The Great Bird Count – and you can join in the fun

Friday, 12 February kicks off four days of bird counting. It does not matter where in the world you live. My readers come from every continent and I know that you will want to take part. So, what’s up and how can you join in the fun.

It’s free. Anyone can participate. You can count the birds in your garden, at the park, at the beach, or on a walk. And because of the frigid weather, you don’t even have to go outside. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t. You can look out of your window. You will need a pad of paper and something to write with. And you will need to log in to submit your observations. What if you don’t know what bird it is – well, the organizors have you covered. You have free access to Cornell’s Birds of the World to help you. And for anyone who submits sightings longer than 15 minutes or through the Merlin app on their phone, they will be entered to win a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 24 binoculars. Fantastic. So here is how to do.

I want you to go to: https://www.birdcount.org/participate/

I cannot get the link to embed in this posting, so please cut and paste.

Once you get to link, you will see the text and the images at the right (in the picture above). Please select the device that you will use to submit your count. You do this by clicking on one of three links in green. (If you are a group, like a school classroom, you click on Group Counting).

You will need to sign up for an account. It is free and once you have joined, spend some time at the Cornell site. There are free courses, bird identification postings, and you can find the links to all of the streaming cameras that Cornell Ornithology Lab helps to sponsor. Once you are signed up or signed in, you will need to determine what kind of a device you will be using to upload your counts. I will be using my laptop computer. During the day I will note the time I started watching my garden and what birds I saw during that period. In our garden it is particularly busy around 12 noon when we fill the feeders. I will start my bird count then. For four days I will count the birds that come to the garden. Don’t worry if you think you haven’t seen enough birds to bother. Every bird counts! And I really mean that.

Several years ago I noticed the Sharp-Shinned hawk and I went in and listed in on e-Bird. I had an e-mail that afternoon telling me that I could not have a Sharp-shinned hawk in my garden in Canada in January. But I did and I had a picture of it. Do not underestimate the importance of this count.

There will be another one in May. You can join in then or maybe you will want to count the birds more often and submit them to e-Bird. Taking a walk becomes fun. Just take a small notebook and pencil or your phone. Keep a list and submit it when you get home.

If you can’t count birds every day of the four days – no problem! Just submit when you can. You will be able to see the live count around the world. To see the live tracking go to birdcount.org

Have some fun. Get your friends to join in and compare the birds that you saw.

__________________________________________________________________

One of the things that I am most interested in is bird behaviour. When Daisy the Duck had her nest in the centre of the old Ironbark Tree, where the White Bellied Sea Eagles raise their eaglets, will remember the reaction of the various birds to Daisy being in the nest. In the case of the Bald Eagles, I have noticed the behaviour of the adult male, M15, at the SWFL Eagle nest in Fort Myers since the twins returned from being at the clinic. M15 has gotten at least one gold star and last night, after sunset, he got another.

In the clinic it was noticed that E17 was extremely aggressive to E18. In fact, the behaviour got so bad that the clinic staff literally separated them at meal time. E17 got time out.

So it was with great interest that I watched a feeding on the nest just as dusk was falling tonight, 11 February. The events at this feeding are quite telling. Let me show you.

  1. At the onset, E17 is asleep. E 18 is sitting up and is awake. There is an old catfish by E18 (left) and fish to the right of the sleeping sib.

Harriet begins to feed E18 the old catfish. M15 has arrived on the nest to the right. E17 remains asleep.

Harriet is still feeding E18. E17 raises its head, opens its eyes and notices that its sibling is being fed. M15 is eating fish.

In the image below, E17 has sat up and bonked E18 who lies in the submission pose. Harriet has moved the old catfish around to feed E17.

Harriet continues to feed E17 but E18 is raising its head. M15 is now raising his head from eating. He is noticing what is happening. Eagles have amazing vision. His line of sight lets him know that E18 is not being fed any longer.

M15 leans over E17 to feed E18. Harriet does the same thing. E18 has not turned around to eat because he is afraid of E17 bonking him.

M15 actually feeds Harriet so she can feed E18. M15 hovers directly over E17 so it cannot cause any trouble.

Harriet continues to feed E18. E17 has gone to sleep. M15 is leaving the nest. Whew! I hope you can keep all of that straight.

Harriet and the eaglets are trying to sleep despite the mosquitoes which seem to be quite bad at both this eagle nest and the one near St. Augustive, NEFL.

