26 December 2022
Good Morning Everyone,
For those that celebrated Christmas, I hope that you had a wonderful day surrounded by friends and family. For those celebrating the end of Hanukkah, chag Hanukkah sameach and for all preparing for the New Year and especially our friends in Japan, we are cleaning our house with you and looking forward to eating lots of mochi.
I have so many fond memories of living in the UK. I wonder how much it has changed? Those of you who live there can tell me. We lived on a lovely cul-de-sac on Gorse Road and the gorse was about six houses (semi-detached) from ours. We spent so many hours wandering those fields. But, back to the point. Milk was delivered by the person driving the milk float. But they also had a brochure with all of the holiday hamper offerings for the next year. You could pay for your Christmas feast by the week and it would be delivered on time. It was a fantastic way of budgeting for some truly remarkable things. But, at the time, the children got two presents. A sock filled with little treats and one big present, normally a new bike. That was it and it was wonderful. No flurry, no regrets, no big bills to look forward to. The most important thing was everyone stopping to share a truly nice meal with one another.
As we see the end of 2022 approaching, let us hope that joy, compassion, empathy for all living things, and peace will be with us in 2023.
I want to introduce you to someone who is a wildlife conservation photographer who moved to looking at the birds in her back garden. It is just a great little video clip and some of you will remember we also had the General Adjutants in the blog one year. Time to go back and visit the energy the women of Assam India had in trying to protect this terribly endangered species. Enjoy!
Making News: A golf course in the UK is being turned into a park and the only holes made will be by badgers and woodpeckers. Isn’t that fantastic – rewinding?
Happenings in Bird World:
Things are starting to happen in Bird World with the first pip and quickly the progression of the hatching of their first egg for Alex and Andria at the E3 Bald Eagle nest in Louisiana. Indeed, I am writing this at 2200 Sunday evening and by Monday morning, there could well be an eaglet for this lovely couple. They are named after the closest city, Alexandria, to the forest. Many thanks to Tonya Irwin who has kept everyone up to date on the progress and who so carefully explains below how humidity impacts hatching. I learn something new every day. Thank you Tonya.
The latest news to describe how the difference in humidity (80%) in Alexandria, Louisiana impacts hatching.
First feeding – a Coot. Look how big and strong that little eaglet is. Unofficial full hatch time is 0341 on the 26th of December.
Meanwhile, in Central Florida, PePe and Muhlady are keeping the two eaglets well fed. I have to say – the position of the camera at this nest is excellent. Yes, yes, I can hear you screaming at me but let me explain. We cannot see a thing at Superbeaks. The eaglets are slowly being revealed to us as they grow taller. It certainly saves a whole lot of stress. There are two of them. Sometimes you only get sight of one.
Great news regarding Big Red and Arthur’s L3. Oh, gosh, we have waited to hear if this darling would ever fly again and there she is. So very relieved and happy. She sure looks like her formidable mother, Big Red!
In the meantime, Ithaca, home to Big Red, Arthur, and L4 is in the grips of that bomb cyclone weather with a temperature of -9 C and it is predicted to get as low as -13 C. Please send your warm wishes to our favourite RTH family as they battle to stay alive in these unusually frigid temperatures that are seeing many Americans in the area die. The cameras are down but Buffalo, which is, as the Ithaca Report said, “A low pressure storm system is expected to rapidly intensify, a process known as explosive cyclogenesis or “bombogenesis,” as it crosses the Lower Great Lakes west of Ithaca and Tompkins County. This storm will be extremely powerful, with forecasted core pressure more typical to oceanic lows and hurricanes than a continental storm system. The National Weather Service Buffalo office is describing it “as a once-in-a-generation type of event.”
Ervie was over at Delamare wishing for a fish! What a handsome fellow he is. I wonder if he is still fishing with Dad?
I have not kept as close an eye on Ernie’s sister, Zoe. The parents are still bringing her fish. Today, Mum brought in a small piece for her daughter at 1405. Zoe did seem to have a crop prior to that delivery. Wonder where she ate? and who brought it? or did she catch it? I would not be surprised if Zoe is not fishing but we wait to see if those attempts are successful. Perhaps she will join Dad and Ervie over at Delamere soon (her tracker will tell us? Now that would be sensational!!!!!!!
Zoe’s crop three minutes before Mum delivers her a small piece of fish. Don’t you think her crop looks full? and what about that necklace? It is pretty awe-inspiring.
Mantling that snack from Mum.
While Alex and Andria were celebrating the pip and hatching in their first egg at the E3 nest in the Kisatchie National Forest, Ron and V2 are still working on their nest.
Someone was with Gabby at the nest early in the morning. Is it V11? Will this nest settle down in the new year?
