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.

Daisy’s great night vision helped her to slip out in the middle of the night!

Daisy left to go foraging at 15:31:45 on a soggy Sydney Friday afternoon. She returned to her eggs at 17:49:49. Two hours and eighteen minutes. Not bad! There was some concern over the wet nest and the cool temperatures but, Daisy knows best!

Like all of her returns recently, Daisy is hyper cautious. She lands on the nest and looks around. Then she listens. We have all seen how the WBSE can arrive in a split second!

Overly cautious when returning from her dabbling.

Daisy even stops to do some preening.

Preening

Then, all of a sudden, Daisy rushes over to get on her eggs. She is a bit of a blur in the image below. Gosh that nest is wet and soggy.

There is plenty of time for the sea eagles or the ravens to return to the nest before the sun sets but, they don’t. Sometimes boring quiet days are the best – even for humans, too!

Daisy settles into incubating.

Not everyone believes that ducks have good night vision. Some people think that birds can only see during the daylight hours – any kind of bird. And if you have bird feeders you will have seen the songbirds arrive at dawn and depart at dusk. Falcons and hawks do that and so do sea eagles. But we have seen Daisy return after dark when the sea eagles have arrived before dusk. And we have watched her leave around 4:00 one morning and return before day break.

Last night Daisy left her nest at 2:45. She tried to cover it up as good as she could but the down is so soggy! She returns forty-five minutes later. Daisy probably took a bathroom break. But again, this solidifies our knowledge that ducks can see when it is very dark. Daisy has been able to freely move around in the forest.

I began to think that she should move any ducklings that do hatch under the cover of darkness while all of their predators are sleeping! Except, of course, BooBook Owl.

Daisy covers her eggs.
Down is wet, some eggs exposed.

You can see in the image above that some of the eggs are exposed. Daisy has done the best ever with that old wet down. Surely the Ravens are asleep and I think that the little owl will not bother them, hopefully. Daisy returns and all is well at her nest.

It is Saturday in Australia. At dawn, the temperature is 21.8 degrees C and they are predicting more showers. However, it should get fairly hot on Sunday rising to 26. This really could be a help in drying out all that down and making it fluffy again.

In the image below, it is 5:30. Daisy is waking up and waiting to see if the sea eagles will fly through the forest trying to catch her. They certainly have done this a few times lately.

Daisy is alert at dawn.

But no one comes. By 7:00 the glow of the morning is spreading across the forest. Daisy is trying to catch some rest. She has her beak tucked under her wing.

Daisy resting.

Wow! Look at the beautiful markings on Daisy’s head and those gorgeous brown eyes.

In the image below, Daisy is rolling her eggs. Remember that Daisy plucked down from her own breast to line the nest and help keep the eggs war. Removing the down creates a bald spot known as the brood patch. This touches the eggs and transfers the heat from Daisy to the eggs so that the duckling can grow. But the eggs cannot simply sit there. They must receive even heat. Daisy uses her bill and her feet to roll the eggs and move them about so that they each receive the same amount of heat. Rolling helps ensure that each of the developing ducklings will hatch at roughly the same time.

Daisy has her beak in the nest turning the eggs and her feet are also gently paddling them. Daisy is such a good mother!

Rolling eggs

It is only 7:30 in Sydney. Wet and cool. So far the WBSE have not ventured into the forest and even the Ravens are not moving about. Let us hope that it is simply a boring day for Daisy!

I will post an update on Daisy’s Day about 11pm CDT. Stay tuned for any happenings during the day. Still, I hope that there is nothing to report.

A big welcome to Daisy’s new fans from Belgium. Our girl is so happy that people around the world care about her plight.

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discover Centre for providing the camera so that I could capture the screen shots.

Sea Eagle arrives! No time to cover the eggs.

Daisy had no more than returned from her dabbling at 16:18:07 and settled in for a wee bit of a rest when the ravens sounded an alarm at 17:55:58. Daisy stretched her neck to listen.

In the image below, Daisy is alerted by the sound of the ravens approaching. Remember that the ravens often follow the White-Bellied sea eagles into the forest.

Daisy stretches her neck. The distance from the river roost of the sea eagles is only about 1.2 kilometres to the nest in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park.

