Saturday Nest Hopping

As many of you know, I have a ‘soft’ spot for several of our avian friends and clearly, Legacy, Tiny ‘Biggie’ Tot, and the Ks are at the top of that list but, in truth, there are so many amazing birds that have brought me joy that it is impossible to give each one of them the air time that they truly deserve. That said, Tiny is going to fledge in about a week. Legacy is still home but it won’t be long until she is gone into the big world, too. That is why I am spending so much time with them.

Tiny Tot working his wings. 7:15 pm. 8 May 2021

This morning Legacy really lucked out. At 9:30:16, she sees her parent coming in with food and she starts squealing. She flies down to the nest six seconds later to retrieve that fish from her dad, Samson.

Then at 2:43:25 Legacy starts squealing again. She flew down from her branch so quickly that she sent Samson off the nest with the fish. He had to come around and land again. Wow, it was a whopping piece of nice fresh fish. Legacy will be full until tomorrow for sure!

That is a really large chunk of fish that Samson has brought Legacy.

Legacy is learning how to hold the fish with all of her talons so it is easier to eat and doesn’t move around and so that no one steals her dinner!

Oh, Legacy is doing a really good job with the self-feeding.

Legacy’s crop is as full as it can be! Isn’t she just gorgeous?

Richmond is busy bringing in fish for Rose and the gang. Like all the dads, he loves the head. He has nice crop. Richmond is a great provider. It looks like Rosie is keeping the toys and hats out of the nest for now.

There they are. Three tiny little Ospreys.

Aran brought in a really nice flounder for Mrs G today in celebration of Mother’s Day. There are the three eggs that Mrs G is incubating.

Big Red and the Ks are beginning to dry out. Oh, it has been a soggy couple of days on this Red-tail Hawk nest.

Precious. Well behaved. Big Red always has everything under control.

Blue 33 (11) brought in a nice fish for Maya to feed ‘Little Bob’. There he is not even a day old. Oh, so cute.

The two little ones at The Landings Skidaway Island Osprey nest are growing.

Can you find them? Look carefully.

Still looking a little reptilian.

You can see the big crop on the eldest one and the youngest still being submissive in the image below. These little ones learn quickly – if they survive – to keep their head down, let the dominant one eat, and then go for it. So, like Tiny Tot they wait, listen, and get ready to jump.

And there is the little one getting a nice feed.

Tiny ‘Biggie’ Tot is enjoying a nice fish meal as I type this. Indeed, Tiny has had a lot of fish today. He might have even had more if it had not been for sibling #2 losing a whole catfish off the edge of the nest. This last delivery came at 8:11:58. You can just hear Tiny Tot squealing, “It’s mine”. If you look you will notice that Tiny still has a crop from earlier in the day.

Jack is so funny. He really is not comfortable feeding the kids. He keeps looking around for Diane. Meanwhile, Tiny must be thinking “just give me the fish, I can feed myself.” Turns out Jack is OK at feeding the little one.

Tiny is still being fed as the IR camera comes on and the sun is going down in St Petersburg.

This is a lovely image of Tiny Tot by Diane with sibling #2 eating its fish in the back. I want to try and get a really good front image of Tiny tomorrow. It appears that Tiny is getting a dark necklace. If that is the case, I am going to have to stop calling Tiny ‘Biggie’ Tot a ‘he’.

Tiny’s wings are getting so big and the tail feathers are growing nicely. The plentiful food in the last couple of weeks has made a big difference in Tiny’s life.

Thank you for joining me as we hopped, skipped, and jumped from nests today. Take care and all the best.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams. That is where I get my screen shots. They are: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, Cornell Bird Lab and Skidaway Audubon, Golden Gate Audubon Ospreys, NE Florida Eagle Cam and the AEF, LRWT Rutland Osprey Project, and Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife.

