Photo: Gary Bralsford. Gary’s royal starlings at their nest-box. The outer covering is cork bark  

The action’s coming thick and fast in GARY BRALSFORD’s set-up, where his new birdroom extension is now finished, and the inhabitants are celebrating their accommodation in style!

Well, spring has now passed and summer has started really well with good temperatures across the country. My softbills are in great condition and voice at present, and some have started looking in the nest-boxes provided.

I have stopped my zosterops breeding for a few months, because the hen laid three clutches and looked in some discomfort passing the final egg. Egg binding can be a problem after several rounds.

The Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) eggs that were put into an incubator for safe hatching (see June 14 issue) were clear. I’m a bit disappointed, really, but at present the cock bird has been mating the hen again. This could be the final round of eggs for a few months.

Currently, a new species I have taken on has gone down on four eggs and the hen is sitting tight. This is the Moussier’s redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri) from North Africa. My new additions went to nest after only being in their new flight for three days. They were housed in a 90cm x 60cm x 60cm (3ft x 2ft x 2ft) holding cage for a few weeks until their new flight was completed. The new flight measures 3.6m x 1.2m x 1.8m high (12ft x 4ft x 6ft). If this breeding comes off, it could be a UK first. (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.)

In previous diary entries, I have also been providing updates on my birdroom extension (see May 24 and June 14 issues). This is now completed and gives me more space and options.

My royal starlings (Lamprotornis regius) have just started laying a clutch of eggs and chose a secluded nest-box on the inside flight and feeding area. Previously, they’d had the annoying habit of laying eggs on the floor. The nest-box has a small slit for the entrance instead of the traditional hole. I put cork bark all over the outside of the box and slit entrance, and the royals took to it straight away. It gives them a bit more privacy and looks more natural.

In the wild they are likely to use termite hills to breed in. (Now that’s a concept: create an imitation termite mound. Any ideas on construction would be welcome from readers or keepers.)

In other news, my friend Robert Jewiss has continued to see success in his set-up. He has five western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) fledged from one nest and two from another pair. Robert’s Cape robin-chats (Cossypha caffra) have fledged one youngster, his scarlet tanagers (Piranga olivacea) are still nest-building and the Virginian cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are on eggs.

At another collection, my friend Colin Scott’s hornbills have mudded up in their nest-boxes, which can be walled in for 10 weeks or so. I loved keeping African hornbills and enjoyed studying them and their habits. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for his barbet species.

A friend, Tony in Liverpool, has just picked up some blue-cheeked bee-eaters (Merops persicus), which are stunning. His large planted flights offer them the perfect home to show off their flight display and art of catching their prey. His grey-headed tanagers (Eucometis penicillata) are showing signs of breeding and so are the lovely speckled tinkerbirds (Pogoniulus scolopaceus). Tony keeps just a few softbills but they are kept immaculately in large planted flights.

Within the hobby, the lighting available for birdrooms has come on a lot over the past two years or so. I have gone for the now popular ultraviolet (UV) lighting. The small 30cm (1ft) lights, which can be linked together for up to four, I think, are superb. They give a magnificent white light, use very low energy and are cheap to run. I will be changing all the larger 1.2m (4ft) and 1.5m (5ft) tubes over to these in due course.

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