The sea eagles fly really fast and there is no time for Daisy to cover up her nest. She hurries off to the left of the nest tree tree. Daisy is just a blur in the image below.

You may remember that it has been raining and that the sea eagles have come to the nest sometimes tearing off the down. Lady made a mess the other day and Daisy took her time and moved all of the eiderdown back onto her nest. But this evening she did not have time to cover the eggs and it is cool in the forest, only around 21.8 degrees C.

You might also remember that wet down. Look how fluffy it is now. The temperature from Daisy’s body and the wind as well as the rain stopping have fluffed up the down again so it now has its insulating values back. This is so good!

The sea eagles are still mystified about the little nest holding seven eggs right in the centre of their big nest. Dad arrives and looks. He can see the eggs instantly but no Daisy! He stands and stares at them. What are these eggs doing in my nest? I sometimes giggle because it reminds me of a story that I my mother and grandmother read to me when I was little and, in turn, I read it to my children: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Do you know that children’s story?

WBSE Dad moves cautiously towards the eggs.

Dad leans down to take a closer look. The only eggs that he has ever know are those of his eaglets that Lady lays. But these are not Lady’s eggs! but they are in my nest!

Again, ever so slowly he moves towards Daisy’s nest just staring into that beautiful nest cup.

And then he sticks his beak in! Oh, no. Is he going to try and roll out an egg to eat it like he did before?

In the same amount of time that Dad took to closely inspect those big white eggs, he raises his head and looks off the nest. Does he know that the owner of the eggs is watching him? does Dad think they are a threat? does Dad associate Daisy with these eggs, a little innocent Pacific Black Duck?

And then he looks down again. Each time Dad looks into the nest cup he rolls the eggs for Daisy! Thank you, Dad sea eagle.

The Dad raises his head and looks off in the other direction. You will remember that Daisy flew around the nest quacking the last time both sea eagles visited the nest. She was very frightened but also, as much as she was scared, she knew she needed to get back to her single focus, incubating her eggs.

The behaviour of the sea eagles towards the little duck’s nest is of great interest to anyone wanting to learn about bird behaviour. No one that I know of has had a close look at the interaction between the largest birds in Australia and a tiny little duck that doesn’t belong in the forest.

Dad simply is stumped. He stands for the longest time staring at the eggs. Then he rolls them one more time and turns around and gets back on a branch of the nest tree.

Dad stands on what is called the parent branch looking around. When Dad and Lady raise their little eaglets in this nest, this is the branch that they roost on to protect the little ones. It is also the first branch that the eaglets attempt to walk and fly to as they get ready for their fledge.

Is Dad looking for Daisy? is he looking for a bigger bird? He flies off the parent branch and back towards his roost on the Parramatta River at 18:06. His visit lasted four minutes. Doesn’t seem like he is too concerned, does it?

Daisy might have taken the opportunity to go and forage some more. She does not return to her eggs until 19:27, an hour and nineteen minutes after Dad has flown out of the forest.

Still she is ever so cautious. In fact, Dad could be lurking off camera hoping to catch her. She stops and looks this way and that.

The rain started between the time Dad left and Daisy returned. Her beautiful fluffy down is all wet again! Let’s hope that her eggs did not cool down too quickly. That would be just so sad for our brave little duck.

And then she stops and listens. Dad was on the nest remember for four minutes and Daisy takes four minutes to make certain that he is no longer a threat.

Daisy slowly lowers herself onto her wet nest to warm her eggs. Remember that eggs need to be held at 37.5 degrees to hatch.

The sun has set and the light on the soggy nest has changed. Daisy knows that the sea eagles will not be back again tonight. Except for BooBook Owl, Daisy can rest. And we know Boo is just curious about Daisy. He is not going to hurt her.

Indeed, I often wonder what the other animals in the forest are thinking when they see the sea eagles coming and going and Daisy returning to her eggs time after time. Daisy is afraid of them but not enough to keep her from brooding. Her hormones and instincts and her entire self are tied to the hatching of the eggs now. She is ‘hard wired’ for incubation.

