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.

Early Friday in Bird World

11 November 2022

Good Morning Everyone!

The sky is gradually turning blue and there are 57 European Starlings in the trees and 49 Old World Sparrows. Two Blue Jays have also already been to the feeders. There is so much snow. It was blowing and coming down hard around midnight and in certain places in the garden it is more than a foot deep. Winter has set in.

In the Mailbox:

Oh, I get the most marvelous mail but today ‘A’ reminded me of a very poignant moment last year. The 4th eyas at 367 Collins was dying. The entire family – including the siblings that had fledged – returned to the ledge to spend the night and keep the wee one warm as it passed. So, yes, the Collins Street falcons can fly back up to that ledge! Thanks, ‘A’. I remember that moment well. It is one of the finest examples of caring and grieving in Bird World. Do you remember?

I also received a fantastic letter from ‘K’ that reminds us of just how one single invention from an Ornithologist at Cornell saved the Peregrine Falcon population after its demise because of DDT. Do any of you know what that invention was? Think about it! I will bring it in to tomorrow’s newsletter.

Australian Nests:

Friday has been a very eventful day in the Australian nests and it kicked off with Indigo’s fledge at 0700:34. My goodness what a beautiful flight and it appears that Diamond and Xavier kept a good eye on Indigo and may have just delivered a nice piece of prey to her in the trees – prey that Rubus thought might have been coming to him!

Off she goes. Rubus did not notice – too busy eating his breakfast.

An adult almost immediately comes into the scrape and feeds Rubus. This is a great strategy. Rubus is no where near fledging. Keep him full, keep him in the scrape. No premature fledging.

Oh, Rubus is clearly starting to look like a little falcon. Look at those eyes. Rubus stayed facing the camera when Xavier came in with the prey. Having no screaming Rubus, Xavier immediately departs with food and flies down into the trees where Indigo is.

Sleeping standing up. Notice the beautiful barring coming on Rubus’s chest.

​Moderators RECAP: 06:42:35 X w/prey, Indigo takes; 07:00:33 Indigo fledges; 07:00:38 D follows Indigo; 07:01:33 D feeds leftovers; 07:25:43 juv star, X feeds; 09 26 07 D feeds scrap; 10:10:51 D w/prey, feeds…12:44:00 D with prey, Rubus takes; 15:54:13 X with prey, Rubus takes; 18:48:54 D with prey, Rubus takes.

There is a storm forecast for Orange on Sunday. Let us all keep positive thoughts flowing to Indigo. It will be day 3 after fledge.

When the excitement of the fledge at Orange had settled a wee bit, it was time for Melbourne and, much to the delight of everyone, a gentleman who has a view of the ledge from his bathroom actually filmed one of the eyases fledging this morning! Brilliant. It was quickly removed from the FB page but, the more than 500 viewers who saw it knew that there were no only 3 or, perhaps, 2 left on the ledge of 367 Collins Street. Two could be seen clearly. IF one was in the gutter, flat, loafing, then maybe three were left but, it is probably save to say that two have fledged in Melbourne.

For all the fledges may you always be safe, maybe your crop always be full, and may you feel the wind beneath your wings for decades.

At Port Lincoln it is a question of ‘where is the fish’. The water around the barge is a little choppy. A fish came on the nest at 0835 and Mum, thankfully, ate her fill. She gave some bites to Big. Dad has not been up to his usual standards in terms of delivery numbers. Did the storm stir up the sediment and is the visibility poor for fishing? is it the choppy water? is Dad not feeling well. I noticed the other day when they did a close up of Dad’s talons that he had a lesion on one of them. All of know that he was unwell when eggs were being incubated. Let us hope that this is just passing and that all will be back to normal at Port Lincoln. This family has faced enough challenges this season. Big is not scheduled to fledge for at least another 8-10 days at least.

Ah, a fish has come in. Mum caught it and is eating her good share before taking it over to Big who is fish calling on the nest. Hold your horses Big – the order is: territory protected, parents fed, offspring fed.

And, if you are wondering, yes, this is Mum. She has gone out and caught the fish. Dad left earlier and has not returned. She is sure going to eat her share before she hands it off to Big. Just do a drop and dash – Big needs to self feed! Gosh. It has been 15 minutes. Wonder if Mum will eat the entire fish?

At 1509 Mum flew to the nest with the fish to feed Big. So far she has kept control of the fish and is feeding. Maybe she will eat some more herself.

