Late Thursday in Bird World

22 September 2022

Good Afternoon Everyone. I hope that this finds each of you well whether you are starting or ending your day. It remained a glorious day on the Canadian Prairies – a crisp fall one. There are so many songbirds in the garden now all wanting to eat and have baths. It is impossible to differentiate between the hundreds of sparrows and what looks like a few Grosbeaks but, they all seem happy and the two bird baths this year are really making a difference. They are so thirsty. The usual group comes around 1800 so these are the early birds.

Mr Blue Jay is here. There is a cob of corn for him as well as some individual kernels. Let us see if he gets it or if Dyson does! Dyson should be here in about an hour. It is amazing how they have their own timetables and really stick to them. Oh, two of the three Blue Jays have arrived. This will be interesting. One is eating from the cob of corn and the other is taking the corn kernels that I broke off a second cob.

This is Junior. He is the Dad of the three fledgling Jays that remain in the garden and at their nest tree across the lane. Junior still needs to grow in his crest. He is easy to spot.

He knows I am watching and he also knows that I am the one that puts out the corn. No, Junior. It is not just to take your photograph! Junior is 5 years old this year.

A little female squirrel has arrived.

One of the Crows just flew in to check out the evening’s buffet.

Our wildlife rehabilitation centre has its annual open house this week. If you live in Southern Manitoba or Winnipeg and want to go out and see the amazing facilities including a brand new surgery and our super flight training buildings, go to line to Wildlife Haven and order your tickets. Remember, too, if you go out – check for clean old towels and sheets. They can never get enough of them. And if you have some spare savings or are in need of a tax donation, every wildlife rehabilitation clinic will thank you and give you a receipt for your donation. It is the only way they survive.

Australian Nest News:

Oh, what a glorious day it was to wake up to a brand new osplet – and, so, as all of you probably know, the clutch at Port Lincoln is complete. Congratulations to everyone! Dad came in with a really nice fish for the brood. It is unclear if Little Bob got much or any – he has to be tired from working so long on that egg but, you can bet the other two got their fish!

Let us hope that the fish keep coming. We are off to a good start with that big fish. The key will be for Big and Middle to get full and then Little Bob to eat but let us see if it works out that way! Our dear Ervie had to be right up there preferring to thwart any attention Bazza wanted to pay on someone to Falky.

Just look at that nice fish. It is incredible to me that birds of all makes and models are hardwired to hold their heads up high and their beaks wide open for food from the git go.

You can watch all the action at Port Lincoln here:

It looks like a super day starting in Melbourne. I hope it is as it is the 23rd of September and gosh, golly, we are looking for a hatch on the 27th. Four days. Fingers crossed that the second male – who Mum is not interested in – is thwarted. I know. It is wishful thinking but, let’s all send good wishes out to our wonderful old dad. This could be his last clutch and he is remarkable. One of the great Peregrine males out there and so ever funny in his pjs.

Mum left for a break. Food is being brought in and stored elsewhere but not near the nest and this probably won’t happen til the chicks arrive. The falcons like, for some reason, to keep that scrape box really clean while there are eggs. Then when they begin feeding their eyases it can be mayhem with blood, bones, and feathers flying everywhere. The old dad used to love to pluck and feed the fresh pigeons right in the scrape. I don’t think the former Mum appreciated that at all.

Xavier has arrived early at the scrape box hoping that Diamond might want a break. He is such a devoted Dad. We are looking at the first week in October for hatch. For the past two years only one of the three eggs has hatched. I am wishing for one strong eyas! Two would delight Xavier to no end. Three might be overwhelming but these two very seasoned parents would manage.

Some of you might be wondering what is going on at the Sydney Sea Eagles. Yesterday, Mum flew in with a fish and stood on the nest eating it while 29 played with its tail. Lady wanted to see if the eaglets would fight for that fish and take it from her. That is what they will need to do in the wild. They did not. Eventually she offered and 30 got some nice bites. It was a very interesting educational moment. And so, here we are today.

The sea eaglets are up looking around in their beautiful plumage. Those feathers are almost all completely in.

One of the parents is in the tree watching every move the eaglets are making with that fish on the nest.

