Happy Canadian Thanksgiving from my garden to yours

It is 17 degrees C, clear blue skies, and the birds are chirping their heads off. After two days of grey damp rain, everyone is happy to celebrate and we are all thankful for the wonderful weather.

Thanks to the birds or squirrels there are sunflowers popping up around the planters. The Vermillionaires are for the hummingbirds, and the Cosmos for the bees and butterflies. The thicket in the back of the garden is a favourite place for hiding or cooling off.

I am thankful to each of those that live in or visit our garden every day. There are three different Blue Jays, one Red Squirrel (Little Red), three Grey Squirrels (Baby, Scraggly, and Monk), Mr and Mrs Wood Pecker (he is missing from the images today), Mr Chickadee, and Hedwig, the garden rabbit.

The joy they bring is immense. The Blue Jays have been demonstrating the many ways to clear the kernels off their corn cobs before Scraggly takes the entire cob. Everyone else has also had special seed or suet over the weekend to thank them.

It seemed that half of our City was at the local park today enjoying the beautiful weather and having picnics instead of big elaborate dinners. You could hear laughter all around the pond. Sadly, there was one female Mallard that has a broken wing. I am waiting for someone to bring me the proper pole with netting and we will be out to attempt a rescue to Wildlife Haven.

Of things to be thankful for today, is not only the joy that all of the birds have given me but also for those that dedicate their lives to trying to mend them and get them out in the wild again. Wildlife Haven is certainly one of those!

The trip had been to check on the little Wood Ducks. The one below is an adult female in her summer/fall plumage. Note her striking white eye patch and the yellow line around her eye. She does not, however, have the red iris of the male. She has white streaking on her breast. You can see the blue secondaries.

Indeed, it is very difficult to ID the Wood Ducks at this time of year because there are so many variations occurring.

We know this to be a male because of the red Iris. There is stunning secondaries. In this instance, they look iridescent green at this angle. This is a first year male in his winter plumage.

I was looking for the adult male. The last time I checked he was almost finished his moult and it would be so nice to see him in his magnificent plumage before they leave the pond for their winter homes. He is sleeping up on the bank of Duck Island on the left. You can get a glimpse of how gorgeous he is. Indeed, most of the wood ducks were having a nap. Perhaps they do not like all the people walking about, laughing, having fun.

From my garden to yours, I hope that like us you have family, friends, and critters who delight you and for whom you can say ‘thank you’ every day! Wildlife is wonderful.

Thanks for joining me today. Wish us good luck in getting that female Mallard out of the pond! Take care everyone. See you soon.

Port Lincoln Kids doing well

Many will disagree with me about whether or not birds getting pin feathers are ‘cute’. When I went back to check on the Port Lincoln osplets and their feeding times yesterday, there was this moment when all are so full they are in ‘food coma’ – passed out on the nest.

Just look at those fat little bottoms and those stubby tails! Now what is that if it isn’t cute?

The Port Lincoln kids had the following food deliveries on 2 October: 6:09:52, 9:16:15, 13:10:09, 13:59:11 (?), 16:10:51, 17:14:02, and 18:41:50.

Here are just a few images from those feedings.

This is the second delivery of the day.

Here is number three. Mom is sure being kept busy this year feeding the trio.

All lined up behaving themselves.

All lined up nicely waiting their turn, once again. No shoving, no beaking. Polite kids. This time Little Bob is in the middle but, often, now, it is difficult to tell who is who! Remarkable.

This is the way it should be and this is why everyone watching this Osprey nest in Australia should be overcome with joy. These parents are working so well together and so hard this year to ensure that each one of these chicks is successful.

Dad has been fantastic to bring in the fish. He always has a nice crop. Hoping that mom is getting enough fish from the feedings. These three sure can pack it away!

All of the chicks went to bed quite full. Dad and Mum are really helping them during this ‘big’ growth period with lots of fish. If there has been beaking, I have missed it. This nest just feels happy – and it should – everyone is doing well.

A quick check on the Melbourne Peregrine Falcon nest. I am only going to show you one image. You can see that the parents are ready with additional pigeon if it is needed.

