Bobbleheads, pips…Sunday Morning in Bird World

Good Morning Everyone!

Oh, Saturday looked promising for a nice walk in the forest. No! It was only -12 C but the winds were gusting more than 16 kph which means wind burn. I ‘decided’ reluctantly that it would be a good morning to clean house while listening to Ferris Akel’s tour. At the same time, I was very much aware of the European Starlings – all 40 of them – that had descended on the garden. Out went two new cylinders -a plain butter bark one and a seed cylinder. The images are poor because of the light. The Starlings came not just to eat but to ‘sun’ themselves on the tips of the lilac branches rotating their bodies to get warm. Brilliant.

These Starlings are nothing short of gorgeous. They live in harmony with the many sparrows that show up at the feeders. It is the squirrels that cause most of the havoc claiming the entire 10 metres of lilac bushes as their own.

All four of the squirrels were out and about – Dyson and two summer babies and Little Red. The images of them could not be lightened any more. It is unfortunate as this little summer offspring of Dyson is so cute. My offering is one meagre image. This little male was finding peanuts in the snow and eating them. So sweet.


My top story is a shout out to the wildlife rehabbers and the vets in Prince Edward Island for undertaking only the second spinal cord compression injury and the eagle surviving! When I was a professor, one of the things I valued was curiosity above almost everything else. ‘What if I did this?’ ‘How can we improve that?’ ‘Could something like this work?’ Questions that often result in our wildlife having a second chance at life. I wish more vets and rehabbers were as curious as some who make milestones in our understanding of raptor injuries and the potential with groundbreaking surgeries. Congratulations to everyone.

More good news. Another six of the Bald Eagles who suffered in Minnesota from phenobarbital poisoning (and some with high lead levels) were recently released. The staff at the wildlife rehab centre had to physically remove the poisoned/euthanized pets from the stomach of these beautiful birds before they could be treated. There were thirteen in total. One had Avian Flu along with the poisoning and died. Another two died leaving ten that were nursed back to health.

‘A’ has reminded me that pip watch will begin in one week at the Royal Albatross Colony on Taiaroa Head. The Royal Cam parents are GLY and L. What is so fascinating to me is how the NZ DOC recognises the impacts on Climate change and is trying to do something about it! ‘A’ included this quote from Ranger Sharyn Broni when she wrote, “

Virtually all the eggs will be hatched in the incubators as the increasingly hot summers make the risk of fly strike too great. We see the effects of climate change on these large birds quite markedly. During the 1950s for example, this type of work would have been unnecessary. By the 1990s conditions were more frequently hot enough to cause fly strike at some nests some of the time. It was during the 1990s that methods to repel flies and also to keep toroa cooler on the nest began. By 2018 fly strike is almost a certainty if the egg is left at the nest to hatch.

The dummy egg holds the parents on the nest while the egg hatches in the incubator over several days. The nest will be sprayed with AIL (Avian Insect Liquidator) to clear out any flies that may be living in the nest. The newly hatched chick has AIL applied to it prior to it being returned to the nest.

It is a whole lot better cleaning out kitchen cupboards and little ‘kitten’ things all over the house while listening to Ferris Akel’s Saturday Morning Bird tour of the Montezeuma/Ithaca area of the Finger Lakes area of upstate NY. I can stop and look if I hear something of interest or just listen. Ferris is a great advocate for being outside and for birdwatching as a way to let the stress of the world go! I will keep reminding all of us this winter as it is far too easy to stay inside on bad weather days. And sometimes advisable to do so!

There were Snowy Owls, swans of various species, gulls of various types including a Black-backed gull, Canada geese, Red-tail Hawks (a young adult with a red tail and light eyes), Northern Mockingbird, and Bald Eagles on the morning’s tour.

The images were chosen for very specific reasons.

Snowy Owls like ‘snowy, northern climates’. There are always a few around a small airport that Ferris frequents. They are commonly seen in the fields of the province where I live, and one, as you know, is in Southern California this winter!!!!!

A juvenile Tundra Swan with the grey head. Strangely, we have one still living in Winnipeg in an area that has some open water. It should not be here. Will it survive? So far our temperatures have not been constant -32 to -38 C. So, I am hopeful. Our climate is changing so it will be interesting if more stay in the future.

It is Bald Eagle hatch season in the US and while we all get giddy over little pink tootsies, it is good to know how the little eaglets change in their appearance until they become the iconic bird with it sure white head. The image below – look closely, has the yellow smile I spoke about yesterday in the eaglets on the Superbeaks nest. Its eyes are still dark but not as dark as the month olds at Superbeaks. They will continue to lighten. The cere, mandible, and beak are all espresso brown. The head is brown and the body has scattered white and brown striations on the chest. The eagle at the top fits nicely into being a year and a half old according to Avian Reports picture chart on eagle development (below this image). If it were a year old it would have prominent white streaks in its head.

The two eagles below are an adult pair. The beak and the head are definitive means of attributing age. Look at the chart often. It will not take you long to single out the age. But, always remember, eagles can get ‘stains’ on their feathers, especially the tail feathers and sometimes the head. So then look at the beak!

