Whilst out early one morning testing my new Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, I was fortunate to observe the interplay between a Blacksmith Lapwing male (I think) and a chick. I had seen the pair of adults on the muddy edge of a pond. On closer observation I noticed a small movement in the water and realised it was a chick of the Lapwings. I first thought it had drowned/died as it was partially submerged in the  water but an eye was open (Image #1). It was obviously very newly hatched. It then “came to life” and stumbled into an indentation in the mud just out of the water (Image #2).

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Image #1

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Image #2

One of the adults then approached the chick and partly crouched over it (Image #3 and #4).

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Image #3

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Image #4

Then amazingly as it hovered over the chick, it “stretched out its belly feathers and parted them in the middle (Image #5 and #6). Must have looked like the Red Sea to the chick. fancourt-201609_m0i0814

Image #5

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Image #6

The adult then lowered itself further, encouraging the chick to move into the parted feathers in its belly (Images #7 to #14).

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Image #7

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Image #8

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Image #9

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Image #10

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Image # 11

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Image #12

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Image #13

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Image #14

The chick nestled right into the belly feathers and the adult carefully lowered itself until all you could see was the two small legs of the chick (Image #15 and #16)

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Image #15

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Image #16

In images #9 to #15 you can clearly see the spur on the front tip of the wing. It is black with an ivory coloured tip. It was fairly large and that made me think it may be a male that was attending to the chick.

I managed to find another chick in the nearby vicinity. It was extremely well camouflaged in the mud and was not attended by either adult (Image #16). You can just see the top part of its eye and the characteristic colouring of the upper part of the body.

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Image #16

The photography was rather challenging. It was a dull morning with only a moment of clear sky when I captured the first image. To achieve a reasonably fast shutter speed I cranked the ISO up to 1600. The new 1DX Mark II performs very well in low light. The high ISO images hardly needed any noise reduction and AF was still lightning fast. I used single-spot AF to get the focus point exactly on the chick under the belly. The sequence of images from #2 to #15 took just 22 seconds.

Exposure was set manually for all images at 1/640 sec at f/7.1 and ISO of 1600. All images were taken with a Canon EOS 1DX Mark II and a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens with a 1.4x converter – a focal length equivalent of 840mm. Camera and lens were mounted on a Gitzo 1548 tripod with a Wimberley gimbal-type tripod head. I had to push the exposure well into the 5th segment of the histogram to ensure I got the detail in the shadows (under the belly of the adult). This pushed the highlights on the white head patch to the extreme.

I ventured out a few days later and was unable to locate the chicks. I wondered  if they had died or been taken by some predator. However on Day 10 after the above images were captured, the two were again located and seemed to getting along well. The adults kept a close watch on them and they were mostly well hidden in some heap of fallen reeds. Image #17 is one of them walking quite boldly.

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Image #17

I will attempt to keep tabs of them in the upcoming weeks.

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Update:

The above image now shows the chick at 30 days.

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Update: Now at 53 days. Usually fledged at 40 days but it does remain with adults during incubation of second brood. Have not found a new nest yet.