Don’t mess with a Great Horned Owl named Bonnie

On a farm near Newton, Kansas, there is a tree. It has a Bald Eagle’s nest that, until a little over a week ago, belonged to a mated pair, Willie and Marie. It was ‘borrowed’ by a pair of Great Horned Owls, sometimes called Hoot Owls, that have been aptly named Bonnie and Clyde after the infamous bank robbers.

On 26 January 2021, the owls came to check out what appeared to be an unoccupied nest. This reminds me of when Daisy the Duck and her mate came to check on the WBSE nest in mid-December. Both have a look over the property to see if it is good for eggs and protection.

The owls decided that this would be the perfect spot to raise their family.

The next day the Bald Eagles come to check on their nest. Did they know that the owls had been there?

Something gave Willie and Marie concern. Normally they roost with a large group of eagles but that night, they chose to sleep on their nest.

In the middle of the night, a Great Horned Owl attacks them knocking one of the Bald Eagles from the nest. That was a game changer.

It wasn’t long til Bonnie, the GHOW, had laid her first egg right in the centre of the Bald Eagle’s nest.

In the image above, Bonnie, the owl, is on the nest. She has laid at least one egg. The norm is from one to five eggs. Great Horned Owls are absolutely fierce opponents as you can see from the confrontation that is taking place. In fact, Bonnie will defend her nest without hesitation. While most people will immediately think that owls are ‘cute’ and often ‘cuddly’ or ‘wise’ as in children’s story books, it is good to keep in mind that these are large raptors. They can easily kill, and do, all manner of falcons, Ospreys, as well as other owls. They are known to kill large prey by breaking their spines.

As with all other raptors, the female is the largest. Bonnie weighs, on average, 2 kg or 4.4 lbs. It is entirely possible that Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, weighs half what she does. Male GHOWs generally weight between 1 – 1.5 kilos or 2.2 – 3.3 lbs. Their wing span is about the same, measuring 1.2 metres or almost four feet. In comparison, a Bald Eagle has a wingspan of 1.8 – 2.3 metres or 5 ft 11 in – 7 ft 7 in. The average weight of an adult bald eagle is 6.35 kilograms or 14 lbs. In other words, the Bald Eagle is a lot larger than the Great Horned Owl. In the picture, it is hard to tell which of the raptors is, indeed, the largest. Had there been a fight between the two, both might have been injured. Thankfully, nothing has happened to date.

GHOWs have their young earlier than most other raptors. Generally, they lay their eggs and begin raising their young when the snow is on the ground. The Red Tail Hawks, on the other hand, do not normally lay their eggs until the third week in March, right about the beginning of spring. However, that does not seem to be the case with Bald Eagles. For example, the nest in Fort Myers Florida has eaglets that are twenty-six days old while E24 over at NE Florida, is nine days old. The Love Trio near Fulton, Illinois have laid their first egg on Valentine’s Day while other nests are ahead of them. It is unclear to me when this young mated Bald Eagle couple would have begun laying eggs on this nest. It seems to vary by geographical region and I presume normal climatic conditions. We know that this year in the US it is anything but normal now with the Polar Vortex taking over and causing severe winter storms.

I am left wondering about the Bald Eagles, Willie and Marie. What will they do for a nest? This GHOW has at least 21 more days til hatch. Those beautiful little owls aren’t going to immediately jump out of that nest and begin catching mice! No, they will branch (hop up to a close branch) when they are about six weeks old and will fledge taking short flights at seven weeks. That is, by my crude calculations, around the end of April or the beginning of May. Ah, those Bald Eagles aren’t going to wait that long to lay their eggs.

GHO chicks at 3 weeks of age. USFWS image.

These little fluffy owls are seriously cute with their big eyes. Not sure I would want to cuddle one thought unless it was a stuffy.

Adult GHOW and Juvenile, approximately 6 weeks old. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In Canada, the GHOW is our second largest owl. The Snowy Owl is bigger.

There are GHOWs that live in a tree on a nearby golf course. On occasion, the owls come near to where I live. Indeed, last summer there was a huge commotion in the large trees in front of my house. Neighbours ran out to see what was going on. Everyone thought that the cute owl – it was a Great Horned – was being attacked by the crows. In fact, the owl had come to raid the crow’s nest. The crows had called in family and friends to help them move the owl along.

As I watched, the cheering section for the owl grew in size. Is it because owls are ‘wise’ or ‘cute and fluffy’ and Crows are black with sharp pointed beaks? I wondered about the impact of children’s literature and movies on the reactions of the onlookers to the avian behaviour. All manner of misconceptions have come to us through writers. One that really bothers me often is ‘fish do not feel pain’. I say that because many people get upset if, for example, White-Bellied Sea Eagles eat a Silver Gull because it has feathers but they don’t care at all if it brings a live fish onto the nest for the eaglets. What I have learned, most explicitly, is that birds are extremely intelligent. Their senses are more highly developed than humans and they share the same emotions that we have including mourning, joy, love, and intimidation.

