Lostwithiel Area U3A
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16th August


For 2020 this will be the last report. The house martins produced 4 eggs in the second clutch and dutifully sat on them for 2 weeks alternating shifts and then they carried on for a few more days but sadly all activity suddenly stopped. We cannot work out what has gone wrong but the eggs are abandoned in the nest and no adults visit at night. We found a dead adult in the road - we do have a sparrowhawk in the village and it looked like a kill that got dropped. Was this one of our birds and the other couldn't carry on alone??? Were the eggs simply duds and not viable ? - we will never know and so will have to wait till next year now to see who inhabits the nest next ......
Thank you for following and better luck next year for the house martins...

2nd August


Earlier in the year we made a Bee Hotel, something we had never done before.  To our delight the bees have taken to it and we have a number of Solitary Bees nesting, including Leafcutter Bees. 

The following information is taken from the Wildlife Trust's website: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/ryan-clark/guide-solitary-bees-britain
"Solitary bees are important pollinators and a gardener’s friend.   A number of Solitary species nest aerially, usually in old beetle holes often sealing the nests with a saliva like substance, mud, chewed leaves, resin or sections of leaves which they cut with their jaws. These species are the ones most likely to take to artificial nests in gardens.
The females will lay their eggs inside the stems of a Bee Hotel. Each egg is left with a store of pollen for the grub to eat when it hatches. The egg is sealed up behind a plug of mud, in a ‘cell’, and one stem may end up with several ‘cells’ in it. The young bees will emerge the following year."




The house martins started fledging 8th July. The parents broke down part of the nest they built to allow the chicks to leave. Three seemed to leave very quickly but one hung on for nearly a week more on and off. The parents fed it and it finally left during the day time but returned at night and seems to be still about. Fledglings are known to help the parents out with feeding the second brood - it may be this was a strategy to keep it. Of the three early ones two we found on the ground under the nest dead - had they fallen out too soon we cannot tell but they were small. A third one I saw in the bushes near by so I am hoping it made it. By around the 13th nest rebuilding was being done by the parent house martins and the remaining chick kept getting in the way but not ousted. The second clutch of eggs was begun on the 18th and there were four eggs being brooded by the 21st. This means they should hatch around the 4-6th August. The nest seems full of birds at night - very hard to tell if the 1-2m chicks are also staying at night too. Will let you know what happens next time. The images show parent feeding the last chick and how the last chick kept its nest clean - very clever and no doubt helpful to the parents....




5th July:

Blackbirds: Second egg had successfully hatched by Monday 29th but the third egg disappeared. Both parents fed the chicks throughout from Monday to Wednesday though only the mother incubated them. Video footage below shows how gentle and attentive they were. Sadly at daylight on Thursday morning the nest was empty and parents gone - can only presume that the chicks had been predated - probably food for young elsewhere by something bigger. Shame but such is the circle of life....


House Martins: Four downy noisy chicks continue to thrive. The nest does seem to have a population of small spiders as well probably mites which crawl everywhere but don't seem to bother them that much. Mum and Dad are busy feeding all day and all roost together at night. The video footage is not great but you can get the gist of the jostling chicks and how much they have grown. They are due to fledge around next wednesday so here is hoping for a successful conclusion.









28th June:

Today the first Blackbird egg has hatched. The short video shows one of its first feeds.12 days of incubation. Fingers crossed the other two eggs will hatch safely in next day or so. The video clip sees the chick getting its first feed. I am in such admiration for the female who has sat relentlessly on the nest through rain and wind and never wavered.

The four house martins are doing well. The two images show the difference from a 7 day old blind, almost naked chick to a 12 day old downy bright eyed chick. The photography is difficult with this very small nest and the proximity of the camera to the subjects especially as they get bigger. The image of the older chicks show the four yellow beaks. I also found an egg and you can see how minute the chicks must have been at hatching.


21st June:

Plenty of activity in the wildlife corner this last week. On the 16th (lovely birthday present for me) the House martin eggs started hatching. The birds kept them very close under them so difficult to tell just how many but by Wednesday they were starting to be visible and it appears all five have hatched. The parents alternated sitting on them and out looking for food and would swap as one arrived back at the nest. They are completely naked with huge dark eyes under their lids and all mouth. Very comical to watch the first few days as they tried to stretch their necks for food and then flopped over onto each other. By today the necks are a lot stronger and they respond to the parents well.

