sparrowhawks have hatched

The big news is that sparrowhawk’s nest in the Sorrel Woods has chicks in it!

The reason we know this is because we’ve been watching the nest every day for the past weeks. We found a hiding spot behind a large sitka spruce far enough from the nest not to disturb the mother and yet with a good view of the nest.

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Every evening after work we revisited the “hide” and waited for ours looking through binoculars. The midges were always horrendous, but we saw some amazing stuff. We saw the female leave the nest, we’ve seen food passes, we’ve heard the musket call, but most importantly we’ve seen the female feed her young in the nest. The last time we could just make out two little fluffy white chick heads peaking from the depth of the nest.

There are also droppings, or mutes, under the tree. Chicks even when young back out towards the edge of the nest to defecate. Their tiny bums produce tiny white drops on the ground and leaves below and they look like whitewash.

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We think that chicks are under ten days old, but we are not certain. Everywhere in the woods sparrowhawks are having their young. Parents time the arrival of the young with availability of fledgling birds such as blue tits. I found this feather on the plucking post possibly belonging to a blue tit.

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And this is a paper-thin skull of a blue tit I found under an old nest nearby. And of course more bones.

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Sparrowhawks are really amazing. The more I watch them the more I realise how complex their lives are. For example they are very vocal and they talk to each other a lot. In fact every interaction is accompanied by much calling, screaming, and fuss. When male comes back with food, he does’t just drop it in the nest. He calls and flies around for a while attracting the female’s attention. When he lands in a tree nearby he makes loud calls to the female. And the female then shifts in the nest and calls back gently. She might fly straight out of the nest and pick up the food left by the male on a plucking post but we’ve also seen long flights away to a food pick up spot. Nothing is straightforward.

The other day after feeding her young the female left the nest carrying a carcass of a large bird in her feet. Perhaps she was trying to dispose of it somewhere where it is unlikely to attract predators to the nest, maybe she was just taking it as a snack to her mate? Who knows?

I’ve done a few practice tree climbs.

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Can you see Ed below?

It’s scary – sitkas are tall, they move around in the wind, I need to saw off branches or negotiate my way over them as I climb… Also I cannot fail. I cannot panic or get a vertigo, I have to move fast, I have to be efficient. When I get up there I have to be alert and identify the female among tiny fluffy chicks by the size of their legs. Females have larger feet and thicker legs. Then I have to put it gently in a bag and lower it down slowly. Then I have to descend the tree in one piece. This is all rather overwhelming, but I feel more confident now that I’ve done a few climbs.

And we think we might be getting a chick in the next few days. Yes, this soon. It’s all happening and I can’t believe it. I have so many worries like what if there are only two chicks in the nest? The wild take license allows us to take a chick only if there is a minimum of three chicks in the nest. And what if they are too young? Or too old to take?

So much uncertainties and worries just to hang out with this beauty.

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Stay tuned.

x.

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