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July 22

Sam Williams, PhD | Jul 22, 2006


On Thursday I visited a nest we call the Nose where there is a single chick.  To an imaginative person there are features on the cliff that look like a face and guess where the cavity is?! The cliff is around 20meters high and the nest a little above half way. I abseiled down, then I attached a sling to the rock and puled myself close to the entrance. First I took the magic ladle from where it was clipped on my harness and untied the cord so it was ready for use. On a previous visit the chick had disappeared into the back of this deep cavity and I was unable to collect any information as a result, so I knew I may have to be quick. From a small bag hanging from my harness I took the torch and after adjusting my position on the rope I peered into the cavity and with the torch shining.

The chick voiced his (or her) surprise and climbed up the step to the right. This would make it difficult for the ladle. He didn’t sit still though and with flapping wings jumped back into the middle of the nest and then half flew up the slope to the left. On apparently reaching the top of that slope he slid all the way back down, screaming and flapping like crazy the whole time. So then he was back in the middle, but with his wings still going and so he took off again but this time right towards my face landing right next to my hand. It was perfect I just flattened him before he went any further, got my fingers in the right places and then picked him up. It was just one of those great moments and I was laughing like crazy. I keep thinking they must be ready to go soon but this chick definitely was!

While I hung on rope I popped the chick into another bag with a draw cord. Rather conveniently this cavity has a small shelf at the entrance so I can work on the chick without having to climb back up to the top. First I weighed him, (255g) then I measured his wing (189mm). I use the bag to help contain the bird while I measure his wing from the wrist to the tip of the primaries. Wing length is a better measure of age than weight, especially in multiple chick clutches. When I sort through all the numbers I’ll show you some examples and tell you more about, that’ll be sometime later in the year. Overall the chick looked great. I returned him to the nest knowing he’ll be gone before I do another inspection. Sure enough when Rowan was observing that pair on Friday he reported there had been a lot of commotion and then 3 birds flew from the entrance down the valley and out of site. I’m looking forward to taking some time myself to do some observations and perhaps catch a glance of some fledglings as there are probably going to be many in the next week!