Day 11 of incubation

It is noon on Daisy’s nest in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. She has started to pant as the sun shines directly on her. Like other birds, panting is a way for Daisy to regulate her temperature; she does not sweat like humans. It is, as summer days go, hot. The weather at Homebush Bay indicates that it is 34.1 degrees C. I wonder if it is actually hotter on the nest?? It is normally understood that heat rises. And, as you can see from the image below, Daisy is in direct sunlight right now. Some parts of Australia are bracing themselves for very hot weather in a few days, up to 39 degrees C.

The hot sun at high noon is shining directly on Daisy.

Many have thought that Daisy would need to take more breaks during the day as the heat builds. However, since it is 12:30 and she remains, I am thinking that she will follow her regular pattern of going off in the afternoon to forage. She has now gathered up more down to cover up the eggs from predators.

At 13:18 Daisy begins to take the down of the nest cup and fold it over inwards. Sometimes she just does this and then will turn and do her cute tail wiggle. Occasionally, she does this when she is rolling her eggs but, most often, it is a sign that she is thinking about leaving to eat. Remember, Daisy does, if all things go serenely, have a pattern of leaving the nest between 1300 and 1400 to forage. Yesterday it was 14:02. And yesterday, she returned at 16:49 but noticed both WBSE on the camera tree and aborted her landing on the nest. So, on average, if voluntarily, it appears that she takes about a two and a half to a three hour break.

In the images below, Daisy begins to tuck the down in around the egg cup. Once the down is folded onto the top of the eggs, she then goes about placing leaves and plant material, and small twigs to further disguise the location. It took her eight minutes to get everything right so that she can leave. She departed at 13:26.

Daisy is busy folding the down that lines the nest cup inward.
Very methodically she continues folding the down in a clockwise direction.
After folding the down, Daisy begins to use her bill to bring in plant material.
It is not always easy to move the leaves and twigs with her bill but Daisy is tenacious.
Once she is satisfied that the eggs are covered as best she can, she leaves to forage to keep up her strength. It is very hot in Hornbush Bay and she needs food and water.
Daisy’s nest is nicely concealed.

All birds have predators and Daisy is particularly vulnerable as she is an outsider to the forest. Her presence and her seven eggs have caught the attention of some, like the Raven and Pied Currawong, that would eat her eggs. Like Daisy’s plumage that serves as camouflage, the manner in which she has concealed her nest is meant to distract any potential threats. She has used the leaves and plant material on top. They blend in perfectly, there is absolutely nothing that would call attention. Daisy is also very discreet and alert in her comings and goings from the nest. Every move is slow and calculated unless she is frightened off by the approaching sea eagles or if she notices their arrival in another tree. Then she leaves quickly!

This is day 11 of Daisy’s brooding or incubation. Even though the eggs were laid on different days, Daisy did not start hard incubation until the last egg was in the nest. Imagine that one minute there are eggs, and within a few minutes the nest will be brimming full of peeping and clacking ducklings. This is precisely what will happen. This is known as synchronized hatching. The number of incubation days to hatching varies but is normally 28-30.

Daisy’s little ducklings – should the nest survive and they make it through the forest to the water – will be covered with fuzzy yellow down. They will have a characteristic dark chocolate brown-black line running from their bill through their eye. There are some white patches on their wings. They will be ever so cute!

Black Pacific Ducklings

Daisy’s ducklings are precocial at hatch. This means that they do not need Daisy to feed them. Daisy’s role will be to lead them to the water where they can forage themselves. Daisy will also help them to learn about predators and she will keep them warm in the evening. In a couple of months their new plumage will be that of an adult Black Pacific Duck, like Daisy.

They are known as ‘dabbling or puddle ducks’. They feed by tipping rather than diving to the bottom of the shallow water. They often forage at the edge of the river and lake like they are doing in the images below. They do not, however, hunt for food on land.

Black Pacific Ducks foraging on the shore. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Dabbling along the muddy shoreline. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A great image of a Black Pacific Duck foraging in shallow water. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is due to be another hot day in the forest tomorrow. The prediction is that it will be 37 degrees Celsius. This might turn out quite well for Daisy as the White Bellied Sea Eagles could be at Goat Island enjoying the cooler weather near the water. It is 16:42 and Daisy has not returned to her nest. She will be enjoying the cool waters of the canal and the river and, since it is so hot, might decide til near dusk when it is safe for her to return to her nest. The sea eagles are normally roosting then.

An uneventful day is a good day for Daisy the Duck.

Thanks for dropping by to check on the little duck who is occupying the large sea eagle’s nest in Sydney Olympic Park forest. Stay safe everyone. See you tomorrow!

I am grateful for the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery centre for the cameras they support. This is where I get my scaps.

For birds and ducks, it seems that the term ‘hawk eye’ really applies, updated

I have to make a confession. It has been a long, long time since I ‘considered’ ducks, ducks of any breed. As a young child, I had a pet white domestic duck that my father brought in his pocket one Easter. Along with a hoard of cats, a three-legged dog, the duck was one of my greatest companions. I spent much time at the zoo but where I really loved to go was to the ‘Duck Pond’ at the University of Oklahoma.

Fall on the University of Oklahoma and part of the large duck pond.

Hours and hours were spent feeding the ducks and just sitting and looking at them. When I visited with my children, they, too, learned to love all of the ducks at the Duck Pond. It is an institution in Norman, Oklahoma, that Duck Pond. I have no idea how long it has been there. It is much beloved and I continued to visit it until the very last time I was in Norman. But I haven’t actually thought about ducks. Hawks, yes. A Sharp-shinned hawk visits my garden regularly in such of prey. The garden is full of birds that can attest to my devotion to feeding them and I have written extensively not to feed birds of any kind – crows, our Canada geese, the ducks at our duck pond at St Vital Park – bread. Feed them corn and peas. Crows love hard boiled eggs, dog kibble, and grapes. But ducks did not get into my head until Daisy. When she first came with her mate in December to check out the nest of the WBSE, I didn’t think too much of it. But, it is what I have learned watching her, talking with others, and researching that has me totally enthralled. I hope you are, too. Just some facts that astound me. Daisy will have lost half her weight in creating the eggs and brooding. They also have the calcium in their system partially depleted. It is hot in that seventy-five food high nest in Sydney, Australia and they tell me it is going to get hotter in the next few days. While this helps the eggs to stay warm when Daisy has to go forage, it also means that she must hydrate more often. Each time she leaves the nest, the eggs are vulnerable. Today before leaving at 14:02 for foraging and a cool down, she gathered up some of the down that the WBSE and the Pied Currawong tossed. She put some of it on the nest but the wind has been blowing and one of the eggs appears to be exposed.

Daisy has been slowly pulling the down that was removed by the WBSE and the Curra closer to her nest cup.

The exquisiteness of her nest woven with nothing but what she has found left on the sea eagle’s nest – leaves, sticks – and the down she pulled from her breast was nothing short of remarkable. A contemporary artist would have difficulty coming up with something so beautiful and organic if they tempted to replicate her work.

And I admire this little duck more than I can ever say. Is it the old David and Goliath story? Think about it. This is a little duck who knows nothing about the forest. She has, for all purposes, made her nest in the ‘King Pin’ of the forest, Dad, the White Bellied Sea Eagle’s nursery!

The last visit that Dad paid to check on his nest was on January 18. That was three days ago. That day he stayed for about six hours waiting for the intruder to return. He did not realize how smart our little duck is!

There are Ravens and Currawong that would destroy her nest and eat her eggs quickly.

Pied Currawong courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Daisy is one brave little tenacious duck, intent on brooding her eggs and having ducks jump over the edge and make their way to the water with her. On the way, if we make it to that point, there are other dangers including foxes. As a result of watching her, my admiration for all of the birds has grown immensely and I want to know more about them and how I, someone writing a blog on the cold Canadian prairies, can help them.

Daisy brooding her seven eggs on the WBSE nest.

Today, Daisy left well before dawn to go and forage and cool off. It was 4:20am. She returned an hour later, about forty minutes before dawn. Most hawks, falcons, and eagles will venture out at dawn and settle to roost at dusk. That, of course, does not apply to birds like owls who hunt at night. My question is how can Daisy manage in that light? It seems that she might be creating a pattern of leaving before dawn and right before dusk to forage with a break in mid afternoon. But, I cannot say for certain. It will take more days to make that kind of a generalization. But what about her vision

Daisy is back at her nest before dawn. Note that she has one eye on each side of her head. They are not situated together on the front of her head like humans.