Bird Mothers of the Year

Every year we stop and think about the women who gave us life and mentored us to become independent adults. I want to stop for a moment and consider a few of the bird mothers. Last year I was able to single out one bird that seemed to give it her all and that was Big Red, the Red tailed-hawk whose nest is on the Cornell Campus. This year I have a few more to add. I am certain that you have your own list as well.

In studying the social behaviour of birds, one of the things that has astonished me is how complicated the lives of our feathered friends are and how the behaviour of humans has impacted their lives.

The birds are not listed in any particular order – I could not, for the life of me, rank them. They have struggled against the greatest odds sometime. The first bird mentioned does not have a happy ending and this is a warning about that. If you would prefer to skip this mom, then please scroll down to Big Red.

The first female on my list is Milda. Milda is a White-tailed Eagle. She worked with her long time mate, Raimis, and rebuilt their nest near Durbe, Latvia. She laid her eggs on March 12, 15, and 21. The last time that Raimis was seen was the 27th of March. Milda incubated her eggs and stayed on her nest, despite several intruders, for eight days without eating. Then on two occasions, she had to leave the nest to try and find food and was off her eggs for periods nearing five hours at a time. It is not clear how successful she was in hunting. A male WTE appeared and tried to help incubate. By some miracle two of the three eggs hatched on the 21 and 24th of April. The people of Latvia and those who adore Milda were overcome with emotion. But that joy was short lived. It was pretty clear that Milda was almost starving to death. She had completely depleted her bodily resources. The male brought a crow to the nest and the eaglets were fed and then he took it away. It was very cold and Milda had to eat. She had to leave the nest to find food. She was desperate. If she did not survive neither would her eaglets. It is like the instructions when you fly on a plane: put your own oxygen mask on first before you help your children. Did Milda know that her eaglets would freeze? was this a form of euthanasia? did Milda think the male would incubate the eaglets while she found food? In all of this, there was also an intruder. Milda’s eaglets slowly froze to death. Later that day she consumed them.

Cannibalism in eagles is a new area of study with the growing number of streaming cameras. In 2002, a group of wildlife biologists in Virginia were stunned when they observed a male eagle killing his eaglets alive and eating them. More reports of similar behaviour came in leading researchers to believe that the behaviour may be more common that believed particularly in times of food shortage.

Milda was a very devoted and dedicated single mother. The circumstances were dire. She could not help her babies if she could not feed herself and she was starving. We have watched birds mourn their dead. It is beyond my comprehension to understand how difficult all of this was for Milda. The lack of a partner and the inability of a female parent to provide enough food for their eaglet also happened at another nest in Latvia. That was the nest of Spilve whose beautiful eaglet, Klints, perished from starvation. Spilve mourned the death of her Klints. This year, she refused to use the nest that Klints’s body has become a part of. Instead, her and her new mate went to another.

I am really aware of the dedication that the Latvians have for their wildlife. What has caused a drop in prey? has it always been this difficult? and would it be possible to stock artificial ponds for these large raptors? Those are just three of my questions.

Milda feeding her two little ones their last meal. 25 April 2021

My second bird mother of the year will always be first in my heart- Big Red whose territory is on the Cornell Campus.

Big Red is even wetter. 8 May 2021

Big Red hatched near Brooktondale, New York in 2003. She was banded on 20 October 2003 in Brooktondale. She is eighteen years old. The exact history of her mates and the number of eyasses she has raised to fledge will never be known. She was known to have a nest in 2010 on the Cornell Campus and two years later cameras were installed. Her mate at the time was Ezra. Ezra was killed in 2017. It is the only year that she did not have a clutch. She bonded with her current mate, Arthur, that same year. It is entirely possible that Big Red has fledged no less than 35 eyasses. This year she has another clutch of three. Big Red is a devoted mother. By the fall she is already selecting which light tower to use as a nest and is working with Arthur then and to a greater degree in February to ready the nest for the upcoming breeding season. She has been encrusted in snow more times than I want to remember and soaked to the bones. She has been blown off the nest! Still she works and keeps those kiddos of hers full to the brim. As someone recently said, ‘No one leaves Big Red’s table hungry.’ And when her eyasses fledge she will spend days with them in family hunting expeditions so that they are as prepared as she can make them for the outside world.