The Blackbird female has had a rocky week. She laid four eggs which became visible on my birthday. Since then she has sat on them permanently - the male plays no role at this point. She occasionally leaves the nest no doubt for a comfort break and food. This is only for a matter of 5 minutes or so. She sat stoically on the nest through all the torrential rain - water rolling off her back - amazing how well the nest was built with a lot of foliage above to not be totally drowned. Now today she is rocking about in the wind!! Yesterday morning when the female left at around 7.30 am the male came and appeared to watch over the eggs as she was out but left the moment she returned. We hadn't seen this before - all four eggs intact. However this morning no sign of the male but the camera had been disturbed and only three eggs visible in nest. As she returned she lifted one egg which was broken to the side. Not sure what caused the camera to move or egg to break? We only record for an hour at daylight. She is definately sitting on 3 eggs this afternoon so fingers crossed that whatever caused the 4th egg to break was not a predator ready to raid again. 

Pics below show mum coping with heavy rain and when the 4th egg appeared on the 16th



14th June

The House Martins are busy incubating the five eggs. I cannot tell if they are taking turns or if the female is only incubating as they are impossible to tell apart to me. Both are in nest over night.

However a new story line is emerging. About 10 days ago a pair of blackbirds were very active in a climbing rose next to a set of french windows from our living room. Sure enough a nest started to be made. Unfortunately Alan had a noisy job in garden and all activity stopped. Then a few days later seemingly the same pair were seen busy in hedge next to our decking and on the 11th I could actually see the female in the hedge very busy and back and forth with all sorts in her mouth. Yesterday I peeked in when she went out and found the nest and there was a single blue egg. Alan quickly and carefully set up a camera and to our relief she returned to sit on the egg. She wasn't on it all the time and sure enough this morning laid a second egg. She is still on and off the nest so we are hoping more eggs are due. With this pair we can definately say at this point the female is doing all the nest stuff - the male well he struts about in the garden and on the telephone wires singing away and enjoying the sultanas the neighbours put out for him. He did not join the female overnight.

So folks watch this space - next week hopefully I can report the house martins are successfully hatched and the blackbird is sat on a clutch of eggs. How exciting."

5th June

Following on from Jane and Peter's successful fledgling story I can report our House Martin's have presented us with four eggs. One was seen on May 28th and the 4th appeared on Sunday 31st. Since then one or other bird has been incubating them - can't tell male from female. We don't think there is a fifth egg. This nest is an artificial half bowl I made some 8 years ago and has successfully had the House Martins nest there every year bar one when bees took it over. Each year in the Spring we clear the top half and scoop out the debris and then the birds return in late April where they roost at night to rest and feed up before starting to build up the top half in mid May to lay end of May their first clutch and then go on to have a second clutch most years.. Incubation is between 14-16 days so we await eagerly to see the young hatch around the 14th June.



On the 6th June we unexpectedly checked camera when house martins off nest and there were 5 eggs - the most we have ever known in the nest.


Here are a couple of pics of the nest






1st June

​We have some brilliant news to share about our blue tit chicks.  We are pleased to say the remaining two chicks have survived and both fledged on Friday afternoon. ​

Our final footage is taken the day before they fledged and you will see the chicks are miniature versions of the adult birds, very active in the nest box, extremely vocal and pursuing the parent birds for food.  Since fledging we have seen the parent birds taking food to the trees behind our garden so we think this is where the babies are and as soon as their flying skills permit they will venture further afield.  We are delighted that two chicks successfully fledged and the herculean effort of the parent birds were not wasted.  


25th May

I have some sad news, our blue tit nest is failing, we have only 2 surviving chicks and I think it is likely that we will lose them, we think possibly due to lack of suitable food or a mite infestation.  I guess where nature is concerned you can never be sure of the outcome.  So sadly there will be no more footage

We know of a web site which has some wonderful web cams on wildlife, including a camera on a thriving blue tit nest, so everyone can continue their wildlife watching. Please click here at  WILDLIFE KATE .


