Monday in Bird World

It is -10 C on the Canadian Prairies on a day that can only be described as white. There is no colour in the sky and while I had anticipated including images of a different landscape due to melting, well, that hasn’t happened. The snow appears to be melting from the inside of the snow banks and tunnels slowly – which is a good thing! Today and for several days this week, we will continue having yet more of the white fluffy flakes. It has – weather wise – been a winter we will not forget for a long time.

I have been reading Mark Avery’s blog. Avery spent his life working with the RSPB in the UK and is an outspoken defender of ‘nature’. He was their Conservation Director for 13 of the 25 years he worked for them. I will include the link to his blog at the end. The current topic is ‘Alternatives to grouse shooting’.

Avery also includes a short list of books he has read and their reviews at the bottom. One of those was The Consolation of Nature. Spring in the Time of the Coronavirus. Three nature writers – Michael McCarthy, Jeremy Mynott, and Peter Marren – keep a ‘nature’ diary running parallel with happenings with the pandemic for the period of spring 2020. They begin with the astronomical beginning of spring on the 21 March running through 31 May when summer begins. (Meteorological beginning of spring is 1 March). My interest in this book is the emphasis on the healing aspects of nature and how, during the beginning of this horrific virus, people turned to nature for solace. All of us watch bird cams. Did you know that in the UK from the period 23 March to 31 May 2019, there were 20,407 page views of bird cams. During the early period of the pandemic this increased to 433,632 views! It was a similar situation at Loch Arkaig where 400,000 people watched Louis and Aila raise their three osplets. Indeed, it was an amazing year for nature as we isolated ourselves. Few if any planes, few if any cars. When we stopped, nature thrived. “Fish returned to the canals of Venice, no longer churned up by tourist boats. In parts of northern India, the Himalayas became visible for the first time in thirty years as air pollution fell. Baby sea turtles made it safely to the water on Brazilian beaches empty of sunbathers, joggers, and dogs. Wild boar and deer came back into car-free European cities.” As the authors demonstrate, some of those events were significant including “a colossal fall in the carbon dioxide emissions” driving climate change. While the coronavirus spring brought many human losses and great stress, nature gave each of us hope and comfort.

It is a remarkable little book. I highly recommend it but, even more so, I recommend that you begin keeping your own diary of how much joy our beloved birds bring to your life – or it could be the animals or the plants in your garden or a green area you visit. In years to come, it will be a treasure, I promise.

Many of us have never looked back after first watching our bird families on the streaming cams. By watching the daily lives of these families struggling to survive sometimes, we have learned much and it is hoped become more empathetic and prone to fight for a better environment for all of us.

Our first family up this morning are the Captiva Osprey family of Andy and Lena and the three Bobs. Lena was up at day break calling Andy to bring in a fish. She is incredibly loud and Andy could have heard her if he had been in Fort Myers!

I picked the image below not for its compositional beauty but because this morning for the first time, we can clearly see the difference in development between Big Bob and Little Bob. Look at the top of their heads. Little Bob, on the left, still has his soft light grey down. Big Bob has lost his. Soon his head will look like it has been dipped in a pot of black oil with a few copper flecks at the bottom. Big Bob is entering the ‘Reptilian Phase’.

While Lena wanted that fish before 07:00, it was, in fact, delivered at 08:14:39. It was a live Sheepshead.

Lena had a bit of a time with that fish – getting it opened and not flipping about on the kids. Big and Middle Bobs are right up there when she begins feeding. You will see that Middle Bob also has a greasy black Reptilian head like Big Bob. Little Bob is just waking up. Get up there Little Bob!

Little Bob is definitely our ‘Captiva Ervie’. It didn’t take him long to get the sleep out of his eyes and get up under Lena’s beak. Look at him stare at the fish. At least for today, we can easily tell Little from the other two if the trio are in a clump.

Lena was really hungry. She fed the kids for more than an hour and then finished off the fish and ate the tail at 09:49. All of the chicks were passed out in a food coma.

Andy returned hoping there would be some fish left just as Lena swallowed the fish tail! The chicks woke up and were thinking about a second feed. Too late! Big Bob did root around in the nest for scraps eating them as he found them. Wow. That is fantastic.

Lena is currently busy keeping the osplets cool by shading them. She is also hoping that Andy will ring another fish in!