Today, she was soaked to the bone and cold – even the babies are a wee bit ‘wet’. Those heavy raindrops wanted nothing more than to turn into icy slush. She fed her three little ones as quickly as she could so they would not get wet and catch a chill. Just look at the love in those eyes! Being a mom is what it is all about for Big Red.

Unlike Milda, Big Red has a devoted mate, Arthur, who is busy filling the pantry providing food for Big Red and the Ks as well as security for the territory. Arthur also gives Big Red much needed relief breaks despite the fact that she prefers to look after the little ones almost 100% of the time! Her territory is also prey plentiful.

Big Red will always be at the top of my list. She is just simply amazing.

A soaked Big Red. 7 May 2021

My third female is Diane at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida. I am including Diane in my list for one single reason. This year her three eggs hatched and she had three osplets to raise. At the time the three were born (5th and 7th of March), there was plenty of prey on the nest. However, a week later the fish deliveries became irregular causing food insecurity on the nest. It was unclear whether or not the third hatch would survive. There would be days of plenty and then hardly any fish. If the babies didn’t eat neither did Diane. Many suspected that Jack, her mate, might have another nest. Diane began to go fishing supplementing the fish that were brought onto the nest and that is why I am including her. When she was able she would leave the nest and bring in huge catfish to feed her babies and herself. She was a selfless mom. The two older siblings and in particular, the second hatch, demanded more and more food. For days in a row the third hatch had no food. Even Diane acted on several occasions like the little one would not live. Then something happened. The food became more plentiful and she paid particular attention so that the third hatch was full. I call him Tiny Tot. This year Diane will fledge three – . Tiny Tot is the only one left to fledge and his feather growth is behind. And that is OK. Tiny Tot is simply a delight.

In the image below Tiny Tot sits in the middle of the nest with its full crop and its ever growing wings. At one time no one believed #3 would survive and most thought it would be stunted but Tiny is filling out all over. Diane makes sure that sibling #2 standing on the rim of the nest at the back does not eat all of the fish that comes on the nest. I have to give her like 5 gold stars for stepping in and making sure that the food is shared between these two. No one is left out.

Tiny is really growing. Maybe he is a she? 7 May 2021

Diane is on the nest with Tiny. They are both waiting for an incoming fish.

Diane on the left and Tiny Tot on the right. Not so Tiny anymore!

Tiny Tot can self-feed. He was the first of the three to do so. To survive he found fish bones with a little flesh on them and ate it. Diane does love to feed him, tho.

Diane loves to feed Tiny Tot even tho he can do it himself. 7 May 2021

As the sun goes down, Diane and her two little ones are full. Tiny is actually full to the brim. You can see that glimmer of the sun on his big crop.

The sun sets on the St Petersburg Osprey Nest and all are full. 7 May 2021

Another bird mom that has touched my heart in a way that I cannot quite put my finger on is Eve, the mate of Eerik, whose nest is in the Matsalu National Park in Estonia. It is so cold in Estonia that the geese had to stop their northern migration. Eve is a huge White-tailed Eagle – she almost looks ‘wooly’ because her plumage is so thick to keep her warm. She is the most gentle of mothers with her two little eaglets.

Eve does not have the prey problem that Milda had in Latvia. There are plenty of fish and other birds that Eerik brings to the nest. Eve carefully conceals them and keeps them fresh in the straw around the rim of the nest-like an old fashioned ‘ice box’. What they have had to contend with are intruders and lingering cold weather to the extreme. It is especially important because the eaglets cannot thermoregulate their temperature. They depend on Eve and Eerik for everything. Many mornings Eve has woken up to be completely covered in a cold frost. I am really looking forward to these two growing up. Look at the little one put its wing around its big sib. This is such a peaceful nest. Eve keeps everything under control.

Eve feeding her two growing eaglets. 7 May 2021

There are so many bird mothers whose lives need celebrating if for nothing else than they successfully raised their clutches. It is not easy. Humans have impacted their lives in so many ways it would take an entire blog to list them but climate change and its impact on prey, loss of habitat, plastic in the oceans, toxins, etc come to the top. I cannot even begin to create a list of all of those. If I continued to include images and write ups for the mothers, the blog could easily include Harriet at the Bald Eagle Nest in SW Florida in Fort Myers. She is just an amazing mother to E17 and E18. Those kiddos are well equipped to take on the world. Then there is Anna, the first time Bald Eagle mother, who had to learn along with her eaglet how to feed her baby properly. Kisatchie has thrived and is now branching on his nest tree in the Kisatchie National Forest. On the Mississippi River, the nest of Starr and the Valors was destroyed last year by the winds. Starr had to work with Valor I and II to build a new nest for the 2021 season. They built an amazing nest and now have three growing eaglets. Or what about the female at Duke Farms who spent the entire incubation period encased in snow? Her two eaglets are now branching. Diamond, the Peregrine Falcon, in Orange, Australia still has her seven month old fledgling living in her scrape box. Her patience is amazing and her and Xavier have raised a formidable falcon! What about the Osprey females who lay eggs and raise their little ones in nests so full of toys and blankets they often cannot even find the chicks. This year, Harriet at the Dahlgren Nest, lost one of her eggs in Jack’s deliveries! They probably deserve a medal every day for their good humour. Then there are the ones, driven by their instincts and ‘Mother Nature’ that want to be mothers so badly such as Jackie at Big Bear or Iris at Hellsgate? If certificates were given out, they would all receive them – every single one of them!

Here is Iris bringing in a whopper of a breakfish for herself. Iris is the oldest living osprey in the world – the grand dame of all Ospreys. She has fledged no less than 35-40 osplets – no one really knows for sure, that is just an estimate. Since the death of her trusted mate, Stanley, Iris has returned to her nest every year during breeding season. Her current mate, Louis, has another nest and another mate and Iris is now, by default, a single mother. Her natural instincts bring her back from her 4,000 mile migration to her nest in Missoula, breeding with Louis, and because she is both provider, incubator, and security guard – like Milda and Spilve – her clutches have not been successful. Her last fledge was a single osplet in 2018. Still she is there doing her best!

And Happy Mother’s Day to Maya on the Rutland Mantou Nest whose first osprey egg of the season hatched at 15:23 today, 8 May. You can just see the little one getting out of its shell.

Thank you for joining me today to appreciate the difficult circumstances each of our bird mothers face. There is a story for each of them! They are all much loved.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I get my screen shots: LWRT Osprey Project, Cornell Bird Lab and Montana Osprey, The Eagle Club of Estonia, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, Latvian Fund for Wildlife, and the Achieva Credit Union.

Late Thursday and early Friday in Bird World

Congratulations to Richmond and Rosie on the safe hatch of their third osplet on 5 May.

Rosie was ever so excited to tell Richmond and to introduce him to the new baby.

The two at The Landings Osprey Nest on Skidaway Island near Savannah had nice large crops at 20:24 on 6 May. Oh, these two are growing. The oldest is on the right and the youngest on the left. Its colouring is very dark and quite lovely.

Big Red was trying to give the Ks a late night feed of rabbit but they appear to still be working out precisely what to do at chow time. It won’t be long til they are clamouring for those tasty morsels.

The little ones were definitely more awake and ready for breakfast! Look how strong they get in such a short period of time.

We haven’t checked in on the Great Horned Owls, Bonnie and Clyde, and their two owlets for awhile. It was a good day to go and watch. At 20:52 Lily fledged! It was amazing.

Both Lily and Tiger are on the nest as the sun begins to set.

Tiger flies away and Lily looks up at the branch where Clyde used to land when she was wee so that Bonnie could fly up and get the prey without being off the nest too long.

Lily flies to the branch.

She turns around and looks. Maybe she sees Tiger.