That is Dad in the scrape and Mom behind just in case. It must have been a little overwhelming to see ‘four’ mouths instead of the usual three.

If you are not familiar with Peregrine Falcons, it is safe to say that the incidents of siblicide are minimal. That is because the chicks hatch so close to one another. It is the same with other hawks. There is always concern for the little one but, in this instance, there should be no worries. These four will be fed – a mouth open and it will get food.

There they are singing like members of a choir. The last hatch will not yet eat as much as the bigger ones and it will go into food coma quicker but the parents will make sure all get food. No worries!

I am trying to read three books at once. They are all good. Still, I hope to finish Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin’s Back to Nature. How to Love Life – and save it, soon. While the focus is definitely on the United Kingdom during the first year of the pandemic, the central core of the book can be applied to all of us. During the lockdowns we discovered our gardens, the birds, and our love for nature. Packham challenges us to take those interests and concern and bring them forward: if wildlife and the wild helped us through that abyss, then we need to help them now! Wise words.

It is another beautiful fall morning on the Canadian prairies. The sky is blue and the sun is shining bright and it is a good day for a walk around the wetlands. Hopefully there will be some interesting bird images for you later today. Meanwhile, Grey Squirrel would like his morning peanuts.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. And to those who have written lately, thank you. You are never an intrusion – never!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: the Port Lincoln Osprey Project and the 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac.

For the love of Sparrows

There are so many birds that come to our feeders. The visitors come and go during migration and then there are the ‘old standards’ that stay with us year round. They know our habits just like the squirrels do. Every day we put out the food and water and wait for them to come just to know they are alright.

One of the issues that I have is identifying the sparrows. While the majority that remain are Old World House Sparrows just like this young man enjoying playing in the water today, there are other varieties and I want to learn about and appreciate them, too.

I love Sparrows.

This male House Sparrow had such fun playing in the water.

Did you know that House Sparrows were introduced into New York City in the 1850s to help with insect control? They didn’t help much because they are vegetarian preferring seeds and fruit. Today, most of the bird books indicate that they do feed on insects now. Birds adapt. House sparrows are not related to the other sparrows but, rather, originated in Eurasia and are a member of the Weaver Finch family of birds. In my province, they are abundant year round and we certainly love it when they are flitting about between the deck and the lilacs.

Not so common in my garden is the Harris’s Sparrow. This is an immature Harris’s Sparrow below. This one is just getting started on his black crown. Notice the pink beak and those lovely pink legs. He has a bib which also helps to identify him.

I am really grateful for one of our e-Bird ‘birding giants’ in my community for confirming the identity. The Harris’s Sparrow is not in Manitoba Birds. These sparrows migrate to their breeding grounds in the far reaches of Canada’s boreal forests near Hudson’s Bay and in Nunavat through Manitoba. They are arriving in Winnipeg now to begin their long journey to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (straight south of Winnipeg).

You have a long way to go little fella. Happy to help you fatten up for your journey.

Then there was this little cutie. If you look carefully you can see the spot of yellow between the beak and the eye. These are called lores. There is a white throat with a striped crown. The rusty underparts are just coming; there are no stripes on the light breast. The bill is grey. This is a White-throated Sparrow. It is known for its beautiful songs in the early morning. These lovely little sparrows visit from April to October. Their winter homes range from a line running through Kansas to Pennsylvania down to the very southern tip of New Mexico, Texas and across to Florida (and all parts within those borders).

Some were scratching in the grasses looking for invertebrates.

Others were taking baths.

You will notice that our grass is long and we are leaving all of the leaves. We not want to disturb the butterfly larvae, microbes, and worms. Leaf litter is where many of our butterflies and moths overwinter. It is a good excuse to put away the mower and the rake and those dreaded leaf blowers – which should never have been invented.

Oh, they are all so sweet. Each of them has been feeding on a variety of seeds that included insects and berries. Most of all they loved the water today. If you are reading this and live in a place where birds are migrating, please leave out shallow dishes of water for bathing and other dishes of water for drinking. Water is so important to them on their journeys. They can easily get dehydrated.

