Nestorations

So many people began watching streaming bird cams last year as the pandemic set in around the world. It is hard to believe sometimes that a year or more has passed. It feels like a blink. The ‘time’ has simply melted between our fingers. The very first streaming cam that I watched was after my encounter with the Sharp-shinned Hawk in my garden in January 2018. It was a camera focused on the ledge of a building that belonged to City University in New York and it was a pair of Red-Tail Hawks. There was tragedy on that nest with the male dying and the female having to raise the three eyases alone. Then there was a new male and three eggs last year and the female was killed by rat poison. The nest was abandoned. Besides having my own cat, Duncan, killed by rodenticide it was that death that stirred a desire to end the use of designer anti-coagulating poisons. Shortly after someone suggested that I check out the streaming cam for the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. And so, I began just as the resident female hawk was laying her first egg. March 2020. If you read my post regularly, you will have heard about Big Red and Arthur. Still many of you might know be aware of this amazing couple and so, I will give you a very brief introduction.

The nest on the light stand at the Cornell University campus stadium is getting readied for the 2021 season of the Big Red and Arthur show. Big Red is the eighteen year old resident Red Tail Hawk matriarch. Arthur is her five year old mate. Big Red has been raising chicks in this territory for eons. She was hatched in Brooktondale, New York in 2003 and was banded that first fall. The distance between Ithaca and Brooktondale is 7.4 miles. Her mate, before Arthur, was Ezra. Ezra was born at Judd Falls just outside of Ithaca. It is known that Ezra and Big Red raising eyases from 2012, the year that the streaming camera was installed and 2016. He was killed defending Big Red in March 2017. It is believed that Ezra and Big Red had raised eyases for several seasons before the camera was installed. Precisely how many no one knows. Arthur was born in 2016 in an adjacent territory of a family of RTHs to that of Big Red. There is camera footage of him visiting an empty light stand nest in April 2017. By the fall, just as Arthur is getting his red tail, him and Big Red become a couple. They visit the light stand nest in November. They have successfully fledged all of their eyases for three years. This season will be their fourth.

It is approximately three to four weeks til the first egg will be laid and today there were five visits to the nest to make nestorations. Arthur started bringing twigs in at 9:13 and again at 9:34.

After bringing in some more greenery and twigs, Arthur checks out the nest bowl to see if he thinks Big Red will approve.

At 16:26, Big Red arrives for her inspection.

Arthur immediately joins her to get further instructions!

Big Red does a lot of shimmies and twists and seems to approve of the work that has been done on the nest cup.

Looking adoringly at Big Red, Arthur listens intently to all of her instructions.

She has Arthur try the nest bowl so he can understand what else needs to be done. ‘Arthurrrrrrrrrr….you have to get these rails higher or those kids will fall out and land on the cars!’

Big Red departs and leaves him to it.

Arthur came back twice – at 16:46 and again at 16:58 delivering large twigs.

Arthur continues to bring in sticks and break them with his feet and with his very sharp beak. No doubt he will be back at it Saturday morning. There will be no weekends off! Big Red will be laying her eggs and incubating them through rain, snow, sleet, and hail if this season is anything like last year. And while she is doing that, Arthur will be delivering prey. So much prey, in fact, that you will not believe there could be another chipmunk left in Ithaca! Arthur knows and Big Red will remember that there is nothing nicer than having a fur lined nest, too. Helps keep those babies warm in Upstate New York!

I highly recommend this nest to all of you. It is a fabulous way to see the behaviour and the life stages of the Red Tail Hawk. After fledging, there are several people on the ground that take photos and post videos, often live, of the juveniles. Last year we saw many teaching moments when Big Red and Arthur joined together, for example, for a family hunting day. These are two fabulous hawk parents that work together so well. They are always in tune with one another and their eyases thrive because of it.

Here is the link to that streaming cam:

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

Thanks so very much for joining me. It is hard to curtail my excitement. This RTH family has really enriched my life and my understanding of avian behaviour.

Thank you to Cornell Labs for their streaming camera of the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. That is where I took my scaps.

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.

Birds bring us so much joy

I want to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Welcome’ to all of you. I do not know how you found this site but I am very grateful that you did. You and I share a passion for birds. We are curious about their lives. People from around the world have joined with you and me to learn about the challenges these fascinating creatures face. We have experienced their triumphs and cried at their loss. Collectively we wept when the Ravens made off with Daisy the Duck’s eggs. Together we worried whether or not Harriet and M15 would accept their little eaglets once they were returned from the wildlife rehabilitation centre. And today we marvel at how these magnificent creatures manage when they are severely injured like our Warrior Eagle in the care of A Place Called Hope tonight. Each of us wonders how we can make their lives a little easier because as each of us knows – the birds bring so much joy into our lives.

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The Polar Vortex is causing extreme weather in Canada and the United States. Europe is also experiencing an extremely cold Arctic air mass that is causing temperatures to plunge. Seattle has had more snow today than they have had in fifty years. In Norman Oklahoma where I grew up, they have more snow than I have in Canada. It is hot and hotter in Florida. These extremes are unprecedented and there will be another system rolling through on Wednesday. That is what the meteorologist on CNN was saying a few minutes ago. Wonder what our birds would say if we could communicate with them?

I am not someone who sits and normally watches the weather as closely as I have for the past several days or a week. Sometimes the days just melt together and you look up and seriously, a week or more has passed as quickly as if you snapped your fingers. So why do I care? Because these severe weather challenges impact every aspect of our feathered friends lives.

