Taking The Time to Recover

It’s been a funny old week and one in which I’ve not been feeling terribly well, covid having finally hunted me down and dealt its bitter blow. But me being out of action has not stopped the trusty trail cameras from stepping up and recording life in the meadows as spring starts to tip over into summer.

One warm and sunny afternoon, our long-standing pair of foxes spent a relaxing half hour grooming each other in amongst the buttercups. This is now the third year that these two foxes have raised a family together in the meadows and it soothed my troubled soul to see them tenderly bonding and caring for each other in the sunshine. The male started off the proceedings:

The One-eyed Vixen with her blind left eye:

Then the roles reversed and it was her turn to do the work:

I love this next photo in particular:

Cleaning his ears out:

This was a good opportunity to see her up close and be reassured that the mange treatment has been successful – fur is definitely growing back in those bald patches:

But there is also the important business of catching food to feed the family and here is the male again with a young rabbit:

And, on another day, with an adult rabbit:

This seems a good point to include this action shot of a different fox dashing full pelt after some pigeons:

The pair of foxes have had just one cub this year:

The fox family at peanut time. The cub is trying to suckle from the One-eyed Vixen while she is busy eating

I had thought there were three badger cubs in the meadows this year, from two mothers. Now, for first time, here is a photo all three together and my suspicions are confirmed:

One of the cubs out in the afternoon

But then, this weekend, we have found a newly dead baby badger lying in the middle of the second meadow.

There was nothing obviously wrong. Sadly, mortality of badger cubs is very high, particularly in dry springs such as this year when the soil is hard and earthworms, their main food source, have gone down deep.

The vegetation in the wild pond is growing strongly and the Yellow Flag Irises are out:

The bumblebees love these flowers but have to crawl a long way in to get at what they want:

The dark lines on the lower lip of the flower guide the bees towards the nectar. As they crawl in, the upper part of the flower, containing the reproductive parts of the plant, is pressed down onto the back of the bee.

With unexpected time on my hands as I isolate, I found three different species of damselfly around the ponds at this time of year. I don’t often pay damselflies much attention:

An Azure Damselfly resting upon an iris
Egg-laying Azures
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly

There are two exciting new plants growing in the wet grassland at the margins of the wild pond this year.

One of the botanical recorders for East Kent is a neighbour and she has told us that, although somewhat different to each other, these are both Common Spotted Orchids. This is the first record of these plants for the meadows.

I often try to identify hoverflies but find them difficult. This one, however, with its stripy thorax is quite distinctive and I feel reasonably confident in saying it is Helophilus pendulus.

I am so pleased that the Alder Buckthorn trees are covered in Brimstone butterfly caterpillars again this year. We planted these trees specifically for the Brimstones to use and, for the first couple of years, they did indeed have lots of caterpillars on them. So many, in fact, that the young trees were stripped and I had to move the caterpillars from tree to tree to wherever there were leaves remaining for them to eat. But, for the last three years, there have been no caterpillars whatsoever chomping on the Alder Buckthorn leaves. In a way this was good because it has given the trees a chance to properly establish themselves, but what had happened to the Brimstones?

So this year we are glad to welcome them back and hope that they are now here to stay:

The Burnet Companion day-flying moth
Mating Common Blues

Froghoppers are busy in May and cuckoo spit is everywhere in the meadows. Froghopper nymphs suck the sap of the plant, excrete it and whisk it up with air into a mass of bubbles which then protects it. The salad burnet seems very popular:

Salad burnet and cuckoo spit. The little green leafhopper nymph sits within the spit

It seems to be a good year too for Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor). This parasitic plant obtains nutrients underground from the roots of various plants in the pea and daisy families – clover is a particular favourite here:

Several stalks of Broomrape parasitising a patch of clover

Most of the Common Broomrape is a pinkish brown colour but, in one area of the first meadow, several stalks of the bright yellow form grow every year:

Blackbirds are still building their nests – this appears to be very late but I remember that the same thing happened last year. The breeding season for blackbirds apparently starts in March but can go on until the end of July.

The breeding season of Woodpigeon, however, can go on until the end of October:

We have quite a few pairs of breeding Starling here at the moment and I am looking forward to the juveniles starting to appear because they are always so comical.