One of the favourite dishes for baths, other than the bird bath, is actually a shallow dish meant to go under a planter. You can see that it is not very deep. The depth is, however, perfect as the birds are not afraid of being drown.

If you don’t have dishes, check at your local secondhand or charity shop. They tend to carry lots of ceramic dishes that would be perfect for the birds at exceedingly reasonable prices.

The Dark Eyed Juncos are here, too. The numbers arriving on the deck are growing each day. I hope to get some images of the Juncos in the dill tomorrow. My goodness they seem to love the stuff! or maybe there are insects in there that I cannot see.

Juncos will not normally eat from the feeders. They prefer to scratch the ground for invertebrates, dig in my outdoor carpet for fallen seeds, or help the sparrows make a mess with the fruit, bug, and nut seeds that are left in bowls. Those that breed in Manitoba during the summer are the ‘Slate’ coloured Juncos. They winter throughout the US midwest to the southern most parts of Texas across the Gulf and up to Georgia. They seem to not winter in Florida according to Peterson’s guides. I wonder why?

They are certainly easily recognized and they come through in huge groups. We know that spring has arrived when the Juncos appear and that fall is definitely here when they leave. Something to look forward to again next April will be their return.

All of the usual suspects were here today. Mr Blue Jay would like it if more dry corn cobs appeared on the deck but, he did seem satisfied with his peanuts in the shell. Little Woodpecker has a new cylindrical suet and he and she are happy. The easiest to please these days are the Black-capped Chickadees and the squirrels. They seem to be willing to eat almost anything – the squirrels that is. It is doesn’t matter what species they are, each day they bring so much joy.

Thank you so much for joining me as I share some of the visitors to the garden with you today. Take care everyone. Stay safe!

Pretty Parents Posing

With the news of more Great Horned Owl attacks on Bald Eagle nests (post on that tomorrow), I wanted to stop and find something joyful to celebrate. Certainly the birds have brought so much joy to all of us. I hear from someone every day telling me what the streaming bird cams have meant to them and how they have begun to take an interest in the birds outside their windows. It is still difficult, in most places, to walk freely outside because of the pandemic. I really do appreciate those little notes that you send me. And I am also grateful for news of new nests. I will be bringing some news of those later this week. Birds have connected us all from the Canadian prairies where I am all the way south from me to a PhD student in Brazil, across the Atlantic and Europe to a lovely woman who cared for a raven for five months in Poland, to Australia, Europe, Asia, and back to North America. It really is hard to measure just how much being able to watch the daily activities of our feathered friends has added to our mental well being for more than a year. They have really kept a lot of us sane and grounded. I hope that the love and concern that you have for the birds now will continue to grow and enrich your life even more.

N24. NEFL Eagle nest, 24 February 2021.

It is pretty hard to beat Samson and M15 for being great dads. The pantries are filled up with every type of prey that they can find, they are both great at incubating the eggs, and are there to see their new babies hatch. Lately I have had fun watching Samson trying to get N24 under him to brood while also incubating that egg that we all know will never hatch. He has been so delicate. Sometimes N24 seems to be brooding that egg that winds up all over the nest. It is almost like it is now an ornament that no one knows precisely what to do with. Eventually it will get broken and make its way down between the branches and leaves and become part of the nest.

N24 looking out at the world, fish in the pantry and ‘that egg’. 24 February 2021.

Yesterday Samson seemed to pose for a photographer out of the frame with N24. I don’t think you could ask them to stand any better! N24 is sixteen days old today and already he has really accelerated in growth over the past week. Juvenile feathers are coming in and since he was five days old, Samson has had him crawling up to the pantry to be fed. A wonderfully strong little eaglet, N24 has been flapping its wings. I wonder how long it will be til he walks?

Look at how proud Samson is of his baby! I think this is my most favourite photograph ever of an eaglet with their parent. Even the lighting is perfect.

Samson and N24. 23 February 2021

The Great Horned Owl has been causing disruptions over at the SWFL nest with Harriet and M15. M15 was knocked off of his branch into the nest and the owl almost pulled Harriet off the nest. These disruptions have happened on a daily basis causing worry for the eaglets’ safety.

I love the image below of Harriet standing over the eaglets in that most defiant pose daring that GHOW to mess with her babies!