18th May

Good news, all seven eggs hatched last weekend.  The parents birds are busy foraging and are scrupulous in their routine of feeding the chicks and then removing the faecal sac to keep the nest clean and pest free.Good news, all seven eggs hatched last weekend.  The parents birds are busy foraging and are scrupulous in their routine of feeding the chicks and then removing the faecal sac to keep the nest clean and pest free. Research indicates chicks can eat up to 100 caterpillars a day and so the parent birds are relient on the prevailing weather conditions to support an abundance of caterpillars, spiders and insects.​

As you can see from the footage the chicks' grow at an astounding rate and their feathers are now beginning to show, their eyes will open during the next few days and, if all goes well, they should fledge within a three week period from hatching.  As the nesting period progresses both adult birds become increasingly "tatty" in their appearance and will go into a full moult after the chicks have fledged.​



11th May

We have exciting news this week - the Blue tits' eggs started to hatch on Saturday morning, the first two in quick succession, a further four hatched during the day leaving one remaining egg.  The first two clips show two newly hatched chicks in the nest and you will see they are extremely floppy, but despite this within an hour they manage to hold their head up for just long enough to take food and them slump back into the nest. On the footage you can hear the parent birds chirping to announce their arrival with food, this is the trigger for the chicks to lift their heads in readiness.  You will also see that sometimes the parent birds will try many mouths with an insect until they are satisfied the chick can swallow it, on occasion they realise the food is too large and will eventually give up and eat it themselves. The chicks will be in the nest for up to 3 weeks and their growth is rapid they will quadruple in size during this time.  The camera footage can give a false impression of the actual size of both the chicks and adult birds, on average an adult bird weights just 11 grams.

4th May


The hen Blue tit starting brooding her eggs last Monday, the final egg total is seven and we think they will hatch this coming weekend. Interestingly she leaves the nest frequently to forage although the male bird is bring some food to her, notably on one occasion a large green caterpillar and we are hoping this is a good sign that food will be plentiful for the young when they hatch. 


27th April


The hen Blue tit has been busy this week laying an egg each night, the first egg appeared on Monday morning.  Taking a photo of the egg(s) is tricky as they are only visible for a short time each morning, the hen quickly returns with feathers to cover them up for the day, so if you miss that initial view you have to wait for the following morning to try to take a picture.The hen Blue tit has been busy this week laying an egg each night, the first egg appeared on Monday morning.  Taking a photo of the egg(s) is tricky as they are only visible for a short time each morning, the hen quickly returns with feathers to cover them up for the day, so if you miss that initial view you have to wait for the following morning to try to take a picture.
Last year we had a clutch of 9 eggs and if this year's number is similar she will start to incubate the eggs later this week.  Usually while the female broods the eggs the male is attentive and will bring food to her.  The female will also do a lot of egg turning, this manoeuvre is very entertaining with lots of rumaging in the nest cup and many headstands and summersaults.   We hope to capture some footage of this for next week's Wildlife Corner.





20th April


The Bluetit nest is now finished and being used by the female as a very comfortable roost each night, we hope she will start laying eggs this week, this usually occurs over night for 10 days or so. We will keep you posted on progress.



This footage shows a male and female on our lawn on Saturday night (the larger male is on the left), seeing two together is a sure sign it is the breeding season. Hedgehogs are extremely noisy during this time and on the footage you can just hear courtship snorting.




Lynda has kindly send further clips from the bird visitors to her garden




13th April



Busy nest building. Everything has to be just right.


Nearly there - feathers coming in (and out) to line the nest



For a number of years we have had a blue tit nest box in our garden, the box has a camera which has given us a privileged insight into the life of blue tits.  We are lucky that the box is used each year, with some successful.  Unfortunately last year the nest failed, we believe this was linked to the unseasonably cold and wet meaning that caterpillars were just not there for the chicks. We would like to show the progress of the nest over the coming months during the various stages this year.

