Visitors to our falcon cam and blog have certainly been through the mill in recent weeks. Following the heart rending events of April which saw three of our chicks perish, those that have watched our remaining chick flourish so far are now waiting anxiously for the moment he finally leaves the ledge for his maiden flight.
If we assume that our sole survivor was amongst the first to have hatched this year, he would now be old enough to be thinking about his first aerial foray. Over the past week or so he has been spending more and more time away from the nest tray, walking along the ledge and flapping his wings – strengthening and testing them out.
As a result we have received many calls and emails in the past few days from worried viewers who thought he’d gone over the edge – but so far, he has usually turned up somewhere further along the ledge.
At some point he will step, leap, jump or even fall off the ledge, and hopefully he’ll either soar into the skies with a successful flight or at the very least, his wings will be effective enough to break his fall if he doesn’t quite get the hang of flying at his first attempt.
Over the past few years a number of chicks have landed rather unceremoniously on the streets below the nest site – but thankfully they are usually none the worse for wear and one of our conservation team pops out and returns them to the ledge.
Rescuing the chick from the ground and placing it back in the nest is very different to intervening when the chicks were suffering after the storms, because our intention is to return it to give the parents a chance of completing rearing it. Had we removed the chicks after the storms, they would no longer have been wild birds.
It will certainly be a while before our famous chick will be reaching speeds of over 120 miles per hour in the pursuit of prey, but once he takes to the skies and his juvenile feathers make way for the more characteristic peregrine plumage he’ll look more and more like his parents.
Once he’s mastered the art of flying he’ll still be dependent upon his parents for a while, so hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy the exploits of the chick for at least a little longer before he departs for pastures new.
Once he does fledge and breaks away from his parents it is likely that he’ll stay within about 60 miles and hopefully he’ll lead a long and productive life. However, as events have shown us so far this year, success in the natural world can never be taken for granted. In some parts of the UK the success rate of breeding falcons is as low as one chick raised every two years, which serves as a reminder of just how successful our Newton building pair have been to date.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust