Happy Saturday in Bird World

It might be hot and windy but Jack has delivered one big fish and another piece onto the Achieva Osprey nest this morning. Thank you, Jack! All is well on that nest! Tiny Tot still had his crop from yesterdays big feed when a big fish arrived at 7:16:50. Despite the fact that he was right there when that whopper landed, Diane pulled the fish around to feed the bigger ones first. She knows what she is doing. Feeding them first kept peace on the nest and she knew there would be enough left for her and Tiny.

Tiny Tot remained in his position when the fish arrived while the older sibs ate their breakfast. Without calling attention to himself, he pivots so that he can eat when they are finished. Very smart.

Tiny Tot is a survivor. He is clever and he keeps his eye on everything that is going on in the nest. Today, there have been no attacks on him. Did the arrival of all that fish yesterday help calm the food competition on the nest?

Tiny eats! At 9:20:03 Tiny Tot looks like he has swallowed a beach ball! Look at that crop. I just think this is the silliest pose I have ever seen in a bird. Tiny is preening his tail.

In the image below you can also get an idea of how much bigger the older sibling is than Tiny. Look at the difference in their wings. Tiny is getting his juvenile feathering on his back and wings. For sure, a total of about 7 full days without food (if you add it all up) stunted his growth. Let’s hope that these good feedings help him get bigger quicker.

Jack is working on more gold stars today. Everyone is looking up as the second food item arrives at 11:10:22. It is hard to tell but it looks like a piece of fish not a whole fish. Once again our little trooper is jolly on the spot.

This time Diane did not move the fish. She kept it by Tiny Tot and started feeding him immediately. The older ones were watching the traffic together.

At some point the older siblings came over to get a few bites. There was no bonking. Tiny had eaten a lot and he quietly turned to the rim of the nest. When they left, he turned back to mom to eat some more. Diane also ate some very good bites but before she finished the last bit, she stretched her neck to Tiny who, at first, refused any more food. In the end, he did eat a little more at 11:46:44 after mom insisting. Here he is full, Diane tidying up the tail, and a very happy nest on a hot, very windy day in St Pete’s.

In other Osprey news, Mrs G has laid her first egg of the 2021 season! Mrs G is the oldest Osprey in the United Kingdom and is the mate of the unringed male known as Aran at the Glaslyn nest in Wales. Congratulations!

And poor Dylan. The weather in the United Kingdom has been strange. It snowed on the Clywedog nest in Wales on the afternoon of 10 April. Here is that beautiful Dylan posing for us.

The mystery at the Loch Arkaig nest continues. Everyone believed that Louis had arrived the other day but it looks like it was a male intruder who is still hanging around the nest. As far as anyone knows, Louis and Aila have not returned. (I erroneously reported Louis had arrived as did everyone else!) The weather and the winds continue to be an issue and this very popular Osprey couple could be waiting it out. Meanwhile, the nice looking male looks like he owns the place.

I really wish Louis and Aila had trackers so we knew they are alright and just progressing slowly. In the satellite image below, we can see Rutland 4K (13) making his way through France on his return trip from Africa. In this 250 kilometre or 155 mile section, Rutland 4K (13) reached heights of 650 metres or 2132 feet above sea level.

These advanced backpack transmitters are amazing. They can tell you where the raptor went for their migration and if they are near to any dangerous issues such as Avian Pox along the coast of Senegal in 2021. They tell us their travel speed, the height, where they are enroute during migration. Researchers can then match this data with wind thermals. We are learning so much!

This is the most recent tracking data on Solly, the female osprey from the Port Lincoln Osprey nest. Solly is 203 days old today and she spent the night up at Eba Anchorage. Ever since she left her natal nest on the barge at Port Lincoln, Solly has been traveling north but she has continually returned, if she went much beyond Perlubie, to either Streaky Bay or Eba Anchorage. Solly has already provided the researchers in Australia with a dirth of material. We know where she spends the night, where she goes to fish, how she responds to crowds on a beach and how far away from her natal nest she went – which changed our understanding of the distance juveniles travel when they leave home.

Switching over to the United States again, it is a beautiful sunny day in Ithaca, New York and our favourite male Red-tail Hawk has been on incubation duty. In fact it is 23 degrees C and no snow in sight! Arthur, you really are a cutie. Look at that gorgeous red tail. Big Red seems to be trusting you more with nest duties.

The little eaglets born on the Minnesota DNR nest are growing. The eldest stretches its neck and watches Nancy, the female, eat the fish tail. Look at that little crop. This nest is doing really well. Everyone has learned how to feed or eat and the supply of food seems just right.

It is a good day just to pop in and check on those Great Horn Owlets, Tiger and Lily. Here is Tiger this morning standing next to Bonnie. How is that for growth? The time passed so quickly from the day the pair of owls decided to take over this Bald Eagle nest for their owlets. That was 1 February. The owlets were born on 7 and 9 March and are now 33 and 31 days old. We will see them climbing all over the nest and upon the branches soon. In a little over two weeks, around 47 days old, the owlets should be trying to fly. That should be around 24-26th of April. They will stay around the nest, improving their flying and hunting skills before dispersing to their own territory.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that your Saturday is as beautiful as it is here on the Canadian prairie – gorgeous blue sky and no wind. Looking forward to 14 Celsius about the time for my walk. Take care everyone. Enjoy your weekend.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: Farmer Derek, the MN DNR, Cornell Bird Lab Red-Tail Hawk Cam at Ithaca, Achieva Osprey, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, Woodland Trust, Lyn Clywedog and Cyfoeth Natural Resources

The race to save the African vulture

In the latest edition of BirdLife Magazine out of Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab, there is a compelling article on the race in Africa to save the African Vulture. It was very moving to read it so soon after discovering the women of the Hargila Army in Assam and their literal saving of the General Adjutant, a stork that also consumes carrion and helps keep disease at bay. The article stresses that vultures are the most endangered raptors in the world. While you might not be familiar with the African Vulture or the General Adjutant, you probably are aware of the California condor. Vultures exist in almost every country. They are crucial part of the food chain and play an important role in the environment. This is why conservation biologists around the world are screaming out for change to save them!

In Africa alone, seven of the ten vulture species are endangered. Many of the issues that threaten the vultures also impact other species. However, in India and parts of Africa, the vulture population dropped by as much as 99%. The author of the article noted that this is ‘apocalyptic’. We are familiar with causes such as habitat loss, electrocution from hydro poles, collisions with buildings and vehicles, the lead used in fishing and hunting equipment, scarcity of food, as well as egg collecting. There are several other threats to the vultures in Africa. One of them is rock climbing and disturbing the nests. Another is the trade in vulture body parts which are used for good luck charms in Africa. The head is believed to bring good luck in business while other parts are used as talismans. The birds are directly poisoned. The last is the impact of the veterinary use of NSAIDs. What is NSAID poisoning? Have you ever heard of it? I certainly knew about its use because I cannot drink milk or eat meat unless it is organic but, I was not aware of its impact on bird populations such as vultures. It is wonderful to learn something new each day! Although I prefer if it is something happier.

The image below shows the many animals and birds that compete for the small amount of food available in Africa.

“Environment of the Hyena Jackal Vulture Group” by Ryan Somma is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NSAIDs are cheap pharmaceuticals given to cattle to relieve them of their pain and to increase their milk production. They are anti-sterodial. It has long been recognized that the industrial dairies in the US keep the cattle in small pens, standing all day on concrete that causes excruciating pain. These cows are also given treatments to increase their milk production. The life of the cow that never gets to explore and eat grass is traumatic and their longevity is significantly reduced.

The efforts in Africa to eliminate the use of veterinary grade NSAIDs as well as captive-breeding programmes are showing promise. Fencing and satellite tracking is gaining ground. Biologists say that it is time to think ‘bigger’. At the same time, the growth in traditional beliefs is spreading in Africa, alongside the use of more modern pesticides. The author states, however, ‘That for all the bad news, conservationists have taken heart from the fact that the decline in African vultures has been slower than the extraordinary rapid collapse that occurred in Asia’.

“African safari, Aug 2014 – 042” by Ed Yourdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Elsewhere in Bird World, life is good on this Sunday the 4th of April. Rising early to watch and hopefully see Tiny Tot (aka Lionheart, Braveheart, Tumbles, 3) have breakfast, the chatters on the Achieva Osprey site probably had their mouths open. A headless fish arrived at 7:22:22. There was some confusion on the nest as Jack stayed with the fish and Diane left for a break. Tiny had already positioned himself and Dad began to feed him. Jack is not the best at feeding the chicks – he is known for touching beaks with no fish – but this morning Tiny got bites. Neither 1 nor 2 seemed interested. They were very busy preening. Eventually 1 joined and Dad fed 1 a bite then Tiny a bite. Mom returns and Dad leaves at 8:01:17. Diane continues feeding Tiny. Tiny awoke with a crop from yesterday but he ate this morning til he could not eat anymore. At 8:12:07 he stopped. There was not a kerfuffle with the older siblings.

Tiny being fed at 7:59 am while older siblings preen. 4 April 2021

Look carefully at Tiny above (far left chick). His little tail is growing and his plumage is changing. A few more days of good feedings and he might be out of the ‘woods’ in terms of his survival.

Diane with her three growing osplets. 4 April 2021

In the image above, Tiny is in the back. You can see his crop. He is standing confidentially next to 2. What a joyous moment on this nest.

The two bald eaglets of Nancy and Harry at the Minnesota DNR nest are growing. Everything is fine on that nest. Harry has learned to feed them and he is a good provider. Nancy is a fantastic mom. Look at those cute little bobbleheads enjoying the warm sun with their mother.

Kisatchie is growing and growing. First time parents Anna and Louis have done really well. The nest is coated with pine to keep away the insects. Kisatchie is healthy and well fed. His plumage is changing every day as he rids himself of his natal down.

I am afraid to say little owlets anymore. Look at Tiger (left) and Lily (right). They are keeping both Bonnie and Clyde busy hunting, day and night it seems. They look like they are wearing beautiful mohair coats with hoods. In my neighbourhood, yesterday, we were reminded about how formidable a raptor these Great Horned Owls are when one of the ones living nearby tried to take off with one of the neighbour’s cats that had gotten out in the back lane. Remember. Great Horned Owls can carry three times their own weight!

And last but never least, my all time favourite bird mother, Big Red sitting on her three eggs in the Red Tail Hawk nest on the Cornell University Campus. Isn’t it lovely? She actually gets to enjoy some sunshine today!

Thank you so much for joining me today. Keep your eyes on what is happening in the Tampa area. There is rumour that 480 million gallons of radioactive water is threatening to push down a retaining wall. If so, this will be catastrophic not only for the people of the area but for the wildlife – including many Ospreys and Bald Eagles that we so dearly treasure.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grabbed my screen shots: the Kisatchie National Forest and the USFWS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Cornell Bird Lab Red Tail Hawk Cam at Ithaca, Farmer Derek, and the Achieva Credit Union in St. Petersburg.

Credit for feature image: “In search of the Maltese Falcon #13 – White Backed Vulture, Malta Falconry Centre” by foxypar4 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s 3 for Big Red and 4 for Dahlgren

The Guardian ran a story, ‘All my eaglets: pandemic audience spellbound by saga of nesting bald eagles’ in its Wildlife section this morning. While the story focused on the growing number of people watching bird streaming cams during the pandemic, it chose to use the example of two nests. The sadness of Jackie and Shadow at the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest in the San Bernadino Valley and the joy of Liberty and Guardian and their three chicks at the Redding Bald Eagle nest. Richard Luscombe really caught the moment – the joy celebration, the sadness and loss. Jackie (9 year old female) and Shadow (7 year old male) are two of the most popular Bald Eagles on streaming cams and yet, their story encapsulates great sadness. For two years they have tried to raise a chick. This year in their second clutch there was a hatch. Heartbreak came when that chick died trying to break out of the shell. Jackie and Shadow continue to care for the second egg which watchers know will never hatch. Last year they sat on two eggs for sixty days before giving up. In contrast, Guardian (7 year old male) and Liberty (22 year old female) are raising triplets and Liberty has, in her lifetime, successfully fledged 22 and outlived two mates. Like human families and stories, every bird nest is different.

Over the past year, I have received (or seen) letters, comments, and testimonies about the birds. It is clear that the ‘bird’ families streaming into our living rooms have become ‘intimate’ friends whose daily lives we share – their joys and their challenges. One woman wrote to tell me that she knows ‘her bird family’ better than her own human family! She is not alone. From the infertile eggs to the cheeping of the hatching chick, people have watched the birds and their loneliness and pain have been diminished. Many of you have written to me to tell me how the birds have saved your lives, including several with stage 4 cancer and partners who have died from COVID. Caring for the birds has lessened the impact of the isolation and has given us something to focus on besides ourselves. ‘A distraction from our lives’ a woman from The Netherlands said.

When the pandemic ends, I hope that all of you will continue to watch the lives of your favourite bird families unfold. And I would encourage you to talk to your children and your grandchildren or the neighbour’s children so they will become interested in wildlife. They need all of us to help them have better lives.

Jackie and Shadow continue to incubate an egg that will never hatch. Many wonder if there is not DDT still present in the soil or something causing this lovely and entering couple so many issues trying to have a little one. Clearly the thinness of the eggs that have broken could indicate that. 1 April 2021.
The triplets at the Redding nest being fed. There is plenty of food and all are lined up nicely.

I received a very touching letter from a woman from New Mexico who commented on the tragic events unfolding at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. She was reminded of a news story where a family went into a cafe for a meal -the parents, a young girl, and boy. The parents fed the young girl and themselves. The boy watched the others eat while he was offered nothing. The boy appeared to be bruised as if he had been physically harmed to the wait staff. The waitress wrote on her hand ‘Do you need help?’ to the child who, eventually, shook their head yes. The waitress phoned the authorities and the children were taken into care immediately. The boy had been abused and food had been withheld for a long time. The woman from New Mexico said, ‘Humans do it, too’. As sad and angry as I am at the Ospreys in St Petersburg, for them it is a matter of having at least one healthy fledgling. The biology books stress the survival of the fittest! Someone who has filmed birds said to me and I have reiterated it many times, ‘If they cannot survive on the nest being fed, they cannot survive in the wild – it is brutal out there’. This morning a huge fish came in but the middle Osprey made sure Tiny Tot did not get anything to eat. Tiny was too weak to fight. I had hoped that his suffering would be taken away in the night.

UPDATE: Tiny Tot was fed at 9:27 this morning. His crop was about a third full. The saga continues.

After my tirade on birds laying too many eggs to care for if they all hatched – and hence, having the situation of the St Petersburg nest – Jack and Harriet of the Dahlgren Osprey Nest in Machodoc Creek in King George County, Virginia laid a fourth egg! You might not immediately recognize the osprey nest that I am talking about but if I said to you that Jack is the one that brings in the most toys to the nest, often covering it while Harriet has to keep busy finding space for them, I think you might know the nest that I am talking about. There was a toy shark or dolphin the other day. As it happens, the first egg is either lost in the nest or broke – there are three eggs being incubated despite four being laid. Last year the couple successfully fledged three and all of us join in hoping that happens this year! Unless there is a problem in the river, this couple has their nest in a prime location for fish!

And to add to the jokes that go along with April Fool’s Day, Big Red and Arthur not only woke up to snow this morning but also to their third egg.

Big Red is eighteen years old. She was ringed at Brooktondale New York, about eight miles from Ithaca. She has known this weather all her life and can deal with it. Her and her mate, Arthur, do not migrate but stay in Ithaca all year long. They have a prey rich territory and both work like a well oiled machine. Unless there is some strange surprise, I expect we will see three eyases fledging in June.