It looks like V11 is still there tonight. Send positive wishes! Maybe the revolving door of suitors and intruders is coming to an end. If V11 can keep them away and get food on the nest, wow. Wouldn’t that just be sensational? I don’t know about you but I am growing weary and if I am, can you imagine how Gabby feels after losing Samson? and then having seen mostly dire prospects come to the nest? Everyone has gotten a good education in widowed eagles finding new mates from watching both Gabby and Ron. (Ron is not widowed per se but he is alone as Rita will not ever return to the nest).
At the nest of Jackie and Shadow, the snow has all melted and our eagle couple are there checking on things today right before noon. — And my goodness, how could I not put Shadow right up there at the top with Akecheta now that our dear Samson is no longer with us? Sorry Shadow. I do adore you.
The sun setting on Fraser Point Bald Eagles nest, home to Andor and Cruz, is simply stunning. The eagles were not there – do not be fooled if you see one working on the nest – it is a highlight. There was, however, a visit by a Raven or a Crow.
No one home today at Two Harbours, the home of Chase and Cholyn. It certainly is a rather spectacular place for a nest – this and the West End nest of Cholyn’s daughter, Thunder and her mate, Akecheta.
The Red List 22. Red-backed Shrike
“Red-backed Shrike” by Andrej Chudy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
The Red-backed shrike is only slightly bigger than the House Sparrows that visit my garden. The male is striking with its black mask earning the male birds of this species the nickname, ‘the bandit’. They have a grey head, that really dark black eye line going over their cere and running to the nape. Their underparts are white. They have the most gorgeous rust or shall we use the 2022 colour, Redwood, to describe their back and primary feathers. Their tail is black while their other wing feathers are black with white edging. Their beak is black and it is hooked. I really hate it when writers describe the female (image below) as being dull. They are not dull at all! Is it not possible to see the variety of browns and rusts in the upper parts, the lovely grey in the rump along with the upper tail coverts. Instead of an all black tail (very boring), the female’s is an espresso brown with white edging and tips. Their mask is subtle as if they have been trained in the fine art of using an eye liner brush compared to the male who has taken a Sharpie marker!
Matt Shardlow says of the Red-backed Shrike in his essay for Red Sixty-Seven: “Victoria shrikes watched over the land from Durham to Devon and Kent to Conway; eyes alert for burly bumblebees, dumpy dung beetles, well-fed wasps, even delicious lizards. with a pounce and swoop the animal was dead in the shrike’s little raptorial bill.” Shardlow reminds us that by the Beatles became the pop music hit of the 1960s, the Shrikes were in rapid decline and that decline continues. “In 1989, it was down to one heath, with one nest in one short lonely lolly-pop tree…” (80).
“Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)” by gilgit2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
While many believed it was the weather that caused the near extinction of the bird, it was, in fact, a loss of food with large moths decreasing by 2/3 in population since 1948. The same was true for the bees and the beetles. Change in farming and the use of pesticides has been key to its demise. Imagine all the birds gone and left to only two pairs to raise young to keep the population going. Imagine now if this were all the birds. The use of pesticides is entirely unnecessary. Indeed, my City was ripe to spray all living flying things to get rid of mosquitoes only to discover that Dragon Flys do a much better job and cause no harm to the environment. It was time for a change to save the Shrike and it seems that some changes in the UK in terms of rewinding and the cessation of pesticide use in certain areas, since the publication of Red Sixty-Seven in 2019 (just 3 years ago), have had an impact. We can change things but we must just dig our heels in and get on with it. No excuses. The RSPB still counts only three resident mated pairs of Red-backed Shrikes living in the UK; the remainder are migratory. Let’s see if that number can be raised ten fold in the coming years. Wouldn’t that be grand?
Thank you so very much for being with me today. When I think of all of you, I get all giddy. So many people who care so much for our feathered friends. Sheer joy and a huge smile comes on my face. Take care everyone. See you soon.
Thank you to the following for the letters, their posts, their videos, and their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: Beneath the Feeder, The Guardian, Kistachie National Forest Eagle Cam Fans and Tanya Irwin, NF-AEF, Ron and Roses Eagle Nest Watchers and Pat Burke, Port Lincoln Ospreys, Cornell Hawk Cam Chatters and Suzanne Arnold Horning, Superbeaks, Openverse, Institute for Wildlife Studies and Explore.org.
Thank you Mary Ann! This newsletter was awesome! You covered a lot of birds and it was very interesting and helpful. Thanks for the pictures also. Prayers for Ervie to find fish there and hope he is still getting to fish with Dad. Prayers for Gabby to make a choice and for Rita to continue to recover too.
Thanks for all the new birds you wrote about here. Congratulations to Alex and
Andris We look forward to hearing from you soon again. Take care Mary Ann !