Saturday, 7 June 2014

Chough Chicks

Lots of people never get to see a chough; there are only a few hundred pairs in UK and about two thirds of those are in Wales. Adrienne Stratford of the RSPB has been ringing chough chicks for the past 20 years and, between herself and Tony Cross, somewhere around 4,000 have been ringed in mid to north Wales. Today she took me to a disused quarry building on the north Wales coast where last year she’d installed a nesting platform from bits of old planks.

A pair of choughs had taken up residence, added heather, lined it with sheeps’ wool and produced two beautiful chicks. They were plucked from their nest into a pillow case, brought down a ladder, ringed, sexed and weighed before being returned to the nest. A couple of times the adults came and shouted insults at us but it was as if they knew the score; it’s that time of year again. As for the chicks, they were quite chilled out and happy to beg food with their plaintive cries and open beaks.

I was surprised to see the tangerine orange colour of their legs. Eventually these and the beak will turn to red.

To Adrienne the choughs are a long running soap opera. She knows their relationships and family histories and 2 of them are now 19 years old. You’ll be able to hear her talking about choughs on an episode of Country Focus in the next few weeks. For me it was a magic moment, something that had been on my bucket list. Thank you Adrienne.

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