As feeding intensified for the 17 days old chicks to hourly feeding, we waited for sightings of chicks and feeding of more solid food.
The frequency of feeding varied, from as many as eight times within four hours to only three.
As we assumed that the chicks should be at least 20 days old now, the parent was seen to regurgitate as many as five to seven times on each visit, and it's still a fine mix of food which made it difficult to discern its nature. There was still no visible sign of solid food like insects or grubs.
(It seemed amazing now that the Woodpeckers managed to bring forth such robust and healthy chicks in view of the less than intense feeding, at least that's what it seemed to human perception then.)
Parenting did seem to take a toil on the male parent.
The fresh-looking pair was first seen in late September foraging in the taman.
However a month later in December, it had turned noticeably darker and rather worn-out.
As the chicks were approximately 21 days old now, expectation was terribly high that they could fledge any time. They could be seen too to thrust more out of the nest. And they should no longer be called chicks as their head and crest were now beautifully developed.
The parents were also seen to expect the young to exit, luring it further out of the cavity, and waiting expectantly close by following each feed.
The more concerned birders attempted to reason out the late or delayed fledging, that perhaps the immediate surrounding was not conducive enough in view that a few photographers were seated too close to the hole entrance, mere feet away. This was deduced from the juvenile’s behavior of thrusting its head out and scanning the area constantly, perhaps nervously too going by its cries. So it was decided that the tape barricade should be extended to create more space, ie, distance between the nest entrance and the seated photographers and their lens that are focused on the entrance that looked like it could swallow up whole the juvenile!
I would like to think that the afore-mentioned issue of proximity to the hole entrance was the reason why the chicks did not fledge earlier as following the adjustment, the very next morning brought on the outcome we had worked to induce.
All the chicks fledged!
And there were three!
I was disappointed, to say the least, to miss the first fledging but by the generosity of a fellow photographer, I managed to view it on video.
It was simply an amazing strategy of the female parent who as usual came to feed the young. After a few times regurgitating the food into the young’s beak, the parent was then seen to hold on to the food in its beak this time, which forced the young to increasingly reach out for the food thereby extending more and more its body out of the nest entrance with the parent slowly pulling away from the nest and with it the young totally of the nest!
Now out of the nest for the first time after approximately 23 days inside, in the open and bright world, one could see that it was stunned as it clung on to the trunk. Meanwhile the parent had moved away and out of sight to the opposite side of the trunk, and then returned immediately to try to get it to move from where it was clinging on by offering it food again. Then left alone again, the juvenile suddenly took wing, and off it went to a nearby tree.
Success! One out!
And it was thought that there was one more to go until two cries were heard in the nest cavity, two more juveniles! And that made three!
Soon after, this first fledging was followed by the second but in a more dramatic manner!
As usual the female parent came to feed which got the juvenile out partially. It looked like in its eagerness to be fed as it extended its body further out of the cavity, its left wing got ensnared in the entrance, and it was a frightful struggle before it managed to disentangle itself and dropped straight to the ground, looking stunned, recovered and managed to take wing as well.
Some photographers were even heard to ask if help could be extended to get the juvenile out in view of how it was struggling at the entrance, with one wing in and one wing out.
Looked like trying to screw its way out but to no avail.
Leaving behind the last one calling after it.
And us pursuing to locate it, which took sometime as it seemed to have landed, out of our sight, into the cradle of some palm leaves as we tracked its cries. Finally it was caught scrambling to hold on to some dead palm leaves presumably after it tried to get out, and then managed to get back on to the palm tree trunk.
Meanwhile the third one didn’t look like it would fledge yet as it continued to call out at the nest entrance without any attempt to leave. Finally the male parent arrived to feed and promptly left for the water hole for its drink, its normal routine after feeding.
As I tried to move to a better spot to continue to photograph the young at the entrance, suddenly from the corner of my eye, I saw a movement and the last juvenile had just exited, literally flapped low (in a manner different to its two other siblings) through the throng of photographers, stunned everyone who could merely gaped unbelievably as the little one past by, and into the distance. Well, this one certainly had everyone fooled by its grand exit!
I could only conclude that having watched daily how the parents exit after feeding, it had imitated the parents’ flights past the photographers and so did the same! A brilliant ending to the fledging of the three juvenile woodpeckers!
And what extraordinary irony, for as far as I know, the grand finale was not captured in camera by any photographer!
As the name of my other blog goes, Never Underestimate the Power of the Bird Brain!
The boldest juvenile that flew off in a third direction, and similarly with the other two, continued to call out whilst in the open.
All in all, it has been an amazing journey for many who have followed these Woodpeckers since they were first seen in September foraging in the taman to building nest in early November and subsequent parenting till late December.
And to put the human element in perspective it was equally fascinating to observe that whilst the entire experience of watching the woodpeckers has brought out the best in some, the quest to obtain the ‘best’ in photography has brought out some less than desired behaviours in others. The experience was also not without a couple of rather unpalatable security-related issues, for example, dispute over who put up the tape barricade and the tape barricade being ripped off on more than one occasion by unknown personalities but fortunately, tolerance and tact won the day.
Notwithstanding, we were able walk away finally with heart-warming scenes of the parent returning to a fledgling to encourage independence.
This juvenile that had retreated into the security of some high palm leaves had its parent visit with food.