For birds and ducks, it seems that the term ‘hawk eye’ really applies, updated

I have to make a confession. It has been a long, long time since I ‘considered’ ducks, ducks of any breed. As a young child, I had a pet white domestic duck that my father brought in his pocket one Easter. Along with a hoard of cats, a three-legged dog, the duck was one of my greatest companions. I spent much time at the zoo but where I really loved to go was to the ‘Duck Pond’ at the University of Oklahoma.

Fall on the University of Oklahoma and part of the large duck pond.

Hours and hours were spent feeding the ducks and just sitting and looking at them. When I visited with my children, they, too, learned to love all of the ducks at the Duck Pond. It is an institution in Norman, Oklahoma, that Duck Pond. I have no idea how long it has been there. It is much beloved and I continued to visit it until the very last time I was in Norman. But I haven’t actually thought about ducks. Hawks, yes. A Sharp-shinned hawk visits my garden regularly in such of prey. The garden is full of birds that can attest to my devotion to feeding them and I have written extensively not to feed birds of any kind – crows, our Canada geese, the ducks at our duck pond at St Vital Park – bread. Feed them corn and peas. Crows love hard boiled eggs, dog kibble, and grapes. But ducks did not get into my head until Daisy. When she first came with her mate in December to check out the nest of the WBSE, I didn’t think too much of it. But, it is what I have learned watching her, talking with others, and researching that has me totally enthralled. I hope you are, too. Just some facts that astound me. Daisy will have lost half her weight in creating the eggs and brooding. They also have the calcium in their system partially depleted. It is hot in that seventy-five food high nest in Sydney, Australia and they tell me it is going to get hotter in the next few days. While this helps the eggs to stay warm when Daisy has to go forage, it also means that she must hydrate more often. Each time she leaves the nest, the eggs are vulnerable. Today before leaving at 14:02 for foraging and a cool down, she gathered up some of the down that the WBSE and the Pied Currawong tossed. She put some of it on the nest but the wind has been blowing and one of the eggs appears to be exposed.

Daisy has been slowly pulling the down that was removed by the WBSE and the Curra closer to her nest cup.

The exquisiteness of her nest woven with nothing but what she has found left on the sea eagle’s nest – leaves, sticks – and the down she pulled from her breast was nothing short of remarkable. A contemporary artist would have difficulty coming up with something so beautiful and organic if they tempted to replicate her work.

And I admire this little duck more than I can ever say. Is it the old David and Goliath story? Think about it. This is a little duck who knows nothing about the forest. She has, for all purposes, made her nest in the ‘King Pin’ of the forest, Dad, the White Bellied Sea Eagle’s nursery!

The last visit that Dad paid to check on his nest was on January 18. That was three days ago. That day he stayed for about six hours waiting for the intruder to return. He did not realize how smart our little duck is!

There are Ravens and Currawong that would destroy her nest and eat her eggs quickly.

Pied Currawong courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Daisy is one brave little tenacious duck, intent on brooding her eggs and having ducks jump over the edge and make their way to the water with her. On the way, if we make it to that point, there are other dangers including foxes. As a result of watching her, my admiration for all of the birds has grown immensely and I want to know more about them and how I, someone writing a blog on the cold Canadian prairies, can help them.

Daisy brooding her seven eggs on the WBSE nest.

Today, Daisy left well before dawn to go and forage and cool off. It was 4:20am. She returned an hour later, about forty minutes before dawn. Most hawks, falcons, and eagles will venture out at dawn and settle to roost at dusk. That, of course, does not apply to birds like owls who hunt at night. My question is how can Daisy manage in that light? It seems that she might be creating a pattern of leaving before dawn and right before dusk to forage with a break in mid afternoon. But, I cannot say for certain. It will take more days to make that kind of a generalization. But what about her vision

Daisy is back at her nest before dawn. Note that she has one eye on each side of her head. They are not situated together on the front of her head like humans.

Almost all birds have some of the most sophisticated and advanced vision of any animals. And their eyesight is much better than humans! Ducks, like Daisy, have monocular (single) vision. Humans have binocular (stereo) vision. Look at Daisy. Her eyes are located on the side of her head. She does not see in 3-D like we do but, if you have ever noticed a duck or a raptor bobbling their head back and forth, that is what they are achieving but with more precise sight than we ever could have without the aid of a device like a powerful spotting scope. Our eyes have blood vessels. Ducks do not have blood vessels in their eyes. Instead their blood is contained in the pecten. The pecten is a small organ at the back of their eyes that contains the blood. Daisy (and other birds) also have something else that humans do not have, panoramic view. She can see almost 360 degrees. This really helps to protect her from predators. So to sum, it up, ducks have eyes that are capable of seeing at least two or three times farther than humans. Their eyes have other characteristics to help them survive in the wild. This includes being able to see ultraviolet light because their eyes have cones. It is also known that they are very good at differentiating colours which, luckily for them, causes duck hunters many problems. They can tell between someone wearing camouflage that isn’t quite the colour of the environment that surrounds them. Good for you Daisy and all Ducks. You might just outwit the hunters. And, speaking of hunters, many in Australia are saddened by the new duck hunting laws for 2021 after seeing Daisy.

