Nova is Wandering

Today’s ‘brief’ focus is on Wandering Albatross. This is because the British Arctic Survey and the Albatross Task Force have just posted Nova’s tracking. Yes, she is being monitored by a satellite transmitter, just like Solly. Today, Nova is feeding near the Patagonian Shelf off the coast of Argentina.

Nova right before she fledged.

The Wandering Albatross is also known as the Snowy Albatross and it has the largest with a wingspan of 3.4 metres or 11.15 feet. They weigh between 8 and 12 kilograms or from 17.6 lbs to 26.45 lbs. In other words, they are enormous compared to many of the other seabirds. They live and breed on remote islands such as South Georgia or smaller islands in the Southern Ocean. The word ‘live’ is misleading. The albatross spend all their time on the ocean except during breeding season, laying and incubating eggs, and raising the chick. Like all Albatross the parents take turns feeding the little one. And, like the Northern Royal Albatross, most will take a year off between breeding so that they can rebuild their bodies. They will spend that time foraging in the Southern Oceans. Like the Kakapo in my last posting, Albatross can live for a very long time. Some are older than sixty years while many never reach their first birthday.

The vast majority of the deaths are entirely caused by humans except for the fur seals who eat the vegetation on the islands. The Wandering Albatross spend the majority of their life on the high seas foraging for food, mostly squid but some fish. As well, they are carried great distances by the high winds. Because of this they have the potential to come into contact with many different legal and illegal fishing trawlers. These beautiful seabirds get caught in the long fishing lines or get trapped in gill nets and are killed. But, they don’t have to be. There are some easy solutions. These include the use of streamers, brightly coloured metallic streamers like people use to play with their cats, only a much larger size will scare the birds away. An even easier solution is to set the fishing lines at night. The third is to weigh down the lines so that they sink very quickly. Normally, they are so long and stay near the surface with their bait that the Wandering Albatross see the fish and want to eat it. The Seabird Task Force is working with fleets of boats from Spain to use demersal longlines. These catch fish at the bottom of the ocean and have been proven to be effective against bycatch.

The following graphic made by the Albatross Task force shows you how long lines and gillnets attract the seabirds.

Nova’s transmitter will, like Solly’s, let the researchers know where she is foraging for squid and fish. And because there are satellite maps of the locations of legal fishing trawlers, many of the Albatross with transmitters have helped to locate illegal fishing fleets. I do not condone industrial fishing and definitely not illegal boats that churn out fish from the ocean on a 24/7 basis but you would think that if they were illegally fishing they would want to have all of the safe systems in place so as not to have the Albatross with the transmitters be attracted to their boats.

Diagram designed by the Albatross Task Force showing the Patagonian Shelf and Nova’s locations along it.

What can you do to help? If you are concerned about the fish you eat, you can go to seafoodwatch.org for lists of sustainably caught fish. You can also learn to read the labels. Look for the red and blue label ‘Friends of the Sea’ or the blue and white label ‘Marine Stewardship Council’. Friends of the Sea has lots of information on its Website about what they are doing to make the information about the fish you eat more transparent. Have a look!

Check out the website of the Marine Stewardship Council for lots more information.

Below is a link to certified products:

https://friendofthesea.org/certified-products-and-services/

There are phone apps such as Seafood Watch which help in addition to several restaurant watch dogs. One of those is Fish2Fork.com

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Some quick updates:

Arthur and Big Red were both at the nest on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca chipping away at the snow and ice that formed overnight. For the next month they will be restoring the nest of the Js and getting it ready for the Ks. Oh, this is such a sweet couple. They work so well together.

Big Red checking out nest cup.
Arthur is helping with nestorations.

Bonnie, the Great Horned Owl, the owl that everyone loves, still has occupancy rights. The Bald Eagles have, so far, not attempted to kick her out of their nest. She sure has had it a lot easier than Daisy the Duck. In part that is thanks to the cold. There is currently no snow falling and the sun is out. The temperature has risen to 8 degrees F which is a lot warmer than the -7 F temperatures yesterday. Let’s hope that her mate is able to scare her up a nice fat mouse for dinner today. He had trouble finding prey yesterday.

Bonnie is happy the sun is shining and it is warmer.

The torrential rains that fell on the NEFL Eagle nest near St Augustine last night are gone. The sun is out and Gabby has been busy venting the nest while keeping the little one close to her in the shade. Samson did a terrific job bringing in all the fish yesterday ahead of that storm. He is now my official weatherman for this nest!