Almost all birds have some of the most sophisticated and advanced vision of any animals. And their eyesight is much better than humans! Ducks, like Daisy, have monocular (single) vision. Humans have binocular (stereo) vision. Look at Daisy. Her eyes are located on the side of her head. She does not see in 3-D like we do but, if you have ever noticed a duck or a raptor bobbling their head back and forth, that is what they are achieving but with more precise sight than we ever could have without the aid of a device like a powerful spotting scope. Our eyes have blood vessels. Ducks do not have blood vessels in their eyes. Instead their blood is contained in the pecten. The pecten is a small organ at the back of their eyes that contains the blood. Daisy (and other birds) also have something else that humans do not have, panoramic view. She can see almost 360 degrees. This really helps to protect her from predators. So to sum, it up, ducks have eyes that are capable of seeing at least two or three times farther than humans. Their eyes have other characteristics to help them survive in the wild. This includes being able to see ultraviolet light because their eyes have cones. It is also known that they are very good at differentiating colours which, luckily for them, causes duck hunters many problems. They can tell between someone wearing camouflage that isn’t quite the colour of the environment that surrounds them. Good for you Daisy and all Ducks. You might just outwit the hunters. And, speaking of hunters, many in Australia are saddened by the new duck hunting laws for 2021 after seeing Daisy.

Along with her excellent sight, Daisy relies on her hearing. While she is relative unfamiliar with many of the animals and birds who live in the forest (remember she normally lives by the river, not in the forest), she does listen for vocalizations. She tends to raise her neck if she hears alarm calls by other birds nearby. A good example is the calls of the Raven because the Ravens tend to follow the sea eagles if they enter the forest. The ravens are not a direct threat to the WBSE but they are an annoyance. And, of course, Daisy often sleeps with one eye open!

Daisy raises her neck high to listen.

Notice how Daisy raises her neck high in the image above. She can never really relax completely. She must always be alert to any noises or disturbances that might threaten her. On occasion, she has had to leave very quickly and has been unable to cover her eggs. That is what happened the other day when Dad the WBSE arrived on an adjacent tree and she has to leave very quickly. It was that same day that the Curra tried to eat the egg that Dad had rolled out of the nest cup.

Daisy literally sleeps with one eye open so that she can not only hear but see any predators.
Late afternoon shade is almost completely covering the nest.

So far, since Daisy left to forage around 14:00, no predator has arrived at the nest to do harm. In fact, the forest is relatively quiet. Most of the activity occurs at dawn and at dusk. It is a good time for Daisy to forage. As it hears 15:30, Daisy should be returning within an hour and a little bit to start her brooding. She might, like last evening, sneak out for another dip in the water to cool her off before dark.

Thanks for coming to read about and check on this precious duck. She is, according to locals, the first bird that has ever made a nest in the White Bellied Sea Eagle Nest in the Sydney Olympic Park. She is one brave duck and there are thousands of people watching and wishing her well.

Stay tuned for an update in the morning. Nite all, stay safe.

Well, thanks to Daisy’s good eyes and quick reflexes. She was flying into the nest around 16:49 when spotted ‘Dad’, the White Bellied Sea Eagle landing on the branch of the nest tree! She aborted her landing very quickly. Dad had arrived with Lady around 16:01 and both were on the camera tree. One of the sea eagles left and another flew to the parent branch of the Ironbark Tree. See the images below. It is quite windy and hot and the eagle is busy looking around everywhere from his perch. Did they see Daisy?

Dad? Lady? is using his ‘Eagle Eyes’ to look around everywhere hoping to catch the bird who is brooding their eggs in his nest!

The wind was blowing frantically. The WBSE left at 16:58. Where did they go? Neither went to the nest. It looks like it was a quick fly in to see if they could catch the intruder. It is difficult to say if it was Dad or Lady who remained behind. They looked a little ragged suggesting that it is Lady who has not finished their moult. Maybe they left to catch some fish before dusk. Spotters on the ground say that Dad and Lady have returned to their River Roost on the Parramatta River.

Wonder if either will return to check on the nest again? Remember, their vision. They will not come after dusk! The only bother for Daisy during the night is BooBook Owl.

Wind gusts blowing Dad’s feathers ever which way.

Thank you to Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia and the Discovery Centre for providing the camera for my scaps.