Along with her excellent sight, Daisy relies on her hearing. While she is relative unfamiliar with many of the animals and birds who live in the forest (remember she normally lives by the river, not in the forest), she does listen for vocalizations. She tends to raise her neck if she hears alarm calls by other birds nearby. A good example is the calls of the Raven because the Ravens tend to follow the sea eagles if they enter the forest. The ravens are not a direct threat to the WBSE but they are an annoyance. And, of course, Daisy often sleeps with one eye open!

Daisy raises her neck high to listen.

Notice how Daisy raises her neck high in the image above. She can never really relax completely. She must always be alert to any noises or disturbances that might threaten her. On occasion, she has had to leave very quickly and has been unable to cover her eggs. That is what happened the other day when Dad the WBSE arrived on an adjacent tree and she has to leave very quickly. It was that same day that the Curra tried to eat the egg that Dad had rolled out of the nest cup.

Daisy literally sleeps with one eye open so that she can not only hear but see any predators.
Late afternoon shade is almost completely covering the nest.

So far, since Daisy left to forage around 14:00, no predator has arrived at the nest to do harm. In fact, the forest is relatively quiet. Most of the activity occurs at dawn and at dusk. It is a good time for Daisy to forage. As it hears 15:30, Daisy should be returning within an hour and a little bit to start her brooding. She might, like last evening, sneak out for another dip in the water to cool her off before dark.

Thanks for coming to read about and check on this precious duck. She is, according to locals, the first bird that has ever made a nest in the White Bellied Sea Eagle Nest in the Sydney Olympic Park. She is one brave duck and there are thousands of people watching and wishing her well.

Stay tuned for an update in the morning. Nite all, stay safe.

Well, thanks to Daisy’s good eyes and quick reflexes. She was flying into the nest around 16:49 when spotted ‘Dad’, the White Bellied Sea Eagle landing on the branch of the nest tree! She aborted her landing very quickly. Dad had arrived with Lady around 16:01 and both were on the camera tree. One of the sea eagles left and another flew to the parent branch of the Ironbark Tree. See the images below. It is quite windy and hot and the eagle is busy looking around everywhere from his perch. Did they see Daisy?

Dad? Lady? is using his ‘Eagle Eyes’ to look around everywhere hoping to catch the bird who is brooding their eggs in his nest!

The wind was blowing frantically. The WBSE left at 16:58. Where did they go? Neither went to the nest. It looks like it was a quick fly in to see if they could catch the intruder. It is difficult to say if it was Dad or Lady who remained behind. They looked a little ragged suggesting that it is Lady who has not finished their moult. Maybe they left to catch some fish before dusk. Spotters on the ground say that Dad and Lady have returned to their River Roost on the Parramatta River.

Wonder if either will return to check on the nest again? Remember, their vision. They will not come after dusk! The only bother for Daisy during the night is BooBook Owl.

Wind gusts blowing Dad’s feathers ever which way.

Thank you to Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia and the Discovery Centre for providing the camera for my scaps.

Galah and more Rainbow Lorikeets come to visit Daisy!

Yesterday afternoon Daisy the Duck, the current ‘illegal tenant’, if you like, of the WBSE nest in the Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest, went for her usual break to forage in the canal and the Parramatta River nearby. Right before she left a couple of Galah decided to come for a visit. Daisy has had a lot of curious visitors!

Galah in Kensington Park, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Galah are also called the ‘Pink and Grey Parrot’ or the Rose-Brested Cockatoo in Australia. Galah is the Yuwaalaraay name for them, a native language, where the word means ‘fool’ or ‘clown’. They are highly intelligent and are said to make very good pets. That said, anyone who has spoken to me about them in relation to the Peregrine Falcons and Sea Eagles of Australia, thinks they are not very smart. I was told that if you visit Australia and someone calls you a ‘Galah’, it means they are saying you are stupid. Remember that if you travel ‘down under’. Galah eat plants and insects and would not harm Daisy or her eggs. They are, like the Rainbow Lorikeets that also visited yesterday, curious about this new bird in the forest who is brooding eggs in an active sea eagle nest (off season for them now).

She returned to her nest to brood her seven eggs and then, she took another break, returning around dusk. Save for the arrival of a host of Rainbow Lorikeets and the sound of ravens nearby that caused Daisy to lay flat and still for over half an hour, her day brooding her eggs was relatively uneventful. The WBSE did not show up and none of the animals or birds living in the forest bothered her eggs. Even BooBook Owl did not show up in the middle of the night to go ‘bump’.