All is well over at the Great Horned Owl Nest on the farm in Kansas. Both Tiger, the eldest, and Lily, the youngest, are growing. To the delight of viewers, Bonnie brought in a very large rabbit to the nest in the Cottonwood Tree. Everyone wondered how she managed. Great Horned Owls can actually carry prey three times their weight – an advantage over Bald Eagles who can carry only 66% of their weight. Besides rabbit, the owlets have had a diverse menu. One food item that might not have been expected in such quantities has been snake. Farmer Derek probably had no idea he had so many snakes on his property! Using March 7 as a date for hatching, we should be watching for Tiger to fledge around 42-56 days which would be 18 April to 24 April. Tiger’s extremely soft feathers – they look like mohair to me – mean that he will be a formidable predator being able to fly without being heard. With his short rounded wings he will also be able to make tight corners and quick turns around the trees in the woods.

And down in Orange Australia at the Charles Sturt University, Peregrine Falcon couple, Xavier and Diamond, are in the scrape box having a conversation and bonding. The conversation might be about their cute little Izzi who fledged three times from this box. The first time Izzi was napping on the ledge and fell out. He was returned by the researcher, Cilla Kinross. The second time he did fledge but then flew into a window and was taken into care and returned to the scrape box. The third time he fledged properly. While most of the falcons would have left the scrape box to find their own territory by January, Izzi appears determined to live out the rest of his life chasing Xavier and Diamond and sleeping with Diamond in the scrape box. It is an unfolding soap opera that is delightful.

Izzi is adorable.

I will leave you with that adorable face. Peregrine falcons are the cutest. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my scaps: Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon Cam, Farmer Derek, Friends of Big Bear Bald Eagles, Friends of Redding Bald Eagles, Cornell Bird Lab, and the Dahlgren Osprey Cam.

Dire situations unfolding in Latvia and Florida today

There are two situations unfolding as I write this in Bird World. The first is at the White Tail Eagle Nest in Latvia. The nest is in Durbe Municipality. The White Tail Eagle couple have three eggs on the nest. The male disappeared on 27 March. It is believed that he might have been killed by a rival male wanting to claim the female and the nest but, all that is known for certain is that the male has not brought food to the nest for four days and is presumed dead. The female has not left incubating her eggs. She will have to leave at some point or she will starve to death. Will she accept the intruding male? Will he care for her? and the eggs? Or is there a rival couple trying to take over the entire nest?

As many have noticed, the female is getting weaker and the intruder is able to get closer to the nest. You can see it at the top left just flying in to land and the female on the nest calling to it. Soon she will be too weak to protect herself and the nest. This reminds me of the situation with Klints last year where the father also disappeared. It was later in the year and Klints was almost ready to fledge but his mother would not leave him and, as a result, she could only find small mice for his food and he starved. Unfortunately, it takes two adults working full time to raise a family on one of these nests. And it is also reminiscent of the NE Florida Nest when Juliet was injured and presumed killed by a female intruder when her eggs were about to hatch. Romeo tried to take care but could not do all the jobs of both the male and the female. The intruding female took the hatched chick when he had to go and hunt for food for it and him. Romeo left the nest despondent and never returned.

You can watch as this event unfolds here:

At the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida, the male brought in two very small fish yesterday and another small one this morning. The three chicks are at a critical point. The two biggest require more food daily to thrive. The little one requires food just to live. The next couple of days are critical. It is now believed that he has another family that he is also providing for. The female on that nest is Diane and she has not had much to eat. The third chick, the very small one, Tiny Tot, has not had food for 2.5 days now going on three. It is 28 degrees C and he is dehydrating. Storms are moving into the area. Sadly, this is a scenario that has played out many times in the Osprey world. I am thinking of Iris, the oldest known living female Osprey, at 28 whose mate, Louis, had another family and her nest suffered. Even with two parents, it is often difficult to maintain the level of food for four – the three little ones and the mother. The smallest in the Port Lincoln Osprey nest in Australia died at eighteen days of age from siblicide. He was called Tapps. It was not a case of the father having two nests that I am aware of but, rather, issues getting fish or the father simply not going out fishing.

If you feel so inclined, you can watch the Achieva Osprey nest here:

We need some good news to balance all this out.

So briefly, the female, Bella, at the NCTC Bald Eagle Nest noticed that one of her small chicks, E5 had ingested fishing line. She acted quickly and pulled it out!

E5 ingests the fishing line. 30 March 2021
Bella is removing the fishing line. 30 March 2021

This is a great Bald Eagle nest to watch. These are very attentive parents and there is lots of prey. Below is the link:

I would like to leave today on another positive note. Big Red and Arthur. What can I say? This couple is dynamite when it comes to raising Red Tail Hawks. Arthur has been trained well and rises to the occasion every time. When the eggs hatch and the Ks are with us, Arthur will have that nest lined with prey – like a fur lined bed.

Arthur is on incubation duty right now!

Here is the link to the streaming cam set up on the Cornell University campus to watch Big Red and Arthur. Once the eggs hatch there will be a live chat as well.

There is lots of news on Osprey arrivals in the UK and I will bring those to you this evening with an update on the two nests I am watching – the White Tailed Eagle nest in Latvia and the Osprey nest in St. Petersburg.

Thank you for joining me today. I wish all of the news was joyful but, sadly Mother Nature is not a warm fuzzy mother. She can be very cruel.

Thank you to the following streaming cams: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Labs, NCTC, and LDF tiesraide.

