Flying lessons

The chicks are all flying, but they are not yet out of danger. The greatest hazards now are adolescent overconfidence and unexpected gusts of winds. We will continue watching them for several more days, so we still need volunteers. Check the schedule HERE, and sign up for shifts HERE.

Today felt like a day off for me compared to yesterday.

Jacqueline and Bushra came in at 6 a.m., and I joined them before the end of their shift and the start of James and Marian’s. They reported two chicks (Luis and Clover) on the southeast main roof, and the third (Clementine) presumed to be back on the annex roof after missing another attempt at rejoining her brother and sister.

They also said she had spent some time making short hops from one of the brick structures on the annex to the top of a ladder that reached down the side. Practise makes perfect, as we would soon discover.

We watched Luis, enticed by Ivanhoe and Rowena into a flying lesson, take an amazingly long and confident flight several times around the building. He started out with the rapid, nervous wing beats of a juvenile, but was soon soaring comfortably, further and further from the building, before returning and making a solid (for once) landing on the southwest corner.

Luis lands on the main building roof, June 29, 2014.

Luis nails his landing, June 30, 2014.

Ivanhoe and Luis, June 29, 2014.

Ivanhoe (on the security camera) and Luis, June 30, 2014.

During this time, we also saw a female chick flying, but we missed the takeoff as well as the landing, so we weren’t sure which of the sisters it was. Or perhaps it was both. A few walks around the building gave us the answer: I eventually found one juvenile perched on the ductwork on the west side of the roof, while Marian found another on the northeast corner. James confirmed by radio that Luis was still on the southwest corner. Great: Three chicks accounted for.

Despite their parents’ entreaties to join them for more flying lessons, the chicks appeared to settle down. That, combined with the heavy air, made it unlikely they would fly for a little while, so I took the opportunity to go home for a few hours.

Nancy and Jorgen reported a relatively quiet afternoon, and I returned at 4:30, just in time  to watch Luis and one of his sisters (we suspect Clover) take another ambitious flying lesson. The male chick is definitely the more confident flyer, but his landings do not yet instill confidence. In his four days of flying, we have seen him crash-land (or just crash) twice into windows and three times into a wall. Thankfully, in each case he either wasn’t going very fast or managed to brake enough to emerge unscathed. His roof landings are getting better, but yesterday he simply slipped on the flashing and fell. Luckily he knew enough to stick out his wings, fly a little loop, and land back on the roof.

The chicks spent the rest of the evening together on the southwest corner of the roof, mostly napping, but sometimes stretching their wings or letting the wind pick them up for a brief but fun little ride. I enjoyed watching two of them crane their necks in perfect unison as a Ring-billed Gull flew overhead.

These chicks are being well looked after by their attentive parents. In addition to making multiple food drops every day, Rowena and Ivanhoe spend a lot of time encouraging the chicks to fly, or simply watching over them.

Nancy, who watched the chicks on her own after I had to leave at 6:30 for a meeting, reported that they did not fly any more tonight. But with thunderstorms forecast for Canada Day, we can expect them to make serious efforts to get back to the shelter of the ledges.

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