Fledgling Starlings have not yet been seen

The allotment is romping away although, once I’m feeling better, it definitely needs a jolly good weed:

All sorts of lovely veg and herbs in the allotment, in a riot of lush growth at this time of year

Over in the wood, there have been no further photos of the Tawny owlets, but, then again, the cameras are not set up in good positions. It all feels very quiet and deserted around the box and there is no beak clacking – perhaps they have now fledged? There was a photo of an adult owl there this week:

And a Great Spotted Woodpecker peering in:

A very sweet fox cub, seen at the far end of the wood to the fox den that we have a camera on. Perhaps this cub is from a different litter:

A Broad Bodied Chaser hunting in the wood:

My previous post covered our recent trip to The Vercors in France, but I forgot to include the marmot that we saw and so here it is now:

This was the first time I had seen one of these animals fully out of its burrow and I was a bit surprised to see that they have that furry black tail

But, as so often happens with holidays, France already seems such a long time ago. I am taking things one day at a time here but, by my next post, I hope to have reemerged and be able to enjoy what remains of this glorious May before it disappears.

A Week Away – The Vercors By Train

The Vercors is a beautiful and mountainous area of France, much overlooked by tourists although packed full of natural history. Travelling as part of a Naturetrek group holiday, we stayed in a simple but lovely family-run hotel in the village of La Chapelle-en-Vercors, at the heart of the region.

The Vercors is a pre-Alpine massif where the limestone crags rise up to just over two thousand metres. Grenoble lies to the north-east and Lyons to the north-west
Lots of dramatic limestone rock to admire

The small hotel had a wild swimming pond in the grounds, absolutely delicious to dip into after a long, hot day of nature watching.

The pool was at least two metres deep in the middle. We floated around amongst the fish and tadpoles, watching birds coming down to drink and wash in its shallows, whilst dreaming of building one of these in the meadows!

The remoteness of the area and difficulty of the terrain meant that The Vercors was a stronghold for the French Resistance in the Second World War. However, even after eighty years, the area is still haunted by the memory of the atrocities that happened here in the summer of 1944. Shortly after the Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, the poorly-armed members of the Resistance came down from their hideouts in the Vercors mountains and attacked the German troops stationed on the plateau, thinking that the Allies would soon be arriving to give them support. However, their timing was off and, before Allied forces could reach them, the Germans had landed gliders packed with elite soldiers onto the central grassy valley of the massif. These soldiers hunted down and killed the Resistance fighters. There then followed a series of reprisals including the razing to the ground of the village in which we were staying. The men of the village were herded into a farmyard and shot.

The same thing happened in the nearby village of Vassieux-en-Vercors, and the murdered villagers along with the fallen Resistance fighters now rest in a special graveyard to commemorate them.

A stark reminder of the atrocities in the area in the summer of 1944
A view over the central grassy valley where the gliders carrying elite German soldiers landed. The graveyard can be seen in the centre of the photo, with the village of Vassieux-en-Vercors, now rebuilt, to the right

The region is famous for its botany and both of our guides were extremely knowledgeable. We saw around thirty-five species of orchid over the course of the week and here is a selection of some of them:

Late Spider Orchid
A meadow of Elderflower Orchids, both the yellow variety and a few of the deep pink ones
Burnt Tip Orchid
A patch of Early Purples
A small Early Purple Orchid with a big view
The Vercors is in the Drôme department of France and this is the Drôme Orchid which is found mainly there

One of the complications of orchids is their ability to hybridise amongst themselves. We saw several such hybrids, and this one below is a cross between a Monkey Orchid and a Man Orchid:

I have saved the best until last. I have wanted to see a Lady’s Slipper Orchid for years and here one is, growing free and wild in The Vercors:

But it was not all about the orchids. We saw and identified hundreds of other plants. This Greater Butterwort, growing in damp, low nutrient soil, is carnivorous:

It supplements its diet by catching and digesting flies on its sticky leaves:

Flies caught on the sticky leaves of the Greater Butterwort

There didn’t seem to be as many birds around as we had hoped. We did, however, get good views of a pair of Red-backed Shrike:

These birds are famous for their habit of impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire to form a larder. The prey can be large insects, small birds, rodents, frogs and reptiles.

