The first chick of the 2012 breeding season hatched today! I knew the falcon was on to something last night. When I arrived this morning the tiercel fed her on the nest again and she was sitting very high up the ledge. She was also looking underneath her as if something was happening. Sure enough come this afternoon we could see a chick on the nest!
The falcon surprised everyone this afternoon by leaving the chick on the ledge for 20 minutes. The tiercel was left to watch over the eyrie but at this point did not dare himself to come down to the ledge. It was unusual behaviour by the falcon as a newborn chick is very susceptible to the cold (especially today!). I resigned myself to the fact a few weeks ago that our falcon has fledged a fantastic 21 chicks from this site, she knows what she is doing and I should stop questioning her!
The tiercel did bring in a starling late morning, which I expected him to feed to the falcon, but instead he fed on it all himself! The female may have therefore left the nest due to hunger, or she wanted to catch something that might last her and the chick a bit longer.
Impressively during her 20 minutes away, the falcon caught a pigeon which she brought back ate a small amount of and then stored. She would later retrieve this item and bring it to the nest. These pigeon remains would be the chicks first meal. The falcon tore off tiny morsels of food to feed to the tiny new born bird. It was great to see such a strong well adapted killer, delicately feeding her latest offspring.
When the falcon feeds the chick she adds mucus to the prey to help it to digest such tough food. The mucus also contains antibodies to help the chick to build it’s immune system (a bit like those in mammals milk).
It seemed later on today that the tiercels paternal instinct to guard and stay near the nest, outweighed that to go and catch food for the falcon and chick. He took to sitting on the cliff just above the eyrie for much of the evening. When the falcon went to retrieve the pigeon she stored, this time the tiercel actually dared himself to go to the nest and have a look. Despite this being his 13th breeding season he did seem excited by the situation. When he got to the nest he looked quite at home brooding the chick for the brief time he was allowed. The falcon was soon back at the eyrie and the tiercel was asked to leave!
I would expect (and hope!) the second chick to hatch either overnight or early tomorrow morning. Check back soon to find out!
Tom Wells – Peregrine Protection Officer