In the course of six weeks, I have witnessed a Pacific Black Duck (our sweet little Daisy) make her nest in an unusual place, in a forest in the centre of a White-Bellied Sea Eagle nest. We will never know ‘why’ Daisy risked laying her eggs there and trying to incubate them to hatch but something motivated her to get her nest off the ground. Owls are often opportunistic. Their nests are not normally constructed year after year, twig after twig, like the eagles, for example. Did the owls lose their nest? Was their nest destroyed? Was the nest of the Bald Eagle just convenient for Bonnie and Clyde? This evening a Barred Owl attached Bonnie around 11:05pm. Bonnie was actually rolling her eggs when the owl came up from behind. You can see Bonnie trying to get her footing and the face of the attacker on the right. It is possible that owl has a nest close by or maybe it has its eyes on this prime piece of real estate. However, it would be a whole lot better if the smaller owl was ‘wise’ and didn’t try that move again. Bonnie just might be having a much bigger dinner than a mouse!

Barred Owl knocks Bonnie off balance while she turns her eggs.

That was not the drama that I was expecting. Sometimes these bird nests are better than anything being shown on the streaming stations on your telly! Happily no one was injured. Wonder what will happen tomorrow?

JUST A NOTE: IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING OF THE 18TH OF FEBRUARY WHEN IT WAS STILL DARK, AN OWL KNOCKED THE BALD EAGLE M15 OFF OF THE ATTIC WHERE IT WAS SLEEPING (IN A TREE ON THE PRITCHETT FARM) AND INTO THE NEST WITH HARRIET AND E17 AND E18. BONNIE IS A LARGE OWL SITTING ON THIS NEST IN KANSAS AND SHE IS A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT.

Thank you for joining me today. I am so glad that you stopped in. Stay safe and take care.

Thank you to Derek the Farmer for his streaming cam, the USFWS, and Wikimedia Commons.

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.

E17 and E18 are home in the nest…and their parent is there with them!

This is a very quick posting. CROW returned the little eaglets to their nest about five hours ago. It is 24 degrees C in Fort Myers. The eaglets were fed well before their return as it was unknown when the parents would arrive, if they would, and if they would accept the little ones. I am so happy to report that within the last twenty minutes, all is well in the SouthWest Florida Eagle nest on the property of Dick Pritchett. Oh, my. What wonderful news!

E17, the largest of the pair, was busy looking out at the traffic when the parent landed on the nest. But, little E18 walked and crawled over to its mom right away!

E18 was so happy to get in the protective shade.

It wasn’t long until E17 joined its little brother in the comforting curve of their parent.

This is just the best news. Tears still flowing down my cheeks.

Oh, it’s cold out there

It was so cold today, -14. It meant that my friend, Sharpie pretended he was a Peregrine Falcon and not a Sharp-shinned Hawk and tore between the houses and into the garden like a Stealth bomber. He first flew into snow on top of the back wood box and out, down between the houses and back again. I blinked and if I had done it again, I would have missed him. He certainly wasn’t after the European Starlings. They had been sitting on the tips of the Lilac bushes and then decided to eat the frozen grapes on the vines, instead of the bird seed, and were tottering all over the place when Sharpie arrived. Silly things! It’s like eating Ice Wine candies. Maybe Sharpies, like Peregrines, don’t particularly like the Starlings. I wonder if they are tough? Must be something. He totally ignored them.

Sharpie comes to visit and is puffed up it is so cold.

Sharpie doesn’t cooperate, too fast for me and the camera. This is a photo from a couple of weeks ago just so you can see what the little guy looks like. Oh, he is tiny. I think the plan is to get a camera and have it constantly running using solar power. That way I don’t frighten him peeking out the windows. I haven’t seen Sharpie’s mate for a little over a year. And, if you are wondering, yes, it is unusual for these hawks not to migrate with the other birds. We first noticed them in January 2018. There is a Polar Vortex heading our way for Saturday and the temperatures will plummet very quickly. I hope Sharpie is tucked up nice and warm somewhere.

UPDATES: The Threesome are working on their nest on the Mississippi River near Fulton. Valor I, II, and Starr moved a few big sticks around this morning. There is a blizzard and extreme cold temperatures headed for their area and the trio were not seen at the nest after 9:30 am.

Birds are incredibly smart as all of you know. And I am certain if they could figure out how to handle the computers and the green screens, the CBC would be wise to hire them as the weather forecaster. Seriously, it is so rare that the get the forecast right here. If you listen you might hear it is sunny but if you look out the window, you can see the rain coming down. Does this happen anywhere else?

The Threesome Nest on the Mississippi River, 4 February 2020. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

E17 and E18 were improved at 4pm on Thursday. These little muffins. My goodness, they have grown, changed colour, and are getting better. They can’t go back to Harriet and M15 until they are completely clear of the ‘pink eye’. But the news today is optimistic.

And look, they are feeding themselves out of the little dishes. Wonder if they prefer fish or these nice tender, cut just right morsels of quail and rat?? E18 is on the left. He is a little whiter than E17 on the right E17 is still having to go to the time out corner. As she continues to feel better, she is taking it out on her little brother at meal time. And doesn’t E18 just look so sweet? I had so hoped they would have grown out of this phase. It makes me ache when one is bopping the other. Seriously, there is enough food to go around. You two are lucky. Your patron, Pritchett Real Estate, has a stocked pond full of fish just for you.