Both parents are now on the branch watching the eaglets. Do not ever think for a second that these parents do not know what they are doing. They do. They are letting go – and they are trying to provide their two kids, SE29 and 30 – with the skills so that they can survive in the wild. They need the eaglets to be hungry, to need to get that fish and eat and they need them to know how to hold it down and pull off the flesh. At some point in time Dad might bring them a live fish to see how they respond.

Making News:

The new Kestrel Ambassador for the Ojai Raptor Centre has a name. It is Topa and the word comes from a mountain range near to the wildlife centre called the Topa Topa. What a lovely bird to help teach youngsters and us about the challenges raptors face daily.

The new Osprey cam is now installed and working at Captiva in Florida. Just look – we have an adult. Last year Andy and Lena managed to end their years of not having chicks due to predation by Crows. How did they do it? They laid their eggs one month early. Very smart Ospreys. We had three magnificent chicks – and we ended with two, Middle and Little Bob, who turned out to be a male and a female. Big Bob died of an indeterminate cause but he did have enlarged organs similar to some other ospreys lost this year. That was determined to be salmonella in one case. Big Bob had also been ruthless in his eating claiming all the fish for nearly 72 hours before he died. The other two thrived and were very civil fledging with the male staying around Captiva and the nest for us to enjoy for some time.

In the Mailbox:

EJ sent us a great video of a juvenile sea eagle fishing. It is short and quite amazing. Thanks, EJ!

From the Book Shelf:

In a few of my blogs I have been writing about the campaign by Chris Packham, Mark Avery, and the Raptor Persecution Group in the UK to get rid of sport hunting and killing. In this instance I am referring to Grouse Hunting and Killing on large estates for sport. The problem is that the game keepers of the properties kill the raptors. Raptors such as the Hen Harrier who covered the wet lands and moors and heath was a common sight in England during the Mesolithic Age, ten thousand years ago. It has really gone into decline with the advent of the Enclosures Act in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Now, sadly, heath burning, the escalation in killings and diseases brought in by the imported birds has caused a swift and rapid decline in the number of breeding pairs of Hen Harriers in the UK. In 2012, there was only one breeding pair left.

David Cobham has set out and written an incredible little book on the history and decline of this amazing low flying raptor. It is based on the promising life of Bowland Beth and the title is, Bowland Beth. The Life of an English Hen Harrier. You are drawn into Bowland Beth from the minute her father returns to his natal nest in the Bowland Forest to find a mate. You will discover this amazing and most promising bird and her daily activities (she is tagged with a sat pack). And you will come to understand so fully why the grouse hunting and the killing of all the raptors that find their prey on the wrong piece of land need to be kept safe. It is essential that the law be changed. I rarely head deep into politics but this is an archaic practice that needs to end for the sake of the wildlife. They need to thrive without fear of catching a vole and being shot.

$18.40 CDN for the hardback at your local on-line book seller.

Thank you so much for joining me this afternoon. I hope that you are well and that you will enjoy watching the sea eaglets and those cutie pie osplets. Take care. See you soon!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams, videos, and postings that made up my screen captures: Sydney Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre Sydney Olympic Park, Charles Sturt Falcon Cam, 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac, Ojai Raptor Center, Robert Full and ‘EJ’, David Cobham, Captiva Ospreys and Windows for Wildlife.

Ervie gets the breakfast fish!

The fish arrived on the nest at Port Lincoln at 6:35:01 and immediately Ervie was mantling it.

Needless to say, Ervie really is the boss of this nest and for good reason. He has fabulous survival instincts.

As you know, my interest is in third hatches and how well they do on nest and off. It will be very informative on how well Ervie does when he leaves the area of the nest seeking out his own fishing spots.

Bazza and Falky might wish that Ervie would fly off and not return.

I only commented once but watchers were calling Falky ‘Mellow Yellow’. It is time that Falky was not so laid back. Yesterday, Bazza took the second fish while Falky had the fish tail from Ervie’s earlier breakfast. If I missed Falky getting a fish, I apologize. It would be good if each had one fish per day. They are all well-feathered and Bazza and Falky will fledge when they are good and ready. e

Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch Ervie learn how to fish?

At 7:43, Ervie is still eating but his two siblings are hanging close hoping to get some leftovers.

Ah, and Falky got it. Well done, Falky.

