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
It took a bit of time but finally:
This pair had 5 chicks this year and are a firmly established pair having bred for a number of years now. This pair know what they are doing and keep their chicks in the nest for a bit longer seems to work well as the young coming out flying very well and looking strong.
Taken by Mike and Carolyn
We were kept waiting a little longer for these chicks to appear and when they did, sadly only one chick came out. This was a repeat of last year’s attempt for this pair. Two chicks ringed but only one fledged. Both very healthy looking birds on ringing day so we can only speculate that the other chick was predated or something happened to it within the nest site (there is quite a drop below it). One chick is better than no chicks!
- Taken by Phil & Hilary
NB. All photos were taken by The Chough’s Guard while on duty with long lens cameras. The watchers know that getting too close to the choughs could scare them so keep their distance while taking photos.