Stormz

When I woke up this morning, this was the weather forecast that caught my attention. I sat and stared. Yes, the Achieva Osprey Nest in St. Petersburg, the SWFL Eagle Nest in Fort Myers, and the NEFL Eagle Nest in Jacksonville were all in the ‘possible threat’ of a Severe Threat region. What precisely does that mean? If it’s bad it is going to be really bad but, it might not be nothing at all?

At the Osprey nest in St. Pete’s, it was already starting to get a little gusty. Still, Jack came in with a really nice fish around 9:09 and all had a good breakfast – all of them were fed equal – and there was no issues of the eldest trying to be dominant. Great planning, Jack! It was, however, not long until the local weather report had warnings of rip tides (dangerous currents) and by 10:30 the nest platform was swaying pretty good. The local weather said 48 kph or 30 mph winds. It is hard to understand what that means to the nest structure and the Ospreys. I have presumed that the structure was built to withstand a hurricane but that might not be true at all. But what kind of a gust does it take to blow an Osprey or a little one off the nest? My mind quickly went back to the wind gusts that sent the Red Tail Hawk at Ithaca, New York, Big Red, flying off the nest bowl taking one of the eyases with her last year in the spring. That was really scary to watch. They both clamoured back onto the nest. Still, I sat and hoped that Tiny Tot would hold on good and tight. How much does the little thing weigh?

The image below does not capture the swaying of the nest. The rains had not started but, the gusts were strong. See how the little ones are all tucked in. It reminds me of ‘the duck and cover’ exercises when I was in grade school. If a nuclear bomb exploded, we were told to get under our desks and cover our heads – we would be safe. Don’t even get me started about that. However, those three little Ospreys are doing a great job of tucking in. They would have gotten an A from my first grade teacher, Mrs McReynolds.

In a couple of hours there was a break in the weather and the little ones were able to relax. You are looking at Tiny Tot on the left and the eldest on the right. Both are getting juvenile plumage – all the fluffy down is now gone. They have a grey matte down covering and the beautiful copper coloured feathers are coming on their heads. They have a white stripe from their heads down their backs. The dark lines from the back of their eyes to their neck are becoming prominent. They sure resemble dinosaurs when they are all tangled up together! Their crops have dropped so both are ready for a good meal. Let’s hope Jack has some success fishing. I am going to imagine that fishing could be difficult with the rain, winds, and rip tides.

Within an hour, the weather changed again. The winds picked up giving Diane a brand new hair do and the little ones are holding on under her wings. Good thing. The skies open and heavy rain comes down soaking everyone and the nest.

It has been a difficult week for food on this nest. The high temperatures, reaching as much as 30 degrees C, have meant that the fishing was only good in the early mornings and around sun down. Despite the rain and the rip tides today, Jack did manage to bring in another fish -quite small – after the weather had settled for a bit, around 7:26pm.

The oldest dominated the feeding and treated both number 2 and Tiny Tot (some call him Tumbleweed) rather aggressively. The kids are wet and cold and miserable – and I imagine Diane is, too. These are experienced parents who have fledged three off a nest. They know what they are doing but they cannot control the weather – the storms or the high heat. Let’s just hope that tomorrow is a cool calm day with a couple of big fish on the nest!

The issues with the eldest on the Achieva Osprey Nest happen over and over again on Osprey and Bald Eagle nests around the world (as well as with other species). And the situation -the sibling rivalry -can turn on a dime. For the past few days there have been concerns about the aggressive behaviour of the eldest to the youngest at the Duke Farm nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey. The actions of the eldest got so bad that a message was posted by Duke Farms acknowledging that the behaviour being displayed was abnormally aggressive – ‘abnormally.’ The farm had obviously received e-mails and phone calls wanting an intervention to happen. Duke Farms had to remind watchers that the birds are protected and that their staff are not allowed within 305 metres or 1000 feet of the nest.

I have great sympathy for anyone watching the bashing that is given to the smaller ones. My whole body has gone rigid seeing a little one in submission unable to get any food – their heads pecked and their necks twisted by the eldest – when all they want is a few morsels of fish. And like many of you, I have watched these little ones perish, frustrated that no one took them off the nest and fed them so they got strong and could go back.

This morning the rain was coming down really hard. There was no food on the nest. The fish from yesterday was gone and the mother had picked every piece of meat off of the black feathered bird brought into the nest. At 12:59 the male flew to the nest and looked at the empty pantry. At 14:57:21 he returns with a trout from the stocked pond on the farm. Yes, like the nest for the SW Florida eagles on the Pritchett Farm, this one also has a fully stocked pond for the eagles.

Nest watchers were anticipating that the behaviour of the eldest was going to be very bad once prey arrived since there had been no food for twenty-four hours. That is, however, simply not what happened. The youngest stepped up to the front of the nest bowl and ate – and I mean ate! Not nibble – gorged on large chunks of fresh fish. It had so much confidence that it actually stole a bite of fish out of the eldest’s beak. This little one is smart. If it gets a chance it keeps its head down and then gets fed. Yesterday everything worked in its favour, too. The eldest ate first – as usual. Mom fed it from the black feathered bird picking anything off that she could find til it was full. Then she moved over to the fish. At first the little one was hesitant but, sensing that the eldest was not going to attack, it took a few bites and then climbed around and went up where its mother could more easily feed it. She filled that little eaglet with fresh fish. So, again, the little one is smart – in fact, they have to be to survive. And that is what all of this is about – survival.

Samson and Gabby watched the skies from the branches for a long time. If you look off in the distance the report for Jacksonville showed the worst of the storm coming in late, around 11pm nest time. Still the dark skies must have worried these experienced parents. It is always good to remember that the birds can sense the changes in the weather coming as good as any satellite system.

Gabby is sleeping close to Legacy. It is nearly 11pm. You can hear the winds on the camera’s microphone but the local weather says it is clear. Excellent news.

The weather forecast for these three nests calls for slightly cooler temperatures with sun or partly cloudy skies for Friday the 19th. Let us hope that lots of fish are on the menu! I should also add, since some of you might be wondering – the nest in Fort Myers is also fine. No weather issues!

Thank you so much for joining me today. Before I go, let’s close with a scap of Bonnie the Great Horned Owl. She is all fluffed up. What amazing plumage! She, once again, survived the snow and rain in Kansas. Her little ones still have their eyes closed but they were restless and one stuck its head up. They are doing fine. Clyde is a fantastic provider and the mice were coming to the nest despite the inclement weather!

Thank you to the Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Florida; Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey; Derek the Farmer, and the AEF and NEFL Eagle Cam for their streaming cameras. That is where I took my scraps.

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