So hot that E24 is staying in the shade of mom.

When I first checked the twins over at the SWFL nest in Fort Myers, I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. They are very much looking like their dinosaur ancestors if they get their bodies positioned just right.

Looks like a pile of dinosaurs!

Ah, it is always nice when E17 is full and passed out so that E18 can get a private fish feeding! All is well on the SWFL nest. Just hot like it is for Gabby and Samson over at St Augustine.

E18 getting a private feeding.

So far, that E18 has been eating solid for twenty minutes! The adult tried to stop and clean its beak and E18 indicated ‘nope, I am still hungry’. The image looks the same but it isn’t. E18 is simply not moving. You can see that 17 has shifted its wing a bit. The little one wants his private fish dinner while 17 is passed out in a food coma. So smart. These little underdogs that get picked on often turn out to be highly creative. After all, it is all about surviving.

E18 is STILL eating.

And no. That parent is not going to be able to eat that fish or leave because now E17, the oldest, is awake and wants some more too! Fresh fish must taste a whole lot better than week old dry catfish!

It is also a time when they are growing and changing so much that their consumption of food is increasing steadily. But, I just love it. There is something about seeing a parent have food in the nest and filling the babies up that just makes life so much more serene.

In the image below, the oldest one, the one that picks on the little one, is now up getting some more fish and the little one, E18 is acting like it is the caboose. But wait! That older one is full quick and now the little one is back up at the feet of the parent. E18 has learned if it pecks at the feet of the parent it gets fed. Wonder if he will get another twenty minute feeding?

E17 decides it wants some fish.

E18 kept tapping on the parents talons and the parent is now feeding him again. I think this little one is going to stay there and eat every last flake of that fish even if its crop almost bursts!

E18 is back eating…again.

The wind is really blowing over in Big Bear California but the sun is shining and there isn’t any snow. Jackie and Shadow are really happy about that. It is so nice to see the weather improving. Jackie and Shadow lost their first clutch of three eggs and Jackie is incubating the second clutch of two eggs. I hope everything goes well for this great couple.

Jackie incubating her two eggs.

And, oh, my goodness. We can see the nest at Duke Farms. For more than two weeks, this poor eagle has been snowed in. How amazing. There is another system moving through on Wednesday. Let us hope that it bypasses New Jersey and gives this mom a break. She is incubating three eggs – three!

Snow is off Duke Farms Eagle nest.

I wanted some news of the Trio since Starr laid her first egg on Valentine’s Day for the Valors. The only person going in and out is this amazing photographer Dennis Brecht. The image below was taken by him and I hope that it is OK to use it since it was posted on the Trios FB page.

I would love to know what the conversation is between the three of them. Starr, the female, is the one standing up with her wings spread. Valor II is to the left and Valor I has his beak open. From the recent history of this nest, I understand that Valor I does not like sharing incubation duties. He wants to do it all by himself. But so do Starr and Valor II. Starr might even want to get on there to lay another egg! Too funny. Remember this is the guy I called the ‘Dead Beat Dad’. Look at him now. Wow.

Photo of the trio taken by Dennis Brecht.

Thanks for checking in today. Everyone appears to be doing fine. Temperatures appear to be warming up in places and we hope that they stay that way. These birds are so intelligent and beautiful. But they need to eat and those little critters hunker down in the cold! But I wish you could see the smile on my face. That little E18 melts my heart. When he was brought back from the clinic and crawled over to Harriet, his mom, well, it was priceless. I sleep a lot easier when I know that he is full to the brim!

Stay safe everyone! See you tomorrow.

Thank you to the Albatross Task Force for the images of Nova. Thank you to the streaming cams at NEFL, SWFL, Big Bear, Duke Farms, Pritchett Real Estate and Farms, Farmer Derek’s and Cornell RTH. Thank you so much to Dennis Brecht for getting out in the storm and posting the picture of the Trio on FB.

24 hours full of birth and death emotion

First, before you get anxious, Daisy the Duck managed through the high temperature of Sydney yesterday. She left the nest at 15:11:10 to forage and returned twenty minutes before sun down at 19:45. It is currently day 14 of her brooding and it is 5:43 Monday the 25th of January in Sydney. All is well in the nest. The sea eagles did not make an appearance in the evening and Daisy did not go out foraging before dawn this morning. It is due to be another hot day on the nest.

