Here is the first picture of the first nest of this year’s chough chicks. (Nest three).
Three chough chicks just over 24 hours old
We have designed the nest boxes in the breeding aviaries with a small inspection hatch at the back. This allows us to monitor weights, give supplementary feeds, and occasionally medication.
While the birds are distracted by someone, usually Ali, going into the front of the aviary with food, I can use the opportunity to open the hatch to carry out my secret duties. The adult birds tend to hide in a small space on top of the nest box while this is going on.
We get the birds used to these intrusions before any eggs are hatched, by using positive reinforcement. The adult birds associate a person coming into the aviary as a good thing. Person equals food. This makes our disturbances much less stressful for all concerned, except for Ray and Ali.
The total egg count for our breeding choughs is now up to seventeen.
A rare view of seventeen chough eggs
To mark Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday, our oldest female chough, aged 18, laid our most recent egg. She is a remarkable bird and amazingly spiritedly for such an age. (The chough, not the Queen).
Nest number four continues to “faff”…
According to our calculations, the first eggs in nest three will be hatching in the next two or three days. We will then switch the webcam view to show the new arrivals.
You can see the webcam here.
The breeding choughs at Paradise Park have now increased their total egg count to eleven.
Seclusion aviary nests showing eleven eggs
Three of the nests are progressing well, with counts of four, three, and four eggs respectively. The female in nest two laid the third egg this morning, and hopefully will add one or two more. We think that the females in nests one and three have now finished, as there have been no new eggs for several days.
The birds in nests four and five are still “faffing about”. This is a technical term used by chough breeders. It means that the birds are still adding (and subtracting) to the nests. Generally, the male will bring material into the nest and a few minutes later the female will take it out again!
However, the choughs in nests four and five were later last year – and they also built “looser” nests, so we are still expecting more eggs to come.
You can see the webcam here.
The first chough egg for 2016 has been laid!
The female in Nest 3 was seen sitting in her beautifully-built nest just after 5pm on 31st March. Over the next 20 minutes she sat, straining a bit as she produced the egg, and then recovered for a few minutes before going outside. The image above shows her mate coming into the nest to check out the egg, gently touching it with his bill.
The first chough egg for 2016 is laid in Nest 3.
In 2015 the first egg of the season was laid by the same pair at lunchtime on 1st April, so they are just about a day ahead this year.
We’re looking forward to lots more eggs, and then lots of early mornings and long days to provide food for the chough families.
The chough nests webcam at Paradise Park is now online. Click here to view.
Nest three female chough with horse hair
Our chough nests webcam is up and running. All five nests are progressing well. Nests 1, 3 & 5 are just ahead of 2 & 4, which is the same pattern as last year.
We start by giving the birds large twigs, and then move on to smaller twigs, sprigs of heather, and finally moss and horse hair and sheep wool.
For some reason the choughs prefer white horse hair to darker colours – possibly as it is closer to the colour of sheep wool.
Many thanks to Old Mill Stables at Lelant for their regular gift of horse hair.
Spring has finally sprung, and the choughs at Paradise Park are starting to build their nests.
CCTV Image of the five chough nests at Paradise Park
Our breeding choughs have now been installed in the seclusion aviaries ready for the 2016 breeding season. The birds were put into the aviaries in the first week of March, and all immediately started exploring the nest boxes and gathering twigs.
This year we have five breeding pairs. Four of the pairs are the same as last year – nest two has the same female, but a new male. Sadly the male in nest two died in the winter months.
Similar pairings means we should know what to expect from each pair in terms of nest-building, and the timing of egg-laying. Already the odd-numbered pairs (1, 3 & 5) are away to an early start with pairs 2 and 4 taking their time.
The webcam will be going live shortly, on the site and the main Paradise Park site.
Two Red-billed Choughs bred at Paradise Park have moved to Kent, a step forward in our partnership with the Wildwood Trust.
Jennifer Riley from the Wildwood Trust, Kent, meets a friendly Red-billed Chough at Paradise Park.
