THE chick in the eyrie overlooking Glengarriff Harbour celebrates its seven-week birthday this week.
The date is significant because it means the white-tailed eagle chick is now more than half-way through its own version of lockdown.
Conservation ranger Clare Heardman estimated it will not be strong enough to leave the nest until it is about 12 weeks old.
She said: ‘It will need a lot more feather growth, as well as the development of its flight feathers – particularly those in the tail – before it can fledge.’
At this – the half-way stage – the chick can be seen on the live webcam attempting to feed itself.
‘It is standing up in the nest and making stabs at the fish and meat delivered by Mama P.
‘It’s vital for the chick to learn how to stand on its prey and hold it with its talons,’ said Clare.
Twice last week, the chick was ‘home alone’ overnight, but on both occasions Mama P returned at 6am with fresh lockdown deliveries.
Clare said it is all part of the learning process for the young chick.
When it hatched, the little ball of feathers weighed just 100gr, but it is a good indication of its growth rate that it is now about 3kg.
Even with dad – the bold ‘W’ – still on the missing list, the chick appears to be thriving. On Tuesday, viewers of the live webcam were delighted to watch it engage in a spot of housekeeping. The chick spent quite some time fiddling with a troublesome stick that was caught in an overhead branch and successfully dropped it out of the nest.
The number of webcam viewers continues to grow. ‘People are fascinated,’ said Clare, ‘throughout the world there are people figuratively crossing their fingers and willing this chick to survive.’
Meanwhile, the national parks and wildlife service has commenced a nesting chough survey and are urging the public to report sightings to [email protected]
The shiny black bird – with its distinctive curved red bill, red legs and a characteristic high-pitched call – is a member of the crow family and is considered rare at European level. Ireland has designated a number of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) including parts of the Beara Peninsula, Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Mizen Peninsula, Toe Head and Seven Heads.
Clare said: ‘The survey in Cork is a pilot study to try and find out how many of these birds we have nesting here, but we plan to extend it to the rest of Ireland in 2021.’
Eagle-eyed webcam viewers also delighted in seeing an unsuspecting red squirrel scampering up and down the tree trunk and even taking a peek into the nest at the eagle chick who now has a rather formidable presence. Regular viewers have also been treated to a compilation of video clips showing a hooded crow paying regular visits to the nest on Garnish Island. The two seem surprisingly companionable – well, at the very least, the eagle didn’t try to eat him.