We saw a lot of Alpine Chough with their red legs but yellow beak:

Griffon Vulture were often soaring up in the sky, recognisable with pale heads and a black trailing edge to their wings:

A Short-toed Eagle was an exciting spot. This bird mainly eats snakes which it sees while soaring up to five hundred metres high:

House Martins and Swifts were nesting in and around the roofline of the church in La Chapelle-en-Vercors:

House Martins’ mud nests around the church

As well as the wonderful orchids, the area has an enviable number and variety of butterflies. Here is a fairly typical scene of our group wandering through a flower meadow one morning, happily catching butterflies and botanising:

It was worth stopping to look at any scat found on the ground to see what butterflies it was attracting:

Three Grizzled Skippers, a Dingy Skipper, a Small Blue and a Speckled Yellow moth on some scat

We see a few Small Blue Butterflies in the meadows every year, but here in The Vercors we saw hundreds:

Small Blue butterflies
Blue butterflies were attracted to the salt on our skin
Adonis Blue butterfly
I have long wanted to see an Apollo butterfly
A lovely green Forester moth, out flying by day

One of the most amazing things I saw were these Owlflies – I had never seen anything like them before. This is the Owly Sulphur (Ascalaphus libelluloides):

At about 4cm in length, excluding the antennae, these are big things. They are aerial predators of other flying insects
The Owly Sulphur

Actually this next insect is pretty astounding too. One night we ran a moth trap and this nymph of the Masked Hunter Fly (Reduvius personatus) was found lurking inside it in the morning:

The nymph camouflages itself with dust

We have Burnet moths in the meadows, but not any that look like this:

Zygaena rhadamanthus

This bee-fly is also a very different one to ours:

Bombylella atra. The Black Bee-fly

Some members of the group watched as this Great Green Bush Cricket emerged as an adult:

Great Green Bush Cricket with discarded nymphal case
Paper Wasp and her nest which was on a little stalk attached to the rock

It had been unseasonably hot all week. On the last day, we celebrated the end of a successful holiday by visiting the town of Pont-en-Royans where Naturetrek treated us all to ice creams:

The ‘hanging houses’ of Pont-en-Royans
Watching with our hearts in our mouths as boys leapt into the river at Pont-en-Royans

What with one thing and another, it had been a few years since we had ventured off British soil and actually it felt so good to be somewhere different for a while. Now safely installed back in the meadows, everything seems to have grown so much whilst we were away – what a difference a week can make at this time of year.

It’s That Small Blue Time Again

May is surely the most glorious of months, filled with the delicious promise of the summer to come. In the sunshine of this week, we have been delighted to welcome Small Blue butterflies back to the meadows. Each year we forget quite how small they actually are, and are surprised afresh to see such miniature things. The British population has dropped nearly 50% since the 1970s, and their range has considerably contracted, but numbers are currently thought to be stable. They are rare and special little butterflies, but in this part of East Kent there is a minor hotspot of them. The larval food plant is Kidney Vetch and I always try to make sure that there is plenty growing here for them to lay their eggs onto.

This is a blade of grass that he is resting on – they really are very tiny. The wingspan of the male above can be as little as 16mm. Like the butterfly itself, its latin name, Cupidus minimus, is also very pleasing
The underwings are pale blue with black spots
But the upper wings are dark. Although, as here, the males do have a scattering of blue scales

Other butterflies have also been newly seen in the meadows, flitting about in the sunshine this week:

Brown Argus. Another diminutive butterfly, but a bit larger than the Small Blue
The Small Heaths are out now too
A Purple Bar moth, out flying by day

Nest building is continuing in the meadows. We were watching a robin nest being built in a worryingly open position at the bottom of a shrub in the garden

This nest is not well hidden at all
The female lays one egg a day, usually first thing in the morning, until the clutch is complete with 4-6 eggs. She then starts sitting on them for thirteen days until they all hatch together. Three eggs so far here
I should not have taken this photo. I subsequently read that, whilst still egg laying, robins are notoriously liable to abandon their nest if they think it has been discovered. I felt guilty once I learnt that and, although I did get away with it this time and more eggs were subsequently laid, it was a valuable lesson learnt. Sadly all did not end well though. Once five eggs had been laid, but before the female started incubating them, they completely disappeared, having been discovered by a predator. I suspect a magpie of course

There has been a lot of blackbird nesting activity as well. As with robins, it is the female that does all the nest building:

The bird can scarcely be seen behind this leaf she is carrying

The male maintains a presence in the vicinity and is generally on guard although I am not sure what is going on here:

Before dawn one morning, a pair of Song Thrush were mating in the grass in front of a camera:

Two magpies, the scourge of our nesting songbirds

The magpie on the right is very distinctive with its facial feather loss, possibly caused by mites. You can see its ear which is lower than might be expected

One night a hedgehog walked the entire length of the meadows south to north along the side of the cliff. It was caught on four separate cameras during this journey, until it reached this water dish at the northernmost extremity:

At this point, there is a hole under the fence back onto the cliff and I presume this is where the animal then went. Hedgehog sightings always a cause a stir around here since they are so very occasional with no more than one or two a year.

Fox amongst the buttercups

There have been more sightings of the One-eyed Vixen’s single cub. So far there just seems to be one fox cub in the meadows this year:

Playing with its mother, the One-eyed Vixen

The baby badger twins are also being seen out and about a bit more:

The adult male in the daylight:

Broomrape, parasitic on clover, is starting to make an appearance:

One thing that we hadn’t properly realised before coming to the meadows was how different every year is. One year something can be in complete abundance, only to be scarcely seen the next. We have found that this is generally not something to worry about because, the year after that, it will be back again. This is Empis tessellata , a predatory dance fly. At this time of year it is normal to see a male Empis tessellata, perched in the hedgerow, holding his St Mark’s fly prey as an offering to a female so that he can mate with her while she eats it:

But not this year. Usually in late April and early May there would be clouds of these St Mark’s flies around the hedgerows, flying with their legs distinctively dangling. This year, however, there have been hardly any. We have barely seen any Green Hairstreak butterflies either, whereas ordinarily the meadows are a good place for them. We have missed both of these species very much and hope to see them back in good numbers in 2023.

We walked down to our local white cliffs this week to see if the cliff-nesting House Martins had returned from Africa and were busy building their mud nests under the overhangs and into the crevices of the vertical chalk faces. But no House Martin was yet to be seen and only the forlorn footprints of last year’s mud dwellings were clinging on to the cliff:

There was one nest that looked freshly built, but no House Martin visited it whilst we were there:

This is surely a newly built nest

Last year, it was only really at the end of May that things got going there, so we will return in a couple of weeks to see if there has been any progress.

Linnets were definitely nest building though:

Linnet gathering nest material

We saw this very large and hairy Drinker Moth caterpillar crawling through the long coastal grasses:

And this was a lovely green beetle:

Cryptocephalus aureolus

There are quite a few Early Spider Orchids flowering down there on the vegetated shingle:

Over in the wood, we wanted to get another no-glow trail camera on the owl box. Our options were very limited and it felt imperative to keep disruption around the box to a minimum, and so this skewed view below was the best we could do in the circumstances. We hoped to get photos of the young owls when they start branching and, pleasingly, this is now what we are getting. An owlet peers out of the box:

This next photo is a screenshot from a wonderful video where the adult landed at the box with a vole. Having piqued the chicks interest, the adult then flew up to a nearby branch still holding the prey, as if to lure the chick out of the box to get the food:

And then it happened. The young owl came out of the box and started hopping around the branches and even flew short distances

Eventually the small owl safely returned to her box.

When we bought the wood three years ago, we never dared to hope that we would have the privilege to watch something as special as this.

At another point, a sparrowhawk landed in the vicinity of the box. She wouldn’t take a Tawny owlet, would she?

In the last post, I was wondering if this unidentified bird was a Nightingale. I had never seen one before but it seemed to fit the description:

The bird ringer tells me that this is actually a Reed Warbler that will have been passing through. Still a new species for the wood list, but not as exciting as a Nightingale.

A Nightingale would be more robin-like with a rounded head, a definite rufous tail and a pale eye ring. Well, I will keep looking:

Image of a Nightingale courtesy of Commons.wikipedia.org. The rounded head and pale eye ring are apparent in this photo but not really the rufous tail

The fox cubs are growing up. It is difficult to say how many of them there are any more because they are only ever seen singly or in pairs these days:

They are wandering further from the den and are now turning up on other cameras around the wood:

This buzzard, with a lot of white on it, appeared on several cameras in the wood this week:

I finish this week with the cherry tree that has quite a few woodpecker holes in it. We have a camera trained on this tree and, earlier this year, it caught Brown Long-eared Bats roosting in the hole. But now there is something else interesting going on. A bright yellow fungus is billowing out of a high, upper woodpecker hole:

This is chicken of the woods, a sulphur yellow bracket fungus. It got its name because the fungus is meant to taste like, and have the texture of, chicken meat. What an amazing thing – I look forward to seeing how large this fungus gets as the summer progresses.