Daisy just before dawn, 25 January 2021.

I have said often that the lives of our feathered friends hang on a thread. Anything can happen at any time. Sadly, much of the time the root cause has something to do with humans and our lack of respect for the environment. Rat poison – rodenticide – contains chemicals that cause the mice and rats to bleed internally. But before they did their movements slow down. Raptors (falcons, hawks, eagles) often catch the dying animals. While it is not always lethal for the larger birds such as adult Bald Eagles, it is for the smaller hawks and falcons and their babies. Toxins in the water flushed out from industrial plants is another or the heating of the oceans causes toxic red algae. Window strike breaks their necks. Tossing any food waste onto the highways causes the birds to come and not watching, they get hit by vehicles. The mesh bags that hold oranges and other fruits along with not cutting the ties on face masks tangles up the birds as does the mesh that people and farms use to cover the trees and bushes in their orchards. And of course the glue strips that catch the birds and cause them such devastating pain trying to free their little legs. I could go on. The list would be endless. The most prominent way is through the loss of habitat.

In a short period of time, in the world of our beautiful birds, there has been intense pain and great happiness.

At Captiva Island, there was such joy when Peace and Hope were each born, within six hours of one another, on 14 December 2020.

Hope and Peace being fed fish on Christmas Day by their dad, Joe.

Fishing line was discovered in the nest with a hook on it. The American Eagle Federation got permission from the US Wildlife Service to have it removed. On or about the same day, the parents brought a rat into the nest to feed the eaglets. No one knows precisely what happened but it was observed that Peace no longer wanted to eat and was becoming dehydrated. Peace passed away. Hope continued to thrive until a couple of days ago when people started noticing that ‘something was wrong’. They didn’t know what. Many noticed tremors in her leg. Others watched as it appeared she could not cough up a pellet. (Raptors cannot process all of the food that they eat. What they can’t is formed into a pellet that is coughed up). Some saw blood on her wing and leg. She coughed and choked all day, January 23. Many think her heart gave out last night. Connie, her mother, flew to the nest as she was taking her last breaths. One of the saddest things is that prior to Hope and Peace, Joe and Connie had fledged nineteen juvenile Bald Eagles in the twelve years they have been together. In fact, people exclaimed how physically strong these two were. Hope crawled out of the nest and up to the end where the parents bring in food when she was only two days old. They were both growing and getting strong. Peace died on 13 January. A few days, Joe took her body from the nest. Many are hoping that a necroscopy can be done on Hope to determine the cause of her death.

January 20, 2021. Hope with Connie on the nest overlooking their territory.

In the image above, three days ago, you can see how Hope was getting her beautiful dark brown juvenile feathers.

Apologies. Hope is moving. 23 January 2021.

In the morning fog, the same day of her death, Hope stands talls and is jumping up and down on the nest flapping her wings.

Today, Connie is standing over the body of her daughter, Hope, shading it. From all available evidence, birds grieve just like humans when they lose a child.

Connie with the body of Hope.

There is frustration and anger and the debates continue as to whether or not intervention in the lives of these majestic birds should take place. Some argue that we are fortunate to be able to view their lives but that we should not intervene to help them unless it is clearly something a human has caused. Others state the opposite. While we are now privileged to watch the comings and goings of the birds, it is our duty to protect them so that they thrive. Unfortunately, nothing will bring back to the vibrant eaglets, Peace and Hope.

January 23 was also the day that Harriet and M15’s two eaglets hatched at Fort Myers, Florida.

E17 and E18 hatched just an hour and a half apart. What were two wet limp bodies have turned into fuzzy little bonking babies this morning!

E17 and E 18

Notice the white at the top end of their beak. That is the ‘egg tooth’. The egg tooth is a small white protuberance that helps the birds chip away at the shell so that they can hatch. By hitting on the shell, the egg tooth makes the first pip! The egg tooth disappears in a few weeks.

Bonking of bobbing into one another after hatch is a rather normal experience. The little birds cannot focus their eyes well, their heads are bigger and awkward til they get some strength in their necks, and because they know that food comes from their beak and the parent’s, you will often see them bonking back and forth. This should end after a few days but in some nests it persists as a means of establishing dominance. In some cases it can lead to siblicide, the killing of the other sibling.

