Operation Chough Nest Cameras 2017
May 2017 Update
The breeding season is now in full flow – we have four nests with chicks, and one with eggs yet to hatch.
The chicks are now between three and four weeks old, and are getting to the awkward stage. Like typical teenagers they have unruly haircuts, and have started to completely trash their rooms.
Our “low-maintenance” approach has paid off. We have spread the parenting equally between the nests, with two fertile eggs in each nestbox. Each nest now has two healthy chicks – the exception being nest three. Sadly, the second chick in this nest did not survive the arduous process of hatching, and died almost immediately after emerging from the egg.
We checked on the last clutch of eggs this week (from our new pair), and were delighted to find that two of the three eggs are fertile. These eggs are due to hatch at the weekend, or the start of next week.
Happily, this means two more chicks for the release program. It also means an extra month of early mornings for the chough team (me and Alison).
This year we have updated the cameras to High Definition, and the picture quality is quite remarkable – try it on full screen, and it is almost life-size.
The images come from our seclusion aviaries, where we are continuing to breed our choughs as part of our long-term project to conserve and expand the distribution of the species. We have five pairs of nesting choughs, they went from their winter flocking aviary into their individual breeding aviaries in March.
The cameras have a small set of lights inside the nestbox to illuminate activity during the day. At night, they switch to infra-red, and the birds can often be seen roosting, incubating eggs or brooding chicks.
As well as images, there is also sound from the nests. We find this helpful to understand if the adults are doing their ‘feeding call’. This call is needed early on as the chick don’t open their eyes for a few days, they need an audible signal to know that it is the right time to open their mouths for food.