Annie and Alden, a whopper for Zoe and some serious hovering…early Monday in Bird World

21 November 2022

Oh, the best of the morning to all of you! I hope this newsletter finds you well and happy and taking some time to de-stress out of doors if you need it — or watching our marvellous birds from inside your home or on the streaming cams. It is so nice to have you hear with us.

The weather continues to be wintery with no break now until spring, late spring normally here in Canada. The garden animals have been all flooded up keeping warm. Me, too! It is, however, very hard to imagine that in 40 days it will be a brand new year.

Dyson never disappoints in her ability to find and get food efficiently. She has a perfect spot on a branch where she sits and can eat right out of the bird feeder!

The Starlings really are lovely. This one flew down to check out what the Blue Jay was interested in on the deck but, normally they always stay in the lilacs or the back trees.

The Starlings and Sparrows share the Butter Bark.

In the Mailbox:

‘J’ sent a link to a blog that some of you might find interesting. It goes to the heart of our earlier discussions about birds and emotions. Thank you ‘J’!

Website of Gaby Schulemann-Maier: https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.birds-online.de%2Fwp%2Fen%2Fbirds-online-english%2F&data=05%7C01%7C%7C49ef41f33eef4818ef3508dacb2dc009%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C638045694605754558%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=v%2Fr%2BhO5flt0reUFvtxw5W3DyZoKqhMrl8uH5CodWB7E%3D&reserved=0

‘BG’ and I both agree that we neither fans of soccer or Twitter but, a World Cup of Birds – yes! Each team in the World Cup has been assigned a bird. Let’s follow and see who wins. Thanks ‘BG’ for sending me this!

Jer Thorp: “We’ve got 4 days until the World Cup. 4 days to decide the MOST important question: Which country in the tournament has the best national bird? 16 birds have already flown home. 16 are ready for glory. Welcome to the knockout stages of the #WorldCupOfBirds!!!”

Making News:

‘B’ sent me a note. Annie and Alden were on camera at The Campanile on the grounds of UC-Berkeley on Sunday. I admit to shedding a couple of little tears – tears of joy – to see them together and with such a nice crop. Looking forward to screaming eyases. Can’t wait. Thank you ‘B’. I know that everyone has been wondering about this lovely couple – Alden another one of those amazing males that stepped in and saved the season.

Emyr Evans of the Dyfi Osprey Project in Wales has permission to post all the information about Paith. Faith was the youngest of the three osplets (2 females, 1 male) of Idris and Telly at the Dyfi nest. The information that Evans has comes from early September – so awhile ago but he just received it. Faith was in Brittany, one of the northern most areas off France and due south as straight as a crow could fly from her nest in Wales. Is she on her way to Africa? or will she overwinter in France?

To get the full story and see the maps, and migration ages of the osplets from Dyfi, please go to dfyispreyproject.com

Tiger Mozone has also posted some information that indicates there are Ospreys that do over winter in this area of France. I think this is really interesting because it is always presumed that the birds go all the way to Africa. It appears not and we do know that many are now over wintering in Portugal and Spain. It may help with the decline in populations due to migration incidents and it might also speak to the changing landscape in Africa in terms of fish availability.

Congratulations goes out to Dave Anderson who has won the prestigious prize – the RSPB Species Award. Anderson is well known in the UK raptor world for his work with White-tailed Eagles and, in particular, promoting research on them by using satellite tracking. I cannot think of a more deserving person. You can read all about him and his extensive work with raptors – a life dedicated to bettering theirs – by clicking on the link in the announcement below.

Australian Nests:

Early Monday morning in Australia, Xavier went to the scrape box with a nice prey item for breakfast. Was he trying to lure Rubus and Indigo to the box?

Indigo will arrive in the box and will be seen on the top of the tower but, Rubus did not fly up to join Indigo. They have been seen in the trees and it would appear that all is well. Xavier was there with them for some time and Diamond was photographed flying around the trees keeping guards on her precious fledglings.

News has come in regarding Rubus today: “Rubus fledged yesterday at 0818 h and has been found alive and well in a pine shelterbelt a few hundred metres from the tower. He was in a tree (so can fly at least a bit). He was still in the same area this morning, but a bit closer to the tower, He was found on the ground and placed in a tree in the woodland.”

Shines found Rubus and wrapped him in a blanket and placed him on the tree branch. Thank you, Shines!

Xavier and Diamond have both been in and out of the scrape. It is entirely possible that they are trying to lure Rubus back into the box so that he can rest and they can feed him there.

In Port Lincoln, Dad flew in with a whopper for Zoe at 1015. Port Lincoln has a severe wind alert for gusts up to 34 kph. Mum and Dad are very smart. This is one way to keep Zoe on the nest – a big fish!

Mum flies in while Zoe mantles the fish.

Just look. Dad had a good feed and Mum is looking down knowing there should be some left for her, too. I wonder if Zoe will want all of this fish to herself?

Zoe is trying. She has her talons in the fish holding it down and is doing a pretty good job eating away.

That is a big fish!

Mum would really like to have some of that nice fish but Zoe isn’t quite ready to give up.