The Junipers of Samphire Hoe

This week we walked the dog at Samphire Hoe, a seventy-five acre country park at the bottom of steep chalk cliffs near Dover. The land here has been reclaimed from the sea using the chalk dug out when building the channel tunnel in the 1990s and it is really interesting to visit such new land that is still very much settling in:

The iconic lighthouse memorial at Samphire Hoe

Juniper grows on the steep and inaccessible cliffs behind the hoe:

Inspecting the cliffs for Juniper
Juniper bush growing high on the cliff

Britain only has three native conifers – Scots Pine, Yew and Juniper – and there is much worry about Juniper. It has declined in the south of England for a variety of reasons and needs urgent conservation work to understand the problems and put them right where possible.

We got talking to a park ranger there who told us a lot of very interesting stuff about the human history of the place. He has initiated a project trialling different ways to propagate new Juniper trees from the few existing, accessible Junipers that are growing wild in Kent. He showed us his little group of fledgling trees behind the visitor centre. But not only is Juniper very slow growing, it has the additional complication that it has male trees and female trees. This male one seemed to be doing very well though:

But most of his trees are absolutely tiny still:

Juniper likes chalk downland and so last autumn we bought four bare root Juniper trees from the Woodland Trust and planted them in the meadows as an experiment. These trees are probably not pedigree Kent thoroughbreeds like at Samphire Hoe, though, and we also now realise that we do not even know the sex of them. Nonetheless, these small trees all seem to be doing alright and are now showing signs of new spring growth and so hopefully we will eventually get a chance to find out which are male and which are female.

One of the newly-planted Juniper trees in the meadows

Six species of orchid now grow at Samphire Hoe, but the place is best known for its Early Spider Orchids. As the land matures, fewer are growing there though – from a peak of 11,500 in 2012, there are now only a few thousand but they were at their best for our visit:

This Hoary Cress was introduced to the country when its seeds were contained within mattresses that had been packed with straw on the continent to transport injured soldiers back home from the Napoleonic Wars. When the mattresses were dismantled, the straw was given to a farmer in Margate to spread on his land. The seeds germinated and the plant has been growing here ever since:

These Brown-tailed Moth hairy caterpillars are what Cuckoos love to eat, being able to tolerate their irritating hairs:

Back in the meadows, there are always a lot of woodpigeon, each of which must represent a substantial and easy meal for a sparrowhawk. We saw this sorry sight as we took a stroll round after lunch one day:

The feather shafts still had their pointed ends and so had been plucked out by a sparrowhawk rather than bitten off by a fox

We had probably disturbed the predator at her work and so, in the hope that she would return to reclaim her prey, we brought across a couple of cameras that had been on baby badger duty elsewhere. But after a while, the One-eyed Vixen, out for a stroll herself, came across the pigeon and took it off with her:

It looks like this unfortunate pigeon might well have been the bird that was sitting on the nest that we found last week. We had been hoping to monitor the progress of this nest but it has been forlornly unattended ever since. After a day or so, the eggs disappeared as well, no doubt discovered by crows or magpies:

The ill-fated Woodpigeon nest

Here is one of the culprits, although this is the smaller male Sparrowhawk with his brown cheeks. It would have been the much beefier female that would take a pigeon:

A while ago I finished treating the One-eyed Vixen for her mange with a course of Psorinum, and have since been scrutinising photos of her to see if she seems to be getting better, or continuing to get worse.

The One-eyed vixen in the foreground and her mate at the back. In the middle is another vixen who we think is their daughter from a previous year.

