Last Christmas I bought my wife an unusual present - a bird box with a camera installed. I didn't expect much this year, but in fact we've been treated to one of the wonders of nature in big-screen format. So I hope you'll excuse the departure from technical themes this week as I do the "new Dad" thing and pass round photos of our seven new babies (though unfortunately the quality is mediocre because they were captured over wireless video link).
In early May we saw nest building start, though it was a week before we got to see blue tit Mum.
And then, three days later, it was clear that the nine eggs were beginning to hatch.
Within two days, Mum and Dad were fighting hard to satisfy the appetites of the newborn chicks.
They seemed to grow bigger by the hour, no doubt due to the hundreds of caterpillars and seeds being delivered.
A couple of days later, their eyes were open and they were starting to look like baby birds.
As the days went by, they grew and grew, and were continually hungry.
And then a sad sight. One had died during the night and Dad struggled for over an hour to remove it from the nest.
Meanwhile the rest continued to do well, and we even noticed their individual personalities coming through. One very dominant male, with two feathers that resembled horns, soon became known as "The Devil Child".
Like all kids, they had an unhealthy interest in poo. One decided to investigate some that hadn't been removed, but Mum soon arrived and took it away for disposal outside.
We lost another the next night, though it was a great deal smaller than the rest and hadn't looked as though it would survive. However, the rest seemed really healthy. And there's always one that has to pose for the camera.
On May 25th they started to become very restless and took it in turns to fly up to the hole and gaze out at the world outside. But none were quite brave enough to leave just yet.
However, by lunchtime the next day there were only four left in the box. The time had obviously come, though Mum and dad continued to feed them.
Then, on May 27th the final rush for departure began. A cacophony of squawking and fluttering carried on through the morning as they jostled for position and prepared themselves for the wild blue yonder.
And then, by early afternoon, they were all gone. The magnificent seven had flown the nest.
I wonder if we'll be so lucky again next spring...
To see more, check out this short video clip (around 7 MB)