Ted one of the chough volunteers keeps an eye on our red-billed friends on his patch and for a few evenings now has been reporting some partying going on down on the cliffs – ‘a right racket, all sorts of comings and goings, no parents in attendance’ and more dubious behaviour too. Are we are bothered? Nope. No need to go charging down there to break up a rave or move on fly campers. It’s all part of growing up if you are a chough. The noise and squabbling will be the young birds from this year and the older unpaired birds establishing the pecking order and who gets to roost in the best spot. The younger you are the lower down the order you are and probably the lower down the cliff your rocky perch will be for the night. Some nights getting into the right order can take ages.
Ted also saw a pair fly in with their five young, they swiftly departed though leaving the juveniles to it as they sought a more tranquil roost spot further up the coast. And who can blame them!
Below is a lovely note from Frank who lives in west Clare in Ireland. He has choughs nesting in one of his outbuildings and contacted us last year for advice on how to keep his cat away from the chough’s nest. Last year the choughs there fledged two young, this year they have three. And the cat is behaving itself.
“I hope this message finds you well and in good spirits and that your Chough nesting season is progressing well. I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that our family of Choughs has just expanded from 2 to 5 over the last week and now we have 5 choughs flying about with the three chicks getting flying lessons from mum and dad every day. In order to make it safer from them this year I blocked up 15 entrance ways to the building, and although the cat could still get in if he was pretty committed to doing so, it’s difficult for him to make it in there now and I’ve not seen him in the building at all over the past few months. So it looks like the choughs had 3 chicks and all three started flying about a week ago and they’re all able to fly pretty well by now so I’m confident we’ll get them all to maturity without any casualties, at least not from the resident cat. I’ll send you a picture once I get all 5 together. Mum and Dad still go flying together without the three chicks, but all 5 come out occasionally and have a fly about.”
(I know, I am reaching with that title)
The time has come that makes me very nervous indeed. The chicks from the first nest to fledge have cut their apron strings, left ma and pa and have headed north along the far west coast.
Yesterday evening, I went to do a roost check at a known roosting spot to see who was roosting there. This is a popular spot with one of the breeding pairs in the area who are the only ones that leave their nest site and move to another spot after chicks have fledged. I expected to only see them there and was hopeful the full family of 7 were still together.
I arrived on site to find 10 choughs! They were foraging for a good 45 minutes before they went to roost enabling me to see all the ring combinations so I knew who they were. Two adults and 5 chicks as expected but the other 3 were chicks were from that first nest. Looking a lot older than the others which makes sense as they fledged a good 2 to 3 weeks earlier then the other nests. Hopefully, they will hang around a bit longer and not take their adventures further afield.
Now that first nest had four chicks fledge and the family of 6 had been seen together quite recently so lets hope that 4th chick is still with his parents and doing the sensible thing of not being so quick to cut those apron strings! It’s a scary world out there.
Here’s Terry - I am told by a very reliable source that this lens is called the ‘Royal lens’ – it is the one that that the paparazzi typically use for celebrity shots. Well, our choughs are Cornish royalty you know. Unlike the paparazzi Terry does not need to chase after his subjects he just spends hours and has really got to know the choughs and their habits so he can photograph them without disturbing them.
Terry kindly lets us use his photographs because us staff have teeny cameras and are really rubbish at taking photos of things that move. And I am not sure I eat enough spinach to lift a lens like that!
Terry by Alec Farr