Cornell Bird Lab put together a 15 minute video of Big Red and Arthur frantically working on their nest on the Cornell Campus this morning. It is much better than any still captures I could show you!

Squeezing some of the somber in with the joy, HH3, one of the Hilton Head Island Trust eaglets has died. HH4 is fighting for its life and hanging on by a thread. The test results to determine the cause are not ready yet. The adults are being monitored closely and the Birds of Prey Centre has brought in the Clemson University Vet School to help with the determinations as to cause.

There was a lovely kerfuffle at the NEFlorida Nest of Samson and Gabby this morning. It was fantastic, actually. Jasper (NE26) was eating all of the food. This has been the typical pattern for these two. This morning it was the same- NE27 is on the left with its head down and Jasper is at the beak getting all the food.

NE27 moves closer and does the old snatch and grab and horks all of the remaining prey! He was hungry and was tired of waiting. Way to go 27!

Jasper has been doing a lot of standing and wingersizing. She is definitely getting much more stable on those legs.

Gabby and Samson sure make beautiful babies. I just love the pantaloons on Jasper.

The more I watch the Dale Hollow nest the more I am loving this family. Obey comes in to check on River and feeds her. That reminds me of Blue 33 feeding Maya at the Rutland Osprey nest. Then River and Obey feed the chicks in tandem. The life experience of these two eagles, well into their 20s in age, really shows when dealing with the health and welfare of their chicks. Just wonderful. The third egg is 36 days old today and it is almost hatched!

Another tandem feeding this morning.

Continual aeration of the nest cup to keep it soft and bring oxygen in.

River feeding the twins.

Oh, just look at them. They are so cute, fluffy, and a little chubby. Perfect!

There are currently more than 3,044 persons watching and waiting for a pip at the nest of Jackie and Shadow in Big Bear Lake, California. The eggs were laid on January 22 and 25. That makes them 34 and 37 days old. The average time for pip is between 34 and 40 days so we are still right in the sweet spot for hatching. Good luck Jackie and Shadow! Your fans are cheering.

It is difficult to avoid the news. My heart goes out to any person caught in a conflict zone. It is difficult to avoid the war zones in Africa where our birds migrate to for the winter and now, as they begin to return to their homes in Latvia and Estonia, many have historically spent time eating and resting in the Ukraine. This is the map of Karl II’s family migration this past summer. Many of the other birds that migrate to Africa follow a similar route. Wildlife suffers irreparable harm, like ordinary citizens, in times of war.

Here is a detailed study of wildlife in conflict zones and the need for conservation. It is a good first read to understand the challenges that nature and wildlife undergo when there is war. I hope that you are able to open it.

I will close as we wait for a pip at Big Bear and the final hatching at Dale Hollow with a closeup of Dad at the Port Lincoln Osprey barge. Dad spent considerable time on the ropes yesterday. I cannot help but imagine that he was hoping to catch up with Ervie and see how he is doing. You can certainly tell where Ervie gets his good looks from!

It has warmed up to a balmy -8 C. Serious spring weather and I am off to get more bird seed and go for a much needed walk. Please take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams or FB pages where I took my screen captures: Port Lincoln Osprey Project, Dale Hollow Bald Eagles, Captiva Ospreys and Window on Wildlife, NEFlorida Bald Eagles and the AEF, Cornell Bird Lab, Friends of Big Bear Valley, Bald Eagles 101 FB, and the Latvian Fund for Nature Forum.


  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Thanks Mary Ann. I had read some of this nice newsletter earlier and we had to go out so I just finished reading all of it. Thanks for all the photos and info and everything here. It is a very thorough and informative one!
    So sad to hear of little HH3 🙏May it Rest In Peace. Prayers for little HH4 to recover 🙏. Hope it wasn’t the avian flu and that the parents will be ok ❤️❤️🙏🙏
    Captiva and Dale Hollow nests seem to be doing good. I’m so thankful.
    Prayers for all the nests everywhere and all the migrating birds. Prayers for Jackie and Shadow’s eggs to hatch soon 🙏
    Thanks Mary Ann and have a good evening.

    1. It is so sad about the Hilton Head eaglets. They were doing so well. I hope that Harriet and Mitch survive whatever has happened and that there is no huge spread of avian flu – if that is what caused this. I wish they could hurry up the tests. Everywhere else seems to be doing well. They bring us such joy. Thank you so much for your prayers for them, Linda.

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