And off she goes – a blur between the two branches on the left.

Lily is an even fainter blur in the bottom left corner. Congratulations Lily Rose – you are now a fledgling!

Samson brought Legacy her breakfish at 10:02:24. Dad got out of the way pretty quickly. Legacy got her talons into his legs and talons during the last delivery. Ouch. That must have hurt!

Looks like Samson is playing the surrogate sibling eating the fish.

Legacy flies down from her branch and Samson tries to get out of the way quick. Legacy needs to learn how to take fish away from other eagles to survive.

Great mantling job, Legacy!!!!!!!!

Parent keeps a watchful eye guarding the nest as Legacy eats.

There is still no hatch at the Rutland Mantou Bay Osprey nest of Maya and Blue 33 (11). It is day 38 hour 16.

Iris incubated her egg overnight and is sitting on the perch post this morning. I wonder if Louis might bring her a fish? If not she is going to have to get her own and we know the Raven is just watching and waiting for Iris to leave. Remember, most mates will bring the female food. Louis has two nests. Gosh, I wish he would help Iris.

Eve is feeding the two little ones this morning – it is the evening meal in Estonia. It is interesting that she keeps the fish fresh by placing them under the straw of the nest. It reminds me of how humans used to keep ice from thawing.

In the image below you can see Eve uncovering the fish for the babies who are just waking up.

Oh, yum. This is such a pleasant nest to watch. One of my favourites. Dependable parents who don’t allow any nonsense from the kiddos. Everyone gets fed – just like at Big Red’s nest.

Tiny Tot has done well this morning. There was a fish delivery at 8:02:42. Tiny Tot got it.

Jack flies away while Tiny Tot mantles the fish.

Eventually sibling #2 takes it away. Diane watches as #2 eats the fish. She is very observant about what goes on the nest. It looked like she was going to take it away and then Tiny Tot grabbed it back and finished it off!

It was interesting watching Diane. She let sibling #2 eat enough fish for her and then stepped in to create a diversion so Tiny could also get a meal. Fabulous mom.

At 8:42:45 Tiny Tot takes the fish and self-feeds in the shade of mom.

At 11:44:13, Jack arrives on the nest with another fish. And look who is ready for another fish meal – Diane and Tiny!

Tiny Tot is very confident and doesn’t shy away when sibling #2 gets a whiff of fish on the nest and comes to share. How wonderful!

Thank you for joining me this morning. I will send out a reminder to you this evening because tomorrow is the day to count all of the birds in your neighbourhood. Join with hundreds of thousands of people around the world doing Citizen Science to help us understand about migration.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams. That is where I get my screen shots: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, NEFlorida Eagle Cam and the AEF, The Eagle Club of Estonia, LRWT Rutland Osprey Project, Cornell Bird Lab and Montana Osprey Project, Farmer Derek, Cornell Bird Lab and Skidaway Audubon, and the Golden Gate Audubon Osprey Cam.

Babies, Branching, and Bittersweet

It is all too quick. One minute they are little chicks bonking and bopping like the three Ks of Big Red and Arthur and then they are branching and fledging. It is all bittersweet.

Arthur has already begun to line prey up around the egg cup at the Fernow Light Tower nest in Ithaca, New York. Look at the crop on K1. I never get tired of watching these little eyasses grow. Arthur and Big Red are such devoted parents.

6 March 2021

Adorable. Simply adorable.

Oh, look at those little cutie pies. The Ks. 6 May 2021

Annie and Grinnell’s eyasses are a little older than the Ks. Their pin feathers are really growing in and they now spend their time preening, sleeping, or eating!

Look, you can see their little tail feathers starting to grow! People say the feather growth makes the eyasses itchy. How would a human know what it feels like to grow feathers? Birds are the only living thing on the planet that has them.

They are starting to get to the clown foot stage, too. Oh, they love that pigeon Grinnell is feeding them.

It is raining in Estonia and Eve is very careful not to get the little ones wet. Until they have their contour feathers they are not protected. Thermal down will help them against the cold but for now, they have to rely on mom to keep them both warm and dry.

