The hatching of a bird has to be one of the most fascinating and delicate processes I have witnessed to date. I have come across many bird nests with uniquely coloured and patterned eggs inside, as well as seen a few hatchlings poking their heads out of a nest or laying close to the ground. However, watching new life emerging from an egg was by far the most enthralling!
We had just set out on our last morning drive with the current set of guests, when Tracker Bennet Mathonsi’s eagle eyes spotted two oval eggs camouflaged against the sandy soil. Given that Water Thick-knees are fairly common, particularly around the camp, and are known for their ground nests being in close proximity close to water, we were able to quickly identify the brown blotched eggs. I was, however, quite surprised that we didn’t see one of the parents run away from the nest as a distraction. As with most birds, they are extremely protective of their nests, and will often use this distraction technique to lure any threats away from the nest.
While being cautious and sensitive to the fact that the adults likely weren’t too far away, we also couldn’t resist an opportunity to get a closer look at the eggs. We were completely blown away and captivated upon closer inspection that one of the eggs was hatching! I will let the video below do the rest of the storytelling here…
We were captivated for at least half an hour listening to the squeaky chirps and watching the egg crack slowly but surely. We eventually decided that, although we would love to watch the complete process, we also wanted to make sure we gave the hatchling space to take in its new surroundings and for the parents to return without any interference. We also weren’t sure exactly how long the process would take, so we continued our morning drive and thought it would be just as exciting to return an hour later and see how things had progressed.
Pipping – A bit more on the hatching process
During the early stages of development, the chick will grow an egg tooth – a sharp little cap on the tip of its beak that helps the chick peck its way out of its shell when it is ready. This process is called pipping. Once the chick has made an opening large enough, it can push its way out of the egg. As it then emerges, the chick will absorb the remaining yolk and the egg tooth will soon fall off. Depending on the species of bird, it can take anywhere from a few hours to several days for a chick to fully hatch from an egg.
Luckily for us, we didn’t have to wait very long…
As you can imagine, there were big smiles all around with this heartwarming sight. It really was a remarkable process to be able to witness so closely, and I can hope and wonder if I will ever get the timing quite right again one day like we did on this special day. Although my guests had left that morning, as soon as I had told my new set of guests about the eggs hatching, we were all eagerly on our way to get the next update. We weren’t disappointed as the hatchling had become a fledgling, leaving the second egg remaining. The following morning it was also our first port of call, and so we returned to the eggs for the third time.. Both of the fledglings were well camouflaged with their porcupine-like coats, a little further away from the nest with an adult nearby, no doubt keeping a close eye over them.
Thanks to Bennet’s remarkable spot, we were able to observe new life and follow the progress on three separate occasions. It isn’t always all about high action in nature, sometimes it’s important to observe life in all its forms, and slow down to bear witness to very special moments.