E18 (left) and E17 (right) enjoying their 4pm snack. Image courtesy of CROW.

And now on Friday morning, CROW has been able to return the pair to their nest. It is 24 degrees so warm. The little ones can pant to regulate their temperature and they are cheeping. But so far, neither Harriet or M15 have come to the nest. It has been several hours and I have to admit that I am getting a little anxious. And, of course, E17 already needs another time out!

It is a bit windy. The camera operator has moved it looking for the parents who appear to be at a distance hunting.

The image below is not great but it will give you an idea of the area around the nest. Dick Pritchett owns the land that the nest tree is located on and does have a fully stocked pond for the eagles. It looks they are flying around in the thermals.

CROW has permission for immediate rescue if the parents do not return to the nest. I am anxiously watching and will bring an update as soon as I have one.

It is Friday. For those of you out there working or working from home, it must feel really good to see a weekend coming. And since it is Friday, it is time for some cuteness overload. And where better for that than the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand.

Lime-Green-Black (LGK) is so proud of his eleven day old chick. It is so sweet how gentle he is. His eyes tell us just how proud he is of this little furry bundle. And how happy he is to be there in the warm sunshine rubbing his bill.

LGK teaching his chick to tap bills to stimulate feeding. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

Oh, and what a beautiful smile!

Hello! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

It sure didn’t take long for this little fella’ to figure out precisely how to fit that tiny bill inside dad’s great big one so that he could have some squid shake. Nature is truly amazing.

Great Feeding! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

With the little one safely tucked in between his big paddle feet, LGK does some of his morning wingersizes. I wonder if birds get ‘stiff’ from sitting in one place for too long, like humans so?

LGK stretching in the morning. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

And since it is the weekend, I have a recommendation for you. Now, I don’t always suggest movies to people because each of us has our own likes and dislikes. The little girl down the street left me a note today in my mailbox. “There is a movie that you have to see and it will make me cry”. And then one of the FB members of the Crow, Raven, and Corvid group recommended the same flick. So, I decided to put everything aside and watch it. It is on Netflix and the movie is Penguin Bloom. The woman on the FB group said:

Penguin Bloom, is the story of a woman who has had a catastrophic injury and endures depression related to her inability to lead a “normal” life with her husband and three rambunctious young boys. One of the boys finds an injured magpie, brings it home to care for it, and well, saying more would give away much of the story. It’s a charming movie, well done, probably not an Oscar contender, but the magpie’s (named Penguin) interaction with the family makes it worth a watch”.

The New York Times had a good review of Penguin Bloom. I hope that you can open this and read it.

You will need a box of tissue if you watch the movie.

I was very interested in this movie for two reasons. One is because WBSE 26, with its wonky leg, overcame so many obstacles to fly. So many people told me how inspirational she was to them. Several with physical challenges and who were not working as hard as they should said that if 26 could do it so could they! Secondly because, just the other day, one of Daisy Duck’s very good friends from Poland sent me a note to tell me that she had found and nursed an injured Raven back to health. It was in terrible shape with the feathers on top of its head all pulled out and, of course, it was starving. She took the Raven into her home and cared for it for five months til it was ready to be re-wilded. Little tears came down my cheeks. People can be incredibly kind and loving. My heart melted when I read her letter. I hope to bring you more about her story shortly.

Birds are magical if you let them into your heart.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join me. Stay safe. See you tomorrow!

A Bald Eagle threesome, really?

Before I get to the main topic of today, I want to bring you an update on E17 and 18. You might have been wondering whether or not these little cutie pies would be leaving the clinic and going home to Harriet and M15 today. Sadly, it looks like the answer is no. It is no surprise that both of them are eating well. At today’s weight in and vet check, E17 was 445 grams and E18 was 340 grams. Oh, they sure are growing!

One thing that has happened is that E17 is showing aggression towards E18 during the feeding times yesterday, 3 February. This is about resources and is hardwired into raptors despite the presence of a full pantry from mom and dad. The staff of CROW can separate them but when they are returned to the nest the aggression will continue in the form of E17 bonking and E18 lowering its head in submission. This is natural behaviour. Do I like it? No. What I have observed is that the one being picked on gets really smart and sneaking in terms of getting its fair share. Old timers who have watched eagles for years tell me just to settle down, quit worrying, and ride it out. In the case of these two all will be well.

Harriet cannot separate them at the nest but CROW did. E17 is having a time out from bopping E18! Look at it having to sit in the corner.

Oh, gosh, these two are soooooooo cute.

Oh, gosh, they are just too cute for words. Image courtesy of CROW.

And here is the photo from this morning. They are changing colour right before our eyes. And their eyes are improving. No discharge at all. Some irritation in E17’s right eye and in both eyes of E18. My goodness from those poor crusted babes that looked like their eyes came out of a horror movie, they are looking like really beautiful strong eagles today,

They might miss that lady with that veil that has been feeding them all that yummy food. Wonder if Harriet and M15 supply quail?