Thank goodness. Daisy had a very quiet night. It is now just before dawn. Because the sea eagles could have spent the night at the river roost, Daisy is being very careful to listen for the vocalizations of the other birds. She can tell which ones mean the eagles are coming. Daisy has learned much about the forest.

It’s after 7:30 and the sea eagles have not shown up today. It is rainy. The area around where Daisy has her egg cup is soaked with water.

Daisy has a visitor. Can you see the little grey and white bird with the black mask and yellow beak peeking down to see Daisy? Look carefully in the top right corner. They are grey with a black head, an orange or yellow beak and yellow feet. There are white tips on the tail feathers.

It is a Noisy Miner. These birds are loud and create all kinds of havoc in the forest. They like to chase other birds away. They eat insects but are also opportunist especially in cities. They are called ‘honeyeaters’.

The Noisy Miner is a nuisance to Daisy because it can be so loud but it is not such a threat that I am aware of, certainly not like the Ravens and the Currawongs. I am not even sure the sea eagles are a threat anymore. It is really that they keep Daisy off the nest and away from her incubating duties and her eggs are exposed and could get too cool to hatch.

The golden glow of the morning is moving across the nest.

It is going to be a cool day for Daisy and her eggs. The morning temperature is 19.4 degrees C. It is not supposed to get higher than 20 C with rain again for today. It sure is a change from when it was 40 degrees C a few days ago. Then we were worried about the eggs getting too hot. Today we worry about exposure and cold.

Everyone send Daisy your positive energy. Our brave little duck sitting on the big sea eagle nest needs all of it. Daisy is grateful to all her friends who check in to see how she is doing. From around the world – from Canada and the United States, Mexico, Brazil to Australia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Poland, Denmark, Germany, and France – each of you has joined to wish Daisy good luck. Thank you!

An update on Daisy’s Day in about nine hours. Please check back.

Thank you also to the Sea Eagle cam, BirdLife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the camera that provides the feed for me to take my scaps.

Oh, what a day!

I wanted to check in with all of Daisy’s fans to let you know that she is such a brave little mother. From the last posting, you will know that Lady, the White-Bellied Sea Eagle who lays her eggs on this nest and who raises her little sea eagles, showed up this morning at 5:37:11. Previous to now, it was mostly ‘Dad’ that came to check on the nest. Once in awhile, Lady would join him. I was always worried about Lady. Dad is, well, older. Someone familiar with the nest told me that he is nineteen years old. And he is laid back. As long as the bird laying their eggs on his nest is not a threat to him, I don’t think he cares. But Lady is different. She takes on the mantel of really being the person in charge of the nest. And maybe she hasn’t been happy with the way that Dad has been unable to evict “the bird” whose eggs are on her nest! It also seems that until today, the sea eagles had not actually caught sight of the the culprit, the owner of the eggs. But this morning Lady saw Daisy. Lady’s arrival and Daisy’s urgent departure meant that they almost crossed feathers! It really was that close. And Lady was mad. She had her whole chest puffed up. Lady became frustrated because she could not pick up the eggs in her beak. And then she began to tear the down from the top of the nest. But, sea eagles do not like duck down! There is no way around it. It is a foreign material to them. They are used to sticks. Down has no weight and it sticks to the beaks. That simple fact stopped Lady from doing any more damage. She tossed the down and, in doing so, covered up the eggs so the Ravens and Currawongs wouldn’t see them. What a nice thing to do for our little duck!

This morning Daisy did not go into hiding. She is getting near to hatch and she has much more invested in the eggs. She did flybys around the nest quacking all the time. The sea eagles left and within twelve minutes, Daisy was back on the nest brooding her eggs. Within a few hours, she had moved all of the down back to the nest and positioned it to warm the eggs. Other than really strong gusts of wind and a few song birds come to visit, the day, until now, has been uneventful. It is nearly 2pm in Sydney.

If the sea eagles are at their roost on the Parramatta River, one or both of them will probably come again today to check on the nest. But the high gusts of wind might discourage them. We can only hope. Right now they are more of a nuisance that keeps Daisy for incubating her eggs but they do not appear to be destructive. Daisy is not a threat to them. If, however, they stayed for five or six hours and the eggs cooled off, this would be disaster. Or if they moved the covering, the other birds might come and try to break or eat the eggs. So, once again, it is much better for Daisy if the day is simply boring and uneventful.

