Chick!

It’s been a cracking afternoon in Sheffield – literally – as the first egg has hatched.

April 30 chick

This was my first glimpse of a chick, at 19:13, although it had looked all day as if something was happening, right on time.  A handover a little later allowed for a clearer view, and confirmation that there was one chick alongside three eggs.

April 30 3 eggs and chick

Thirty-two days have now passed since the last egg was laid, since when round-the-clock incubation has been a constant, and in each of the years for which we have data from the webcam, the gap between last egg laid and first chick hatched has been either 31 days (2016 and 2017) or 32 (2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2018).  And in every year, the chicks have hatched within one or two days of each other, so things should move quickly overnight and tomorrow: worth watching!

April 30 male and eggs

The screengrab above shows that at 13:52 this afternoon there were still four eggs, one of which appeared to show (in the white patch visible on the front left egg) the first signs of ‘pipping’ as the chick began to break out of its shell.  The enlarged image below makes it a little easier to see.

April 30 egg pipped

As in previous years, the adults adopted a tell-tale ‘eggs-to-chicks’ posture while on the eggs, tilted forwards and hunched.  They do this by resting their wings on the ground so as to hold their body partly off the eggs to allow for the emerging chick, as below.

April 30 female hunched

A look back to last year reminded me that the night before the first egg hatched in 2017 saw temperatures fall down to just one degree above freezing, and while last night in Sheffield saw a comparatively (!) balmy 3 degrees celsius, conditions are far from ideal.  Fortunately, the chicks seem to be pretty hardy on the basis of previous years and temperatures look set to rise over the next few days, although Wednesday – likely to be the first full day with our complement of chicks, however many that may be – is forecast to be very wet.  No doubt the parents will brood them carefully, doing all they can to keep them warm and dry, although handovers will see them get unavoidably damp.

April 30 evening handover

Above is what I expect to be the final handover of the day as the female took over duties for the night at 20:41.  You can make out a second ‘pipped’ egg, which should mean a second chick by tomorrow morning.  Over recent years it’s become apparent that chicks often emerge from their egg at night, so let’s see what the morning brings.  Tomorrow morning should also see the first feed brought in, so another thing to watch out for.

Yesterday the BBC showed again their engaging documentary following the lives of a family of Peregrines in Chicago as they hatched and fledged.  No doubt you can catch it on iPlayer if you missed it – or you can watch it all unfold live right here in Sheffield.

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