Jen came to Paradise Park to work with the Keepers for a few days, learning chough husbandry techniques – both for the friendly ones and the breeding birds.
While she was here she helped to move the pairs from the winter flocking aviary to their secluded breeding aviaries. The birds have started to carry twigs, and the popular chough nestcam will soon be in action so that their progress can be followed.
Meanwhile, at the Wildwood Trust, modifications have been made to accommodate the two choughs. They will live in a large mixed-species aviary, where platforms with rocks have been installed along with roosting boxes placed at suitable vantage points and paving slabs which can be moved giving extra opportunities to forage for grubs.
We were pleased to host a group of chough and reintroduction specialists at Paradise Park, the home of Operation Chough, to plan for the potential reintroduction of the Red-billed Chough to the coast of Kent.
Meeting of chough and reintroduction specialists at Paradise Park, Cornwall.
Joining us were Prof Carl Jones from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Conservation Scientist and author on choughs Dr Malcolm Burgess, Dr Angus Carpenter from Wildwood Trust in Kent and Lawrence Sampson, PhD student at the University of Kent.
The chough currently lives in isolated populations around the UK coast – in West Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, the West of Cornwall, Northern Ireland, plus the released group on Jersey. It was once more widespread and formerly occurred in Kent where it became extinct around 160 years ago.
Items on the agenda included a presentation on the background of Operation Chough and achievements to date. The relevence of Richard Meyer’s thesis on the re-establishment of the chough in Cornwall to Lawrence’s study on the Kent coast. Breeding choughs and aviary design, facilities and opportunities for partnership with Wildwood.
In a few years time, if research shows that suitable habitat is available and with more partners, this could be a first step to seeing choughs over the white cliffs of Dover for the first time in living memory!
We were pleased to meet Lawrence Sampson, the student chosen for a three-year PhD study with the title ‘The Restoration of an Extinct Kentish Icon: Feasibility of Reintroducing the Chough to Kent’. This will be at the University of Kent, in Canterbury – a city which features three choughs on its coat of arms.
Lawrence Sampson with Ray Hales and friends at Paradise Park (A Hales)
This project builds on the experience of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust which has pioneered bird reintroductions in Mauritius as well as the Chough reintroduction to Jersey through the Birds on the Edge project. The project will also partner with Operation Chough, based at Paradise Park in Cornwall, which has led the ex situ components of the reintroduction programme; Kent Wildlife Trust, which owns and manages a network of Local Wildlife Sites in the county; and Wildwood Trust in Kent, a leading centre for the conservation and rewilding of British Wildlife.
Canterbury Coat of Arms by Dan Escott
Supervisors for the study are Dr Dave Roberts, Dr Jim Groombridge, Dr Bob Smith, Professor Richard A. Griffiths, with Professor Carl Jones MBE as advisor.
Lawrence is from Cornwall, has a background in studying birds, and was chosen from a shortlist of excellent candidates. We will be happy to give him every assistance with his work and hoping that he finds a positive way forward towards the reintroduction of the chough to Kent.
Read more here: https://www.kent.ac.uk/dice/news/index.html?view=1852
We are very sad that one of our favourite choughs, ‘Piran’, has died. He was an exuberant – even boisterous – fellow, who often featured in the Free-Flying Bird Show here at Paradise Park.
Red-billed Chough ‘Piran’ (A Hales)
Piran was hand-reared at Paignton Zoo, and as such was extremely tame. He was introduced to another friendly chough “Oggie” who was reared at Paradise Park, and they became good companions.
Piran in the Free-Flying Bird Show at Paradise Park (A Hales)
Having friendly choughs at Paradise Park has always been an important way for us to show how wonderful this species is. They are very popular with our visitors – to see them close up, flying free, and even to give them a tickle, is a unique experience.
Piran died suddenly and without any indication of ill health, but a post mortem showed that he had a kidney problem. He will be greatly missed by all at Paradise Park.