Oh Boy! Where to begin this post?
Erm, when I last updated the blog with news of the blue-tits, there were 6 eggs in the nest. That was on April 18th and since that day, there has been drama and I now have a dark tale to tell...
I shall try and use a prėcis form of writing as it is going to make agonising reading, and frankly I am struggling to even share this with you!
Let's then return to a couple of days post my last update information. By the 18th April there were 8 eggs and as it appears the norm is to lay one per day, I wasn't surprised to find 10 eggs 2 days later on the 20th. That transpired to be the total she would lay and she began brooding. At this juncture, the male seemed to cease feeding her and she was left to cope alone. I got to wondering if birds have any sense of loneliness, as she sat tight day after day, only leaving the nest for very short periods to find food for herself.
This routine continued until May 3rd. The only real change I noticed was that a couple of the eggs now seemed to be elongated.
On the morning of May 4 I didn't get to check the nest-box until around 10am because I had suffered a migraine in the night and took a while after waking to gather my thoughts.
When I did finally check, the female was busy eating eggshells and when she got off the nest, I could just make out 3 or maybe 4 tiny chicks. Now the male returned for the first time in about 10 days and was once again providing food.
I was amazed to see the female leave the box soon after and not return for well over 10 minutes. The little chicks seemed very vulnerable to the cold at such an early age. By 3pm on this day there were just 3 eggs left to hatch and things were starting to hot up regards feeding visits. I was so pleased to see that all was well on my last check of the nest-box at 8.30pm and the female was fast asleep with her brood safely beneath her in the warm.
6.30am May 5th:
Disaster! A neighbour's cat is seen close to the box and the box is hanging at an angle now. On closer inspection, I could see that the hole was blocked with nesting material too. I found a ladder and climbed up to open the top of the box and see what had happened. Inside, the nest had been almost totally destroyed and there were eggs and babies everywhere!
As I attempted to tidy it up, best I could, from right underneath the carnage, the female emerged and took flight. She had obviously been trapped inside the box when the hole got blocked. I assume the cat had somehow managed to climb up to the box and put a paw right inside and had started to drag the contents out. What could I do? Only try to rearrange the nest and replace the chicks that were still alive, along with the eggs, and hope against hope that something could be salvaged from this mess.
And so that's what I did, and soon after the male was back with food, but was so confused that he eventually flew off again without going right into the box. He continued to visit with food and as I write this, some 4 hours later, is still doing so. The female returned too after about an hour, and so at least I know she survived okay. She too is confused of course and in her panic to restore order, has only succeeded in destroying the nest once again, to the point where the occupants are once again scattered throughout the box. I haven't seen her for a while though and assume she has given up hope!
Having followed these birds since mid March and kept a diary, as well as observing them via the nest-cam, I am absolutely distraught right now. Yes, I learnt a lot from what I did get to observe, but this was not the ending I envisaged. I am cross with myself for allowing this to happen; not doing more to protect them from cats. I had no idea the bloody things could be so agile though. The blue-tits have used this box before with great success. Sitting here writing this update, I have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach, and a broken heart over today's events. My immediate reaction is that I can NEVER allow this to be repeated, and so will take both the nest boxes down and remove all bird feeders, so as to not encourage birds into the garden, along with the damn cat-predators that accompany them!
The other option of course is to construct another box for next year that is bullet-proof regards cat attacks. I have seen plans for such a thing on the internet. I will have to try and decide once I can think straight again.
The only saving grace here is that both the adults survived and will no doubt breed again, if not this year, then next.
I'll be back soon with another update that is much less downbeat. Until then, thanks for reading all this.