Waiting

Everyone seems to be waiting for something today. Those that follow the nest of Big Red and Arthur, the Red Tail Hawks in Ithaca, NY, are waiting for the second egg to arrive. Meanwhile, Big Red has been restless all day – on and off the nest. It has been like a revolving door, slightly surprising knowing her inclination to not share too much incubation time with Arthur. The skies just opened and Arthur is on deck keeping that precious egg dry and warm! The rain is pouring over the lens of the camera making Arthur look like a smudge. He is anything but a smudge today. Between 7am and noon, he was on the nest incubating five times – 5! I stopped counting after that.

Isn’t he gorgeous? Five years old and a great provider and dad.

Early this morning, around 8:30 the winds were whipping and Big Red got tossed. Last year this happened and an eyas went flying with her. Let’s hope that she is OK.

It takes some time for new parents – birds and humans – to understand how to take care of their little ones. When the two very young parents had their eaglet hatch on the Kisatchie National Forest nest, I thought for certain that eaglet was going to die. It couldn’t seem to stop bobbling, Mom tried desperately to feed it, and Dad kept stacking up the fish. At one time there were 18! If I remember correctly it was on the third day that the little one and mom figured out the proper angles so the little one could grab the fish. Now, that is all history. Kistachie is a huge, very spoiled only child of two very devoted parents, Anna and Louis. Kisatchie will never go hungry. It is always ‘please take another bite!’ from Anna. Kistachie has had mega food comas. They figured it out and all are thriving down in Central Louisiana on the shores of Kincaid Lake.

At the MN DNR nest, Nancy is waiting for the four year old dad, Harry, to figure out precisely what he is supposed to do. People watching the nest are waiting and worrying. Harry is amazing at security. He needs to learn that he has to bring fish to the nest and he will, after watching Nancy, figure out how to feed that little bobble head. Meanwhile, Nancy has, at times, lost a bit of patience,. And, on top of all of this, the second egg is pipping so, Nancy is waiting for another mouth to feed.

Only one osprey has arrived at a monitored nest today in the United Kingdom. That was White YA at Kielder 1A nest in the Kielder Forest. Everyone is watching the ones with trackers and waiting for more arrivals as April approaches.

It’s 4pm in St Petersburg, Florida and Diane is waiting for Jack to bring in a whopper of a fish for those three growing osplets. The trio had a fish at 8:50:13 and it looked like all ate and were ‘nice’ to one another. Let us hope that the next fish is really big and stability on this nest continues.

Another nest waiting for food deliveries is the Great Horned Owls who stole the Bald Eagle Nest on a farm near Newton, Kansas. It seems that snake has been on the menu today but the owlets are getting supersized quickly and Bonnie is hoping Clyde will come through with something larger! She waits.

I want to thank Elena for writing to me today thanking me for my post about ‘The Sadness and Hope in Latvia’. Spilve struggled to feed her beautiful almost ready to fledge Golden Eaglet after her mate went missing and was presumed to have died. To protect her eaglet she had to remain close to the nest but that meant little food. It broke the hearts of so many when beautiful Klints starved. Each of us struggles to understand.

And I want to thank you for joining me today. There is not a lot to report. We seem to be in a holding pattern today and maybe that is a good thing. I will post any updates on hatches, new eggs, and arrivals late today.

Thank you to the MN DNR, Achieva Credit Union, KNF, Kielder Forest, Farmer Derek, and the Cornell Bird Lab for their streaming cameras where I took my scaps.

What a joyful day in Bird World!

The Achieva Credit Union’s Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida has caused a lot of people to become anxious and loose sleep. It hasn’t just been me. Tiny Tot (or Tumbles) has a fan club that wants this clever little bird to succeed. It is now 7:30pm Saturday 27 March nest time. Jack has made four fish deliveries today – FOUR! The last days have had the little one, number 3, Tiny Tot or Tumbles – whatever you want to call him – begging for food and trying out ingenious ways to try and get it. Sometimes he was too late and the fish was gone but, today Tiny Tot prevailed.

The deliveries were made at 7:30, 9:48, 1:15, and 5:33. During the second delivery, Tiny Tot got under Diane, the female, just enough that he was out of range of any bonking. #2 tried to batter the little one but it stopped short – because it would have hit its mom! Brilliant move. #2 zero – Tiny Tot 1. It also put Tiny Tot in a good position for getting some nice bites. Progress continued.

In the image below, Tiny Tot is in front of Diane. He has what we call a Cropzilla – a nice pillow. The eldest is the one nearest us and it is passed out in a food coma. Tiny Tot had passed out on the tail of #2 but he is looking like he wouldn’t mind a little top up! Too funny. Mom had a nice meal, too.

Jack was a great provider today. 27 March 2021

Over at the SW Florida Eagle Nest on the Pritchett Farm, E18 branched today. E18 is one of two eaglets of Harriet and M15. Ironically, E18 was bonked so aggressively by E17 that many worried including the wildlife technicians when they both had to go into care for having Conjunctivitis. But something magical happened. The two are twins, born within a couple of hours of one another. The other day an intruder came and E18 instinctively put those huge wings you can see in the image below over E17 to protect her. Branching is one of an eaglet’s milestones and these two are doing brilliant! E17 branched yesterday but today, E18 had to go just a little higher. Remember that old rhyme: ‘Anything you can do, I can do better!’ It is all in fun but these two do move one another along in the challenges they have to get to be juveniles.