A Tree full of Rainbow Lorikeets

I was reminded yesterday that Daisy the Black Pacific Duck is not normally an inhabitant of the forest. She lives down by the water and would, at most other times, make her nest on the ground. She would shape grasses and other plant material into the egg cup or bowl. It is only once she has started hard incubation, that Daisy, like other ducks, will pluck the down from her breast and line the nest. She will continue to add plant material and down to the nest as needed, often replacing what others pull out and destroy.

This year, Daisy didn’t make her nest on the ground. Instead, her and her mate selected a very old nest in an Ironbark Tree in mid-December. That nest belongs to the White Bellied Sea Eagles whose territory is around the Parramatta River and the Sydney Olympic Park forest.

Daisy would have had many intruders if her nest were on the ground. But she would have been familiar with them and they with her. Because she is brooding her eggs in the forest, she is a curiosity. The birds and animals that live there do not know about ducks. They do know that it is the sea eagles that raise their young in this particular nest. Of the curious, one of the first was the the Pied Currawong who, unable to eat the exposed duck egg, threw a little mini-tantrum pulling out much down from the rim of the nest and tossing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. Others who have come to the nest to check out Daisy have been the BooBook Owl, possums, Ravens, and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.

Today, the Rainbow Lorikeets returned. They are the most colourful parrots in the forest! They are ever so curious about the duck in the sea eagle nest! Oh, not just six or seven, but dozens of them! And Daisy was not sure she liked them getting close to her and her precious eggs. Rainbow Lorikeets are a medium sized parrot that are plentiful along the east coast and southern part of Australia. Unlike Daisy who has a bill, they have a beak. They are nectar feeders and are no threat to Daisy. But she doesn’t know that! And like any mother, she will protect her nest and her young as best she can.

At first, it was only three (one out of the picture frame). They were a little cheeky and one of them, totally curious as to why a bird they had never seen should be in the eagles nest, crept over close to Daisy. Daisy turned around in her nest and away from the pleasant morning she had been having and ruffled her feathers and readied to defend herself against birds that she had never seen also. She did not know if they were looking for insects in the nest or if they would harm her.

One of the rangers that researches the nest of the WBSE said that the Rainbow Lorikeet were there to give Daisy the Duck a lecture about not making a nest in a nest owned by sea eagles. But, alas, it is too late if that is what they are doing. Daisy is now on day 7 of incubation duties. She is devoted to her duties!

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets got very close to Daisy and Daisy was contemplating what to do to defend her nest.
At first there were three and then more came until there were more than a dozen chattering away non-stop.
Two Rainbow Lorikeets sat on the rim of the sea eagle nest chattering directly at Daisy who is watching them carefully.
A Rainbow Lorikeet Preening on the Nest Tree.

After all of the commotion – and it really was a boisterous affair – with the Rainbow Lorikeets everywhere, Daisy settled into a little bit of nest renovation. Remember the Curra and Dad the Sea Eagle had moved down off of the nest. Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck. I had no idea looking at her that her neck could get so long. She also used her bill to help gather up some down and plant material that had scattered.

A bill of a beak? Ducks have bills. They are very lightweight. The exterior coating over the interior spongy bone is made out of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. And just like our fingernails, the keratin covering is always growing, healing over dents and scratches, but also maintaining its shape after much use. Ducks do not have to go to a nail salon for a trim!

Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck!
Daisy is using her bill to bring in some of the down the Curra removed from her nest.

After nest renovations, Daisy takes some time to do some preening. Daisy’s feathers are very important to her. She is a ‘diving duck’. That means that she submerges under the water to find food. For ducks like Daisy, it is essential that their feathers be in prime condition. Many types of birds spend up to seventy percent of their time preening, conditioning their feathers. Daisy’s beautiful feathers have grown very tightly. The feathers are stiff and are quite strong compared to the down. In fact, people used to use the feathers as quills to use with ink for writing. Daisy’s feathers grow close together and overlap one another. Look closely and you can see this. They make many layers that are weather resistant and protect our duck.

Daisy preening her feathers just like the Rainbow Lorikeets.

It is nearly 11am in the world of Daisy. Dad the Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn to try and catch the intruder using his nest. Daisy has decided to try and rest a bit. She is still very alert.

Will Daisy take time in the heat of the Australian summer to go and forage? Will she voluntarily leave covering her nest? Will Dad come at dusk? We wait.