I included the image below for two reasons. The first is the distinctive white tail feathers of the White-tailed eagles. Aren’t they gorgeous? And the second reason is to have a look at the feathers. Each of Eve’s feathers has a central shaft with tiny barbules that lock together like Velcro. They lay flat and make the bird waterproof. Feathers grow out of skin follicles.

White-tail eagles are the largest apex raptors in Europe. They also have the largest average wing span of any eagle in the world. Their wings span averages 2.4 metres or 8 feet. Did you know that they are on the coat of arms of Germany? They are Germany’s national bird just like the Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States.

Today, both Kisatchie at the Kistachie National Forest Bald Eagle nest and one of the pair of the Bald Eaglets at Duke Farms branched. Kisatchie had no one to cheer him on but the eaglet that branched below got a high five from its sibling for a job well done. It won’t be long til the sib is jumping up on that branch, too!

We are still on hatch watch with Maya and Blue 33 (11) at Rutland Mantou Bay. Tomorrow the first egg laid will be 38 days old (May 7).

And, of course, the bittersweet. In a month or so, E17 and E18 along with Legacy will leave us to make their own way out into the world. And sooner than I want, Tiny ‘Biggie’ Tot will fledge.

Legacy is waiting for Samson to bring her the evening meal. It is nearly 7:30 and he normally visits the nest around 5:30 with a food drop.

Legacy is not starving. Remember, Gabby and Samson are trying to teach her about what life will be like outside of the nest. Food is not always plentiful and eagles do not eat every day in the wild. Legacy had a squirrel yesterday and a big hunk of fish the day before. It is nearly 8:30 p, in the image below and it seems Legacy might have to wait and hope for breakfast.

Meanwhile, Tiny ‘Biggie’ Tot is having some nice fish. Diane seems to really enjoy feeding Tiny. Often they are on the nest together as #2 sibling flies around and lands on the perch pole. There has been no sighting of #1 sibling. She fledged, returned to the nest once and is MIA. Normally, the raptors depend on their parents for food from 4-6 weeks after fledged (an average overall – some stay longer). They eat at the nest and strengthen their flying muscles. Sometimes the parents feed them ‘off nest’. It is not clear what is happening with #1 sibling and because she is not banded, we will never know.

I am clearly going to miss Legacy and Tiny Tot when the fledge. Unless there is some very distinctive marker – like the dots in Iris’s left eye or the tear in the wing of WBSE 24, unringed birds are simply not that recognizable, one from the other.

And the last news of the day, Iris, the oldest living Osprey in the world laid her first egg of the 2021 season at her Hellgate Nest in Missoula, Montana today at 18:04:31. I would like to hope that if nature intends it, Iris would get to be a mother again. Her last successful hatch with Louis was in 2018. As you know, I wish this day had not come but it has and now we wait to see how the season will twist and turn.

There is a new director for the Cornell Bird Laboratory, Dr Ian Owens. In an interview that came out in the latest edition of Living Bird, Dr Owens remembers the bird that changed his life. He was fifteen and the bird was an Eurasian Marsh-Harrier. Dr Owens will take charge in July.

Like Dr Owens, there are many of you reading this that will recall the first time that a bird influenced your life. Mine was over four and a half years ago when I met Sharpie’s female mate. I haven’t seen her for awhile but Sharpie stopped by today. I rejoice in seeing him – whether it is for a few minutes or an hour. They certainly changed my life and I will be forever grateful. It is just like the joy that all of the birds give us each day.

So take care everyone and remember – March 8 is Bird Count Day. I will remind you tomorrow with the link so you can submit your count. It helps everyone understand the perils of migration. Thank you for joining me!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: NE Florida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF, Achieva Credit Union, The Eagle Club of Estonia, UC Falcon Cam, Duke Farms, Cornell Bird Lab RTH, Cornell Bird Lab and the Montana Osprey Project, and LRWT Rutland.