This morning, after seeing a bird enter our small birdhouse and being convinced it was a House Sparrow - its been that kind of week - I checked the video recorder. Looks like we have had some titmouse activity in the nest box over the last few days. The titmouse was the first bird we saw after installing the box back in March. A pair of chickadees then spent four days building the base of a nest before abandoning the site. We have had no box activity since then.
April 28 - The camera captured a Bewick's Wren making a short-lived, single visit.
May 1 - In the late afternoon, the male titmouse brought in a moth, just like last time, and called to its mate before leaving with the moth and flying off.
May 2 - In the afternoon, there was a repeat visit by the male, again calling but this time without a moth. Still no mate. The call is like we heard in March and unlike anything we normally hear from titmice.
May 3 - This morning's action started at about 08:30 with the male making another solo arrival at the nest box and calling. This time, the female entered the box after which the male promptly existed. Here, the camera captured both birds in the nest. This event seems to have heralded the acceptance of the box.
Just after noon, the real nest building began. The male flew into the box, quickly followed by the female. The male then exited and perched on the top of the house. The female started shuffling the moss out of the way to re-expose the bare floor. She then began to bring in lighter colored curly grassy material. This continued through the afternoon with her bring most of the material. At first, arrivals where infrequent with lots of shuffling of existing material, using her belly to push material to the sides of the box. As the afternoon progressed, she spent less effort in shuffling and more in bringing. In total, there were 15 deliveries with 30 minutes spent in the box. We imagine that fur and hair will be added at some point. We FURminated our lab today so there should be plenty of material floating around the yard.
As I looked out into the yard, each time I saw the female fly out of the box, I saw a second bird fly after her from the nearby trees. Perhaps the male stands guard while she does the building. On one occasion, he arrived into the box with her bringing another wriggling moth. He did not feed her the offering, at least not while in the box.
Looking at these pictures, as well as color photos taken outside the nest box, I can see that the male is probably a true BCTI as he has a black crest and pale cream forehead, though the crest is not as dark as that of the first pair from March. The female, on the other hand, looks like a typical BCTI x TUTI cross with a gray crest and has a light chestnut forehead. These hybrids are supposedly common along the narrow region of overlap of the two similar species. These color differences are convenient as they will help me keep track of who does what in the nest. So far, I am assuming that it is the female that does most of the nest building.
So, I guess the answer is "yes," the titmice are back ... now, will they have more staying power than the Chickadees?
May 4 - Continued nest building today starting at 8:30 and ending at 13:30. Fewer arrivals today and less futzing with the material. Today, there were only 6 deliveries of material and total time spent in the box was only about 6 min. The last two batches contained what looks like fur but, without color, it is hard to be sure.
May 5 - Continued nest building today. A series of quick material deliveries by the female with minimal rearrangement of within the box. There were 8 deliveries at 9:55, 10:02, 11:16, 11:29, 11:33, 12:14, 16:21, and 16:27. This seems a consistent pattern: brief activity in the morning, most of the work around noon and another spurt later in the afternoon.
All images taken with Hawkeye Nature Cam from birdhousespycam.com capturing in infrared mode.
Story continues with egg laying.