At 11:56 Mum takes control of the fish. Zoe looks like she wants Mum to feed her. She has not made much progress on it herself.

Mum had different ideas. She wants some fish, too and it looks like Zoe ate enough to have a nice crop. Mum flies away with that fish so she can enjoy it all to herself. I wonder if she will bring any of it back to Zoe?

Zoe was not happy!

Of course, the answer is ‘yes’. Mum ate her fill and returned to the next some time later to feed Zoe.

That fish was sooooooooo large that the entire family had a nice big meal. How grand. Thanks Dad!

Zoe did some serious helicoptering. She is ready to fly! It will be soon.

No 11 The Red List: Montagu’s Harrier

Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus” by Ian N. White is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Montagu’s Harrier is the most rare of any of the birds of prey in the UK. This incredible raptor was not in any nest records in the UK in 2020 nor in 2021. Their numbers began to decline in 2015. That year there were only 5 nests in the UK. It is feared that they might already be extinct, not just vulnerable.

These are magnificent raptors that fly low, like the Hen Harrier, in search of rabbits, small birds, lizards, insects, and shrews. They also soar high above the fields in the thermals and their flying and hunting has been described as ‘spectacular’.

Just look at that stunning plumage. Again, it is anything but a drab grey. How about a light blue steel grey on the wings with a light cream around the eye, a very slight dark blue grey eye line and band around the cream. How else would you describe this magnificent species?

Montagu’s Harrier – Circus pygargus (male)” by Tarique Saniis licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

They are a medium sized raptor, 43-47 cm long, that is slim with very long pointed wings like a Hen Harrier. They have a long tail. The upper body of the male is grey. The primaries are black and the secondaries have a black stripe or band across them. They are white underneath. The female is a gorgeous dark brown. The bills are hooked and black with a bright chrome-yellow cere. Their legs and feet are also chrome-yellow. Notice the striking yellow eyes.

The demise of the Montagu’s Harrier is due to the over and expanding use of pesticides, the expansion of fields into modern agriculture, the destruction of their nests which are on the ground in the fields during harvesting. In addition, their food sources have declined dramatically due to the use of pesticides! These raptors need protected areas for nesting and an end to the use of contemporary pesticides that kill the birds by secondary poisoning or by killing their food source. The Montagu’s Harrier migrates to Africa and so, in both of their respective homes, they are subject to ever expanding agricultural practices and the use of deadly poisons. Those poisons should be banned internationally. They are also quite dangerous to humans. Ask anyone who has lived around a farm in Canada who has developed asthma and breathing issues early in their life.

This is an immature. Notice that gorgeous rust brown above the yellow legs, the barred tail with the grey and espresso brown, the light grey around those chrome-yellow eyes…what a beauty.

Montagu’s Harrier immature” by Rainbirder is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

I couldn’t leave without posting an image of a mature female Montagu’s Harrier. These females are stunning in their own right. Look closely. Their plumage is anything but a drab brown. Starting with the head and around the eyes, that bright chrome-yellow cere stands out amongst that deep chocolate brown. The white around the eyes with the espresso eyeliner and eye liner inside of the dark espresso band on a camel coloured head and breast are brilliant. It took a lot of the crayons out of the box to come up with this outstanding colour palette. That camel mixes with the deep chelate again on the back, and the wings while holding its own on the breast, chest and underparts. She is gorgeous.

File:Montagu’s Harrier, juvenile, Bangalore, India (edit).jpg” by Cks3976 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Oh, thank you so much for being with me today. It is always my pleasure to carry on and on and on about the beautiful feathered friends that bring us so much joy – and most often, tranquility. Take dare of yourselves. See you soon!

Thank you to the following for their posts and streaming cams where I took my screen captures: ‘BG’ for the World Cup of Birds, ‘B’ for letting me know about Annie and Alden, ‘J’ for her great link in the mail re birds and emotions, Cal Faldons, Dyfi Osprey Project, Gregarious J Toonen for Ospreys Pandion Haliaetus FB and Tiger Mozone, Port Lincoln Ospreys, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, and Open Verse.

Indigo fed on top of tower…and other Early Friday news in Bird World

18 November 2022

Good Morning Everyone,

I hope this newsletter finds all of you well. It is the end of the week. In a fortnight I will be on the island of Grenada in the West Indies visiting my son and looking for birds. He doesn’t know it but I have plotted the spots on the island and I am hoping that we can see at least 25% of the birds on the island – that would be about 40 new species. There are Ospreys right by his office and I am told hummingbirds and hawks in his garden. Can’t wait. With the pandemic, it has been far too long since I have seen him. There are many birds that I do not know or some that have similar names such as the Coot but the one in the Caribbean has a white shield on its head along with its white beak. There are any number of shore birds. So excited. I have a copy of the small book, Birds of the Eastern Caribbean on my desk to help me get acquainted.

In the Mailbox:

An absolutely timely and great question from ‘H’: “Funny you mentioned about the three Stepdads for Peregrine families. I was just thinking about that yesterday. I had wondered if you had ever known any other species where that had occurred. Have you known of any cases where another male had taken over responsibilities of hunting/incubating/parenting duties at the nests of Ospreys or Eagles, for example? (Not including where a chick had intentionally been placed on a different nest) Is this just a Peregrine Falcon thing?”