4 February.

I am going to mention Laura Culley twice. Oh, I admire this woman and her wisdom about birds and, in particular, hawks and falcons. Indeed, I know much more about those smaller raptors than I do these big Bald Eagles. I know that a lot of us worry when we see the little ones bopping one another. It is funny for about a day or two and then we get afraid for the smaller one. This is what Laura tells me about worrying and I want to share it with you. “Worrying is creating an outcome in our minds that hasn’t happened yet. Soar above it all and look at the big picture.” That has helped me in other times, too, if I can remember it. Maybe it can help you, too, or someone you know.

Culley also explained to me the difference in the two terms, formel and tercel. When we talk about raptors, the formel refers to the female. The tercel is the male. ‘Tercel’ comes from the word third because it is believed that the third egg was always the male. In this instance, it is the second egg. In the case of our Bald Eagles as well as the hawks and raptors that I love, the female is the largest. This is called Reverse sex-size diamorphism. It seems that we are already seeing this in E17 and E18, perhaps.

And this whole thing about dominance and territory leads perfectly into this unusual story.

Starr with Valor I and II, February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

How many adult Bald Eagles do you see sitting on branches of the same tree? If you said three, you are right. These three eagles have a nest in a tree on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois. Just from reading about E17 and E18 we know that even eaglets fight for dominance and for food. And that is what makes this nest so special. There are two males and a female and, apparently, they are an Internet sensation.

It all began in 2012, nine years ago. Valor 1 (one of the males) was mated with a female named Hope. They had a nest along the Mississippi River. But Valor I was anything but a good dad and mate. He was completely irresponsible in taking care of the eaglets when it was his turn. Hope incubated the eggs almost entirely by herself. Valor 1 did not bring food to her nor did he appear to relieve her of her duties. He was a dead beat eagle dad. There is no other way to say it. Hope had to stay on the nest almost the entire time. But she had to get food and take breaks. Sometimes Valor 1 would incubate them but only for about ten minutes before he got bored and left. This is starting to sound like what happened to Daisy the Duck, right? The winter along the Mississippi was very cold and none of the rangers believed that the eggs would hatch. To the surprise of everyone, they did! Hope had to leave the little eaglets to get food for the three of them. Valor 1 did not help at all. Just like Daisy, Hope had to get off the nest to go to the bathroom and to get food for both her and her babies. Sadly, when they were four days old, while Hope was away both eaglets fell off the nest and died.

Next breeding season, in 2013, Hope wasn’t having anything to do with Valor I. A new male appeared despite Valor 1 hanging about the nest continually. Hope and her new mate fledged two eaglets in 2013 and 2014. Yeah for this great mom! Interestingly, in 2015, Hope mates with both males and that year, another two eaglets fledged. The following year, in 2016, Hope again mates with the two males who are now named Valor I and Valor II. All that is known is that three eggs hatched. The monitoring camera broke down and the rangers cannot say for sure what happened on the nest after hatch. But something magical happened that year. Valor I was seen helping with more of the nest building. He incubated the eggs and he helped provide food. In other words, he grew up! Maybe it was by watching what Valor II was doing?

The images below show the three Bald Eagles sharing nest renovation duties in November, 2017.

In 2017, the three assumed all duties equally. They replenished nest material, incubated the eggs, brought in food for one another, protected the nest, and fed and took care of the two eaglets that were born. On March 24, the nest was attacked by two intruders, both Bald Eagles. Hope fought them off as best she could but she was fatally injured. Her body was never found, Valor I and II protected the eaglets and remained unharmed. And, to the shock of all, Valor I and II took on shared ‘eaglehood’. They took turns keeping the eaglets warm and safe, they brought food and feed the little ones, and they guarded the nest. Indeed, they did all that and fought off continued attacks by the two intruders throughout April and into May. Both of the eaglets fledged on May 30. Isn’t that amazing? Oh, I wish Daisy had help like this.

In the image below, one of the Valors (on the right) is defending the nest from one of the intruders on 4 April. You can see the grey eaglets on the nest just behind the parent. Attacks like these continue for the entire month. Most believe that the two intruders wanted to take over the nest. Bit Valor I and II did not let that happen nor did they allow any harm to come to the little ones. What a team.

One of the two fathers fighting an intruder while brooding the eaglets. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

That fall a young female appeared. In September, Rangers noticed that she was collecting material for the nest. She mated with both Valor I and II and the trio shared all responsibilities for the nest and the eaglets. Two eaglets hatched in 2018. One is known to have died when it was about a month old. The other one fledged early but was seen by the rangers in the area and it was doing just fine. The rangers named the female Starr.

The two images below show Star and both Valors working on the nest in November, 2017.

The three work on the nest together. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR
Valor I and II with Starr in the old nest. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

In 2019, the three raised three healthy eaglets that fledged.

In 2020, two eggs were laid on 14 and 17 February. They hatched on 23 and 24 March fledging on 10 and 16 of June. Everything was wonderful until Derecho entirely destroyed the beautiful old nest in August. A derecho is a long straight line windstorm that can have speeds up to that of a hurricane. Everything was torn apart. But that did not phase the three Bald Eagles. They started to rebuild their nest across the Mississippi River from the ole one. The trio can only be seen from a distance until a new streaming camera can be installed.

