Thursday Morning in Bird World

14 April 2022

Dyson sends his love to everyone and he wants you to know that he is doing what he does best – getting seeds off the hard seed cylinders!

Thank you so much for your kind notes. The snow storm did precisely what had been predicted. There was a lull yesterday in the late afternoon and then the snow began with earnest around midnight. The forecast is now at the higher end of the snow accumulation at 80 cm or 2.62 feet. We continue to clear periodically and put down a line of seed that extends across 9 metres or 30 feet of decking and keep the feeders full and check on the hard seed cylinders as they need replacing. It has been a challenge. The sheer number of birds in the garden speaks to the recent arrival of thousands of birds during spring migration. Rain is set to start shortly turning to snow in the afternoon. Could it get worse for our feathered friends? The winds continue to bring some white out conditions. Hopefully the storm will taper off, as predicted, late Friday. Sadly, it brings out the worst in the birds who are hungry and fearful that they will starve to death. It is not unlike the beaking in the streaming cam nests when a weather event or diminished prey delivery sets off the ‘survival’ instinct in the biggest bird. Difficult to watch.

When you think you have absolutely ‘had it’ – you ‘are done’ with the birds and their beaking and bonking, stop and watch this piece of archival film that Charles Puleston shot in one of his Osprey nests on Long Island in the 1950s. It is called ‘My Turn’.

I can promise you that there is nothing more joyful, more tearful, and more satisfying than having a third hatch almost die in front of your eyes and then to have them turn around and become the most clever and dominant bird on the nest! It happens! Those are the nests you never forget.

A few of you have written to me in the last week about your need to pull back from the streaming cams and the chats that go along with some of the nests. The last note came this morning from a reader and I thought it would be a good time to discuss this. Watching the streaming cams can often bring about a sense of utter helplessness and frustration instead of the joy you anticipated. Instead of shutting the birds out of your life, I would like to make a couple of recommendations. The first is to educate yourself about the species you are watching. You do not have to purchase the books, go to your local library and if they do not have a copy see if they can order one in for you to borrow. The second is to arm yourself with emergency call numbers. Last year when a fostered Osprey chick fell off the nest at Patuxent River’s nests, the nature centre was closed. No one was answering the phone. People watched in horror hearing the chick splashing in the water. A number of us began to call leaving messages. One of the staff heard these and took their canoe back out to the park and found the chick – just in time – and literally tossed it back on the nest. This was a perfect outcome. That said frantic phone calls came from Hawaii, Canada, and the US to anyone who would listen. Every streaming cam needs the number of the local wildlife rehabber. Sadly, they do not post them. So it is up to you to find those numbers and have them ready if something happens. You also need to understand that most times help does not come. That is why Patuxent was simply so fantastic.

OK. Back to educating yourself. If you want to understand how the use of DDT caused the large Apex predators such as Eagles and Osprey to become almost extinct, get a copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Here is an article that speaks to the importance of this book.

Find out who Dennis Puleston was to the environmental movement and how he signalled the decline in Ospreys. Who was Charles Broley to the Bald Eagle community? These are people who fought the good fight to protect and restore the populations of Ospreys and Bald Eagles. You should know who they are. For a specific UK approach, any of the books by Mark Avery who headed the RSBP for 25 years are excellent.

The current threat is often from climate change and for eagles it is heat. Many eagles went into care last summer as did Ospreys particularly in the Pacific Northwest. One of the newest additions that David Hancock (Hancock Wildlife) is adding to the artificial nests for the Eagles in British Columbia, Canada is a shade screen. Ground breaking. How fantastic! Indeed, you might have noted the artificial nest in the Miami Zoo for the WRDC nest. These human-made nests will become more common as trees fail just as artificial platforms are now common for Ospreys.

How many times have you seen individuals belittled and having to apologize for putting human emotions on birds? This especially happens in some chats. I suggest that you read Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals. Good solid research. You won’t apologize again! Jennifer Akerman’s The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way are also very good.

My library is mostly full of books on Ospreys and the smaller raptors, Peregrine Falcons and Red-tail Hawks.

Falcons: The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, Falcon by Helen Macdonald, and H is for Hawk are some good starters. Winter’s Hawk speaks to the persecution of the Red-tail Hawk where I grew up, in Oklahoma. The Kings and their Hawks gives a particular historical perspective. These are a few to get you started.

