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June 24

Sam Williams, PhD | Jun 24, 2006


In an earlier post I said I was going to get a ladle to help extract chicks from the nest. Well I now have an array of plastic kitchenware available for this task and they have been invaluable. I have three that I tend use and my favourite is the “magic ladle”. For some nests the magic ladle is a bit big though so I also have a big plastic serving spoon and a fish slice. The latter has been modified and is specific to one nest! The nest is narrow and deep (horizontally) so I cut the fish slice down, sanded the edges and mounted it on a short wooden pole. I can now slot it behind a chick and gently encourage him or her to move towards the front of the cavity where upon I grab him (or her!).

The magic ladle has been the best tool but I did got a big scare whilst trying to extract chicks from one deep (vertical) nest. I had abseiled to the cavity and found that although I could just touch the chicks I couldn’t get hold of them. I took the ladle and I tried to gently work it into place and scoop a chick. The cavity was tight and I had to change my position to get my arm at a better angle but at that moment I dropped the ladle! I knew immediately this could be a disaster. If the parents returned with the ladle still in there they might freak out and abandon the nest.

I urgently forced my arm into the cavity as hard as I could but I could not reach the ladle at all. I took a twig from a plant growing on the cliff but though I could touch it I still could not get the ladle out. After a few minutes I knew I didn’t have the solution so I climbed back up the cliff, pulled the rope up but left all the climbing gear in place. Then I ran through the bush back to the car and drove home where I collected every possible tool I could lay my hands on. When I got back to the nest I took the plumbers grips (long handled pliers) and duct taped some wire to the handle so I couldn’t drop them too. I quickly abseiled to the nest, it then only took a few goes and I had the ladle. I was almost in tears with relief. Having been at the nest for a while I decided to leave the chicks and get out of there quickly to let normal service resume. Thankfully everything seemed to be fine and the parents didn’t have any issues. I learnt a very important lesson; don’t put anything in a nest that you cannot get out. So now the magic ladle and every other bit of nest inspecting equipment now has a length of climbing cord attached to it so that can not happen again.

Chick being weighed