In the image below, Starr is on one of the branches along with one of the Valors. It is 3 February 2020. This will be their third breeding season together. The other Valor is bringing in sticks to help continue to build the new nest. Note how shallow the nest is now. Each year they will add more and more twigs and branches and soon it will be as large as the old nest.

Valor I and II and Starr work on new nest in February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

This week Starr has been observed mating with both of the Valors. The three appear to have a fantastic relationship that is nothing short of miraculous in terms of Bald Eagle behaviour.

Every duty that is associated with a Bald Eagle nest from nestorations, to catching food, incubating eggs, feeding nestlings, and teaching eaglets is now shared equally. The rangers have not observed any animosity. This is such a rare occurrence that many are baffled at why it has worked so well. What they do know is that having three to share the duties has ensured up to this season anyway, that every breeding season has fledged healthy juvenile Bald Eagles. It certainly underscores that old saying, ‘If we just work together, we can do anything’.

I will bring you updates on this nest as more news is available. For now, the threesome continues to mate and bring sticks to the new nest. E17 and E18 are gaining weight, eating well, and their eyes are improving. I was sure hoping they would be home Friday (the 5th) but now think it will be Saturday. Oh, gosh. Harriet and M15 will hear their little peeps and be so excited.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please stay safe and well.

So excited, had to share

Today is my wedding anniversary and we had a lovely breakfast – croissants with lovely marmalade – and my husband bought me two books and I can’t tell you how excited I am. One is Raising Ducks and the other is Wilding. The Return of Nature to a British Farm. Can he read my mind? Ducks! I wonder if the city would give me a permit? I was threatening to dig up our 10 x 10 lower deck for a little pond for ducks the other day. Oh, how to breed, care, and keep healthy ducks. Yes.

Oh, I miss Daisy the Duck!

But three other things also caught my attention just have I had posted my earlier blog. The first is an update on E17 and E18, Harriet and M15s kiddos. They still have their eye infection and they still are eating CROW out of house and home. Gosh, those eaglets love being fed by tongs! But what I noticed was a feisty attitude in the images and I had to share them with you.

In the top image, E17 and E18 look like little angels. They are getting pin feathers (oh itchy), losing their egg tooth, and they are grey with little tails starting to grow. Precious.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Ah, this is more like it. E18 with its beak open ready to start the bopping game! These two look like they could climb out of their fresh white towel nest at any moment! But look, I think they are also enclosed in an aquarium. Smart.

Oh, I love to see the cheekiness. It means they are getting better. Just like us when we are sick and fighting an infection.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Here they are on January 31. Look at the difference in their colouring from then and until today and those eyes are so much better. They are not out of the woods on that infection. I had hoped to hear they might be returning to their nest in Fort Myers tomorrow but, no. Poor darlings.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Some of you will be very familiar with my rant against rat poison. Several years ago I had the most gentle cat, Duncan. She would go outside and sit with me while I drank my morning coffee on her leash. The minute Duncan smelled the coffee she would sit, back straight, right at the end of the kitchen counter waiting to go outside. She was an angel of a cat. She never tried to get away. One day Duncan caught a mouse in our house. At the time, the mice were very bad in our neighborhood despite there being feral cats still out and about. Duncan died because of the rat poison. It does terrible things to cats. I was devastated.

Duncan had been one of three kittens born to a feral cat that my neighbour, Bert, took care of in his old school van. He fed all of the feral cats and any time one of them was to have kittens, Bert would take it into the van, feed it, and then find homes for the little ones. I took Duncan when she was not ready to leave her mother because the other two would not allow her to nurse. She was raised on a bottle and well, she was just the sweetest cat! To lose her was terrible but it also made me realize how the new designer pesticides and rodenticides could cause many more to lose their pets. We have sense filled in every hole with copper mesh so that the mice cannot get in the house. There is also the hawk that visits our garden. I hope he enjoys them. BUT, I don’t want this tiny Sharp-Shinned Hawk to die either.

Since the death of Hope and Peace at the Captiva BE nest, there has been a concerted effort across the state of Florida to ban these anticoagulant killers. I don’t live in Florida but I belong to the group to raise awareness. Below is an image of an owl that was in care because of poisoning and an image of the d-Con boxes of this poison.

So why am I so happy? d-Con has announced that it is pulling this highly effective anti-coagulant poison from the shelves! This is an even more effective killer than the one that Duncan died from. The cats don’t even hate to eat the poisoned mouse, they just have to bite through the skin. Well, my hats are off to d-Con.

Now spread the word. If you know of anyone that has used this, is using it, or has some in their cupboard, ask them to find out where in their community they can safely take the box to have it disposed of. Do not put these boxes in the garbage. It may take you a bit of time during the pandemic to even find the place to turn these poisons in for destruction.

Images courtesy of EarthJustice.org

I can promise you that no one wants to get me started talking about wind turbines. As I continue to say, I will be the first one on my block to stand up for the environment but I have a problem with wind turbines. The older ones are real killers of birds. As my son reminded me, cats are the number 1 killer and that is actually a sore spot with me, too. But today, let’s just focus back on the wind turbines. To power our homes, shops, factories, and cars, I am all for alternative sources of energy. In the case of wind turbines, I am concerned about the lack of regulation and where big companies are proposing to position these contemporary wind mills. More and more birds are being killed. It is a fact. One solution is to paint one of the blades black. But, here today, is news of another way to stop Bald Eagles from being cut to shreds.

