Long tailed tit on feederIn terms of more garden-bird related news, there was excitement from one of the long-tailed tit nests which I have been monitoring, the first two eggs have been laid. This is a nest which I first came across at 3 quarters completed stage on March 27th, it was completed by 2nd April and then remained empty when I checked on 5th April, so they must have laid the first on the 6th and second egg today.

Long-tailed Tit Nest Long-tailed tits build the most extraordinary nest of any of our birds, a rugby-ball shaped construction with a small hole near the top but on one side, for entry. The foundation is spider web, padded out with moss held together with more spider web, and then the outside is decorated with fragments of lichen. Inside the nest is lined with hundreds of feathers, someone has counted and found over 1000 in some nests. The overall effect is a nest that is almost an incubator, it is so insulated and warm. Due to the spider web structure, it is quite small inside when the female lays the eggs and starts to incubate them, but as the chicks grow, the nest can expand to accommodate the growing brood! And sometimes it can be a large family, up to 12 in one nest!

I will continue to monitor this nest as part of the Nest Record Scheme. Incubation won’t start until the full clutch of eggs has been laid, some time around Easter! Other tit species are a bit later getting started, so blue tits are just beginning to build their nest in the box in my garden at home. They like a pre-prepared hole to nest in, which is why nest boxes are so useful for them, but long-tailed's always build their own nest, either in a bramble bush or similar throrny-creeper like my current one, or sometimes in the fork of a branch.

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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