use, if not, maybe you might come across one. If so, place it in a matchbox and get in contact with me using the comments box below. Please leave your email address in the comments box, don't worry, every comment has to be checked by me before it's published and I will not publish any details anywhere.

Less big bumbles of late.

How many of you have noticed that they're are not many big bumblebees around of late? Most of them will have started nest building by now and already this weekend I've spotted a few tiny little workers foraging for food.

So, as I sign off, I'll just leave you with this link to my YouTube page and even better, the hatching of the 5th blue tit.

Till next time, keep safe, keep smiling.


  1. Might be better to move your replacement nest box to the shady side of the tree.

    1. Hi Anonymous?
      The picture was taken early in the morning. The box faces NE so spends much of the day on the shady side.

      *NOTE* I'm allowing the 'Anonymous' posting feature because people had trouble posting on here before. It would be nice however, if people could reply with a name when using this feature. Thank you.