Fishing line, again

The area around Big Bear where Bald Eagles Jackie and Shadow have their nest could not be more picturesque. Beautiful mountains, trees, clear lakes, and winding roads.

For all its local beauty, it has been a very sad but, hopefully, promising season for the two.

The single egg that you see on the nest (image below) is the fourth egg that Jackie has laid this season. She originally laid three eggs. Two were stolen by ravens and the third broke. The eagles left the nest despondent and no one knew if they would try again – but they did! The first egg of their second season was laid on 8 February. Eggs are laid about three days apart so if there is to be a second, we should see it today or tomorrow. Remember that laying eggs depletes the female of much needed calcium. She needs to be in good health to try producing this many eggs close together.

Last night, Shadow brought Jackie a nice juicy coot. A coot, if you are unfamiliar, is not a fish but a medium sized water bird that is black. And, on this point, please when your friends tell you that Bald Eagles only eat fish, correct them politely! However, that coot had eaten fishing line and when Jackie ate the coot, she ate the fishing line. She was in great distress – heaving hard= and was finally able to throw that line up with her dinner. Then, of course, the fishing line is on the nest and Jackie gets it tangled around her leg. As of 11 am, 11 February it appears that Shadow was able to remove the line and take it off the nest. There is no sight of it. My goodness this pair have had what we can only call terrible luck. Let us hope that is over.

Shadow brings Jackie a coot for dinner. Egg number 4. Taken from Big Bear Streaming Cam.

Right now absolutely everything is fine.

Jackie on the nest 11 February. Taken from BigBear Streaming Cam.

In the post today was the latest edition of The Journal of Raptor Research. And there, just waiting for me to read it, is an article titled ‘Hospital Admissions of Australian Coastal Raptors Show Fishing Equipment Entanglement is an important threat’. Could it be more timely? Glancing at the article it indicates that the leading cause of population decline of White Bellied Sea Eagles and Osprey is loss of habitat, they also note vehicle collisions, power line electrocutions, window strike especially with the building of commercial and domestic buildings that are mainly glass, pesticides and now fishing equipment. With an increase in recreational fishing, the submissions of coastal seabirds is growing.

My dad was a recreational fisherman in Oklahoma fishing at the large lake separating Oklahoma and Texas, Lake Texhoma. I grew up with him and his friend, Elmer (does anyone name their child Elmer anymore?) and their catfish challenges. I often had to sit on the fish to prove their size! They won contests for catching the largest catfish, sometimes as much ninety pounds. The average was about seventy pounds.

My dad taught my children to fish before they were out of nappies. My oldest loves to fish and lives in the Caribbean where he can go out to sea or fish from shore. He is known for travelling around the world to visit his friends fishing in Japan, around Bangkok with his buddy Tapp, with his friends in Eastern Malaysia and in the Maldives. He is one of the ones who help to clean up the beaches on the island so he is readily aware of the mess that fishing line, nets, and hooks can cause. My grandson walks a few blocks from his house to fish off the shore of the Assiniboine River.

I grew up with people that fished. Now we all know the impact that those hooks and lines can have. It was only a month ago that CROW had to go up to the Captiva Bald Eagle nest and take a piece of monofilament from aroud little Peace. All of the fishing equipment needs to be non-toxic. Years ago they developed some line that was supposed to be unbreakable. Really? All I understood was that there were problems and a lot of fishers refused to use it. So here we are today. Who will be the person who does research and comes up with a kind of dissolving fishing line for recreational fishers? And how can we go about clearing the shores of our lakes, rivers, and oceans of fishing equipment tangled up in the trees and shrubs? This whole thing has plagued me now for several months. Does anyone know of a solution? I know that not everyone is prepared to stop fishing like my husband has. He did it for the birds and just possibly so I wasn’t going around the house in my hawk like voice screaming about it!! By the way, did you know that in movies and commercials with eagles they use the voice of the Red Tail Hawk? Seriously. They sound so much more ‘like an eagle’ than an eagle! Who ever would have thought?!

These are really short clips. Have a listen. Here is the little chatter of the Bald Eagle:

And here is the cry of the Red Tail Hawk:

Used for scary movies!

I promised to bring you updates Solly, the Eastern Osprey female with the satellite tracker. Remember she was born at Port Lincoln on a barge. She is 144 days old today. Solly was fitted with a transmitter and already she has given researchers much to think about. Last week she had flown inland and she had travelled more than 200 kilometres from her natal nest. And that evening we knew that she was at Streaky Bay. There was even a photo of her along the shore. Well, Solly still likes Streaky Bay. Here are the latest tracking images from yesterday (11 February in Australia time zone).

Solly was even captured in photographs down by the Bay and at the Dragon Club Boat Centre. Isn’t she wonderful? I can’t tell you how comforting it is to find out they are alive. So many die. Tears just roll down my cheeks.

She looks pretty happy hanging out with the pelicans. There are so few Osprey in Australia that maybe Solly has found her forever home. Unlike the tracker put on the Royal Cam Albatross, LGK and LGL, Solly’s transmitter will last as long as the Velcro webbing does. They are hoping for seven years. We will check in on her next week to see if she has decided to stay – or go. It is reasonable that if there is no competition from other Ospreys, Solly might have this big territory to herself. The fishing must be good. She looks healthy and well. Believe me, if there wasn’t good fishing, Solly would be out of there!

This afternoon in Florida, both the NEFL Eagle Nest of Gabby and Samson were on alert as was Harriet and M15 at the SWFL Eagle Nest. Intruders are another serious danger to the eagles and with the growth in the Bald Eagle population and the decline in the number of large trees for nesting, youngsters are looking for a home.

Gabby (on the nest) and Samson (on the branch) protect their territory and E24. NEFL Streaming Cam.
Harriet (closest) and M15 (on far end) protect their territory and E17 and E18.

Meanwhile updates show that there is now more snow on the Bald Eagle nest at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey with more to fall over the coming days.

Duke Farms Eagle Cam, 10 February 2021.

Lime Green Lime (LGL) has returned to Taiaroa Head to replace her mate, Lime Green Black (LGK) so that he can go feeding. We will maybe get to see his transmitter results. What Lime Green Lime doesn’t know is that she will also be fitted with a transmitter today. Then for a year we will be able to see where they travel, like Solly.

Lime Green Lime and baby, 12 February 2021. Cornell and NZ DOC cams.

The transmitter is installed! And that little one is sure growing. Now we will be able to find out how far LGL and LGK go to fish.

It’s bitterly cold again. Wildlife is struggling in different parts of the world due to too much cold or too much heat. All of the little ones have gone to bed with full crops. Bald Eagles are alert and protecting their nests.

Thank you for joining me today. I didn’t expect to write such a long second blog until the issue of the fishing equipment presented itself again. Stay warm or cool wherever you are. See you tomorrow!

Thank you to the streaming cams at NEFL, SWFL, Big Bear, and Taiaroa Head.

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.