The image below was in the earlier post. It is a picture of Daisy arriving back at her nest with her lovely down scattered all over the twigs and leaves.

Daisy arrives after the sea eagles leave.

This little duck is so marvellous. She goes about what needs to be done. It doesn’t take her long, using her bill, to rake the down that Lady has tossed all about, back on to her nest. In the image below Daisy is tucking it around the edges so none of the cold air gets in to chill the eggs.

Daisy uses her bill to tuck in the down.

Daisy is being tossed about and rocked in the wind and the old Ironbark tree is creaking.

Did you know that Daisy talks to her ducklings? She is constantly rolling the eggs and tucking in and the down and all the while she is clacking away at her little ducklings. She does not know if any of these eggs are viable but she carries on talking to them. Hers will be the first voice that they hear and the first face that they see. They will imprint on their mother, a Black Pacific Duck.

Pacific Black Duck and her ducklings

If all goes well, Daisy will jump from the seventy-five foot nest in the Sydney Olympic Park and her ducklings will follow. They will jump out, spreading their wings to slow their landing, and bounce like a puff ball on impact. They will straighten themselves and get behind their mom and follow her to water where they will forage for food.

I have mentioned the many obstacles that Daisy could face getting the ducklings to water. I understand that is about a kilometre to the nearest water. A very knowledgable friend of mine told me that she had seen ducks take their ducklings through parking lots and schools if need be to get them safely to a river where they will immediately be able to paddle about. Isn’t it marvellous? One day old and they can do everything for themselves. Daisy keeps them warm and safe at night. Amazing.

It is nearing 14:00 at the nest and there is a gentle rain. Daisy’s feathers are waterproof and the drops collect on the surface of the feathers. When Daisy preens she uses oil from an oil gland to coat and restore her feathers. In fact, you might have seen birds spending most of their time preening. Their feathers protect them from cold and heat but also allow them to fly and swim.

The rain forms droplets on the feathers but doesn’t penetrate them.

The rain stays on the surface. And, besides, Daisy is used to being wet – she’s a duck!

Besides the oil that helps to condition the feathers, the feathers overlap. Look at the image below. In addition, ducks have angled barbs on each side of the central shaft of the feather. Each barb has tiny, tiny little hooks help hold the feathers together. Someone told me that it is like velcro on each side. This means that Daisy is covered with a lightweight shell of feathers that protect her and also allow her to float in the water.

The beautiful overlapping feathers on Daisy.

It is now approaching 14:45 on the nest and Daisy is showing no signs of leaving for a break. It is extremely gusty with occasional rain. While the rain does not hurt Daisy and it would roll off of eggs, I imagine that Daisy would much prefer to keep her eggs warm and dry. The wings might blow the feathery down clear from the nest and the nest cup might also get soaked if the showers increased in their intensity.

For now, our little duck seems just contented to let the nest rock and roll in the wind.

I want to thank Daisy’s increasing number of friends from around the world in joining us. It is wonderful to know that so many people who speak many different languages and live in varying different cultures, come together to watch the brooding of a little Pacific Black Duck who dared to make her nest in the tree belonging to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles.

We will look forward to having you with us tomorrow. It will be Day 17 of incubation! And so far, the little duck remains on the nest.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the cameras from which I took my screen images.

Oh, it is going to be hot for Daisy!

Oh, welcome to The Daisy Chronicles, a daily update on the life of the little Black Pacific Duck that has made a nest in a White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the Sydney Olympic Forest. It is Day 13 of incubation. We could be half way to hatch!

Och, witamy w The Daisy Chronicles, codziennej aktualizacji życia małej kaczki Black Pacific, która założyła gniazdo w gnieździe bielika morskiego w lesie olimpijskim w Sydney. Jest 13 dzień inkubacji. Mogliśmy być w połowie drogi do wyklucia!

————————————————————————————-It is 7:44 on the nest in Sydney, Australia and Daisy knew what the weather was going to be today. She got up early, at 4:13:44 to go for a swim and some foraging. The weather news says it will be 36 in Sydney today and it will be hotter on the nest with the direct sunlight at times.