The smart camera systems stops the wind turbine before the birds get killed. The URL is below so so that you can read the article that has me smiling by copying and pasting. For some reason it will not embed properly.

https://interestingengineering.com/smart-camera-system-saves-eagles-from-wind-turbine-deaths

What a grand day. There are good people working hard to protect the world’s wildlife. And everyone can help in their own little way. I am attaching the poster that we made for our campaign to get rid of rat poison. Feel free to share it on Social Media. And also remember to check your own cabinets and tell your friends and family. Good old human interaction often works best!

Thank you for checking in with me today. I have some ‘bird’ stories that will warm your hard coming up this week. Take care and please stay safe.

There is an eagle under there and more stories

The Nor’easter moving up through the eastern United States is having a big impact on birds that are trying to incubate their eggs for a spring hatch. At the Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey, the female was buried under snow and her mate cut away the snow to help her get out and have a break. Because of the snow that seems to be worsening, I am going to embed the youtube feed here in my blog so that you can check to see that everyone is alive and well after. This Bald Eagle is incubating three eggs that hatched over a period of time from 17 January to 23 January.

The birds of prey really amaze me. Big Red, the 19 year old Red-Tail Hawk at Ithaca was encased in ice and snow several times before being deluged last year trying to incubate and raise her eyases. Laura Cully said, in her always very wise way, “She’s got it under control, don’t worry.” Oh, those words really helped me. Bird Red is not incubating any eggs or trying to feed little one’s, of course, with Arthur’s masterly help, but their nest is getting increasingly full of snow at Ithaca. Big Red should be laying her eggs around the third week in March. Can’t wait! Here is the live feed to that nest:

If you are missing Big Red and Arthur and their little ones, here is a summary of the goings on in 2020. Oh, how I love these birds!

The summary starts with Arthur and Big Red selecting the nest and bringing in more twigs, the two of them incubating the eggs, Arthur taking care of Big Red in a snowstorm and taking his turn and then, the ‘live chipmunk’ along with a whole bunch of prey. Big Red is drenched in rain and blown off the nest. Babies hatch and grow and fledge. If you are just starting to watch bird cams, this is a grew introduction to the life cycle of the eyases.

While the Bald Eagles are getting covered with snow in the northeastern US, it is too hot for the Royal Albatross in New Zealand. The Rangers that work with the New Zealand Department of Conservation installed pipes today so that all of the parents feeding little ones or still incubating eggs are cooled off. Incredible. Hats off to New Zealand for taking such good care of its wildlife.

The camera is focused on Lime-Green-Lime (LGL) and Lime-Green-Black (LGK) and this week old chick who is this year’s Royal Cam Chick. These two are hilarious. Neither one wants to give up taking care of the baby! Parents take turns going out to sea and returning to feed the little one ‘squid shakes’ while the other one keeps it warm and feeds it. Eventually, the little one will be big and old enough to stay on its nest while both parents go out to sea. It is particularly touching the times that the two parents have together – minutes, sometimes an hour to be together, preening and doing sky calls. They truly are gentle giants.

And last, but never least, are the two little ones of Harriet and M15 from the SWFL Eagle Cam in Fort Myers. The little ones developed an eye infection. Because of the two recent deaths of eaglets at Captiva, everyone went into fast forward to get these two off the nest and to the vet. They are enjoying eating rat and quail fed by a veiled attendant with tongs so as not to imprint on humans. And they are gaining weight. But the eye infection, while improving, has not improved completely enough to send them back to their nest. They are hoping soon. Here is the link to the SWFL cam. Keep an eye out. You will see the large cherry picker bring the babies back to their eagerly awaiting parents this week, we hope.

Here is one of the first videos that CROW released. You can see how infected the eyes of the two were and at the end, you can get to see them eating from the tongs. It doesn’t take the place of the parents but these two have a ferocious appetite that has grown in the two days since this video was made.

Image of E17 and E18 courtesy of CROW.

The link is to the main cam. I believe that there are 3 or 4 different cam views.

And the last thing I want to do is to post Phyllis Robbin’s poem that she wrote for Daisy the Duck. So many people joined with us in hoping that Daisy would be able to raise her clutch to fledge. It wasn’t to be but Daisy is alive and well and is paddling in the water near to the Sydney Olympic Park.

Thank you so much for checking in today. Stay safe if you are in the eye of the snow storm pelting the northeastern US and stay cool if you are down in NZ and Australia. See you tomorrow!

There are some bright spots in the bird world

There is been much sadness in the world of birds. But there is also a lot of happiness. The sheer joy that our feathered friends have given to millions trapped inside their rooms or homes this past year, during the pandemic, is to be celebrated. Over and over again I heard from people with physical disabilities who were entirely empathetic with the situation that WBSE 26 found itself in when no one thought she would be able to walk, never mind fly. Many said that seeing that little bird try so hard gave them the courage not to give up. Those letters were really heart warming. A woman in England told me that she was bedridden and dying of liver cancer but getting up in the morning and watching first the hawks in Ithaca and then the falcons in Melbourne gave her strength. And from my last post, you will know that the sea eagles and Daisy were the reason my friend, Phyllis, got up in the morning. So, never underestimate the power that nature has in lifting spirits. Daisy brought us so much joy and while we are distraught that she did not get to see her precious eggs hatch into ducklings, we are thankful for the time we got to learn about her and the behaviour of all the other birds around her, including the sea eagles. They were simply perplexed! I am most happy to know that Daisy is safe.

