And so we eagerly await signs of a chick or chicks.
Going by the increased frequency the birds replaced each other at the nest, it could perhaps be assumed that a chick/chicks have been hatched after 18 days of brooding. The frequency of shifts in the early morning was every half hourly, then into the late morning, it was hourly.
Yet there was still no visible sign of discard taken from the nest, at least not photographed by any one, and of course no feed seen taken in, granted that the parent must be regurgitating its feed to the chick, thus no such sighting, or any chick cries heard from the cavity nest, perhaps the trunk was too thick or the cavity nest was rather big and deep (which could be logical as it could accommodate both parents inside as they had been seen to enter the cavity one after the other, and exiting similarly). Nevertheless it’s now assumed that there was at least one chick in the cavity nest.
There was an interesting occasion though when a photographer captured one bird exiting the nest with a bee in beak, perhaps catching the bee as it hovered at the cavity entrance.
As aforementioned, going by the infrequency of visits/feedings it was assumed that there could only be one chick in the nest thus the non-necessity for so much food to be brought to the nest although the chick could easily be 15 days old now. Feeding seemed to be more frequent only in the early mornings if 2-3 feedings within two hours could be considered frequent. The chick was then left unattended when the parents left to forage.
The frequency tapered out to appearing at intervals of 1 to 2 hours, sometimes more, throughout the day.
Regular attempts to listen for any chick cries coming from inside the nest cavity came to naught.
One rather strange phenomenon observed one morning was that following assumed feeding by both parents as they both entered and exited the nest cavity, they proceeded to conduct what looked like courtship display!
Into presumably the 15th day after the egg was hatched, we were greeted with much anxiety as the parents were no where to be seen from 7.00am to almost 9.00am, a departure from their habitual visits/feedings, at least twice within these hours . The first thought was that someone had disturbed the nest and the woodpeckers had abandoned it. So the nest entrance was carefully examined for any sign of abnormality, and fortunately none was found, and with much relief, within minutes following the investigation, the female woodpecker flew in.
And the greater happiness that followed was about two hours later when the female parent arrived for a subsequent feed, and she was seen for the first time, repeatedly regurgitating food at the hole entrance, and chick cries were heard too! However, still no sighting of chick yet.
And ecstasy continued, when I had my first glimpse of a tiny grey beak as I zoomed in to the photographs taken! I had thought there were two chicks but it turned out that the hazy sight of an open beak could easily be mistaken for the tips of two beaks.
What followed with the next visit was even more gratifying as the tiny head popped out for the first time begging for feed when the parent returned!
However feeding was still not frequent, could food be hard to come by? Only the female was seen to feed the whole morning, so where was papa?
And the excitement grew when it was discovered that there were two chicks!
Again it was expected that feeding would increase in frequency but it was not to be. On the morning after that the two chicks were seen clearly for the first time, there were only two feedings in the early morning and then the two hungry chicks were kept waiting for almost three hours before a parent returned to feed again. And as seen with other avian species, the more aggressive one got most of the feed.
There is certainly so much relief and happiness all around that the chicks are finally sighted, and healthy too, although there is some apprehension about the frequency of feeding, which to human perception and expectation is simply not sufficiently often in view of the age of the chicks, presumably 15 days old now.
As a general observation, it must be said that this pair of woodpeckers had those of us who have been observing them for more than 30 days now, since the start of their nesting foray, on a rollercoaster ride, with its unusual behavior of brooding, ie male (instead of female as observed with other species) spent more hours sitting on eggs and no passing of food to sitting parent, merely exchange of shift, and sitting parent seemingly ability to endure hours of up to seven sometimes without food; the mystery of the discarded egg; for the first 14 days, unusually infrequent feeding with two chicks to mind, and presumably courtship display and mating during this entire period of incubation, brooding to feeding. They did indeed display unconventional parenting behavior so I guess the only natural thing to conclude here is that these are young inexperienced first time parents!
And to follow, is to watch out for the parents to initiate feeding with whole food like larvae, insects, etc, and frequency of feeding at hole entrance.
And that is for the next episode.
First sighting of regurgitation of food at cavity entrance.
Less than desirable images of initial images of chick because of position of cavity nest that hardly affords ideal lighting, but nonetheless extreme exhilaration at its sighting!
How the sight of a teeny weeny beak can bring such relief and joy!
And then more and more of the beak is seen!
And the unbelievable celebration when the chick was finally seen for the first time!
And the second one eventually managed to thrust its beak out too. And sad to say that's the only time I captured it being fed during the entire duration of about one minute the parent was feeding.
So as usual, the more aggressive one gets the bulk of the feed.
But no, it's still the same one, repeatedly.
And so we keep our fingers crossed that these chicks will eventually fledge successfully, and perhaps we being more anxious than the woodpecker parents, for their safety and well-being, in view of the increasing attention these chicks are getting from a ridiculously increasingly growing photographer crowd.