E18 branches. Look at those gorgeous wings. 27 March 2021

And good things continue to happen over at the nest of Big Red and Arthur in Ithaca, New York. Big Red laid the first egg of the 2021 season yesterday. If it hatches first, it will be K1. Last year it was the second egg that hatched first. So one never knows! Tomorrow we should be expecting the second egg to arrive. But, over the past three seasons, Big Red has often been reluctant to give her mate, Arthur, much incubation or feeding time. Well, that seems to be changing. So far, I have counted five times that Big Red has had Arthur taking over the nest. The times were 6:36-8:56, 10:56-11:13, 13:20-13:46, 14:08-15:20, and 17:38-18:33. Arthur does a fantastic job. He always checks and rolls the egg and shimmies up. So cute! Maybe this year she will let him do a little more of the feeding! Tomorrow is egg watch.

Arthur incubating their egg. 27 March 2021

Even the hand offs of duty have gotten all worked out.

Arthur out, Big Red in. 27 March 2021.

That is it for this Saturday and Bird World. It is all good! Thanks so much for joining me. I am so glad that you are enjoying these incredible birds ‘er dinosaurs. See you soon.

Thank you to Cornell Labs Bird RTH Streaming Cam, Achieva Osprey Streaming Cam, and D Pritchett and the SWFL Eagle Streaming Cam. Those cams are where I capture my images.

It’s a wonderful day in Bird World

It is always such a joy to wake up and see Big Red incubating an egg. There is something about the annual rhythm that is very reassuring. She was there all night but, at 6:36 Big Red turned incubation duty over to Arthur. Over the years Big Red has given Arthur a little more responsibility each year. This morning he was on the egg from 6:36-8:56 and again from 10:56-11:13. I wonder if she will allow him to feed and brood the eyases more, too???

Handsome Arthur with his light plumage and deep dark eyes.

Over the years Arthur has gotten more confident.

Big Red’s plumage colouring is darker than Arthur’s. Here you can see both of their beautiful tails – those red tails that define them as Red-Tail Hawks. Notice the way the wings fold and make a ‘V’. This is known as the scapular V and often individuals identify untagged birds through the patterning of the scapular V.

We are finally getting a glimpse at the MN DNR of that little one that started hatching at 6:27 on the 25th. Oh, the woes of trying to feed a little bobble head! Oh, a little bobble, so cute. In a couple of days this little one will know precisely what to do o grab that fish that its dad brought in!

Last year on 27 March, Osprey spotters in the UK had charted 52 sightings. This year there have been more than 100. The Welsh, the Scots, and the British love their Ospreys and they are so organized with web sites and keeping up on every arrival at monitored – and many unmonitored – nests. This is the type of interactive chart they have:

If you are keeping track, to date the latest arrival on a monitored nest is Blue 7A (14) at Esthwaite Water in the Lake District. This is Ozzy and his mate is unringed Olive, yet to arrive.

The most wonderful thing is to wake up and have breakfast with Big Red – as so many of her followers do. She is one of the most known and loved Red Tail Hawks in the world. But this morning I looked at the weather on my phone. I have all of the main nest sites that I watch listed. It was 23 degrees in St Petersburg, Florida when I woke up. I have been trying to get to the ‘why’ of the fish deliveries at this Osprey nest and thus, the nest competition leaving Tiny Tot behind. The graph that I have charted shows that when the temperatures in St. Pete’s are in the 27-30 range or there is a storm or it is windy (such as 30 kph), Jack does not bring fish to the nest. It just seems logical. Yet many Bald Eagles are very successful fishing in those conditions. So to test this, I wondered about this morning when it was 23 and no 29 like it was yesterday. In fact, last night I decided that I would not check on the Osprey nest with Tiny Tot until Tuesday. My heart had simply ached for the past two days and I didn’t think I could watch another one starve to death on a nest. But 23 degrees. Would this nest turn around yet again? It is clear from Tiny Tot’s actions that it wants to live. How this little one got its energy yesterday, I don’t know. But it tried being fed by walking around the rim of the nest. Sadly there were only 7 bites of fish left when it came its turn. This morning, a fish was brought in at 7:30. Tiny Tot persisted walking again up on the rim of the nest to where the mother was feeding. At 7:59 he was eating. Another fish was brought in at 9:48. Tiny Tot left with a big crop. Tiny Tot is smart and he has figured a work around to the two big siblings. The issue is the amount of food. As long as the fish are big enough and delivered close enough together Tiny has a chance.

You will have noticed that I continue to call Tiny Tot a ‘he’. You mostly hear the word used in falconry, the old medieval term tercel (UK) or tiercel (US). It refers to the belief that only 1 in 3 eggs is a male – the third. It also refers to the fact that male raptors are one-third smaller than the females. That is the reverse sex-size dimorphism.

You cannot tell the sex of a bird, for certain, without doing DNA testing or seeing them laying an egg like Big Red yesterday. Many experts have been fooled trying to use clues such as the size of the feet or the length of certain parts of their bodies. So, there is nothing saying that Tiny Tot is a small male. I don’t know!

Here is Tiny started to move to the rim to get fed, away from the big ones.

Bingo. There is fish left and Tiny gets a good feeding. The two others are satisfied and leaving him alone.

This is Tiny in front after having some of the second fish. Look at his crop. Just puts a big smile on my face.

I just want to close with a few quick images. Maybe some of these are your favourites. The first is Mrs G, the oldest Osprey in Wales eating a fish up on a tree branch. She is at the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn nest in Wales and she is waiting for her mate, Aran, to arrive from his winter migration.