And on 23 January in New Zealand, the Royal Cam Albatross chick belonging to LGL, Lime Green Lime, and LGK, Lime Green Black, hatched. New Zealand gives the albatross born at Tairoa coloured bands for identification. This couple were chosen to be the stars of the camera this year. The baby Albatross will receive a Maori name right before it fledges and we should know in a couple of weeks if it is a male or a female.

DOC Ranger Julia and LGK as he sees his baby for the first time.

I can always be found praising the New Zealand Department of Conservation. They protect their birds. Once the rangers noticed the ‘pip’ of the Royal Albatross egg of LGK and LGL, it was removed and a dummy egg was placed under the parent to continue incubating. The ‘real egg’ was placed in an incubator. The reason for this is fly strike, the infestation of fly larvae during the period that the chick is trying to hatch. This can lead to their death. Royal Albatross are a highly endangered species because of climate change and long haul fishing. The New Zealand government is taking a very proactive role in trying to keep their birds healthy and also in promoting the use of varies methods to protect bycatch, whether it is our gentle albatrosses or sea turtles.

This is a great video to introduce you to the topic of bycatch and how important it is to get international agreements in place to protect the ocean’s animals.

There is much you can do to help birds from cutting the lines to your masks and putting them in the trash, to educating people on feeding birds at feeders and ponds, to lobbying international agencies demanding the end to bycatch. If you go back through my posts you will find several dedicated to ways that you can help birds no matter what your financial status.

Daisy on her nest just after dawn breaks, 24 January 2021.

I will have a full report on Daisy’s day in about nine hours. The weather will be hot again in the Sydney Olympic Park and we hope that means that no sea eagles will come to see if they can catch Daisy!

Thank you for joining in the daily life of our favourite little Black Pacific Duck, Daisy.

And thank you to Pritchett for the camera views of Harriet and M15, Captiva Eagle Cam and the AEF for the camera views of Joe and Connie, to Cornell Bird Cams and the NZ Department of Conservation for their camera views of LGL and LGK, and to Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the camera views of Daisy.

January 5 is National Bird Day!

Today is National Bird Day. Did you know? And, if not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is there a day to celebrate birds?

National Bird Day seeks to raise awareness about birds. It is that simple. It began fourteen years ago in the United States and spread. So today, Canadians, too, are shouting out the love for our feathered friends. Everyone is joining together to find ways to enrich the lives of these, the closest living relative to the dinosaurs, better. And why should we care? Well, there are lots of reasons but let me begin with the fact that we have over fished the oceans, made the waters toxic and decreased the amount of fish that was present at the end of the nineteenth century by 80%. We have populated the world and allowed cities to sprawl, taking away the normal territory of the birds to hunt prey and survive. We spray our lawns so they are green, use toxic pesticides, construct buildings with gorgeous winds that are not strike proof (they could easily be), while driving fast and well, quite honestly, some people go out of their way to do harm. The coffee we drink, for 94% of that grown, comes from crops grown in direct sunlight. Yes, drinking coffee causes deforestation! So part of today is to examine how we can deal with these issues and offer protection and survival to our feathered friends. Did you know that 12% of the 10,000 bird species are in danger of extinction? There is a doctor from Studio City, California traveling the world to try and photograph every species of hummingbird before they are gone. Her name is Carole and she runs Hummingbird Spot, a bird cam and chat on youtube to raise awareness.

Kakapo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So what can you do to help? You might think about bird adoption. I am particularly fond of the work that the Kakapo Recovery do to help the only remaining 208 kakapo. Have you ever heard of the kakapo?

The kakapo is also called the ‘owl parrot’. The forage around on the ground of the forests in specific areas of New Zealand. They do not fly! And they are extremely endangered. Every Christmas the Kakapo Recovery issues certificates for adoption. You get a photo of your kakapo and a plushie along with other swag. The purpose of the adoption is to help fund the Kakapo Recovery. Cost of adoption ranges from $100 to $500 NZD. The birds wear transmitters that require annual or semi-annual changing of batteries. Those transmitters allow the researchers on the islands to find the birds and check their health. Today, there are only 207 Kakapo. Their existence was compromised due to habitat destruction. Today, they are threatened by disease and intruders. Don’t want to adopt a kakapo? why not buy a great beanie that comes with a really beautiful Kakapo pin?