Harriet watching over E17 (r) and E18 (l), 24 February 2021

I became acquainted with birds as a child. When I was a little girl, my father fed ‘the red birds’ in our back garden. They were actually a family of cardinals that had a nest in our Magnolia tree. Even though they were wild they knew to trust my dad and they would come and take nuts out of his hand. It was magical to watch. My maternal grandfather had been a rancher. He was the last person anyone would have thought would own a bird but he did. It was a little blue budgie bird named Jimmie. That bird was more special than anyone including me and my grandmother. It ate off the side of his plate at lunch and it pretty much had the run of the house. One day when my grandfather was away, Jimmie flew out the front door. My grandmother and I panicked. We wondered if we could buy another one and would my grandfather notice? Of course he would have noticed! Luckily for us, we left the screen door open and Jimmie flew back into the house after being out for a couple of hours. As a child I was taken to the Natural History Museum at the University of Oklahoma to go through the drawers of eggs and stuffed birds and there was always a stop on the way home to feed the ducks. It was not, however, until a very personal encounter with a female Sharp-Shinned Hawk in my own garden in January 2018 that my interest in the welfare of birds began to grow exponentially. I was less than a foot away from her, both of us were looking intently into one another’s eyes. That moment changed my life.

And that magical moment can happen for you, too. If it hasn’t, already.

This morning a pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red who is 18 years old and Arthur who will be five this year, are pondering what to do about their nest in Ithaca. The three Js sure made a mess of it hopping and flapping last year. Both of them have been in and out of the nest lately and today they were there together testing the nest bowl and looking around at all the nestorations needed. The time until Big Red lays her first egg is getting closer. We should be looking for that egg around the first day of spring. Gosh, time passes quickly.

Their nest is on a stadium light box on the grounds of Cornell University. In fact, the Cornell Ornithology Labs operate a number of streaming cameras including this one. There is also a very informed chat group that is often moderated by Laura Culley. She has owned falcons and hawks for almost thirty years. She knows so much. And this nest of Big Red and Arthur’s has already changed what we know about the life cycle and behaviour of these hawks.

The link to the Red Tail Hawk streaming cam is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/red-tailed-hawks/

Big Red and Arthur, 24 February 2021.

Cornell operates a number of its own streaming cams and partners with other agencies. One of those is the New Zealand Department of Conservation. They both support the camera for the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head, NZ. This is a great camera to start watching right now. The chick is unnamed and we will be finding out the gender shortly. I am betting on a boy because right now, he is so big he has to be weighted in a laundry basket and his parents can no longer brood him. He is too big to be under them. The mother, LGL, left him alone for the first time the other day (this is called pre-guard stage) and a red banded non-breeding juvenile kind of roughed the little one up a bit. The juveniles are curious. They have been at sea for five or six years and are returning to find a mate. They haven’t seen little ones before. While it tears at your heart strings when you see these little albatross all alone, around the world there are thousands of others sitting on their nest waiting for their parents to return and feed them. Eventually they will make play nests around their natal nest and begin flapping those big wings of theirs to get their strength for fledging. Weigh ins are Tuesday mornings New Zealand time. On the Canadian prairies, this is Monday 2pm to around 6pm. The link to that streaming camera is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/royal-albatross/

Royal Cam Chick left alone for the first time in pre guard stage

In about a week to ten days, this little Royal Albatross will be nothing but a ball of fluff. They are so cute and so gentle. It is a very relaxing nest to watch. There is a FB group that brings up to date images and activities surrounding World Albatross Day which is 19 June. I will bring more information on that as it approaches. There are colouring contests for children, cake contests, and eventually, the name the chick contest later in the year. The Royal Cam chick will fledge around the middle of September.

There is joy in the Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest as the snow is finally melting. This eagle mom was encased in snow until recently. We are getting closer to hatch on this nest! There are three eggs under there. I hope there is a lot of prey and that these parents are good at tag team feeding. They are going to need all the coordination they can get!

Snow is finally disappearing. 24 February 2021.

And what a beautiful view from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources nest. This is the nest of that cute little sub-adult male. The snow is disappearing there too making it easier to get prey.