This is a gorgeous Red-tail Hawk. We know that it is at least a year old because it has its red tail. But the eyes remain light so it is not a full adult yet. What a beautiful hawk. My goodness you would think that it was a copy of a young Big Red with its extraordinary apron.

Those eyes are part way between a juvenile (blue/green) and an adult (dark chocolate).

Ferris spotted Big Red when he entered the Cornell Campus. For some reason, the sighting was very emotional. Big Red will be 20 years old this year. What she has gone through to survive that long is beyond imagination. As far as we know, she has only ever had one chick not fledge and that was K2 who had to be taken into care because of a beak/jaw infection/deformity and who had to be euthanised. She is the most famous Red-tail Hawk in the world and rightly so. She will be laying eggs in mid-March.

Ferris caught up with Big Red on one of the light stands as the light was really going late in the day. You can see the wind is really blowing. She is holding on tight to the bars of the stand. Every sighting of her is a joy. It is 1 degree C and the wind is blowing at 14 kph on the ground so it is really windy on the top of the tower. Evan the tower is moving a lot.

Ferris also found L4, the 2022 fledgling of Big Red and Arthur. It was the first year that Big Red had four eggs and had four fledglings. No one believed a 19 year old hawk could do that – Big Red is changing everything we know about Red-tail Hawks in the wild.

In this side view, you can clearly see that the eyes are still light. Not yet a year old.

L4 looking up as some Canada Geese fly overhead.

Little E22 is already such a cutie. Harriet and M15 are a dynamic duo. The DNA running through those two eagles gives us very strong eaglets right out of the broken egg shell. E22 is standing up pretty good…only a few hours after hatching.

Want some fish, E22?

By late afternoon, it was apparent that 21 and 22 had several feedings. There was fish juice all over them. Any bearing came accidentally from 22 whose eyes are not yet focusing. Harriet and M15 must be the most patient feeders!

At 1757, they both had juice and matted feathers everywhere especially 22. The following image gives you a terrific look at that egg tooth and how it extends so much below the mandible. Imagine the eagle on its back hammering away.

Harriet and M15 are great partners. It was only a matter of time before 21 bonked 22. So Harriet, who had been feeding the pair alone, called in M15 to help. Lady Hawk caught the tandem feeding in the following video.

At Anna and Louis’s KNF E-1 nest there have been plenty of opportunities Saturday morning to see the eggs but, no obvious pip. Eggs are 39 days old and 34 days. Average hatch time in Louisiana is 35-39 days so folks are sitting on the edge of their seats to see if this young couple will have a hatch (or two) this year.

Both Anna and Louis have been incubating and rolling the eggs. Louis is a great provider and Anna has proven to be a really good eagle Mum. I was so hopeful they would have two chicks this year as the food resources are there but, it might well be that they, again, have only one. One is fine!

Oh goodness. There is a pip seen after 1300 Saturday. Jumping up and down! Tomorrow there will be a wee one for Anna and Louis. (could be later in the day on Sunday depending on its progress)

At 1652, you can really see the progress that little eaglet is making. Well done!

It is raining in Louisiana this morning. Louis covered the eggs with nesting material not giving us any hint as to how the hatching is going!

At the E3, nest of Alex and Andria, the two eaglets are growing like bad weeds in the garden plot.

Look at the bottom of E3-01!!!!!!! Well fed eaglets, both of them.

Eggs are being rolled at Metro Aviation. It is unclear if there is a pip. I saw a black spot but I think it is nesting material. Will these eggs hatch? The first egg is 42 days old today. The second egg is 39 days. Remember the average is 35-39 for Louisiana Bald Eagle eggs. It is possible that neither egg is viable. But we wait and hope for this couple.

At Berry College, Pa Berry was on the nest. We have some time before pip watch for these two Georgia Bald Eagles. Egg 1 is 26 days old today and egg 2 is 23 days old.

All is well at Superbeaks! Both are on the nest and I haven’t had to scream yet today about the lack of chair rails…but, oh, I wish these eagles would strengthen the sides of this nest.

Rolling eggs at Captiva. Next week is pip watch for Connie and Clive at the Captiva Bald Eagle nest. That is a very clear camera image!!

At the Captiva Osprey nest, Andy and Lena are now replaced by FO and MO. They need to bring more nesting material and everyone would love to see some fish gifts. There is still time! Rumours have it that the pair mated on the nest for the first time on Saturday. I did not see it and I screamed at the rewind on the camera! I can neither confirm nor deny.

Elain continues to keep us up to date with her daily video summaries from Orange. Indigo made only one appearance on the 7th of January! Much more quiet, yes.

Geemeff posted an article on Twitter that is really informative about tracking devices and how they are so useful to our understanding of the movements, behaviour, and challenges our wildlife face. It is a really good read!