It turned out that E18 has a very nice late dinner. He had some of the old catfish while E17 was sleeping and then when M15 stepped in, he had some of the new fish after E17 was asleep again.

And a quick check in this morning. I did not know that there are still eagles in Minnesota that did not migrate. They are apparently having great difficulty in this cold finding prey.

Down in Florida, it is a different story. E17 and 18 are already panting it is so hot.

And all is well in NEFL at St Augustine. Lots of fresh fish on deck and the little one just waiting for a nice bite.

And remember that beautiful picturesque Big Bear? Look what is happening to Jackie and Shadow today? The winds are horrific! And snow is coming down like hard pellets. Not the soft dancing flakes we have.

Poor Jackie. She has her head hunkered down. She is now into hard incubation as she did lay that second egg late last night! I hope Shadow can find you some nice prey in this horrific weather!

It looks like the only nice weather for our eagles is down in Florida right now.

That is our morning check in. Please remember to take part in the Great Bird Count if you can – and, of course, if you want to.

Will be back this evening with an update on the Eagles and how they are holding out in this weather. Take care everyone. Stay safe.

Thank you to the streaming cams at SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, at NEFL, and at Big Bear. I get my screen shots form these cams.

And for the life of me I cannot get rid of this block. I had tried to post a link to you about the bird count – so ignore it!

Saving their wildlife

The New Zealand Department of Conservation takes care of the country’s wildlife. If there is a problem, especially one created by humans, there will be ways to intervene on behalf of the non-humans. The country is quite amazing. I have a dear friend who lives there who says, “New Zealander’s love their birds and what the government is doing to protect them”. The only other comment my friend has is that they hope the country will end the use of coal.

Northern Royal Albatross. Wikimedia Commons.

During 2021, the NZ government will be undertaking a broad study of the Northern Royal Albatross. A part of this study will involve attaching trackers to birds on Chatham Islands as well as the mated pair that are the parents of the Royal Cam chick at Taiaroa Head. The solar powered trackers are extremely light and weigh 20 grams. They are placed on the back feathers and will stay in place until the first moult, approximately one year. You might remember from an earlier posting that Australia put a tracker on Solly, the female Eastern Osprey, born on the barge at Port Lincoln this year. Already Solly is changing what is known about those amazing sea birds and the tracking of the Albatross will yield, hopefully, good results, too.

Lime-Green-Black (LGK) was on the nest so his transmitter was attached today. When Lime-Green-Lime (LGL) returns to relieve LGK from his feeding duties, the rangers will attach hers.

Below is an image of LGK spreading his wings. You can see his tracker. And look! there is the chick looking at its dad. Hopefully the information the trackers provide new information for the researchers. At the same time, we know that these transmitters are able to show how close the albatross are to legal fishing vessels as well as illegal. Perhaps, some way, they can help bring about international legislation to end fishing practices that cause these gentle birds to become bycatch.

Royal Cam Chick of 2021 looking at its dad, LGK.
Royal Cam dad, LGK with his tracker, resting above the chick at sunset, 11 August.

The New Zealand DOC is extremely active ridding Taiaroa of predators that humans have introduced. Those in need of protection that are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or near threatened include the Otago Shag, the Northern Royal Albatross, the Sooty Shearwater, and the Red-billed Gull. The predators that have required eradication are stoats, rabbits, hedgehogs, and feral cats. The DOC has various methods that they use to capture these animals. In their information, they indicate that they gauge their success rate by the number of chicks that are alive not by the number of predators that are caught. Increased heat causes more flies and there are issues with fly strike and newborn albatross. Rangers spray the nest with an insecticide to eliminate this issue.

There are other human introduced issues to other wildlife at Taiaroa such as the Blue Penguin. The rising heat from climate change, fishing net, line, and hooks, marine pollution such as oil spills, chemical spills, and plastic are among the direct threats caused by humans.

Halfway around the world from New Zealand is tiny Gough Island.

Gough Island, December 2005. Photo by M. Chowd. Wikimedia Commons.

They are separated by 10,964 km (6812.7 miles) and yet Taiaroa Head has much in common with Gough – mainly, Albatross! Gough Island is rugged and is a UK territory and it is home to the Tristan Albatross which is on the verge of extinction by human introduced rats that have grown into mega-sized monsters.

Tristan Albatross, 2009. Photograph by M. Clarke. Wikimedia Commons.