How many times have you checked the weather only to find out that the weather report was wrong? When I was a little girl staying with my grandmother, she would open the front door of her house and ‘sniff’. Then she would declare that it was going to rain. At the time, not knowing anything, I thought she was a witch! How silly was that? But how do birds know the approaching weather?

Some say that the hollow bones of a bird help them determine the barometric pressure and, thus, they are able to anticipate incoming weather. Others say that it is the pressure plates within their ears. Daisy is not a bird but a waterfowl and still she anticipates the changing in temperature, rain, etc. That is because she, also, has hollow bones. Recent research at The University of Western Ontario suggests that birds have an internal barometer. They can tell even the slightest change in barometric pressure and temperature. And, of course, they have these skills because knowing if they should forage or hunt immediately, if rain or snow are coming, are essential to their survival. Researchers at the University tested their ideas by lowering and raising the air pressure inside a specially built wind tunnel. If they lowered the air pressure, the birds would immediately start looking for food and prey. Low pressure means that a storm or rain and winds is approaching. They might even have to find a safe place to stay for hours or even days depending on the strength of the storm. Likewise, if the barometric pressure and temperature rise a bit, the birds will have a reasonable morning in the nest preening before heading out to hunt or forage. Today, Daisy leaves her nest early because she knows that it is going to be very hot during the day and she may need to dabble several times rather than just one long foraging trip.

For those of you who are ‘sort of’ keeping up with Daisy, things have been relatively quiet for a few days. Today is day 13 of brooding. The WBSE ‘Dad’ made a surprise visit to the nest tree last evening at 16:59:24 but as quick as he appeared, he left at 17:03:43. I am sure he thought he would catch whoever was brooding in his nest. But Daisy has been very smart. And with the heat she may stay out foraging or dabbling longer. She landed on the rim of the nest at 19:49:49 but was very cautious looking around before venturing over to her eggs. In fact, she did not actually go over to the nest cup until 19:52, three minutes after arriving.

Daisy lands on the right side of the nest. She does not look at her nest and proceeds with caution in case there are predators about.
Daisy is listening and looking.

Daisy is very much aware that the White Bellied Sea Eagles come and go in the forest. Sometimes they stay for a few minutes, other times for many hours. She listens for the vocalizations from the other animals and birds in the forest to let her know if they might be coming. Her survival depends on it.

Daisy aerating her nest.
Satisfied that no one is around, Daisy sits on her eggs.
Daisy is busy as the sun sets and the Infra-Red cameras come on. Here she is fixing the down.

At 4:13, it is already more than 22 degrees C on the nest. Daisy is anticipating a very hot day. She has decided to go dabbling early before all of the other birds and animals in the forest are awake. You can see from the image below that it is still very dark in the forest. What we are learning is that Daisy, a Black Pacific Duck, can see in the dark better than the WBSE.

In fact, anyone observing this nest is learning a lot. No one can remember a Black Pacific Duck making their nest on a Sea Eagle camera or a place where we could easily observe without threatening the wildlife.

Daisy turns in the down and scatters the plant material around so no one will notice her eggs.

If you look carefully at the image above, you can see Daisy’s tail on the right behind the tree branch. She is just preparing to fly off to the water.

Daisy tucks her bill under her wing resting.

Daisy forages for a little over an hour. She returns to the nest and quickly bets on her eggs to incubate them. She rolls them with her paddle feet carefully and turns in the nest gently.

Daisy has returned from her morning foraging.

Daisy returns just after 5am. Sunrise is at 6:05. She knows that the sea eagles often fly into the forest at dawn. In the image below she has heard the sound of ravens. Ravens, you will remember, often chase the sea eagles. She listens carefully for several minutes before settling down.

Daisy raises her neck and listens for intruders.
Daisy resting.

By 8:30, Daisy has already had visits from at least one Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and the Ravens were alarming at 8:04. Now the Rainbow Lorikeets can be heard in the forest but I cannot see them on the nest yet.

A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is now after 10:00, and the sun is shining on Daisy in the nest. She has already starting panting in order to regulate her temperature.

The hot sun pounding down on Daisy.