I want to leave you with a big smile on your face. It just goes to show how these birds can just make our moods so much brighter. Look at these two below. That is E17 and E18. They both look like they could simply pop! Or perhaps they are thinking about trying out to be clowns with those big clown feet! How can you not love these two?

E18 closest to the front, E17 toward the back. 22 February 2021.

Take care everyone. Please feel free to let me know of your favourite nest or an experience that changed your life because of birds. I promise to respond. You can leave a comment or you can e-mail me. That e-mail is: maryannsteggles@icloud.com

Thank you to the AEF, the streaming cam at NEFL Eagle nest, SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, Duke Farms, Cornell Ornithology Lab, NZ DOC, the MN DNR.

There are some bright spots in the bird world

There is been much sadness in the world of birds. But there is also a lot of happiness. The sheer joy that our feathered friends have given to millions trapped inside their rooms or homes this past year, during the pandemic, is to be celebrated. Over and over again I heard from people with physical disabilities who were entirely empathetic with the situation that WBSE 26 found itself in when no one thought she would be able to walk, never mind fly. Many said that seeing that little bird try so hard gave them the courage not to give up. Those letters were really heart warming. A woman in England told me that she was bedridden and dying of liver cancer but getting up in the morning and watching first the hawks in Ithaca and then the falcons in Melbourne gave her strength. And from my last post, you will know that the sea eagles and Daisy were the reason my friend, Phyllis, got up in the morning. So, never underestimate the power that nature has in lifting spirits. Daisy brought us so much joy and while we are distraught that she did not get to see her precious eggs hatch into ducklings, we are thankful for the time we got to learn about her and the behaviour of all the other birds around her, including the sea eagles. They were simply perplexed! I am most happy to know that Daisy is safe.

Tonight there is word from the wildlife clinic that handles SW Florida, CROW, that the little eaglets, E17 and E18 might be well enough from their eye infections to be returned to their parents, Harriet and M15 in Fort Myers tomorrow. That is wonderful news. The parents wait on the branch of the nest tree for the little ones to return.

Waiting for E17 and E18 to come home.

People noticed the little ones eyes getting more and more crusty. Reports went in and permission was given to retrieve them. The little ones are doing well on the antibiotics. Thrilling that they might be rejoined with Harriet and M15 so soon.

In New Zealand, the Royal Cam chick is growing by leaps and bounds. There the Royal Albatross have round the clock care. Once the eggs begin to pip they are moved inside to an incubator to hatch and a dummy egg placed under the parent. Once the little one has hatched it is returned. The reason for this is fly strike. The rangers continually check the chicks twice a day weighing them and doing supplemental feeds for any chicks or parents that need it. Nothing is left to chance. The New Zealand Department of Conservation and the people love their birds. They are aware of how much climate change has impacted the wildlife and they are doing everything possible to not allow any declines in populations.

LGL feeding his chick.
A good look at the new Royal Cam chick for 2021.
LGL and LGK watch as Ranger Sharyn weighs their chick.

The little Royal Albies are so tiny that they are weighed in a sock. But they grow so fast that they quickly outgrow that and move to the laundry basket! Parents take turns on the nest. One heads out to sea to feed while the other ones remains at Taiaroa taking care of the chick. When the chick is old enough, it is left on its own while both parents forage at sea. This is such an exhausting process that the Royal Albatross only have a chick every two years.

The chicks are fed from squid in a second stomach of the parent which is regurgitated in a rich oily liquid that helps the baby grow. The little one learns right away that tapping the bill of their parent will stimulate this process. When the Albie is older and can walk but not fly, they run to meet their parents so they can have some squid shake.

If you are interested in watching the Royal Albatross, Cornell University and the NZ DOC support a 24/7 cam. You can find it at:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/royal-albatross/

If you are interested in Bald Eagles, I suggest you go to the American Eagle Federation’s page on youtube where there are many 24/7 cameras. You can find them at:

https://www.youtube.com/user/BaldEagleInfo

Thank you for joining me today. Birds and wildlife enrich our lives. I cannot imagine a world without them!

Tomorrow I am going to review three new books for all your bird lovers!