I’ve been at pains all along to explain that we’d probably not get a clear-cut resolution to all this. The likelihood was the bird would just leave one day, and we wouldn’t know one way or the other. So it proves.
You will recall we discovered that the minimum age at which these juveniles usually become independent is 11 weeks. That mark was to be reached this week, probably around 30 November/1 December.
But this juvenile had been fishing for itself for a couple of weeks, and when I last updated you it was trying to fly. By Monday 20th, it was no longer just trying. I got down to the lake to see it confidently and strongly take off and fly from one side of the lake to the other. This raised the prospect that it was getting close to leaving.
On Tuesday, the adult was there, but not the juvenile. Now, this didn’t mean much as it had been spending time off on its own, and we have previously had days where the birds disappear to some little hidey-hole. But when the situation was unchanged on Wednesday it was hard to escape the conclusion that it was no longer here – whatever that meant.
Now, this was a healthy, strong and fairly independent bird that could fish for itself, defend itself, and fly. So that was cause for optimism. On the other hand it was not even ten weeks old, so very young for independence. I wanted to be optimistic, but the truth is deep in my rational brain I was concerned. But Thursday afternoon had a surprise in store.
One of the birders on the York Birding mailing list sent an email in noting the appearance of a bird on Heslington East, the campus about a mile from here. This is the bird, and thanks to Jan Nobel for supplying the image.
It’s taken through the eyepiece of Jan’s binoculars, but you can clearly see that’s a juvenile Great Crested Grebe of around 11-12 weeks old.
I’ve looked at the markings and think it probably is the same bird. It would be unusual to see two birds of this age, at this time of year, so close together. But it is impossible to be certain. However, I think we can be fairly optimistic after all.
It has been a rollercoaster ride. Two months ago I fully expected both chicks to die. But here we are with pretty good evidence that one chick has, against all the odds, survived and struck out on its own. For which we must save a final word for the parent. Mum/Dad has stuck by it, worked hard, and been successful. That is, after all, what all this is about.
That this is the last of these Grebe nests I’ll watch makes it all the sweeter that it has been one that has provided such a learning experience. This is why we watch wildlife, for exactly these sort of stories.
Anyway, hearty round of applause to this beautiful bird.