Everything is absolutely fine at the GHOW nest near Newton, Kansas. Those owlets are growing like bad weeds. I wish I could crochet! Wouldn’t a white mohair beret with those colours and patterns look fantastic?

Kisatchie at the Kisatchie National Forest nest on the shores of Lake Kincaid has really grown. As an only eaglet, s/he has grown big and been spoiled by first time parents, Anna and Louis.

And I will close where I began – with Big Red – my best raptor mother of the year, always! Thanks for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the weekend.

Thank you to the following streaming cams: KNF, Cornell Bird Lab, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, Farmer Derek, MN DNR, and Achieva Osprey.

Arrivals

My day started off really well with the arrival of the much anticipated first egg of Big Red and Arthur at the Fernow light tower in Ithaca, NY. It was really windy this morning reminding us of the terrible weather this gorgeous eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk endures annually.

Arthur arrives at 14:47 and gets to see their first egg. He had to climb over Big Red to do it though!

Arthur looked at the egg for a bit and was promptly off to find some prey for Big Red.

Big Red does most of the incubating. Every year – this is now their fourth – she seems to allow him to incubate a little more. He is a great provider and she is never hungry.

Arthur has brought Big Red a vole for her dinner as the lights go out in Ithaca. You can see it at the front right of the egg cup. How sweet. But wait, it could be a chippie. What do you think with those ears? Arthur is a champ at catching chippies and if you watch this nest you will become an expert at identifying dead prey. Even if you don’t want to. I promise.

Last year I would stay awake in the night or get up to make sure Big Red was OK. There was more than one night when she was encased in snow and ice. Laura Culley used to say to me, ‘Don’t worry. Big Red has this all under control.’ And, of course, Laura was always right. But it didn’t matter – hundreds of us still worried. She looks so contented and happy. It is the middle of the night and it is quiet. The buses that drive down the road in front of the nest aren’t running and there are few, if any, people about.

Look for another egg on the 28th! Big Red can lay three eggs by the 30th. One every other day. This couple have no trouble raising three eyases. If you wanted a perfect hawk family with a territory with lots of prey, their eyases have both.

Nancy and Harry at the MN DNR nest have a chick. The hatch began with a pip at 6:27pm on the 25th. We got a little peek at their new addition today! It is a little cutie and Harry already has food up on the nest for his first. Congratulations Nancy and Harry!

Ah, two older birds – Big Red and Nancy – both choose much younger mates. I hope Harry is as good a provider as Arthur is. So far he has been amazing.

Isn’t Nancy beautiful?

They aren’t eggs or chicks but the Osprey began arriving in the UK so fast today, the very last day of World Osprey Week, that people had trouble filling in their charts. Here are some of the arrivals at the monitored nests if you are keeping track.

Blue 33 or Telyn (female) arrived at the Dyfi Osprey nest in Wales at 17:28 on the 26th. Telyn will now wait for her mate Idris to arrive! This couple is one of the most popular in Wales.

Blue 35 and White YW both landed on the Foulshaw Moss nest today. What fantastic timing.

White YW arrives at the nest accompanied by a crow. 26 March 2021
Blue 35 arrives. I wonder if they know each other are home?

And instead of Louis or Alia, snow arrived at Loch Arkaig in Scotland.

Everything is starting to get exciting. Laddie and his new lady NC0 of the Loch Lowes Osprey Nest were caught mating on the nest. Let’s hope they have a good bond.

Sadly, the fish arrivals at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St. Petersburg did not materialize in the quantity for Tiny Tot to get a food feeding. He tried hard even walking along the nest rail to get fed, begging all the time. The older ones fed for two hours but Tiny only got 7 bites. There was hope for a late fish arrival but it did not materialize. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I have suffered over this Osprey nest. And that is directly related to wanting to know ‘the why’ of the behaviour. Jack and Diane have raised three before to fledge. Is it the heat? the winds? a lack of fish? Studies have shown that the smallest can be excluded by the bigger chicks even if there is enough food. I would argue that when there was enough, this nest was civil. But a bad storm, then high temperatures (fish go to the bottom normally then), and winds caused an erratic delivery. That set about a perception of a lack of fish for all. For two days, the 23rd and 24th there was plenty and all was well. The past two have seen insufficient food even for Harriet. It is all about survival. And nature, contrary to what many believe, is not cute nor is it nice. That all birds would have parents like Big Red and Arthur and a territory for prey like Big Red and Arthur – well, that would be wonderful.

Thank you for joining me today. I would love to say hello to each of you individually. Thank you for your letters and your comments. I am so glad that you are finding joy in the birds. It is magical, isn’t it? We get a glimpse into a world that we would not have otherwise.

I want to thank the following sponsors of streaming cams: Cornell Bird Lab, MN DNR, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Dyfi in Wales.

We have lift off – Big Red laid her first egg

For the past month, Arthur and Big Red have been arriving early to restore their nest on the Fernow Light Tower on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By yesterday, that nest was looking rather amazing. The egg cup was nicely lined with strips of bark and there were even some berries and pine needles. The question remaining in everyone’s mind was: when will Big Red lay her first egg?

Big Red and Arthur are Red Tail Hawks. The scientific names is Buteo jamaicensis. You will find these hawks across North America. Those that breed and lay their eggs where I live – in Manitoba, Canada – only reside with us during the late spring, summer, and early fall. They will migrate to warmer climates for the winter just like the Ospreys in the United Kingdom. Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. They remain in Ithaca throughout the year. They have a territory that is normally rich in prey.

