Day 34 | All is well with the four chicks. With regular feeding they are growing nicely and showing no signs of ailments or other problems. The threat of predation is receding and as they develop more feathers they become more able to withstand the rigours of the weather without parental care.
I should at this stage refer to the chicks as ‘eyasses’. The term Eyass [pronounced eye-ass] is an old 15th century falconry word derived from French ‘niais’ and describes a young hawk that is still in the nest.
Although still showing copious amounts of down, feather development is well underway now and they are starting to show their juvenile plumage. By the time it comes to fledging their feathering pattern will broadly resemble that of an adult peregrine but be less defined and far more speckled. They will still have some down and do not get their adult plumage until they moult in the Spring of next year.
We expect the chicks to take their first flight in just over one weeks time, around 12th June. Last year both young peregrines fledged on the same day, some 42 days after the first chick hatched. Between now and then there will be lots of wing exercising which will become more and more vigorous. This culminates in what is known as ‘helicoptering’ where the eyass is able to generate enough ‘lift’ from its flapping to raise itself off the ground slightly. Heart-stopping moments for us observers, particularly as they may well be standing on the edge of the platform by then.
Although this is a necessary precursor to actual flight there is clearly potential for danger here. A gust or wind, a clash of wings with one of its siblings engaged in similar activities or over-enthusiasm combined with yet-to-be-learned flight control skills can bring premature fledging. This is not an uncommon event and happens in the wild. It doesn’t necessarily result in the bird becoming injured in its descent to ground – or wherever – but it may not have the strength to take off again and return to the nest, or a place of safety where the parent can look after it. For us, finding the AWOL avian, particularly in an urban environment, is often a difficult task. It may have landed several hundred metres from the spire and on a roof-top, out of sight from the ground. Nevertheless, rest assured that we will do our very best recover it if this happens. Progress will be Tweeted to #nrperegrines and posted on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HawkandOwlTrust) so make sure you follow us and are a ‘friend’.
All this activity in the nest means that it is an excellent time to see the eyasses in the flesh – or should that be feather? Consequently, our dedicated stalwarts who give their time so generously to staff the Watch Point on cathedral green have decided to keep it open until 7pm for the next two Tuesdays (4 and 11 June). This should give those of you that cannot visit during the day a rare opportunity to come along and see these magnificent birds with your own eyes. No need for binoculars. Thanks to the good people at Viking Optical we have some rather nice ‘scopes for those that want to get a really close look. Why not bring a friend. Its free, although donations are always welcome of course. Spread the word.
David Gittens | Volunteer – Wildlife CCTV,
Hawk and Owl Trust – Sculthorpe Moor
For the live video stream, and to help with the costs of running our webcam please visit www.upp.hawkandowl.org/live/