Ospreys: Alan Poole’s Ospreys is a good solid introduction to the birds. I am particularly fond of David Gessner’s Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond for a good look at the issue of migration, particularly the New England ospreys. It is a good read. Gessner’s other books speak to various environmental issues impacting birds. There are others: Scottish Ospreys by Philip Brown, Lady of the Loch by Helen Armitage amongst others. I will try and bring one up now and then.

If you want to understand migration, A World on the Wing. The Global Odyssey of Migrating Birds is a great start!

If you want a good laugh, Zarankin’s Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder is excellent!!!!

I did a quick check on some of the nests. The third hatch is hanging in there at the UFlorida Gainsville Osprey nest! Good for it. Spunky little thing.

Here is the link to the UF Osprey cam. It is not on YouTube.

https://wec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/ospreycam/

The sun is coming out on Little Middle and Big at the Dale Hollow nest. They will be anxious for some fish to arrive on their nest.

Deb Stecyk did a short video of Big and Little Middle in the storm.

I found a new Peregrine Falcon nest this morning! It is in the UK at the Chichester Cathedral. There are four eggs.

When people get burnt out of watching Bald Eagles and Ospreys – where there is often a lot of beaking – I highly recommend both falcon and hawk nests. They are often overlooked because they are smaller raptors but the way that they take care of their young is reassuring that life is good.

There is also a Kestrel nest in Yorkshire. Eggs soon!

I highly recommend the streaming cam of Big Red and Arthur at the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York. Good solid nest. Big Red is 19 and Arthur is 6. Big Red has been raising little hawklets for 17 years – for ten on camera. Only one did not fledge and that was K2 in 2021 due to a beak injury and infection. There is also a good respectful moderated chat for a couple of hours in the morning.

The Queen of the RTHs, Big Red incubating four eggs on the Fernow Light Tower. This is the first time she has laid 4 eggs since the camera was set up in 2012.

Indeed, you will notice a lot of nests of falcons and hawks with four eggs this year. It could be nature’s way of adjusting for the quickly spreading Avian Flu.

Half way around the world, Lesser Spotted Eagles will be nesting in Latvia. The nest of Anna and Andris is now happy as Andris returned from his migration yesterday. Anna came home on the 12th.

And because incubation can be so boring to watch, Cal Falcons has done a really fast day in the life of Annie and the New Guy incubating! So funny and a good way to end this blog.

All of the nests seem to be doing fine. The first egg at Llyn Clywedog was laid at 10:27 this morning UK time. That is the nest of Dylan and Seren. I will be checking on those UK Osprey nests later today.

Thank you so much for joining me and for all of your good wishes, prayers, and warm thoughts for us and the garden birds and animals in the storm. It is much appreciated. Take care everyone. See you soon!

Under the Feeders. 14 April 2022

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: DHEC, UFlorida Osprey Nest, and Cornell Bird Lab and RTH.

4 Comments

  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Thanks Mary Ann for the updates, photos, links, books to read for better understanding, and latest info of all our nests we love and follow and the new ones too!
    So glad you’ll are doing good there. I’m so thankful these wonderful migrating birds and your squirrels have you’ll there! What a Blessing for them during this snow storm! 🙏❤️ Thanks for all you do to help them survive!
    Prayers for all nests and animals and people of course!
    Have a good day and please take care!
    Linda

    1. You are so welcome! And thank you. They give us such joy! The Achieva Osprey cam should be up this afternoon. I heard a rumour there are eggs…oh, boy, it is going to be hot on that nest for those chicks. Wishing them all the luck!

  2. Akane says:

    I am glad to hear that you are safe. I’m glad Dyson is safe too. We are keeping you in our prayers🤞.
    It’s so nice to have a nest in the cathedral. I have registered the link you gave me! Thank you very much.
    Bird’s nests are sometimes cruel. But there are times when I can’t help but get emotionally involved. It was a meaningful time to think and learn. Thank you very much.

    1. Oh, thank you, Akane. The birds have kept us busy but we are fine. The birds certainly endear themselves to us – and what personalities they have. I am so grateful for them in our lives. I think you will enjoy the falcons in the cathedral. I am so looking forward to all those falcon eggs hatching!

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