In the 19th century, sailors brought mice with them when they arrived on Gough. They have no natural predators on the islands. The mice learned to love the taste of the Albatross eggs and the chicks. With no where to flee, the birds were literally ‘sitting ducks’ so to speak for the mice who grew into enormous rats. They are so big and so bold now that they are attacking even larger sea birds and endangering the Atlantic Petrel and the MacGillivray prion. They are, in fact, able to eat a large seabird whole and alive. Cameras have caught the rat behaviour and it is alarming. The rats gather at night and form groups. As many as nine will attack a nest.

The operation is due to take place in 2020. Given the location of the island, it is an enormous logistical challenge.

It involves chartering a ship from South Africa, which will carry two helicopters and a load of poisonous, cereal pellets. These will then be spread across the island by the helicopters. They contain an anticoagulant which should kill the mice within 24 hours.

The eradication of the mega-rats was supposed to happen in 2020 but will now take place this year. And it is a seriously difficult task. In fact, sitting on the Canadian Prairies, this seems like a logistics nightmare. Gough Island is tiny and in the middle of the Atlantic. The plan, as I understand it, is to charter a ship in South Africa that will then travel over some of the roughest seas in the world carrying helicopters and poisonous cereal pellets. They will be dropped from the helicopters onto the island. The poison that will be used is the same type as that which people are lobbying to be banned. I have been writing about this since the death of Peace and Hope at the Captiva Nest.

Of course, before any of this can happen any birds or other animals on Gough will need to be removed safely. I wish I could ask someone questions. What happens to the cereal pellets that aren’t eaten? could the poison go into the soil? what if there are cereal pellets left and the returning birds eat them? I am sure that these have been answered somewhere because the debate on how best to deal with the issue of the ever-growing rats and rat population on Gough has been on going for at least a decade.

————————————————————————————-

Updates: Gabby is feeding E24 a gourmet meal of squirrel and fish. And this little one is so cute. When mom gets up it follows her big yellow beak because it knows that food is coming. Its eyes, feathers, and general overall appearance, despite the mass of nasty mosquitoes at night, seem fantastic. There appears to be no more change to the egg.

Cute and fuzzy, changing from white to grey before our eyes.


E18 was wanting more of the fresh catfish and then…

E17 woke up and noticed! E17 immediately came over and demanded to be fed while pulling at the little one’s wing. This kid really needs a time out.

E18 is, however, learning how to deal with the issue. It goes down in a pose of submission but making sure its back is to the larger sibling. This protects its head and neck.

Both eaglets had big crops and after two bites, E17 fell over in a food coma and the little fella turned back around and ate lots more fish. Good work around E18! Maybe you will give your sis another one of those mysterious wing pokes today!!! Bad old sister.

Ah, sweet. Nothing like having a fresh catfish dinner by yourself.

Proud parents, M15 on the left and Harriet on the right are really enjoying having their babies back. I know many worried that they might not accept them but from the evidence above all is well. Including E17 being a little stinker!

The bitter cold that hit Canada, that Polar Vortex, dipped way down into the United States including the eagle nests along the Mississippi River. Historically, Starr has laid her eggs around the middle of February. She is seen in the image below on the right with one of the Valors to the left (apologies I can only identify them from the front). Ground watchers say that the trio have been working on the nest despite the very blistery cold weather. They have also reported that Starr spent last night sleeping on the nest. Eggs coming soon!

It’s a great photo actually showing the difference in size between the female (on the right) and the male (on the left).

The cold weather in the US is treacherous. The birds are definitely not used to these types of dipping temperatures. Many spend the winter in Kansas and Oklahoma and do not migrate. I wonder if this winter might change that. It is being reported in Kansas that the beautiful hawks are freezing. Many are being rescued by kind individuals. If you live in areas where there are hawks, put the number of the local wildlife rehabilitation clinic on your cell phone in case you see a bird that needs help and you don’t know what to do. Thank you!

All of the eagles and the Albies are doing good today. There is news coming out of Pennsylvania, despite the cold weather than another mated pair of Bald Eagles have laid their first ever egg. It is eggciting! News on that later tonight in a quick update on that and I plan to check in on Solly and she where she is today. Wonder what new records that beautiful Eastern Osprey is breaking today?

Stay safe everyone. If you are in the area of this extreme cold weather, stay inside. Make sure your cell phone is charged. Stay warm. Double up your socks. Whatever you need to keep well.

Thank you so much for stopping by. It is so nice to have you with me.

Thank you to Cornell Lab Cams, the NZ DOC, the SWFL cam and D. Pritchett family, and the NEFL streaming cam where I grab my images.