If you missed Ervie’s fledge, here it is again. It is quite beautiful on the take off and fly by but the landing was not impressive! Still, I applaud our third hatch lad. Ervie, you are amazing. You are definitely the leader of the pack, so to speak.

If you missed Victor Hurley’s Q & A discussion, it was really really super. I posted that link in my blog, Ervie Flies! early this morning. Very informative and you can start and stop it as you like. If you are interested in falcons or Australian birds of prey – it really is a talk not to miss.

Since the shut down of the 367 Collins Street camera, I hope that many of you are filling that gap with Yurruga in the water tower scrape of Charles Sturt University at Orange. As a former academic, we do not like to comment on others’ research. There were a couple of questions to Victor Hurley about the scrape at Orange and he answered in general terms. Someone asked about the low hatch rate and the eggs. VH said that if the eggs are too large (and he does not know that is the case at Orange) it is hard for the chick to kick them to create a crack all around the egg. He also noted that sometimes eggs get turned when a beak is protruding and the chick cannot right itself if the egg is turned around. Of course, VH said that those are general statements and not specific to Orange. He did comment that Yurruga gets all the food while the four at Collins Street had less bites per chick. He also noted that the Collins Street Four developed quite fast this year and that Yurruga appears to be developing normally. So, she is 8 days younger and the amount of floof she has is normal for this stage.

One of the things that I took away from VH’s discussion was how adaptable Peregrine Falcons are. If there is a drop in numbers of a prey item, they will move to something else. For example, some Alaskan Peregrines have been known to eat trout. The image below was shown as an example.

This year I noted a drop in the amount of pigeon delivered to the scrape at Collins Street. This could, according to VH, be a result of the several lockdowns they have had due to the pandemic. Less people eating their lunch and feeding the pigeons. He did note that the male did bring in Quail and Rail. The falcons normally have a 5 km hunting range but are known to go farther. The are for Collins Street is prey rich. The red dot indicates the site of the nest box.

The falcons do not spend a lot of time on the ledge after the eyases fledge. There is a good reason for this – parasites.

As we learned with Grinnell, the male at the University of California – Berkeley Campanile scrape, birds can become loaded with parasites and they might not be able to protect themselves as well as if they were healthy. Grinnell was taking anti-parasite medication to overcome this. We know he is improving and will be released shortly.

One of the most interesting things to come out of this talk had to do with how the females are attracted to a mate. VH said that there are ‘stunning’ Peregrine males. You and I have seen them. They have an almost orange cere and legs. Dark black, really black, hoods with cream chests and very fine pinstripe chests. Those are the extremely healthy males and the females want healthy. Pale yellow indicates unhealthy. So now when you look at a falcon you can tell healthier vs not so much.

Also falcons divorce. If the female hooks up with a male and he does not share incubation duties or bring in prey, she will move on the next year. The male stays with the nest but it could be in a prey deficit area. At any rate, it was a real good discussion! It is nice to listen to the expert in the area – even talk about rodenticide.

Little Yurruga is doing well. She was working on her breakfast the last I checked.

My daughter went to the Assiniboine River for a walk and discovered about thirty-five ducks still on the river. She sent some photos for us. She noted that there was at least one other group this size down the river.

There are a lot of signs on our park ponds not to feed the ducks and geese or they will not migrate. My daughter ran into a neighbour that says the ducks stay at that part of the river year round and people feed them. They added that parts of the river in that location have been open – not frozen over. I sure hope that is the case this year! There is also an American Bittern hanging around one of the creeks. Maybe they know that this big snow is just to scare us into thinking it is going to be a horrible winter and it will be mild. We wait to see.

The garden birds have found the seed left on the deck and Dyson has, of course, been helping himself. I missed getting him hanging upside down on a suet cylinder. The migrating birds are all gone from this area. Thankfully.

Dyson always knows when the food comes out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The feeders – and there are many different kinds – are all full. It was interesting to me that the sparrows did not mind standing on the snow. According to my daughter, the ducks really like being in the water and not having their paddles on the cold ice.

It is a good day to be inside!

Thank you for joining me today. There could be another fledge at Port Lincoln and we know there will be lots of prey for Yurruga. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Port Lincoln Osprey Project and Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross. I also want to thank the 367 Collins Street FB group for posting the link for Victor Hurley’s talk and my daughter for those great duck images.