It will be 36 degrees C in the forest today. It is understood that it is hotter on the nest. Look carefully and you can see Daisy’s bill open. That is her panting. The shade is ever so slowly moving over Daisy but the heat is almost unbearable. Instead of panting slowly, now it is a fast clacking of her bill.

Let us hope that it is way too hot for the sea eagles to be in the forest today. A day without sea eagles is a safe day for Daisy! And it is going to be so very hot that she doesn’t need a hassle with other predators either today.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the camera that supplied the scaps of Daisy and her nest.

So far, all is well in the old Ironbark Tree, updated

It is Day 12 of Daisy’s brooding. Thank you for joining on this magical journey of the little duck who, instead of making her nest near the water, chose the great big nest of the White-Bellied Sea Eagle.

To 12 dzień lęgów Daisy. Dziękuję za udział w tej magicznej podróży małej kaczuszki, która zamiast założyć gniazdo nad wodą, wybrała wielkie, duże gniazdo orła bielika.

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It has been a very quiet and rather hot day for Daisy, the Black Pacific Duck whose nest is in the old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park. Thus far, the only visitors of any note today were the chattering Rainbow Lorikeets who came around 8am.

A friendly Rainbow Lorkeet curious about the little duck in the big sea eagle nest.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Daisy is in a category of ducks known as ‘dabbling’ ducks. The information that I had, at that time, was that they foraged along the shores of the rivers and lakes. This did not support pictures I have seen of them in the water hunting for food. So I looked for more information. One small informative page for children said that they mainly dabble at night. Photographs show them foraging during the day. And we know from Daisy’s behaviour that she goes out normally mid afternoon to feed. But we also know from our observations of Daisy that she can see well enough in the dark to come and go from the nest. That same bulletin stressed that the duck plunges its head and neck under the water, raising its rear end vertical to the surface. That is why one of the people working as a moderator for the Sea Eagle cameras said that when she saw the Black Pacific Ducks in the canal, all she could see was their back end. Now it all makes more sense. They also feed in grassy areas.

This is a domestic duck dabbling. I am using it as an example to show you what Daisy would look like if she were in the water foraging for food. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like Raptors, Pacific black ducks are monogamous. Males and females will stay together having only one partner until one of them dies. Their courtship consists of preening one another, flapping their wings, and bobbing their heads. While most Pacific black ducks build their nests near a source of water, we have learned from observing Daisy the Duck that she did not do that. So it is not always the case. Indeed, you might remember that a woman from Poland wrote to me about a duck making her nest also in an eagle’s nest. Those ducklings survived. The female lays from 8 to 123 eggs. If we look closely at Daisy’s eggs, they are white. Daisy will incubate the eggs from 26 to 30 days. That is two days shorter than the information I have previously posted. We know that they are precocial, able to feed themselves at birth. What I have not mentioned is that they will be fully independent of Daisy in 48-58 days after hatch. Daisy’s ducklings will be ready to find their own mate and breed when they are one year old.

One of the most beautiful parts of Daisy’s plumage is the speculum. It is a beautiful iridescent green. You can see it in the image above with Daisy and the Rainbow Lorikeet and in the image below. Depending on the light, the emerald green speculum sometimes appears blue or purple.

You can see Daisy’s green speculum clearly in this image.

And did you know that Daisy does not have any teeth? She has tiny serrations located along the inside of their bill that helps them filter out their food from the water. Daisy’s ability to sort out her dinner from the river water means that these serrations work kind of like a colander or a strainer!

It is 14:57 and Daisy has just left the nest to forage. I noticed two things about her departure just now. First, she covered her nest with the down folding it over like she has on other days but she did not spend as much time arranging leaves and plant material over the top of the nest. She also flew out a different direction to some days. Often she goes to the right but if she leaves from the left side of the nest, as she did today, she will be closer to the water. She must be very hot and hungry. She returned from her foraging last evening at 19:07 and has not left the nest since.

Daisy is preparing to fly off the nest on the left hand side today. She might be very hot. She has waited a long time for a break. Leaving from the left is the closest to the water.