This is what it looked like yesterday on the Mississippi River. The image is grainy but if you look carefully, you will see an elongated dark blob with a white head – those are your adult Bald Eagles! And this is near the nest of the Trio up near Fulton, Illinois. The eagles are there not just because of the magnificent old trees but also because there are fish in that river.

Speaking of The Trio, you have only been able to see them from a distance since their tree was destroyed during the heavy winds last year. They have been busy fitting up another one for this breeding season. In celebration of Valentine’s Day someone posted an image of the Trio from last May. Aren’t they just a gorgeous threesome? Starr and her two Valors. They aren’t all lined up proper but you can see how much larger Starr is compared to the two males. Just a beautiful family working it out so that their eaglets grow healthy and thrive.

One of the things I learned last year observing a Red Tail Hawk nest is that the more prey that is brought into the nest the better the offspring do. They grow bigger and healthier. Their feathers are stronger. Researchers have been comparing the amount and type of prey on that RTH nest on the Cornell Campus since 2012. Last spring with the pandemic and a four year old male that is a psychopathic hunter, Arthur brought in almost twice the amount of prey from any other previous year. It is assumed that the presence of humans on the campus impacts the chipmunk population negatively. (People run over them with their cars or scare them away.) These cold temperatures will also impact the intake of food negatively right now. It will add stressors to the birds (and all other animals as well as humans). The advantage for the Trio is that they have an additional eagle to hunt or protect the nest – both much needed.

And that is going to be very helpful now. What you are seeing is an early morning exchange. Yes, Starr laid an egg in that nest for the Valors on Valentine’s Day! How special is that. And, apparently, she laid her first egg of the 2020 season on Valentine’s Day, too.

I don’t know if you have ever thought about it but the ‘normal’ (what is normal anymore????) laying eggs and hatch is normally linked to the onset of spring when all the babies hatch. The prey is waking up from their winter hibernation and there is lots of food. The problem right now is first the bitterly cold winds, the snow that is gathering on nests, and the availability of food.

As you can see in the image below the snowing is getting deeper on that Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City. And as you know, that nest is currently being occupied by a Great Horned Owl who is incubating eggs. She has been on the nest a little over a week. At 3pm today, it was snowing and as you can see it was 0 degrees F. I just checked the temperature there and it is now -7. These are simply temperatures that are unknown. No one is prepared for them. The mice and squirrels that these owls eat hunker down just like everyone else trying to stay warm.

When I posted the picture above it was snowing and 0. It is currently -9 and the snow is actually getting deeper on this nest. These poor animals are not used to this kind of weather but I am told that is what feathers are for. Those eggs are comfy and toasty. That is the benefit of being in the centre of that great big eagle nest. It will hold in some of the heat. I wonder if the owls knew this big storm was coming when they decided to occupy this eagle nest? Owls are smart!

Three other updates for you this morning. Despite the snow on the ground, Big Red, my most favourite Red Tail Hawk in the world is 18 years old this spring. She was banded at Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She has been at her nest on the light tower on the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York this morning bringing in twigs to do some nestorations. You will hear a lot about her and Arthur. I adore this family.

Big Red has some of the most beautiful rich red plumage. You can see her beautiful red tail that indicates she is an adult Red Tail Hawk. The juveniles do not get these until after their first moult.

Big Red lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March of 2017. He was killed protecting her from intruders. She did not raise any eyases that year. But she met Arthur in April of 2017. Apparently Big Red had a lot of suitors. She is a fantastic mother and has an amazing territory. Instead of selecting an older male, she picked Arthur. Everyone thought that the bird was crazy! Arthur was born in 2016. But, by the fall when he had his beautiful red tail they were a couple. He won her over with his flying, hunting, and protecting abilities. Arthur is simply one amazing hunter. A hawk with a jetpack on his wings. And he is one of the best providers I have seen in the bird world. Big Red trained him right.

Have some fun watching this video. Each year the chicks are given a letter of the alphabet for their name. Last year was J. So there were three of them: J1, J2, and J3. They all fledged. J1, the oldest and largest and for sure a female who loved to play with her twigs and work on the nest was reluctant to fledge. She left right after her little buddy J3. Oh, the three of them stayed together and played with pinecones and learned how to hunt. Sadly, J1 was killed when she flew into a building window on the Cornell Campus. I am still not sure that I am over that. It was so avoidable. Because of that you will hear me often talk about window strike and what big businesses and you can do to help stop the birds from flying into your windows.

This year we will welcome the Ks. Eggs normally laid in March with hatch around the end of April.

The Bald Eagle fighting for its life because of high levels of lead and two old injuries – the Warrior Eagle – is eating well this morning. A friend asked if they will be able to return him to the wild. If he survives, that is a good question. I am sure he will be observed closely to see how he can eat with his injured beak. It is an old injury but that may, in part, have lead to an inability to hunt well enough to thrive. Here he is this morning. He is finishing up his breakfast. He is doing so well. Keep sending your good wishes his way. It’s working!

Thank you for joining me today. It is cold in Canada but the sun is out and it is bringing me joy just as the good news on our birds is today. Everyone of our birds is OK. They are monitoring little E24s eyes to make sure he gets to the vet if needed. — And it is definitely a good day when they are all fine or fine and improving.

Stay warm and well. See you tomorrow.

Thanks to A Place for Hope for their images of the Warrior Eagle, to the Cornell Lab’s streaming Red Hawk camera for the images and video of Big Red and Arthur’s highlights of last year. Derek the Farmer provides the streaming camera for the owl in the eagle’s nest and for those individuals who posted the updates on the Trio, thank you.