Lets Hear It For The Birds: The Story of Chalky D
It's 2016 - Happy New Year! We wanted to share a feel-good story we've been working on to start of this new year,
As told by Chalkydigits' founder, Liz Collins...
so...meet Chalky D and his brother Miss FnB!
Last year, we briefly introduced you to this cute duo... a gorgeous pair of native and endangered falcon chicks. There's a whole story behind their intrepid journey into the wilderness of NZ, involving Chalkydigits, a big river and a very unexpected adoption! It's quite long, but very worth a heartwarming outcome, so please keep reading!
24th October: The New Home: Meeting two little falcon chicks straight off the plane from their long journey south was a very special moment. Having always admired falcons from afar (and wishing I could be one) I was amazed to view these vulnerable little fluff balls up close. It was a fleeting moment never to be forgotten, as the siblings were placed quickly and quietly into their new home in the most beautiful setting overlooking the Hawea River. Their new home was positioned with their keen eyesight in mind; the vast landscape of tall pines, hopping rabbits, manuka scrub and of course the river laid out in front of them.
Approximately 38 days days since birth their wings will be strong enough to fly, feathers and their instinctual keenness for freedom and flight developed. This pair has been lucky; born to rescued parents at Wingspan Birds Of Prey Centre, they have been sent down here to be cared for by Mary, (the local bird lady) while learning the skills to survive on their own.
A worldwide fact - falcons have 25% chance of surviving to the age of one (possibly less in NZ), mainly due to humans shooting them, dogs, ferrets, cats and electrocution from uninsulated transformers. This is so sad! At least these siblings are off to a good start.
For now they are fed lovingly, albeit mysteriously, by Mary who has placed their food down a shoot behind the hut so she is out of sight. It’s important they don’t become reliant on, or too used to human contact - these guys need to know they are falcons and how to survive as such on their own.
9th November: The Big Release! Before we know it the big day arrives and its time to open the latch and let them take in their new environment first hand. Every day the changes have been evident, their stature building, eyes darkening in strength and colour, feathers forming and fluff falling. It is an incredibly quick process.
I’m so excited; I feel very privileged to have been able to meet them, and sponsor one of them (Mr. Chalky D!) and especially to be here for their release. Is it a daunting feeling for them? Like our first steps are to us as humans? These lucky creatures get to soar the skies blessed with a grace and strength of character unknown to us humans. Don’t you love how they stand on the side of the road making a clean finish of their kill, proudly defending their dinner, just staring with those piercing eyes as you drive past in a foreign object many times bigger than them. It would be like a Hercules plane soaring past us within a stones throw from a quiet picnic blanket - I admire their bravery!
It’s a clear morning, the sun is shining and the wind calm….the big day has arrived….Mary opens the latch as we all stand back, hiding from their path of sight, anxiously waiting to see what will happen next. With the latches barely opened and the flight path free, Chalky D makes the leap of faith, testing his wings for the first time. Instead of taking the flight straight down the sight path that he has been keenly admiring for the past couple of weeks, he unexpectedly makes a huge right turn and finds himself flying well above the river far below - whether he likes it or not a fair distance to safe soil. Stay strong Chalky D!
We all watch in awe as he totally nails his first flight and makes it all the way over the river, landing smoothly in the Manuka scrub below!* Awesome! (*the wee white star in the photo below is where he landed)
As soon as Chalky D lands a fellow wild falcon comes out of nowhere and swoops in on him, making his presence known. As for Chalky D’s more sensible or cautious sister, Miss FnB (thanks Forest and Bird!) she waits and considers the world, but seems comfortable staying in for now.
Chalky D spends his first day and night across the river recovering and hanging out in the shade of the manuka scrub, probably coming to grips with the huge uphill flight home if he ever wants to see his sister again, or those yummy chickens he was being fed. It’s quite the conundrum for Mary, who can’t care for him so far across the mighty Hawea river!
The falcon siblings call to each other that night, letting each other know they are OK. It’s great that Miss FnB has stayed put as she will be a good incentive and beacon for her brothers’ return. What a lovely sister!
10th November, The Long Flight Back: Early the next morning, Chalky D builds up the courage to embark upon his big journey back across the Hawea River. He moves upstream a bit to take the shortest route over then makes his move. He makes it without trouble and hops up the bank a little way, deciding to stay put in the pines for a while. This is where the wild male falcon and his partner were yesterday. He’s on their home turf! Meanwhile, Miss Fn B stays put, continuing to feed well and calling to her brother...
11th November, Adopted: Today was a special day…At 11am and then again at 3.30pm Mary sights Chalky D being fed by the wild couple! He’s been adopted! Amazing! Apparently this is quite unusual in the falcon world as Falcons are very territorial birds. The last documented adoption like this happened in 2004, according to Wingspan. The theory goes that the adopted couple must have had a failed hatching and were feeling hormonal and clucky - seems it was Chalky D’s lucky day!
Miss FnB decided to make the moves out of her hat box a few days later but the wild couple didn’t like that at all. They were very territorial and aggressive with her and she needed to be moved away from the area to be saved. Interesting that their hormonal state was very short lived, our chalky D had good timing!
Perhaps the falcon that swooped in on his first arrival was scoping him out for adoption, and it's possible that Chalky D was aware he could be accepted by the wild couple when he bee-lined it back across the river to the pines. "Dad" must have had a stern but nurturing word to him down in that manuka scrub. How incredibly instinctive… we are so fortunate to have seen mother nature at her best.
Mary spotted Chalky D being fed by his new mum over the next few days and then spotted him flying down river, most likely off to find a some new food or home turf with his family. They can have up to a 15 km radius zone of their own, so there would be no shortage of food in a space that size! If you are lucky enough to be down this way and spot a falcon, Chalky D has a white band on his right leg. Let us know! Go forth and conquer chalky D!