The Manton Bay chicks are now between five and six weeks old, and therefore, the perfect age to be ringed. At this stage they are almost fully-grown, but more-importantly, still about two weeks away from making their first flights. Ringing chicks at Manton Bay is made more difficult than usual, though, by the fact that the nest is situated in eight feet of water; meaning that in order to access it we need a boat and a triple extending ladder. Its also important that there isn’t much wind – otherwise keeping the boat steady is virtually impossible.
Thankfully at 5:30am this morning conditions were perfect; it was suprisingly warm, and more-importantly, there was no wind. Having tied the boat to the bottom of the telegraph pole and man-handled the ladder up to the nest Tim climbed out of the boat and collected the three chicks. The immediate impression was that they all looked to be in fantastic condition.
At this age it’s a relatively easy task to sex the birds – males generally have a slimmer, whiter head and less-heavy bill than females. Their legs are usually thinner too. The first bird we ringed was definitely a female. She was in excellent condition and a really good weight – 1870g: testament to the fishing prowess of her father. We gave her a blue colour-ring with the inscription 3J. The second bird was a male and he was ringed with a blue colour ring, 2J. The third chick, 1J, was a slightly smaller male and he weighed a respectable 1525g.
Having put the chicks back into the nest, Tim and the others made a hasty retreat and the adult female returned to her favourite perch above the nest almost straight away. It was as if nothing had happened…