This is the third year that the One-eyed Vixen has brought up a family in the meadows and, each time, she has caught mange although I have been able to cure it. Now, even though it does look like perhaps there is short fur growing back in the bald patch, I have lost my nerve and started her on a course of Arsen Sulphur. This is an alternative cure for fox mange that has worked wonders in the past. Whereas the Psorinum is only a week’s course, the Arsen Sulphur needs to be given for much longer and so these foxes will be getting medicated honey sandwiches at dusk for a while yet. They will be pleased about this because they absolutely love them. Both these medications and dosages have been recommended to me in the past by The Fox Project, and can safely be given even to lactating animals.
The One-eyed Vixen with her blind left eye

This is the first glimpse this year of fox cubs in the meadows. This young fox was trying to get its father’s attention:

It then tried to bite his tail:

The cub seen by day. Looks to be older than the ones in the wood

The baby badgers continue to be a bit elusive this year, despite my best efforts. The twins are now being allowed up above ground for a limited time each night, watched over by their ever-attentive mother:

A robin is making her nest at the base of a shrub in the garden and I watched her as I sat at my desk:

It was difficult not to call attention to herself with so much activity – she certainly caught my eye and I was not alone. Before long a Magpie arrived and stood menacingly on the top of the shrub she is nesting in:

This does not augur well. To my mind, there are way too many magpies round here.

A few other photos from the meadows this week:

A Redwing, on its way up to the far north to breed
The first Small Copper of the year
Common Carpet Moth, often out flying by day
Three Yellowhammer – camouflaged amongst the buttercups
Haven’t seen a Kestrel in the meadows for a while
Lovely shot of his tail feathers

Over in the wood, I am finally starting to calm down after the exhilaration of finding Tawny Owl chicks in the nest box last weekend. The bird ringer sent me this photo that he took from the top of the ladder once he had safely returned the chicks to their box:

No doubt this is one of their parents at the nearby pond:

We are delighted that there has been so much bird ringing in the wood this spring. This is the third Marsh Tit that has been caught and ringed:

The down curved beak of a Treecreeper:

Treecreepers have stiff tail feathers to push against the tree trunk for extra support:

A Mistle Thrush is a new species for the wood:

There is also a potential and very exciting second new species seen this week although I am still waiting for the bird ringer to confirm – could this possibly be a Nightingale below? I think it is, myself, although I have not seen one before:

This action shot is of a confrontation between two Blackbirds. The female on the right is carrying nesting material in her beak:

The fox cubs are becoming more reddish and less snub-nosed:

They are now on solids and here is one with a rabbit:

Hedgehogs are gathering in our daughter’s garden in the North Downs. Pleasingly, the animals are using the hedgehog house put there for them:

And four of them have been seen in the same shot:

Our son and his girlfriend have now reached Africa on their world trip. They had just arrived in Tanzania when they saw these birds hopping around the airport carpark:

These are Superb Starlings. Our European Starlings can look pretty colourful themselves when the light hits them at the right angle:

One of the two pairs of European Starling that are nesting in the meadows this year

But it does have to be admitted that their colours are not a patch on their fancy cousins from East Africa. I am looking forward to what else we shall see of African wildlife over the next few weeks.

Bank Holiday Owlets

Today was definitely a red letter day, both for us and the wood. For a while now we have had some tantalising suggestions that Tawny Owls might be nesting in one of the boxes that we have put up. A trail camera on a pole nearby has produced an occasional photo of an adult owl in the box and, excitingly, on our last few visits we have been hearing tapping coming from within.

We met the bird ringers in the wood, one of whom is licensed to handle owls. However, although he has a lot of experience ringing Barn Owl chicks in the Stour Valley, he had never before ringed a Tawny.

As soon as we approached the box, a net was put over the opening in case there was an adult bird in the box that would try to fly out.

The ringer climbed the ladder wearing his safety specs to protect his eyes should there be an adult in there. Peeping carefully into the box, he saw two fluffy owlets within. Here is the first owlet coming out:

This first chick out of the box was the larger of the two. The length of her hind claw told us that this was a female.

A ring was put on the bird:

Although the young birds sat very calmly, they were clacking their beaks from time to time which was the source of the tapping noise that we had heard coming from the box.

Various measurements were taken while the chicks were in the hand. The second owlet was noticeably smaller yet was heavier, apparently because it had more recently eaten. The flight feathers were still encased in sheaths:

As were the feathers around the beak:

The larger female chick is on the left below. It wasn’t possible to sex the smaller chick using the length of its talons because it wasn’t yet old enough:

The female chick:

Then the chicks were placed safely back into their nest.

It really was a most special and memorable day.