But something very odd happened the morning of January 21. Daisy covered her eggs, as best she could, pulling down and leaves and even small sticks over it, and left the nest around 4:25 am. Sunrise is at 6:05. That is when the WBSE come, if they do, in the mornings. Why so early?

Daisy leaves her nest at 4:23. She returns in about an hour, before dawn arrives.

The leaving of the nest at 4:20 and returning an hour later leads me to wonder about the eyesight of the Black Pacific Duck. The sea eagles fly right at or after dawn when they are about. They come back to the nest or their roost at dusk. But Daisy is able to come and go when it is dark. Plan to do some research on the eyesight of ducks. Daisy is similar to a Mallard and that might help me. If you know about the difference in night vision, please leave me a note. It would be much appreciated!

So far, it has been a pretty uneventful morning for Daisy and that means it is a great day for a little determined duck brooding her eggs.

Around 9 am the visitors begin to show up. First are the curious Rainbow Lorikeets and then you can hear but, not see, the Ravens. The Lorikeets or Loris are chattery and loud and very curious but they will not hurt Daisy, her eggs, or her ducklings. But the Ravens will. Daisy always places her body really low on the ground when the Ravens are about.

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets peaking at Daisy (on the right).
The old Ironbark Tree is full of Lorikeets this morning wanting to see Daisy!
Daisy can hear the Ravens. When she does she begins to lower her head to be flat with the base of the big WBSE nest.

Daisy gets low and really still, just as if she is frozen. Soon, the Ravens disappear. Not only would they eat the eggs but, the Ravens also chase after the White Bellied Sea Eagles. They are, often, a warning of their approach.

Daisy is frozen waiting for the Ravens to leave.
Daisy is relaxed, brooding her eggs.

It is even quiet enough for this busy duck to catch a few zzzzzs.

It is 10 am in the forest and all is quiet. The WBSE were seen at Goat Island last night. Maybe they will stay there. It is a nice vacation time for them with no eaglets to raise and both are moulting which causes some distress. That would be good for Daisy. She can rest all day like she is now incubating her little ones.

Stay tuned for updates later in the day. Have a good one.

A Tree full of Rainbow Lorikeets

I was reminded yesterday that Daisy the Black Pacific Duck is not normally an inhabitant of the forest. She lives down by the water and would, at most other times, make her nest on the ground. She would shape grasses and other plant material into the egg cup or bowl. It is only once she has started hard incubation, that Daisy, like other ducks, will pluck the down from her breast and line the nest. She will continue to add plant material and down to the nest as needed, often replacing what others pull out and destroy.

This year, Daisy didn’t make her nest on the ground. Instead, her and her mate selected a very old nest in an Ironbark Tree in mid-December. That nest belongs to the White Bellied Sea Eagles whose territory is around the Parramatta River and the Sydney Olympic Park forest.

Daisy would have had many intruders if her nest were on the ground. But she would have been familiar with them and they with her. Because she is brooding her eggs in the forest, she is a curiosity. The birds and animals that live there do not know about ducks. They do know that it is the sea eagles that raise their young in this particular nest. Of the curious, one of the first was the the Pied Currawong who, unable to eat the exposed duck egg, threw a little mini-tantrum pulling out much down from the rim of the nest and tossing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. Others who have come to the nest to check out Daisy have been the BooBook Owl, possums, Ravens, and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.

Today, the Rainbow Lorikeets returned. They are the most colourful parrots in the forest! They are ever so curious about the duck in the sea eagle nest! Oh, not just six or seven, but dozens of them! And Daisy was not sure she liked them getting close to her and her precious eggs. Rainbow Lorikeets are a medium sized parrot that are plentiful along the east coast and southern part of Australia. Unlike Daisy who has a bill, they have a beak. They are nectar feeders and are no threat to Daisy. But she doesn’t know that! And like any mother, she will protect her nest and her young as best she can.

At first, it was only three (one out of the picture frame). They were a little cheeky and one of them, totally curious as to why a bird they had never seen should be in the eagles nest, crept over close to Daisy. Daisy turned around in her nest and away from the pleasant morning she had been having and ruffled her feathers and readied to defend herself against birds that she had never seen also. She did not know if they were looking for insects in the nest or if they would harm her.

One of the rangers that researches the nest of the WBSE said that the Rainbow Lorikeet were there to give Daisy the Duck a lecture about not making a nest in a nest owned by sea eagles. But, alas, it is too late if that is what they are doing. Daisy is now on day 7 of incubation duties. She is devoted to her duties!

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets got very close to Daisy and Daisy was contemplating what to do to defend her nest.
At first there were three and then more came until there were more than a dozen chattering away non-stop.
Two Rainbow Lorikeets sat on the rim of the sea eagle nest chattering directly at Daisy who is watching them carefully.
A Rainbow Lorikeet Preening on the Nest Tree.