Interestingly,  we have found each year our nest box is used from November onwards as a roost by a blue tit, especially rewarding because as the winter weather rages outside our blue tit is safely tucked up in the nest box​.  The blue tit remains using the box at night and in late March early April begins to bring nesting material in.  This is an extremely long process, initially the bird will bring material in and inexplicably take it out again, until they start building the earnest in early April.​​




The following information is an extract from  https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/articles/blue-tit-diary
"Blue Tits start searching for a safe, warm site to start building their nest in February. The location is important as they require a clear flight path to the nest's entrance hole and the site must be relatively inaccessible to predators.  The size of the nest box hole is important (c.25mm diameter) to keep more dominant species from ousting the nesting pair.​

Most blue tits begin building their nest in late March. This allows them to synchronise breeding so that the hatching of their chicks coincides with peak food availability - the tiny caterpillars that have also hatched to feast on fresh tree leaves.​

The female Blue Tit builds the nest alone with little or no help from the male. She takes moss will from garden lawns and forms it into a cup. The nest is complete when it is lined with soft feathers, fur or wool. Blue Tits can build a nest in a few days, but generally it takes them between one and two weeks.​Birds need to be in prime condition at the start of the breeding season. Placing bird food in the garden, particularly suet, peanuts and black sunflower seeds, provides a valuable source of nutrients and energy which can be used by females to produce eggs and keeps both parents in good condition so that they are able to supply enough food for their chicks.​"




 It seems we have multiple hedgehogs in our group. Peter and Caroline, and Jane and Peter are recording footage of their respective hedgehogs.







From Jane and Peter - We count ourselves extremely lucky that each year we have hedgehogs visiting our garden and this year so far we have seen three individuals.  To help them when they come out of hibernation we put dried cat food out each night under a wooden cloche, the entrance is hedgehog size to deter the local cats from getting a free meal and we also make sure there is fresh water available. ​
Our fencing and gates have hedgehog size holes in at ground level giving our hogs free access.  We also  provide 5 star accommodation in the form of a hibernation box (with bedding) which is used periodically.  We avoid using chemicals in the garden which means our shrubs and plants have to be robust to survive, but in return we can watch our hogs from the lounge window most nights which gives us great pleasure and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing our bit to help them.​
A hedgehog's home range is surprisingly large around 10-20 hectares and it will roam an average of 2km on a single night, this increases to 3km for a male hedgehog searching for a female.​
On one or two occasion in late September/October we have seen young hedgehogs out during the day, this is a sign that they are in trouble and will not have enough time to put weight on for hibernation.  In these cases we take them to a rescue centre at Mawnan Smith where they are feed throughout the winter and we collect them (a much larger version) in the spring to be released into our garden.  ​
As you can tell we are huge fans of the humble hedgehog and do all we can to help them survive in the modern world.



The following advice given by the RSPCA on hedgehogs  ​https://www.rspb.org.uk/.../other-garden-wildlife/mammals/hedgehog​
Hedgehogs in the garden​Hedgehogs are a gardener's friend, as they eat snails, slugs and insects.​
Make a hedgehog a home​Leave areas of the garden 'wild', with piles of leaf litter and logs. These are an attractive nest as well as a home for the invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that hedgehogs like to eat.​
Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall.​
Feeding hedgehogs​Food and fresh water will encourage hedgehogs to return. Leave out foods like tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based) and crushed dog or cat biscuits. Specialist hedgehog food is also recommended and can be bought from wildlife food suppliers.​Never feed hedgehogs milk as it can cause diarrhoea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.​
Hedgehog-friendly gardening​Cover drains and holes and place bricks at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out. Cover swimming pools overnight and when not in use.​Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking over.​Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.​Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled, and getting injured.​Slug pellets can poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Instead try using one of many "natural" alternatives, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect. If you have to use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.​
Hedgehog hibernation​Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid March and animals must have enough fat reserves to survive hibernation. Making hedgehog homes in the garden and providing food will help hedgehogs.​Juvenile hedgehogs weighing less than 500 grams during late autumn will need help to survive the winter - download our factsheet caring for autumn juvenile hedgehogs (PDF 416KB) for advice.​
Did you know?​As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean 'your hedgehog' is a number of different individuals visiting at different times.​



From Jane and Peter - We were surprised to find our lawn dug up over several nights in November 2018.  We suspected the damage had been done by a Badger and so we set our camera trap.  Our suspicions were confirmed, and although it was interesting to see how diverse the wildlife is in our small semi-wild garden, but in this case I am glad to say it was a one off.




As some of you may, know Lynda spends the winter in Portugal and returns to us for the summer. This year, for obvious reasons, she was unable to get home so is spending a little longer than originally planned there. The video below shows several different species of wildlife captured on camera around her property.