I don’t quite understand why Daisy left and did not cover the down over the eggs with plant material, leaves, and twigs this afternoon. I wonder if it is because of the intense heat? She is always very meticulous about concealing the eggs well so predators cannot see them. And the wind is blowing. She was not scared from the nest. So, what do we think: was it the heat and the sun? she did not want the eggs cooked in the heat of the Australian summer?

Perhaps the nest is not covered so much and so packed down because of the intense heat in the forest today. 33 degrees C.

It has been a hot day and the forest has been relatively quiet. Daisy was incubating her eggs for twenty hours straight before taking her break. The weather report for tomorrow says that it will be even hotter, 36 degrees in Sydney.

A quick update: The White Bellied Sea Eagle called ‘Dad’ fly onto a branch of the nest tree at 16:59:24. He did a little preening. Never went down to the nest. Thank goodness as the wind had blown the down open and eggs could be seen. He departed at 17:03:43. I am so very glad that Daisy was not there or flying in. It does seem that this time of evening is the typical time he arrives. Well, he is gone now. Back to find some cool breezes off the water of the Parramatta River.

WBSE ‘Dad’ trying to catch the intruder in his nest. No luck today, Dad! Sorry.

Please join us again tomorrow as we follow the life of this little Black Pacific Duck.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia and the Discovery Center for their camera from which these scaps came.

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.

Was it THE Standoff?

Daisy the Pacific Black Duck returned to incubate her eggs in the old Ironbark Tree at 7:46 pm. She had a really uneventful night on the nest.

The pattern has been for the WBSE ‘Dad’ to come either alone or with his mate, ‘Lady’, at dawn to check on the nest. Every morning Daisy has been alert and has been able to leave the nest quickly, sometimes even being able to cover up her eggs. Today was her fifth day of incubation.

The cameras have not yet switched to their daylight setting and Daisy is very alert to everything that is going on in the forest. If Dad sticks to his pattern, he will show up any time.

At 6:05:49, Daisy hears Dad landing on the branch that supports the camera tree. She has only a split second to get off her nest before the largest sea bird in Australia arrives!

The camera operator took the opportunity while Dad was still standing at the edge of the nest to zoom in on the eggs to see if any of them were broken. It appears that all six are intact. Daisy laid eight. Dad ate one and one was probably lost in the forest the day Dad chased her off of the tree before she could lay her egg. And that is only a guess. She had laid an egg each morning so there is no reason to presume that she did not that morning.

To me, one of the most interesting aspects is the way in which the little duck made the egg bowl or cup to hold her eggs. Using the down she took from her breast and simple plant material and leaves she has almost felted together a lovely nest, the envy in its colour selections of any interior designer.

Dad still remains confused. He knows ‘something is up’ but precisely what that is, he is unsure. This is his nest in his territory and there are eggs and some lightweight fluffy material that is new to him.

At first Dad simply messes with the down like he has done every morning. It seems to mystify him. But at 8:21:31, he sticks his beak into the nest cup and rolls out an egg. You can see that egg in the featured image at the beginning of this blog. Then he goes back up to the parent branch of the Ironbark Tree and stands guard.

WBSE Dad was just not happy when he could not catch the intruder in his nest.
Dad poked around the duck’s nest but did not break any eggs.
Dad was always on alert to see if anyone was going to come to the nest.

Dad monitors all of the activity in the forest. Each little thing that moves gets his attention. What became interesting was that the Pied Currawongs that bother him and Lady and also chase their young out of the forest before they are ready to fledge, sometimes, came around the tree. Just as Dad would have done if it was his eggs on the nest, he sounded an alarm, a honk, for them to leave. And they complied!

Dad guarded his nest and Daisy’s eggs against the Pied Currawong who might have eaten the eggs.

Dad left the nest to chase some small birds at 11:54 am. He has not returned. At that point, the eggs had been uncovered for six hours. It is now almost 3pm and the eggs have been uncovered for nine hours. One lucky thing for Daisy is that the sun shone directly onto the nest cup. Whether or not the egg that is showing (see below) that Dad rolled is too hot is unknown.

It is summer in Australia and the temperatures range from 25-29 or even 30 C. It is anyone’s guess if the eggs are viable or if they were even fertilized in the first place. Some birders on the ground did see a lone Black Pacific male duck swimming in the canal yesterday.

