It’s now three weeks since the fourth egg hatched and with an expected fledging date at between 5 and 6 weeks old the chicks are at least halfway to leaving the nest.
All four chicks continue to develop well and are growing rapidly. Some significant developments have been evident over recent days: in the screengrab above the first of the chicks is standing upright on Monday, almost exactly as the literature would predict, with chicks documented as being able to stand at 22-23 days. The chicks continue to spend a good deal of time ‘sitting’ on their bended legs but are now starting to walk (or wobble) around the platform, though they are still a little unsteady.
Both adults are bringing food to the chicks, with the female taking the lead, and they are doing a very good job of making sure all four chicks receive a good feed. The chicks are beginning to be a bit more assertive in reaching for food from the parents, or even pecking at the prey item themselves, and this is a trend that will develop further in the days ahead.
Something that’s become apparent is that the chicks are now starting to do their own thing, as in the image above, where the chick in the middle is clutching in its talons a scrap of food left in the box from a previous feeding session, and picking at it for itself. There is a lot of vigorous flapping going on now, and as this shakes off the initial covering of down the feathers growing beneath can be seen more and more clearly, especially at the wingtips and tail. The position of the chicks in the image above is also fairly representative now, as the chicks spread out a little, often with two on each side of the box.
Something I’d not seen before is one of the chicks attempting to regurgitate indigestible remains of what it had eaten. This could look as if the chick is ill, but is not a cause for alarm and quite normal. I found one of the ‘castings’, or pellets of regurtitated material, below the platform earlier in the week, but I guess this will have been from one of the adults.
By night, the chicks are still huddling together for warmth, but there’s no sign now of the parents attempting to brood the chicks, even when the temperature drops, as it did last night when this screengrab was taken. Over the next week this type of huddling is likely to decrease as the chicks become more independent from each other, though aggressive behaviour between the chicks is not to be expected and is atypical in Peregrines.
The heavy rain overnight and this morning has left the chicks looking rather bedraggled, but the parents are leaving them to their own devices in terms of shelter and warmth, though they have been feeding them well. If you want to see the birds for yourselves, early mornings or evenings can be quite active and is when the light is at its best, coming from the side rather than being behind the tower. For anyone hoping to try some photography in particular, this is crucial.
I’ll hope to arrange another Peregrine watch, this time in the evening, and will keep an eye on the forecast for a decent slot.
Also, advance notice that there will be a free public talk on the 2014 story of the Peregrines at St George’s on Thursday 5th June, with a watch from 6-7 (weather permitting!) and the talk in the church from 7-8. There will be contributions on different aspects of the project from Phil Riley, Jim Lonsdale and David Wood. For those who want to know more about the Peregrines, and other species in the Sheffield area, copies of the recently published SBSG Breeding Atlas will be available on the door, as will the latest SBSG annual report. Hope to see you there!