Worries…and Hope for the Black Storklings of Latvia and Estonia

Sometimes the good news in our Bird World gets suppressed by horrific news or concerns – and in that moment, we begin to lose hope that anything is being done to protect our feathered friends. Today, we are going to start off with the worrying news and end with some really positive happenings.

The real worry centres around one word: migration. Normal migration brings enough troubles to the birds – winds, lack of prey, predators but this year underneath that big umbrella of migration are two other concerns: the wildfires that are impacting birds already in the midst of their migration and those who will be starting their journeys to Africa from Europe and the UK and the late hatches. For those of you that do not know, the fires around the Mediterranean are causing birds to fall dead from the sky or to go into care for smoke inhalation. It is heating up in France and Spain with record temperatures. High atmospheric pressure is fanning the heat. It is extremely dangerous for the birds to fly through the fires to reach their winter homes. The second worry are the birds that were born late – some three to four weeks after the others. Will their parents stay and feed them? or will they die on the nest? will the father who remains while the mother has already left be able to find enough food for these large birds nearly ready to be on their own?

The latter issue is pressing down on stork nests in both Latvia and Estonia. We have had the pleasure of watching Grafs and Grafiene feed their three Black storklings on the nest in the forest near Sigulda.

Grafiene last came to the nest to feed her babies on 13 August. The Storklets were normally getting 10 feedings a day. On the 13th of August they had four feedings but, on the 14th, the next day, there were only two. It is, as we all know, extremely difficult for one parent to maintain the level of feeding when they are also preparing for migration. There is fear in the Latvian community for these beautiful birds.

My friend ‘S’ in Latvia advises me that through the efforts of the community – the calls for help for these birds – the ornithologists in charge of the area have set up a food table for the father near to the nest. This is very similar to the help given to Bukacek in Mlade Buky when the female was electrocuted. Let us hope that Grafs will accept the food and feed his nestlings. They will not be ready for fledging for at least another two weeks. Please send your warm wishes for these beautiful birds that they survive.

You can follow what is happening at the nest of Grafs and Grafiene here:

At the Black Stork Nest in Jegova county in Estonia, the storklings were fitted with satellite transmitters late on 13 August. This is the nest of Jans and Janika. The banders left a pile of frozen fish on the nest that they hoped would last a few days. Janika was last seen feeding the storklings on 6 August. The father has managed to bring some big fish to the nest but ‘S’ tells me that these fish have been difficult for the nestlings to eat because of their size.

Two things you will notice in the image below taken on the 15th. You can see the transmitters on the legs of the three storklings but you will not see a pile of frozen fish – the storklings ate all of the fish provided! This is wonderful news and gives one hope that the efforts of everyone in both Estonia and Latvia will prevail and the six rare Black storklings will fledge and survive to return to their home countries.

Here is the link to this nest:

The pandemic which began in 2019 and continues to take lives around the world also contributed to some projects that have brought much hope in regard to the natural world and our bird friends. James Aldred, an award-winning documentary filmmaker was given an assignment to document a family of goshawks living in the New Forest. The New Forest is in Hampshire in southern England. It is the largest area of forest and pastures in England consisting of 71,474 acres.

The natural landscape of the New Forest consists of areas of open fields and heavily treed forest areas.

“New Forest Landscape” by davidgsteadman is marked with CC PDM 1.0
“New Forest – River At Mill lane Brockenhurst 2” by Chalkie_CC is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Aldred was there to study the Goshaws who are medium large raptors that live in the forest. They are larger than the Sharp-shinned hawk that comes to my garden and the Cooper’s hawks that I see at the park but they are significantly smaller than eagles. They are known to be fiercer in temperament than the Sharpies or the Coopers. Because they live in the forest very secretively – not liking to be around humans – they are often hard to find. Stealth hunters they are known for their excellent flying skills seeking out both bird and mammal.

The females are, like other raptors, larger than the males. The couple build a very large nest in trees using twigs where the female will lay between 2-4 eggs that are incubated for a period of 28-38 days. Fledging normally takes place after 35 days.

So what was our documentary filmmaker doing with the goshawk family in the New Forest? Aldred spent 15 hours a day in a tent recording the comings and goings of the goshawk family. He created lots of notebooks about the intricacies of their lives often unseen by humans. Aldred said it was like going back in time a thousand years. There was silence in the New Forest which is normally underneath the flight paths of thousands of airplanes every day. He said what gives him hope is that “Very soon after humans deserted the forest last spring, wild animals started reclaiming it.” In addition to the goshawk family, deer, badgers, and fox cubs came out to play.

“Stag at Bolderwood, New Forest National Park” by Chalkie_CC is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“The sheer emptiness of the place…It felt weird, being out there in that paradise on my own.” What he saw and experienced is now in the book, Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other.

The brilliant take away from all of this is that once pandemic restrictions were eased people flooded the area with what Aldred calls their ‘pandemic puppies’ killing and scaring away the birds whose nests were on the ground. The arrival of so many humans scared all of the animals back into hiding and leading their lives in a very different way than during the period when no persons were allowed into the forest. The Forestry Commission listened to Aldred about managing visitor numbers and the woodland paths so that the animals would not be harmed by humans who visit the area.

Each of these stories brings us hope and encouragement. I am delighted to hear that the ornithologists -after hearing from so many people – are providing food to the storklings. It is hoped that those in Estonia will return and place more fish on the nest or nearby for Jans. That nest is wide enough. The Latvian nest is problematic because it is too narrow and might collapse if someone tried to place fish directly on it. Let us hope that the feeding continues and that it is successful.

We also have a late hatch – little Malin at the Collins Marsh nest in Wisconsin. So far, Malin has had only one fish and that was delivered by Collins around 8am. I really hope that he is going to get enough food today. This is another nest that needs someone to supply fish for the family because of the drought and heat that has happened.

Malin is getting some air beneath his wings in the image below and those feathers look good. Oh, he is so tiny!

Over in Cumbria, big sibling 462 got the fish and there is Tiny Little hollering for White YW to bring her one! And, of course, she is giving her big sibling ‘that look’.

It is another hot day on the Canadian prairies. My resident Blue Jay has learned where to sit to tell me that more water is needed in the bowls or that the ‘buggy’ suet is all gone. Him and his mate plus another Jay have been coming to the garden for several years. They live in a tree just across the back lane. It is always lovely to see them playing in the bird bath!

Thank you so much for joining me. Send all of your best wishes to the birds who are in the process of migrating. It could be catastrophic if all of them perish in the fires trying to get to Africa. At the same time, take a cue from what has happened in Latvia and Estonia – support those that want food tables set up to help the birds survive. Donate fish if you have them to give. One other thing is to thank those who helped and are continuing to help. Take care everyone.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Collins Marsh Nature Centre, Cumbrian Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Cam, the Latvian Fund for Nature and the Eagle Club of Estonia. Thank you to the banders in Estonia and the persons supplying fish to Grafs in Latvia. We appreciate your stepping in to show how much you care at this critical time for the birds. Thank you ‘S’ for sending me all of the news. It is much appreciated.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s