First Flight

For the last 5 days at least we have been watching the chicks on their jack-in-the-box progress towards the final spring from the nest. Vigourous flapping, holding on by the tips of a talon, leaps of up to 60cm (2 ft) and in one case a filght from one side of the nest to the other over the top of Mum! Yesterday it all calmed down in the rain as flight feathers grew heavy with moisture and the thermals drooped earthwards. This morning was still overcast but dry and by this afternoon sunshine was out with a very light breeze. Ideal conditions. First male 14 and then female 15 would take it in turns to dance lightfooted around the nest in a whirr of wings. In between preening and oiling feathers became top priority. At Whinlatter’s screens visitors came, stayed glued to the spectacle and then reluctantly moved off. The last family stayed on past closing time, but no luck! The doors were locked and a last video recording was taken at 17.18 where 14 was doing some knees bend teetering on the edge of the nest. ‘17.19 – We’ll have to call it a day,’ In the split second of turning back to the screen a blur of tail feathers disappeared up and out of the picture. With a feeling of shock we realised he’d gone! Zooming the picture out, there lay the fields and trees touched golden with the setting sun but no signs of 14.
We need not have worried, half an hour later 2 Volunteers watching from a good vantage point spotted 3 birds in the sky. KL and her mate with their first airborne chick.