The big question is: Did the WBSE finally achieve their goal which was to scare away the intruder for good? Stay tuned!

The one egg that Dad rolled out of the nest is sitting in full sunlight.

The Continuing Saga of Dad and the Duck or ‘As the Nest Turns’

Just to bring those of you up to speed in case you haven’t read my earlier blog. In early December, a pair of Pacific Black Ducks investigated the nest of a pair of White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) in an old Ironwood Tree in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia. On 14 December, a nest cup was excavated in the centre of the sea eagle nest by the ducks. (Note: This is off-season for the sea eagles.). Six days later, ‘Dad’, the male partner of ‘Lady’, to whom the nest belongs, came to the nest for one of his periodic territory checks. The female aptly named ‘Daisy’ by Phyllis Robbins of the WBSE chat group laid her first egg in the nest cup on 5 January 2021.

Female Black Pacific Duck

On the morning of 11 January, Daisy arrives at the nest just after dawn. Before she could lay her egg, vocalizations from other birds in the forest alert her that the sea eagle is about. Indeed, Daisy might have been listening for the male sea eagle because he had come to the nest the previous day. That day she quickly covered the eggs and flew off the nest but stayed in proximity. Dad stayed for about half an hour before leaving and within a few minutes, Daisy returned to lay her sixth egg without interruption. This morning, however, Daisy had not laid her egg when the large sea bird appeared. She stood on the rim of the nest and quacked as Dad flew to the camera tree. She left so abruptly that she did not have time to cover her eggs but, it seems that Dad did not notice her physical presence on the nest or her quacking.

Dad surveyed his territory remaining on the tree that supports the camera for the live stream for about an hour. He might have thought that the bird laying the eggs would return without noticing him and he would find out who this mysterious bird is.

White-Bellied Sea Eagle Male known as ‘Dad’ scanning his territory for intruders.

After about an hour and a half, Dad flew to the nest tree to see first hand what was happening. He had noticed the eggs the previous day by rummaging around in the leaves. He even tried to pick one up with his bill but to no avail.

Three of the six Black Pacific Duck Eggs

Today the eggs were clearly visible. Look carefully. Daisy has started removing down from her breast to line the nest. This physiological process is called zugunruhe.

Under normal circumstances, Daisy would arrive at dawn to lay her egg. She would do this every day until she finished laying all of the eggs for her clutch. This can vary between 8-13 eggs. After laying her egg, Daisy often remains on the nest for a period of about an hour before departing for the river to forage for the rest of the day. Once all of the eggs are laid, Daisy will begin full incubation, being relieved periodically by her mate. After twenty-eight days, the ducklings will hatch. Then, the following day (after 24 hours), they will take a giant leap of faith and jump off the rim of the nest, a distance of approximately fourteen metres, to the forest floor. Here they will follow their mother to the Parramatta River where they will immediately begin foraging for themselves.

Dad inspecting the Black Pacific Duck’s eggs

Today, Dad began to curiously inspect the nest with the eggs. For what seemed like an eternity, he would look at the eggs and then look around the immediate environment of the tree. It was actually like he was confused. At one point he tried to pick up one of the eggs but he couldn’t do it. It isn’t that they are heavy; the shape is just awkward for him to handle with his beak. He did not try to move the eggs with his giant talons nor did he attempt to break them. He did toss some of the down around. At one point, it even looked like he might start brooding the eggs. It was a very strange exchange because Dad’s hormones are not thinking about breeding or brooding. He is in the midst of moulting.

Dad trying to move one of the eggs

The entire morning was very suspenseful. Currawongs and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were screeching in the background and at one point, it was thought that Daisy even did a fly by.

And then the oddest thing happened. Very delicately, Dad covered up the eggs at 9:01 am.

Dad covered up the duck eggs so that no one could see them

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, Dad went up to one of the ‘parent branches’ on the nest tree and stood vigil. More than once, Dad flapped his wings to keep the Currawongs away! Take altogether, these three actions scream out that his intuition is to protect the eggs.

Dad standing guard over the nest

Dad stayed for more than an hour before departing. At the time of this writing, he has returned once again to the nest tree where he is keeping watch over his territory.

Stay tuned!