Gosh, that fish is tough to get the flesh off. Mum is really working at it giving Big a few bites and some that she could eat on her own.

Mum is feeding slowly and she is eating fish, too. At 1546 Dad flies in with a headless fish to the nest. Mum is in the background eating fish as fast as she can. Big and her will have enough fish for today. Let us hope that Dad had a good portion, too. It is so nice to see Dad. He was gone for awhile. I hope he was out fishing with Ervie in those choppy waters.

Mum in the back eating the rest of her fish as fast as she can. Dad’s is not big. He could have just eaten it but, he doesn’t. He leaves his small offering for Big and Mum. Thanks, Dad! I do hope you ate. Big has a crop and is fine.

Port Lincoln has said there will be no banding on Saturday. So, perhaps, the banding will take place on Sunday or Monday.

Mum went over to cover her only surviving osplet when the rain started. What an amazing parent she is! Little Dad is down in the shed. Let us hope that these two are alright. Everyone was so worried about Dad yesterday. He was away for so long.

Right now it is pitching down rain at Port Lincoln. The forecast I am seeing so a high chance of rain all morning at Port Lincoln.

Number 4. The Red List: The Cirl Bunting

Cirl Bunting – Sardinia – Italy_S4E1978” by fveronesi1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In some countries, birds are of least concern while, in others, they are vulnerable and, in the case of the Cirl Bunting, on the Red List in the UK. It is of LC in the United States.

This lovely little bird is a relative of the Yellowhammer. Just pause for a moment and look at the image above. How would you describe it? First, it is difficult to understand the size of the bird without any reference. Normally they are approximately 15 cm or 6 inches in length. During the breeding season, the males have a distinctive black chin. Below is a drawing of a male and female. In this you can get a better feel for how the male should look with its two yellow eye lines, black chin and crown, yellow line at the neck with a grey-olive collar and yellow underbelly. The female is much more striated with a vertically barred chest and a touch of the same olive-grey at the top of the wing. They are lovely little birds.

Cirl Bunting” by Wildreturn is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

So why are the Cirl Buntings under threat of extinction? Farming practices is the main issue. The bird was once common all across the southern half of the United Kingdom. In the 20th century their population numbers began to spiral downwards when farming practices switched from spring sown cereal crops to autumn sown. Habitat intrusion and the use of pesticides also impacted the population numbers.

The RSPB worked with farmers in south Devon to switch back to traditional farming practices. The result was an increase in the numbers of Cirl Bunting along the cost. What had once been only 118 pairs in 1989 became 1000 pairs in 2016. This is fantastic news and all it meant was a return to the traditional sowing practices of farmers, the growth of shrubs and hedges, etc. Here is an excellent article from a farming on line journal that speaks to the challenges and what can be done for the Cirl Bunting to save it. Think rewilding!

There is still cause for concern. Farmers across the rest of the UK and elsewhere need to heed the use of pesticides and they need to pay particular attention to how their cycle impacts wildlife. The decline could lead to extinction just as quickly as the population numbers climbed over the past 30 years.

Other Nests:

I am so grateful to ‘B’ for alerting me to Indigo’s fledge but he also sent me a note telling me that Samson and Gabby were in their nest as Tropical Storm Nicole plummeted the area near Jacksonville. Well done you two. Riding out the storm together like Harriet and M15.

Jackie and Shadow are another power couple. They have really worked on this nest and they sure didn’t want a storm to take it away!

B’ wrote me first thing to say that both Gabby and Samson are fine and so is SWFlorida. Nicole has now passed through them. Fantastic.

Samson and Gabby

Sunrise over Samson and Gabby’s nest near Jacksonville, Florida.

Everything looks intact at the NEFlorida Nest. Maybe we need to get the Eagles to be our designers. These nests are amazingly strong.

Harriet and M15 have both been seen at SWFlorida and this looks like Harriet aerating that nest getting it ready for those precious eggs.

As Nicole moves out of Florida, there is sunshine on the nest of Harriet and M15. It is so good to see that they are fine and so are Samson and Gabby. The camera is still offline at Big Bear. It could have been damaged during the storm but, let’s all hope that it wasn’t.

Thank you so very much for being with me this morning. It is time for me to do some shoveling and fill the feeders! The Starlings are waiting for their Butter Bark. Take care of yourselves. See you soon!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams and posts that make up the screen captures in my post: Farm Life, Port Lincoln Ospreys, 367 Collins Street by Mirvac, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam, NEFL-AEF, and SWFL and D Pritchett Family.