After all of the commotion – and it really was a boisterous affair – with the Rainbow Lorikeets everywhere, Daisy settled into a little bit of nest renovation. Remember the Curra and Dad the Sea Eagle had moved down off of the nest. Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck. I had no idea looking at her that her neck could get so long. She also used her bill to help gather up some down and plant material that had scattered.

A bill of a beak? Ducks have bills. They are very lightweight. The exterior coating over the interior spongy bone is made out of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. And just like our fingernails, the keratin covering is always growing, healing over dents and scratches, but also maintaining its shape after much use. Ducks do not have to go to a nail salon for a trim!

Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck!
Daisy is using her bill to bring in some of the down the Curra removed from her nest.

After nest renovations, Daisy takes some time to do some preening. Daisy’s feathers are very important to her. She is a ‘diving duck’. That means that she submerges under the water to find food. For ducks like Daisy, it is essential that their feathers be in prime condition. Many types of birds spend up to seventy percent of their time preening, conditioning their feathers. Daisy’s beautiful feathers have grown very tightly. The feathers are stiff and are quite strong compared to the down. In fact, people used to use the feathers as quills to use with ink for writing. Daisy’s feathers grow close together and overlap one another. Look closely and you can see this. They make many layers that are weather resistant and protect our duck.

Daisy preening her feathers just like the Rainbow Lorikeets.

It is nearly 11am in the world of Daisy. Dad the Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn to try and catch the intruder using his nest. Daisy has decided to try and rest a bit. She is still very alert.

Will Daisy take time in the heat of the Australian summer to go and forage? Will she voluntarily leave covering her nest? Will Dad come at dusk? We wait.

Day 6 of incubation, updated

Daisy returned to her nest at 17:50 after spending most of the day away. If you are following the sage of this little Pacific Black Duck, you will know that yesterday, ‘Dad’ the White Bellied Sea Eagle owner of the nest arrived at dawn and stayed for some six hours before departing. During that time he did mess up a little of the down but, for the majority of the time, he stood sentry duty. Dad would, of course, really like to catch the bird that has violated his territory! Because Daisy had to leave so quickly, she was unable to cover her nest. A couple of hours after Dad departed, a Pied Currawong arrived at the nest and tried to eat an egg. Unable to do so, that bird threw a bit of a fit tearing the down from around Daisy’s carefully created nest and throwing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. It was warm in Sydney yesterday and the sun shone on the nest for extended periods. Someone also told me that because of the way the sea eagle nests are constructed they hold the heat much better than ordinary nests. Let us hope so and also that the sun’s heat did not do any damage. Daisy is brooding seven eggs. They should be ready to hatch in about three weeks.

After all of the hassles yesterday, it was nice when Dad Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn! As a result, despite the wild gusts of wind exceeding 26 km an hour on the nest, Daisy was able to relax and nap.

Daisy rests but keeps alert to anyone approaching her nest.
Daisy resting with her bill tucked in behind her wing.

Daisy has had a quiet day on the nest so far. It is day six of her brooding. She has lost approximately half her weight laying her eggs and I understand that she has pulled half her down out to line the nest. Raising little ones takes its toll on mothers. Some bulk themselves up before laying their eggs. Again, I was told recently that the birds use up a lot of their calcium stores for the egg shells.

This reminds me about bird seed at your feeders for winter. You should be feeding the birds the black oil sunflower seeds. It helps give them fat to burn during the winter. It wouldn’t hurt to get a bird seed with added calcium and put it in your feeders several months prior to breeding in your area. This will help the female build up her calcium stores and help with the thickness of the eggs. That protects them from being broken easily. Some people crush the shells of the eggs they have eaten. But know that if you want to do that you need to wash the shells thoroughly to get rid of any bacteria from the chickens who laid them. Then you place them in a shallow pan and bake them at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes. You could save up a bunch and bake them the next time you used your oven.

A close up of the beautiful nest made of Daisy’s down and plant material from the sea eagle nest.

Daisy started moving plant material and leaves toward her nest around 1pm. She left the nest at 13:22 to go and forage near the Parramatta River that runs through Hornbush Bay, Australia. It is unclear whether or not she will return in a couple of hours or if she will wait as dusk begins to arrive. The last time she left volunatarily to forage at mid-afternoon, she returned and twenty minutes later, Dad Sea Eagle showed up and she has to fly away and wait until dusk to return.

Daisy carefully covered her nest with down before leaving to forage.
Daisy voluntarily left the nest to forage and carefully concealed her nest.

One thing that is worrisome is that there are ravens about today. They love eggs and are very smart. Daisy did a good job of covering her nest today. Hopefully they will not find it!