Tonight there is word from the wildlife clinic that handles SW Florida, CROW, that the little eaglets, E17 and E18 might be well enough from their eye infections to be returned to their parents, Harriet and M15 in Fort Myers tomorrow. That is wonderful news. The parents wait on the branch of the nest tree for the little ones to return.

Waiting for E17 and E18 to come home.

People noticed the little ones eyes getting more and more crusty. Reports went in and permission was given to retrieve them. The little ones are doing well on the antibiotics. Thrilling that they might be rejoined with Harriet and M15 so soon.

In New Zealand, the Royal Cam chick is growing by leaps and bounds. There the Royal Albatross have round the clock care. Once the eggs begin to pip they are moved inside to an incubator to hatch and a dummy egg placed under the parent. Once the little one has hatched it is returned. The reason for this is fly strike. The rangers continually check the chicks twice a day weighing them and doing supplemental feeds for any chicks or parents that need it. Nothing is left to chance. The New Zealand Department of Conservation and the people love their birds. They are aware of how much climate change has impacted the wildlife and they are doing everything possible to not allow any declines in populations.

LGL feeding his chick.
A good look at the new Royal Cam chick for 2021.
LGL and LGK watch as Ranger Sharyn weighs their chick.

The little Royal Albies are so tiny that they are weighed in a sock. But they grow so fast that they quickly outgrow that and move to the laundry basket! Parents take turns on the nest. One heads out to sea to feed while the other ones remains at Taiaroa taking care of the chick. When the chick is old enough, it is left on its own while both parents forage at sea. This is such an exhausting process that the Royal Albatross only have a chick every two years.

The chicks are fed from squid in a second stomach of the parent which is regurgitated in a rich oily liquid that helps the baby grow. The little one learns right away that tapping the bill of their parent will stimulate this process. When the Albie is older and can walk but not fly, they run to meet their parents so they can have some squid shake.

If you are interested in watching the Royal Albatross, Cornell University and the NZ DOC support a 24/7 cam. You can find it at:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/royal-albatross/

If you are interested in Bald Eagles, I suggest you go to the American Eagle Federation’s page on youtube where there are many 24/7 cameras. You can find them at:

https://www.youtube.com/user/BaldEagleInfo

Thank you for joining me today. Birds and wildlife enrich our lives. I cannot imagine a world without them!

Tomorrow I am going to review three new books for all your bird lovers!

Daisy, more than a duck

After the Ravens had eaten or taken her eggs, Daisy was confused. She ate bits of shell, cleaned up some of the down, looked like she was digging a hole to the bottom of the tree trying to find her eggs, and then filled the nest cup and flew away. Everyone thought that was the last anyone would see of our little Daisy. But, no. She returned to the nest at 20:19, just after sunset. She stayed until 22:46:22. She has not returned.

Daisy is more than a Pacific Black Duck. She is more than a little duck that happened upon a huge nest in the forest and decided to lay her eggs there. Daisy is more than the little duck that thwarted and confused the big White-Bellied Sea Eagles.

Daisy laid her eggs at the beginning of January. Before that there had been tremendous sadness and angst. Just about six weeks earlier, the people who watched the two little eaglets, WBSE 25 and 26, said goodbye to ’26’. Shortly after 26 was born, it appeared that the tiny little fluff ball had a problem with its right leg. No one ever believed that 26 would be able to stand, or walk, or feed itself, or fly, or land on a branch, or fledge. But 26 did it all, in great pain, with feet whose coverings had been torn off in places. Six days after 26 fledged, she returned to the natal nest. Her parents cared for her and she rested and ate. Being in the forest had been traumatizing. One day, unexpectedly, 26 flew out of the nest over to the camera tree where she was harassed by the Pied Currawong. A Magpie even came to help 26 fend them off but, in the end, they chased 26 out of the forest. A storm was coming that night and the next day 26 was discovered on the balcony of a condo 22 stories up in Homebush Bay. She was about a kilometre from the nest. Everyone was so pleased when the wildlife rehabbers, WIRES, were called to evaluate her condition. They were the group that helped the koalas during the fires the year before. We all believed that 26 would get the veterinary care that we had hoped would come. Unfortunately, the leg was broken and it had healed poorly. 26 was in great agony and she was euthanized. It broke everyone’s heart.

The photo below is one of the last images of 26. The Magpie has come to help 26 keep the Pied Currawong away.

Sun pours over WBSE 26 in the last image of her in the forest.

I don’t think that we had even gotten over the numbness of 26’s death when one of our dear friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was this lovely woman who kept us laughing and brought sunshine into our lives. Phyllis was shattered with the death of 26.

