Just as I am coming to terms with the third and last of our three offspring planning to leave the nest next winter (see my last blog for more details on Billy's master plan!) I have to cope with losing a couple of visitors whose company I have enjoyed for the last few months.
I'm talking about two baby birds which hatched in a nest in our garden, high up in the fork of a branch in an oak tree. These are rather special – they were little, white, fluffy red kites, but have grown and are now feisty feathered adolescents.
They've been testing their wings and have now taken to the skies. They have been lovingly looked after by their mum and dad in sight of my kitchen window, and I've spent ages just watching and enjoying the wonders of nature. The attentive care by the parent birds, from the initial nest building to the endless nest sitting, shared by both, and then the feeding of the young has been fascinating.
Before the eggs were laid there was a moment that reminded me of an hilarious sequence in David Attenborough's recent series on The BBC when a penguin stole a pebble from one of it's neighbour's nests. While both red kites were away on the wing, a magpie approached their nest. Looking left and right to check it was clear, it hopped into the nest and emerged with a huge twig in its beak, struggling to fly off under its weight to no doubt line its own nest with it.
There are plenty of these majestic birds soaring the thermals in the skies and we noticed a few months ago that a pair had chosen one of the trees in our garden as the place to build their nest. We realised the eggs had been laid when there was a constant presence in the nest – occasionally one adult bird would return and perch on a branch waiting to take the place of the other, as it flew off to stretch its wings.
Weeks later the behaviour changed – the adults would stand on the outer edge of the nest, heads bobbing to the centre. The chicks had hatched! And finally the young were big enough for me to pick out their little heads, reaching for the food. I spent many a happy moment using Olley's binoculars to watch them, and managed to get some reasonable photos using the zoom on my Fiji bridge camera.
So now the young can fly and are only slightly smaller than their parents – it's incredible how mature they have become so quickly. I suppose they need to be able to feed themselves to survive as I'm not sure how long the family of four will stay together – they can barely fit into the nest so it won't be long, I'm sure, before the youngsters move on. Do they make the decision to leave, I wonder, or do mum and dad kick them out? Maybe it's a bit of both – the lure of an independent life is powerful, but if mum is happy to feed you and make your bed, sometimes it's hard to go!!
Take care until next time.