If you have been one of the millions enjoying watching wildlife make their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young, you can donate to the wildlife cams that make this happy. You can donate just as much as you can afford. Cornell University runs a multitude of bird cams partnering with others around the world. They monitor the lives of Osprey, Royal Albatross, Red Tail Hawks (my favourite), along with countless other species living in manmade cliffs in Bermuda to fruit eating birds of Panama. Check them out! The bird cams are free! In 2020, during the pandemic, millions watched and discovered great empathy with these beautiful feathered creatures. They also learned many things. Did you know that the parents of the Royal Albatross chicks being incubated talk to their young before they hatch? Did you know that a damp nest can cause disease killing the young? If you have ever watched any of these birds feeding their young, you will marvel at how those big beaks can get such tiny pieces of food into the nestlings mouth! You will marvel at how they grow and you will come to imagine that humans might want to be so focused at the dining table. One of my favourite falconers, Laura Cully, thinks that every human should have to watch hawks raise their eyases before the humans commit to having children. Bird cams are wonderful but along with the joy there is also sadness. The norm is that only 1 out of 3 juvenile birds will live to see its first birthday. Those watching the camera of the pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red and Arthur, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were thrown in despair this past summer when the big beautiful female, who had recently delighted everyone with her baths in puddles, was killed when she flew into the window of a building. And those who watched the two White Bellied sea eaglets growing in the nest in Sydney Olympic Park, WBSE 25 and 26, learned what determination was. SE26 had its leg broken shortly after hatch. For over a month it could not stand. It would scoot on its ankles. But, the eaglet persevered and forced itself to walk despite the pain. It branched, learned to feet itself, and fledged. SE 26 returned to the nest six days later much to the delight of everyone who thought they would never see her again.

Last photo of WBSE 26 I took off the screen.

Many who watch the bird cams contend with their own physical issues and it was very easy to identify with SE26. Everyone hoped that when she had overcome everything to fly that she would be able to be a real sea eagle living in the wild. The day after this photograph, WBSE 26 was found on the balcony of a condo, 22 stories up. She was taken into care. It was determined that she was in a lot of pain, there was scar tissue on her feet, injuries to both from overcompensating only using the left leg, and the break had not healed properly. She was euthanized. It broke everyone’s heart. If anyone were to suggest that the life of a bird is one of fun and freedom, I would have them watch a bird cam for awhile.

What else can you do in your own area? You can donate money or items to your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. The one near Winnipeg is Wildlife Haven. Check their website for what they need. Take a drive out and see their resident Bald Eagle who was found in NW Ontario and who now is one of their ambassador birds. You can attract birds to your back garden. You can add feeders and bowls of water. They will thank you immensely. Crows and Blue Jays love grapes, dog kibble, hard-boiled eggs which are good for them. Avoid feeding birds bread. It is like Junk food to them. They love it and will fill up on it but will ultimately die of starvation. If you see plastic mesh bags or the plastic tops that hold cans, cut them and put them in the garbage. Avoid the use of balloons at all cost. Birds die from getting tangled in them. And last, three ideas. Coffee. Do you drink it? Do you know where those coffee beans come from? 94% of the world’s coffee is grown in the sun with only 6% grown in the shade. Coffee grown in the shade does not destroy the habitat of birds and animals. In Canada, you can order ‘bird safe’ coffee from birdsandbeans.ca It is not any more expensive than some of the other leading brands and if you order $45 worth, the shipping is free. It is also delicious, organic, and fair trade.

Only one of the signature blends at BirdsandBeans.

If you live in the United States, you can order directly from the Smithsonian who certifies the coffees that are grown in the shade.

And if you really want to get into the politics of wildlife, then go and read the website of the Albatross Task Force. You might never eat factory fish again! Lobby your government to make these fishing trawlers comply with standards so that there is no bycatch. What do I mean by bycatch? Sea birds are attracted to the fish used as bait and they get caught on the industrial hooks if they are not protected. A Wandering Albatross is decapitated every five minutes. The goal of the Albatross Task Force is to get every industrial trawler to use bird scaring lines, fish at night, and add weight to the long lines. These are inexpensive remedies meant to save 80% of the bycatch and protect the growing number of endangered sea birds.

Get a friend to join you! Have your children enter many of the bird contests. Join in on Bird counting days. Read about birds and nature. We need to protect the birds and their habitat so that they can help protect us.