A bit of background for those not familiar. It is hard to imagine Diamond without Xavier. I recounted in my last blog how Xavier came and helped Diamond with her eyases when Bula disappeared. He was named Xavier because he was a saviour to our dear Diamond and her clutch. The eyases would not have survived having just hatched without Xavier bringing food to Diamond. We all know that Alden stepped in for Grinnell at the University of California at Berkeley scrape belonging to Annie. And we have recently witnessed Male2022 help raise Male2017’s eyases at the ledge scrape of 367 Collins Street in Melbourne. There are a number of instances coming out of the UK where a step dad or extended family members have helped raise clutches including fledglings. But, to get back to the question at hand.

Ospreys go absolutely crazy at the thought the eggs that are in the nest might belong to another male. I posted a couple of video examples a few months back of an osprey kicking the eggs out of the nest that he believed belonged to another male. I have never seen a male Osprey raise another male’s osplets. I have also never seen an eagle of any species take over the role of the male and raise another’s eaglets.

There are, as you seem to have indicated, many instances whereby the fostering of eggs and/or chicks has been successful but that is an entirely different situation to what you are asking. I have tried to find literature on the topic to more fully answer your question and if there is anyone reading this that knows of examples other than Peregrine Falcons becoming active step-dads, please do bring that to my attention.

After reading about ‘J’s’ budgie, Wolpe, Raj writes that they had a very similar incident with their pet birds. ” My pet budgie Daisy was best friends with Blue. Both inseparable. Loving each other always side by side. One day Daisy died. I held Daisy in my palm. Blue was so distressed and loudly screeched when Daisy died. Blue was very quiet not eating or playing.” When a new budget, Sky, came to the family, Blue was not interested. He was only in love with Daisy.” Thank you, Raj. This another beautiful example of the emotions that our feathered friends feel and express.

In the News:

Humans must steer clear of Yew trees as they are very poisonous to us but, not to our charming Nuthatches!

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/16/country-diary-the-nuthatch-takes-a-toxin-that-can-paralyse-our-hearts

Australian Nests:

Zoe is a big girl. We knew that when they weighed and banded her but today, Mum purposefully left a nice fish (sans head) for Zoe to see what she would do. Well, Zoe took the fish and ate every last bite including the tail as watchers cheered her on. The fish tail was horked at 11:11.

Zoe takes pulls the fish over so she can eat it as Mum looks on. This is crucial – Mum is full and knows that Zoe needs to self feed and will be fledging soon.

“Nice talons you have, Zoe.” “All the better to scratch you with!”

At Orange, panic might have set in if you looked at the scrape and did not see any eyases in there. Indigo flew out and was on top of the tower. Look carefully and you will see Rubus sleeping in the corner – bottom left reveals his tail.

A really nice and informative interview with Cilla Kinross about the history of the scrape and the Peregrine Falcons at Orange.

Indigo left the scrape at 101439 and he returned at 121012. Diamond had been in the scrape with prey and flew out with it right when Indigo came back. Rubus was really wondering what was going on and gave some of his very loud prey cries.

After a busy morning with 4 prey deliveries in 5 hours – and one being removed – the two lads, Indigo and Rubus, settled down to a nice sleep on the ledge.

I don’t know about anyone else but, I am really pleased that Indigo is returning to the scrape box, flying off for short periods to strengthen him flying techniques, and then returning again for prey and rest. Surely this will help him to be much more successful!

‘A’ sent a link to a video of Indigo being fed on top of the water tower. Thanks, ‘A’! Great clip.

The Red List. No 8. White-tailed Eagle

White – tailed eagle” by gcalsa is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

At one time there were thought to be at least 1400 pairs of breeding White-tailed Eagles in the United Kingdom. By the beginning of the 20th century, the White-tailed Eagle was almost extinct. Before their recent re-introduction, the birds last bred in England and Wales in the 1830s, in Ireland in 1898 and in Scotland in 1916.   The RSPB reports that the last UK birds was shot in Shetland in 1918.

White-tailed eagle” by Ignacio Ferre is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Reintroduction efforts began in 1959 and 1968 in Scotland. They were not successful. Then in 1975, juvenile eagles brought to the UK from Norway were released on the Isle of Rum in the Hebrides. The first pair bred successfully a decade later and now there are 130 pairs of White-tail breeding Eagles across the west and north of Scotland.

White-tail Eagles have added much to the economy and at the Isle of Munn where there are so many, the boost to the local coffers from bird tourism was 5 million GBP. Still, humans kill these beautiful birds.

The reintroduction efforts were the hard work of Roy Dennis and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. Continuing efforts are now overseen by the Sea Eagle Project Team – a joint effort of the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage. The biggest threats are predation by illegal killing particularly around the grouse hunting estates and secondary poisoning.  

Thank you so much for being with me today. Please take care of yourselves. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their posts, videos, and streaming cams that make up my screen captures: ‘A’, OpenVerse, The Guardian, Port Lincoln Ospreys, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, and OmarGlobal.