I also want to thank the individual who wrote to tell me about a nest in Poland. A Mallard laid its eggs in an eagle nest. They successfully hatched! Isn’t that wonderful? I wonder if it was an unoccupied nest? The individual told me that the Mallard did not have any of the hassles that our Daisy is having trying to brood her eggs. The story from Poland gave me hope!

QUICK UPDATE: Daisy returned to her nest at 15:51 without incident. She was cautious, listening for anyone who might be around or who might have followed her. A very wise woman said today that all of the creatures in the forest would be curious about Daisy because she normally doesn’t live there. She lives on the water. Of course. Let’s just hope that curiosity is all that is going on!

Daisy returns to the her nest after foraging.
Daisy listens carefully for sounds in the forest before starting to brood.
After checking that no one is around, Daisy finally lays on her nest cup.

And then a Currawong arrived!

If it wasn’t enough that the WBSE ‘Dad’ decided that he would keep vigil over his nest and Daisy’s eggs all morning, the Currawong that had been pestering Dad returned later when the eggs were exposed and no one was home!

The Pied Currawong is a nuisance to the WBSE. They dive at them especially when they have a nest in the area but, sadly, they also chase after the young eaglets and often send them out of the forest before they are really mature enough to leave.

At 14:55 a ‘Curra’ came on to the nest. It saw the egg that Dad had rolled out and attempted to eat it. It rolled it around in the nest but to no avail. The egg did not fit in its beak and, perhaps, because it was young, it did not know just to beat and break the ones in the nest.

But that Curra threw a hissy fit because of it! It took all of the down it could find and threw that over the rim of the big nest and then went and pulled the down that Daisy has so beautifully built her egg cup with and threw it over the rim. And then it left, in a big puff.

Daisy finally returns to the nest at 17:51. Within a few minutes she has rolled her egg back into the nest cup and has begun pulling leaves once again over to help insulate her eggs. At the time of this writing I do not know if she has enough down left on her breast to pull and add some more to the nest. The old pieces are too full of twigs and leaves to be of use to the duck.

It is nearly dawn in Australia and Daisy remains quietly incubating her eggs. The sun will rise around 6:05 and that is the time that the WBSE usually arrive to check their nest for its ‘illegal’ occupant.

As dawn breaks, Daisy awaits another day. The little duck who has faced such adversity continues to brood her eggs. No one knows whether or not the heat from the sun will have kept the eggs warm enough for them to hatch. Indeed, no one knows if the eggs are even fertile. But there is a single male down by the canal that Daisy joins when she is foraging. And that male came with her to make a hole in this big sea eagle nest around December 11, 2020. Hopefully they are fertile and Daisy will endure. But the life of any bird is full of adversity.

Will the White Bellied Sea Eagles return to the nest? will they come and leave? Will Dad decide to stay all day? It certainly seems that he can sit for hours and that is what I am told eagles do – sit and sit for long periods of time. If no one is on the nest again, will the Curra return to destroy Daisy’s nest? We wait.

Was it THE Standoff?

Daisy the Pacific Black Duck returned to incubate her eggs in the old Ironbark Tree at 7:46 pm. She had a really uneventful night on the nest.

The pattern has been for the WBSE ‘Dad’ to come either alone or with his mate, ‘Lady’, at dawn to check on the nest. Every morning Daisy has been alert and has been able to leave the nest quickly, sometimes even being able to cover up her eggs. Today was her fifth day of incubation.

The cameras have not yet switched to their daylight setting and Daisy is very alert to everything that is going on in the forest. If Dad sticks to his pattern, he will show up any time.

At 6:05:49, Daisy hears Dad landing on the branch that supports the camera tree. She has only a split second to get off her nest before the largest sea bird in Australia arrives!

The camera operator took the opportunity while Dad was still standing at the edge of the nest to zoom in on the eggs to see if any of them were broken. It appears that all six are intact. Daisy laid eight. Dad ate one and one was probably lost in the forest the day Dad chased her off of the tree before she could lay her egg. And that is only a guess. She had laid an egg each morning so there is no reason to presume that she did not that morning.

To me, one of the most interesting aspects is the way in which the little duck made the egg bowl or cup to hold her eggs. Using the down she took from her breast and simple plant material and leaves she has almost felted together a lovely nest, the envy in its colour selections of any interior designer.

Dad still remains confused. He knows ‘something is up’ but precisely what that is, he is unsure. This is his nest in his territory and there are eggs and some lightweight fluffy material that is new to him.

At first Dad simply messes with the down like he has done every morning. It seems to mystify him. But at 8:21:31, he sticks his beak into the nest cup and rolls out an egg. You can see that egg in the featured image at the beginning of this blog. Then he goes back up to the parent branch of the Ironbark Tree and stands guard.

