The chicks have continued to grow well, despite the chilly weather and unseasonally heavy showers, and are starting to look as if they’re almost ready to leave the nest. As suggested in the last post, they have been exercising their wings ever more regularly in readiness for their first flight.
This will no doubt result in plenty of scares over the next few days as they appear to be on the brink of losing their balance and toppling off the lip of the platform. What the picture above also reveals is the amount of down that is still present in the rump and wings, which will continue to be lost as they preen and flap, gradually acquiring full adult plumage.
In the image above, taken today by Andy J, you can clearly see the down flying as this juv exercised on the edge of the platform, and it’s also easy to appreciate the classic plumage differences between adults and young birds, which have that buffy tone to the underparts, vertical (not horizontal) barring on the breast and pale blue around the eye and at the base of the bill (both bright yellow on an adult bird).
In recent days it seems to have been mostly the female that has been bringing food to the chicks, and there have been a few occasions when they have competed for the same morsel, as above. Over the weekend there was also a moment when one of the chicks tussled with the female for control of a prey item.
It may well be that this is why it’s the female that’s doing the majority of the feeding, as the male may now be at risk of having prey taken from him by the chicks that are now about his size, if not bigger, suggesting that they are indeed both females as we suspected at the time of ringing. The other thing to notice between the two picture above is just how much they’ve changed in appearance between Friday and Sunday! And to remember just how they’ve changed over the last month, and especially the last 10 days, below is a montage of screengrabs from 1st, 7th, 19th and 31st of May.
In addition to capturing the development of the chicks, it’s been a good chance over the last week to get some decent photos of the birds as they come and go. Something that was interesting, and not one I’d noticed before, was that the female flew onto a nearby building after feeding and cleaned her beak on the copper of a lightning conductor, the smooth metal presumably making a preferable surface to the concrete.
As the birds come towards the end of their stay in the nest, I’ll take the opportunity to share some shots for their aesthetic qualities rather than showing any particular behaviour.
In my mind, this is captioned ‘Caught on camera’, with thanks again to Andy J for the image. A couple of days ago I couldn’t resist the moon behind the turrets on a rare sunny evening.
And similarly, the combination of sun and showers provided an attractive screengrab on Sunday evening.
With the weather set to improve towards the end of the week, this may provide the ideal conditions for the juveniles to make their first sorties. It’s always a nervous time, but fingers crossed for successful maiden flights: we’ll be keeping a close eye on things just in case there are any problems. Will June 5th prove to be the day once again?