The Pacific Black Duck, Daisy, left her nest at 14:41 to forage in the nearby Parramatta River. I watched her as she began to ready herself. She pulled more leaves and plant material to the nest and began quickly to push the down into the nest bowl. She carefully covered all up and departed from the right side of the Ironbark Tree, the exact spot that the White Bellied Sea Eagles land when they bring food to their eaglets.
It has been almost a half hour since Daisy left and I find that my pulse is racing. There are noises in the forests, alerts, vocalizing. Which are friend? and which are foe? It is a blistering hot afternoon in Sydney. Maybe Daisy knows that the other birds will be out hunting at dawn and dust and maybe quietly napping during the sweltering heat of midday. If so, that could certainly help protect her eggs while she is away. It is a shame that there is no defensive mode for the male partner to play so that the eggs are safe while she is away.
Daisy has been gone almost an hour. Most of the literature on ducks and their incubation says that they normally stay on the eggs twenty-three out of twenty-four hours. I find my heart racing faster every time I hear the call of a bird glancing up as nervous as Daisy is on the nest. I do wish she would return! Quite honestly if I could jump through the computer screen, I would go and sit on those eggs so that no one could harm them.
A falconer acquaintance, Laura Culley, says that we should not worry. She says it is assuming the outcome before it has even happened. And, of course, she is right.
Most duck nests actually do not survive. But I think that this one is special. Daisy arrived on the nest just about the time a friend of mine had an operation and received some ‘not so terrific’ news from her doctors. My friend does not want to die, she wants to live and the people that she has met and the fact that this duck is on this nest has energized her. Daisy just could be a life saver. I hope so. But for her to do that, she needs to be able to incubate these eggs and have her beautiful ducklings jump off the edge to start their lives. For now, just sharing the comings and goings, the suspense, and the hope of the nest with others is making my friend happy to wake up every morning. Bird cams have a way of doing that.
My anxiety. I wish it had been for naught. At 1600, WBSE landed on the nest. They carefully, looking all around them, walked over to the nest and began flinging the down. Then after what seemed like a life time but was only a minute, they jumped up to the parent branch and then went and stood guard on a the far end of a branch of the nest tree. It was quite nerve wracking. The WBSE has been acting erratic. He appears to be completely confused by the nest and the down. The fact that he has not returned to eat more eggs is hopeful. But he appears to be both curious and weary of whoever is using ‘his’ nest.
But thankfully, mess or not, Dad did not disturb the eggs!
Dad leaves just as quickly as he arrives. He made a mess of Daisy’s tidy nest but he did not disturb the eggs. He spent most of his time poking his beak into the down and then quickly raising his head to see if anything was approaching the nest. Indeed, when he was on the nest he was just about as anxious as I have been all day hoping that no predator would arrive while Daisy was away. And then poof! Dad is gone. What is he doing with the down and where does he go?
Daisy returns to the nest about twenty minutes after Dad the WBSE has departed. She is cautious. You can tell that he knows something has been there. She looks around and slowly makes her way to the nest where she begins to gather the plant material and the down that Dad had tossed about.
It is nearing 1700 Sydney time. It is unlikely that Daisy will leave again before night falls. The shade is falling over the old Ironbark Tree and Daisy’s camouflage offers her some security – let’s hope!