WBSE Dad was just not happy when he could not catch the intruder in his nest.
Dad poked around the duck’s nest but did not break any eggs.
Dad was always on alert to see if anyone was going to come to the nest.

Dad monitors all of the activity in the forest. Each little thing that moves gets his attention. What became interesting was that the Pied Currawongs that bother him and Lady and also chase their young out of the forest before they are ready to fledge, sometimes, came around the tree. Just as Dad would have done if it was his eggs on the nest, he sounded an alarm, a honk, for them to leave. And they complied!

Dad guarded his nest and Daisy’s eggs against the Pied Currawong who might have eaten the eggs.

Dad left the nest to chase some small birds at 11:54 am. He has not returned. At that point, the eggs had been uncovered for six hours. It is now almost 3pm and the eggs have been uncovered for nine hours. One lucky thing for Daisy is that the sun shone directly onto the nest cup. Whether or not the egg that is showing (see below) that Dad rolled is too hot is unknown.

It is summer in Australia and the temperatures range from 25-29 or even 30 C. It is anyone’s guess if the eggs are viable or if they were even fertilized in the first place. Some birders on the ground did see a lone Black Pacific male duck swimming in the canal yesterday.

The big question is: Did the WBSE finally achieve their goal which was to scare away the intruder for good? Stay tuned!

The one egg that Dad rolled out of the nest is sitting in full sunlight.

Is it eviction day for Daisy?

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck didn’t have any problems during the night. She had foraged at dusk and returned and all was well.

What Daisy didn’t know is that both WBSE Dad and Lady spent the night at their Parramatta River roost. It is not farm from the Ironbark Tree nest. Some are thinking that they will try to arrive early and catch the bird that is using their nest and evict them.

Daisy begins to sense something is happening and by 6:42 she is quacking and has moved off the nest, still quacking, to a branch of the old Ironbark Tree.

She continues to quack loudly, protesting and defending her eggs, until 5:43:46 when she flies away. One second later, ‘Dad’ the WBSE arrives at the nest! ‘Lady’ arrives after Dad. Can you believe this? She flew away at the blink of an eye when Dad landed on the tree. I wonder if she went to forage or if she hid in the forest watching and waiting til it was safe for her to return.

Lady flings the down around the nest and pokes at the eggs several times. Unlike Dad who seemed more confused for the past four days, Lady appears to be quite upset. Dad sits on the ‘left parent branch’ of the tree observing Lady who seems not to like the down sticking to her talons. It doesn’t appear that any eggs were harmed but that might not be the case. Lady moves up to the tree with Dad occupying the one of the right parent branches.

At 5:57:28 the WBSE sing their ‘duet’ or morning song together on the nest. Not only is this a way to wake up the forest and greet the sun but it is also a territorial call. ‘This is our territory!’ The White Bellied Sea Eagles are the largest birds in the old forest and, as such, are the ‘King Pins’. Little birds tease them during the night but they are not to be messed with, not their nest. Remember: no other bird has laid their eggs in this nest, ever!

Lady leaves the Ironbark Tree first and then Dad follows. A second duet can be heard near by at 6:04. Then all is quiet. Off in the distance, the WBSE do a third ‘duet’ at 6:12. The WBSE are telling the birds in the forest that they are upset and something has violated their territory! Will Daisy return? Did Lady break any of the eggs? Will the eggs be viable with so many interruptions and the down removed?

At 6:45 a cautious Daisy the Duck returns to the nest undaunted by all of the scattered down. She is accompanied by two Noisy Miners who, at first glance, appear to be her defensive escort. Noisy Miners are members of the honeyeater family. They are a grey bird with a black head and white tips on their feathers. I would not call their song ‘a’ song. It is more like a screech. They are more like an irritant than anything that can harm Daisy. They often come to the Ironbark Tree when there are eaglets on the nest.

This is such a brave little duck! She has to have the very best hearing as she makes her successful escapes the second that one of the WBSEs come to the nest.

Anxious moments….

The Pacific Black Duck, Daisy, left her nest at 14:41 to forage in the nearby Parramatta River. I watched her as she began to ready herself. She pulled more leaves and plant material to the nest and began quickly to push the down into the nest bowl. She carefully covered all up and departed from the right side of the Ironbark Tree, the exact spot that the White Bellied Sea Eagles land when they bring food to their eaglets.

It has been almost a half hour since Daisy left and I find that my pulse is racing. There are noises in the forests, alerts, vocalizing. Which are friend? and which are foe? It is a blistering hot afternoon in Sydney. Maybe Daisy knows that the other birds will be out hunting at dawn and dust and maybe quietly napping during the sweltering heat of midday. If so, that could certainly help protect her eggs while she is away. It is a shame that there is no defensive mode for the male partner to play so that the eggs are safe while she is away.