Not long after a little duck came into all of our lives. It could not have been a more perfect time. Daisy offered a much needed diversion for Phyllis and all of us. Many felt that Daisy was ‘an angel’. Phyllis took over the ‘Duck’ chat on the ‘Duck camera’ and answered all of our questions. She was on ‘chat’ first thing in the morning to greet everyone and answer questions, and late at night. Tonight, Phyllis is gutted as so many others are. Daisy represented not just a diversion for Phyllis but also something more. There was an innocence about the little duck having her nest on the big sea eagle’s. In a way she washed away the ugliness of the pandemic and gave everyone something to look forward to: Daisy and her eggs had lived another day. We began to make up stories about how we would assist Daisy and the ducklings to the ground, how they might be escorted through the forest to safety at the river. And our dear friend, gr8lakes even thought that Daisy might want some toys for her babies. There was a lot of fun and a whole bunch of joking. That little duck brought such joy.

Phyllis wrote a poem for Daisy:

Our dear Daisy Duck , ever so sweet

Picking out her lovely penthouse suite

Maybe not the best idea she ever had

Because lurking nearby were Lady and Dad

Patiently we waited for ducklings to appear

But Nature brought us all to tears

Daisy I’m sure will have another clutch

I hope she knows we loved her ever so much

For some, the death of 26 was just the beginning of a long line of sadness. The two lovely eaglets born at the Captiva Bald Eagle nest died. A necropsy is being performed but the cause is most likely to be rodenticide. It was, of course, entirely preventable. This rat poison that kills more than rats and eagles kills family pets and other animals. It should be banned. There are other actually more effective ways to get rid of rodents including bringing in hawks and owls. The eaglets were called Hope and Peace. Peace had a piece of fishing line wrapped around her that had a hook. It must have been inside one of the fish that the parents brought in to feed their babies. That line was seen on camera, reported, and the wildlife rehabbers had permission to go to the eaglet and remove it. But, just about that same time, little Peace began to fail. And she died. Eleven days later, Hope, who was a big strapping eaglet flapping her wings one morning, died that afternoon from a broken blood feather. The blood did not coagulate because something Hope had eaten had rodenticide in its system. The father, Joe, removed the body of Peace after a few days of mourning. When Hope died, the mother, Connie, stood over her body poking her to see if there was any life at all. The parents stayed on the nest looking down at their child in complete disbelief and confusion. The wildlife rehabbers removed the body of Hope to find out what had happened. There is now a major campaign to ban rodenticide and to update some archaic wildlife laws that call for a 24 hour wait time to get help for wildlife in danger. That law was written in the 1940s. If passed, the campaigners would like it to be called Hope’s Law.

The image below shoes Hope with her mother looking out over their territory. Hope was getting her juvenile brown colouring. This picture was taken the day before she died.

Hope looks up to her mother, Connie.
Hope spreading her wings and jumping around.

Hope was jumping around and testing her wings only a few hours before she bled to death.

Ever wonder if birds mourn? Many of you know about Ravens and Crows but Bald Eagles do, too.

Connie stands over the body of Hope as Joe looks out to their territory.

As this was happening in Florida, two other eaglets in Texas died of what also appears to be rodenticide poisoning. And just today, one of the most famous Bald Eagle couples, Harriet and M15, in Fort Myers, Florida, had their two eaglets removed by CROW (the wildlife rehabbers) because of their crusted eyes. Swabs have been taken and the eyes have been cleaned. E 17 and E18 were also given antibiotics and fed. They will remain in the care of CROW until the test results return. In the meantime all attention will go towards getting them back with their distraught parents as soon as possible.

E17 ad E18 have eye problems
Harriet and M15 wonder where their eaglets have gone.

Wild life rehabbers understand that the parents will accept their babies up to eleven days. Then it is very tricky. This year we watched Diamond and Xavier a pair of mated Peregrine Falcons look for their Izzi after he had hit a window in early flying lessons and was taken into care. The Australian researcher returned Izzi to the scrape box after his being away for five days for him to fledge again. Xavier and Diamond were joyous and accepted him immediately.

Izzy still brings joy to everyone who watch him. Photo courtesy of Cilla Kinross.

Three people that I know warned me that I had to have a really thick skin if I wanted to get involved with my beloved Red Tail Hawks. Later, when another friend was too upset when one of the juvenile red tails from Ithaca died because she flew into a window on one of the Cornell campus buildings, I told her, “Don’t get said, get mad. And do something about it”. That death of a gorgeous healthy female was entirely preventable. The building is near to the road and the place where the juveniles learn to fly that J1 broke her neck. It is time that all public buildings and corporate skyscrapers are required to have special glass to prevent bird strike. Mandate it on all new builds and get the owners of the other buildings to come into the programme with incentives.

J1 looking up at her mother, Big Red, on Day 1
J1 in the front and J3 with his dark eyes look as J2 accidentally fledges from the light box.

Daisy gave everyone hope. 2020 was a difficult year for the entire world and we closed it with the anticipation that life in 2021 might be better for everyone. There are vaccines for the pandemic that might work but closer to home, people put their faith in a little duck and some baby eaglets. All of the birds have taught us a lot but one thing we all know that life is not to be taken for granted. Hold on to it, every minute because it can slip away as quickly as you can snap your finger.