So where does a disappearing elusive Australian Painted-Snipe go if no one has hardly ever seen one? Just look at how lovely it is in the image above. I love that white eye line.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/08/vanishing-bird-the-mystery-of-the-near-mythical-australian-painted-snipe?CMP=share_btn_link

Keeping closer to home and keeping in mind that lovely book, Slow Birding (I think it is the favourite of 2022), I want to remind all of us that we can do things at home now or next year to enrich the lives of the visitors to our own gardens.

  • Provide shelter. No, it doesn’t need to be some elaborate structure. It could mean leaving some of those tall perennials in place to provide a place away from the wind or rain. If like me you have had to cut trees down (yes, sadly), place the limbs and branches around the garden preferably stacking them. Great shelter. In addition, the rotting wood will provide great feasts for birds that feed on insect life. I have several different 60 cm tree trunks that are now about 20 years old. The birds peck away at them in the spring and summer as they are slowing breaking down into a kind of mulch.
  • Looking at the seed and garden catalogues and wishing. Consider – and you must consider your own planting zone – climbers for shelter in the fall and winter but also plants that are bird, bee, and butterfly friendly in your area. I am looking for quick growing berry bushes and a couple of trees with berries right now to plant in the spring. The birds will all thank you.
  • If you have the space, the finances, and the physical ability, why not set up a couple of bird feeders? Feeding the birds really gives them a boost and a better chance at winter survival. Also consider seeds with shells and no shells. All of my garden birds love the Black Oil Sunflower Seeds but the empty shells make a huge mess. You can purchase already hulled seeds. (I rake mind and push them to the back of the mini-forest where they break down and help the soil). If you do put up feeders or bird feeding tables, you have to be able to clean them. Feeding birds is also about responsibility to them so they do not get disease. “The National Wildlife Health Center recommends cleaning bird baths and feeders with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach. (If there is visible debris, scrub it off before soaking in the bleach solution.) Dry out the feeder before hanging it back up”.
  • Want to give the birds some treats? These ideas I originally found on the RSPB website. You can blend birdseed with unsalted nuts, raisins, and lard and press it into moulds or over pinecones and hang outside. Do you have some old hard cheese that could be grated? (no Blue apparently). Birds love it. My Starlings are loving pieces of apple and pear as well as raisins, sultanas, and currants. It is a good way to use up some bruised fruit. I put chunks into a tray feeder.

It is always my pleasure to bring you some of the recent news about our feathered friends. I did not cover Zoe today but rest assured, the girl is eating! Dad brought her a fish yesterday and it is believed Mum added one to that as well. Most days she has 3 fish delivered by Daddy and Mummy Door Dash. Oh, they must be wishing she would move out of the house?? But, they will dutifully continue to feed their girl. No fear. They are dedicated. It is nearing noon in Australia as I write this and Zoe is 112 days old and she is yelling at Mum who is on the ropes for a fish. Time to become independent dear girl. Or are we set to break other records? She is exploring the area but is she exploring places where she could catch fish? And Ervie! Oh, I wish someone would submit some images of Ervie. Missing that beautiful boy.

Oh, thank you so much for being with me today. It is wonderful to know that there is such a supportive community ‘out there’ for our feathered friends. Please take care! See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their tweets, announcements, articles, posts, videos, and streaming cams where I took my screen captures: ‘A’ and NZ DOC, Ferris Akel Tours, Avian Reports, SWFL Eagle Cam and D Pritchett, Lady Haw, and SWEagle Cam and D Pritchett, KNF 1, KNF 3, Metro Aviation, Berry College Eagle Cam, Superbeaks, Window to Wildlife, Elain and Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, Geemeff, The Guardian, and Port Lincoln Ospreys and Friends of Osprey.

4 Comments

  1. Mail! says:

    Thank you Mary Ann!  The birds are so pretty in that snow and little red is  so cute!  Thanks for sharing them with us on this Sunday.  Thank goodness for the ones who went the extra care for the eagle that was saved. 🙏❤️🦅. So thankful  the other 10 lived too from the poisoning. So good to see Big Red and she looks good and L4 is beautiful just like Big Red. Amazing her age!  Looking forward to the hatch at the albatross nests. Little bobble heads E12 and E22 are so adorable 🐣💕🐣💕There was a big pip at the KNF nest today So may be a hatch there soon. Looking forward to all the new hatches soon from all the nests on here. Hope there are some pics of Ervie soon too. I wonder if Zoe will see him soon as she is fishing.  It would be nice to know. ❤️❤️Thanks Mary Ann for all the pics and info and links. Have a great Sunday afternoon and evening. Hope to see you again soon on here !Linda

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    1. Hi Linda, Thank you so much for your comments. They are always so welcome…that pip turned into a hatch! And I know that you have been watching the sweeties 21 and 22. They are so cute. What is it with their hair? I don’t recall other eaglets having so many thin feathers on their head? So funny. Glad you are enjoying them. I hope you had a lovely weekend, too, Linda.

      1. Mail! says:

        Thanks Mary Ann!  I was thinking it was the fish juice on them.  Lol🐣💕🐣💕

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