Daisy has been gone almost an hour. Most of the literature on ducks and their incubation says that they normally stay on the eggs twenty-three out of twenty-four hours. I find my heart racing faster every time I hear the call of a bird glancing up as nervous as Daisy is on the nest. I do wish she would return! Quite honestly if I could jump through the computer screen, I would go and sit on those eggs so that no one could harm them.

A falconer acquaintance, Laura Culley, says that we should not worry. She says it is assuming the outcome before it has even happened. And, of course, she is right.

Most duck nests actually do not survive. But I think that this one is special. Daisy arrived on the nest just about the time a friend of mine had an operation and received some ‘not so terrific’ news from her doctors. My friend does not want to die, she wants to live and the people that she has met and the fact that this duck is on this nest has energized her. Daisy just could be a life saver. I hope so. But for her to do that, she needs to be able to incubate these eggs and have her beautiful ducklings jump off the edge to start their lives. For now, just sharing the comings and goings, the suspense, and the hope of the nest with others is making my friend happy to wake up every morning. Bird cams have a way of doing that.

My anxiety. I wish it had been for naught. At 1600, WBSE landed on the nest. They carefully, looking all around them, walked over to the nest and began flinging the down. Then after what seemed like a life time but was only a minute, they jumped up to the parent branch and then went and stood guard on a the far end of a branch of the nest tree. It was quite nerve wracking. The WBSE has been acting erratic. He appears to be completely confused by the nest and the down. The fact that he has not returned to eat more eggs is hopeful. But he appears to be both curious and weary of whoever is using ‘his’ nest.

Dad the WBSE listens for any approaching bird.
Dad reaches down and puts his beak into the soft down.
Dad stops what he is doing to raise his head and check on noises from the forest.
Dad makes a mess of Daisy’s tidy nest walking away, for the second time, with a piece of down.
Dad at the far right of the image keeping watching over his nest.
Dad certainly can make a mess in a few seconds.

But thankfully, mess or not, Dad did not disturb the eggs!

Dad leaves just as quickly as he arrives. He made a mess of Daisy’s tidy nest but he did not disturb the eggs. He spent most of his time poking his beak into the down and then quickly raising his head to see if anything was approaching the nest. Indeed, when he was on the nest he was just about as anxious as I have been all day hoping that no predator would arrive while Daisy was away. And then poof! Dad is gone. What is he doing with the down and where does he go?

Daisy returns to the nest about twenty minutes after Dad the WBSE has departed. She is cautious. You can tell that he knows something has been there. She looks around and slowly makes her way to the nest where she begins to gather the plant material and the down that Dad had tossed about.

Daisy returns to her nest and immediately knows something has been there.
After about a minute, Daisy begins to incubate her eggs slowly bringing the plant material and down back close to her body that Dad has tossed about.

It is nearing 1700 Sydney time. It is unlikely that Daisy will leave again before night falls. The shade is falling over the old Ironbark Tree and Daisy’s camouflage offers her some security – let’s hope!

The shadows and Daisy’s excellent camouflage are good protection.

Gusts and a creaking Ironbark Tree kept the curious away

Daisy might have been awake all night with the loud creaks and swaying of the Ironbark Tree in the frequent gusts of high winds last night but not a single intruder was spotted. BooBook Owl stayed home. WBSE Dad didn’t venture out to check on the nest in the evening or this morning. It has been more than twenty-four hours since he has been about. Spotters on the ground say that he is off at Goat Island, some 12.2 km away, with Lady. And, so far, Raven has not made an appearance. It is nearly 7am, the tree is creaking gently and Daisy is quietly doing nest maintenance. If you squint your eye, the white in the down lining of the nest looks like little twinkle lights.

Notice how Daisy turns clockwise in the nest as she continues maintenance and rolling the eggs.
Daisy continues to take down from her breast adding it to the nest and turning clockwise.

Sometimes Daisy will quickly get off the eggs to go and fetch more plant material somewhere else on the big WBSE nest that she can’t reach by extending her neck as far as it can.

Daisy quickly leaves nest to gather up more plant material from the WBSE nest.

When Daisy prepares to leave to forage for food, which she did last evening for about an hour, she tucks the down into the nest cup folding it over on the inside. She also uses her beak and stretching her neck she pulls leaves up close. This way she can cover the eggs while she is away. Of course, we have now seen times when Daisy is frightened off the nest by both the WBSE Dad and BooBook Owl but, normally, she takes the time to gently and quickly conceal those precious eggs.

Daisy Stretches her Neck to bring in plant material near to the nest cup
Daisy continues to use her bill to bring in leaves and plant material close to the neck cup. She might be preparing to cover the eggs and leave for a quick morning foraging.

I wonder if you have ever thought about the amount of energy it takes a duck to lay an egg? I certainly hadn’t until this year when I watched Bald Eagles have hard labours when laying an egg and then Daisy. Those eggs don’t just pop out easy!