Big Red is 18 years old this spring. She was tagged at Brooktondale, New York in 2003. Arthur will be five years old this spring. Birders on the ground knew him as a nestling in 2016; a chick from an adjacent territory near to the cemetery in Ithaca. He is often called the nickname he was given then, ‘Wink’. His real name is, however, Arthur. Arthur and Big Red have been a bonded pair since the death of Big Red’s long time mate, Ezra, in 2017. Big Red chose Arthur to be her mate in the fall of 2017 before he even had his red tails! Many thought that she was making a huge mistake but Big Red has proven over and over again that she knew precisely what she was doing. So far the streaming cam on her nest has helped to re-write our understanding of Red-Tail Hawk behaviour. As we go through the season, I will point out all the things that Big Red is teaching us. For today, however, let it suffice to say that an eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk can still lay eggs!

The image below is from the nest tower cam over the track at Cornell.

The nest cup – where the eggs are laid – is lined with tree park and pine. You can see this in the image below. Pine is traditionally an insecticide to keep the flies away. You will see the couple bringing in a lot of pine branches til the eyases fledge. Eyas is the singular and eyases is the plural form of falcons or hawks in the nest.

It was 21 degrees and the wind was blowing at 31 kph or 19.26 mph. All eyes were on the Fernow Tower nest. Big Red arrived at 11:46 alone.

She was acting peculiar. And we all held our breath. Might this be the day?

It is unclear precisely when Big Red laid her first egg or how long her labour was but by 12:51 everyone watching knew there was an egg!

The wind was blowing so strong that many were reminded of when Big Red was blown off her nest during the 2020 season. And we all wished that the sun would come out and it would be calm. Big Red has been through so much.

Red tail hawks typically lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs. Last year, Big Red and Arthur fledged three healthy chicks, the Js. This year it will be the Ks. If all goes to schedule, Big Red will lay an egg every other day. She can lay three eggs in four days. Traditionally she does not begin hard incubation until all eggs are in the nest.

For many, watching this nest will be the joy of their days. If you would like to join thousands watching Big Red and Arthur, here is the link to the Cornell Streaming Cam:

Big Red has already been busy rolling that egg and tweaking the egg cup. We are waiting for Arthur to arrive so she can tell him the good news!

Thank you for joining me today. My passion for these beautiful hawks will be coming through from now until August. Updates on other nests later today.

Thank you, as always, to the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cameras (there are two) on the Fernow Tower.

Spring is in the air…at Ithaca

The calendar says that spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. It happened at 6:37 am on 20 March in Winnipeg just about the time the first song birds arrived at the feeders. At that moment the Sun moved from being south of the equator to heading north with our half of the globe tilted a little closer to the sun. It is warmer and the birds are arriving from their winter holidays. Soon my garden will be full of Dark-eyed Juncos and Grackles making nests. And, finally, by the beginning of May, the central heating can be turned off, hopefully!

The arrival of spring also means that my eyes are focused on a particular Red Tail Hawk nest in Ithaca, New York. The nest is on one of the Fernow light towers and it is home to Big Red, eighteen years old this spring, and her lively mate, Arthur, who will be five. This will be the third season that this bonded pair have raised chicks together.

The couple have been working on that nest continuously for the past three weeks and both were there doing inspections first thing this morning.

That nest could not be more ready! And Big Red spent more time than she has recently sitting on that nest cup. Could this be the day that the first egg will be laid? We held our breath.

And after approving the nest bowl, Big Red stood up. Isn’t she gorgeous? Her plumage is a deep coppery red right now – Arthur is lighter and, of course, Big Red is bigger – and she is the boss! Arthur might like to think that it is ‘his’ nest but, Big Red runs the show.

She stood and stared off into space and flew to another light stand with Arthur and had a confab. Then she returned to the nest.

Did she whisper sweet nothings to Arthur? did she tell him today was the day? or did she suggest that more bark strips were needed?

And, at the end of the day, Big Red is not on the nest. Will she return? We wait.

Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. There is enough prey in their territory on the Cornell campus to sustain them over the snow and cold of northern New York. This also allows them to keep an eye on their nest so no one takes it. Arthur had to remind a group of European Starlings this year that the nest was occupied -. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want to have a nest that close to Big Red. While the hawks don’t particularly care for starlings they will eat them in a pinch. Better find a nest on the other side of the campus!

If you missed the highlights of the 2020 year, here is the video compilation. There is never – and I do mean never – a dull moment. 2020 was the year of the Js and 2021 is the year of the Ks. And I say this without hesitating – little J3 is my favourite.

Updates from other nests:

Last evening everyone was excited. The microphone on the nest of Jackie and Shadow at Big Bear picked up peeps from the chick hatching. Sadly, the chick died trying to get out of shell. Let us all hope that their second egg is viable and hatches safely. This has been a really bad year for these two. The raven ate one of the eggs from their first clutch and the second egg broke. This is now their second try. Fingers crossed.

All of the other birds are doing well today. Everyone has eaten at least once if not more.

I will leave you with an image of Kisatchie at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest in Central Louisiana. Kisatchie is the first little eaglet born on this big Bald Eagle nest in the forest since 2013. She is also the first baby of Anna and Louis. These are fantastic parents. What a contented baby with its mom -Kisatchie and Anna.

Have a fantastic day. Thanks for joining me.

Thank you to Cornell Bird Labs and the KNF Eagle Cam for their streaming. This is where I get my scaps.