Sibley says that a single egg can weigh as much as 12% of the bird’s body weight. For Daisy, remember that she layed an egg every day for nine days. That has to be exhausting! Specials with precocial young often lay more eggs because the mother does not have to feed them. Precocial young are more fully developed when they hatch. Their eyes are open and they are fully feathered. In the case of the Black Pacific Ducks they can walk and find their own food. Remember that the ducklings will jump off the nest and follow the parent to the water to forage for food. They will actually jump off the nest before they are fully capable of flying like their mother. Daisy will keep them warm at night for approximately two to three weeks. Altricial young require much more care. They are born without feathers and require their parents to feed them until they are capable of self-feeding. A good example of an Altricial young is a Tree Swallow.

It is now after 10 am and Daisy has had only one intruder. The Raven showed up about 8am. Daisy quickly reached over and clacked, like she did yesterday, and off it went! Hopefully Daisy will have a non-eventful day on the nest. Fingers crossed!

Oh, what a ‘BOO’ tiful night or…not. BooBook Owl comes to check on Daisy’s nest and then Daisy is ‘RAVEN’

The feature image shows an Australian BooBook Owl sitting on the rim of the sea eagle nest where Daisy has her eggs. She flew off the nest as soon as Boo arrived.

Boobook Owls are the smallest owls in Australia measuring from 10.5 to 14 cm (27 to 36 inches) in length. Those of us watching the White-Bellied Sea Eagle (WBSE) nest in the old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park are very familiar with ‘Boo’. The BooBook eats insects and small vertebrates. They breed in late winter and early summer and have their nests in tree hollows. Little Boo is infamous for striking the adult WBSE when they perch on their nest at night and for flying at and hitting the juveniles in the nest. Once or twice this past nesting season, Boo inflicted injury on the eye of WBSE mom, Lady. Boo is a nuisance but not thought a tremendous threat to Daisy. The problem is when she is frightened and flies off of the nest leaving her eggs exposed. For all purposes, it appears that Daisy is like a single mom having to do the incubating and the defence. She is one tough little duck.

Daisy returns to her nest around 4:43 am, some three hours after Boo lands on the nest. She waddled slowly over to the nest, looking this way and that, making sure that there were no more intruders. She settled and began incubation as she could not feel any threats still around.

Daisy returning to her nest after BooBook Owl leaves.

Daisy remained on the nest incubating her eggs until WBSE Dad comes to check on the nest at 5:39:25. This has to be one confused adult male sea eagle! There are eggs in HIS nest and he is trained not to step on eggs in case they might be his!

Daisy meanwhile made her quick escape just 25 seconds prior to the sea eagle landing.

WBSE arrives at dawn to his nest in the Ironbark Tree.
WBSE Dad lands at dawn to see if that strange thing in the middle of his nest is still there. Everyone holds their breath. What will he do?
WBSE Dad staring at the duck nest on the morning of January 15.
WBSE Dad arriving back at his nest and checking out Daisy’s nest. Yes, Dad, it is still there! You have not been imagining anything.
WBSE Dad poking his beak into the duck’s nest. Hopefully he did not break any eggs. He did this twice.
WBSE Dad grabbing a piece of duck down off Daisy’s nest.

Daisy could have been watching from a short distance because she returned to the nest as soon as Dad flew away at 6:30:29. This is one lucky duck!

After all the excitement of Boo and Dad, Daisy settles in to hopefully a quiet morning on the nest.

Two visits. It is a wonder that Daisy settled back on her eggs at all. Everything is quiet until 8:44. A raven lands on a branch of the nest and then jumps down to the rim! An egg eating raven!

An Australian Raven arrives on the nest rim.

The Australian Raven grows to 46–53 centimetres long or 18-21 inches. They appear an iridescent purplish blue-green and black in their plumage. They are part of the passerine family that includes crows. And they love eggs! Indeed, they are a great robber of nests. They are opportunistic feeders living on both plant and animals as well as food waste.

Daisy’s first reaction to the raven was to press her body flat in the nest. She appeared very frightened at first. And then she stood her ground. She leaned forward off of the eggs slightly and clacked at the raven. And, guess what? It flew away!

In the image below you can see Daisy stretching her neck and laying flat on the nest, just off the eggs, clacking. The tail of the raven can be see just slightly above the bottom right hand corner as the bird departs!

Daisy clacking at the raven to protect her eggs

Daisy has settled back on her eggs in hopes of a much more quiet day. Stay tuned! It is not even noon in Australia and no telling what is going to happen next in The Chronicles of Daisy the Duck.

Daisy often turns clockwise in her nest enlarging it and also you will see her go in with her head. She is aerating the nest.
Daisy continues to add down from her breast working to make it softer and softer.

Thanks to BirdLife Australia and the WBSE Sea Eagle cam for the scaps.