Three lads and a Puffer Fish

It is time to check on what is happening at Port Lincoln. Too soon these three fabulous males will fledge and oh, how we will miss their antics! Friendly banter amongst brothers.

Mum brought her boys a bit of a puzzle at 12:51:46. It was a Puffer Fish and she just let them go at it while she stood and watched each of the deal with this strange object.

“Puffer Fish” by ciamabue is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Puffer fish belong to the Tetraodontidae family. They are known by various names including blowfish, balloon fish, toadfish, globefish, bubble fish, and puffers. They carry a toxic poison – tetrodotoxin. It is one of the deadliest poisons found in the natural world. They are considered to be the second most poisonous creature in the world. These fish can live up to ten years and are found in tropical and subtropical oceans. Some species (there are 120) also live in fresh water. The puffers inhale air. This turns them into sphere. They also have poisonous spikes to try and keep from being eaten by larger fish. You can see those clearly in the image above. Their skin is also said to be extremely thick making it difficult for any predator to eat them. So why did the Mum bring the three boys a puffer fish? Was it a lesson?

I broke the event into two segments for you:

In the end, the lads left the ‘white football’ on the nest. You can see it on the left.

Ervie aka Little Bob could not stand to see the fish just go bad on the nest. The two other siblings didn’t seem to want anything to do with it so at 13:34:31, Ervie goes over and pulls the now mostly deflated fish over to the rim of the nest.

Ervie tries hard to eat that thick skinned fish.

Ten minutes later, Ervie has caught the attention of one of his siblings. In the end, Ervie lets his brother have a ‘go’ at the impossible fish. That is very unlike Little Bob. It must have been a struggle.

A half hour later the fish was abandoned again. It is lying on its side in the image below.

And it remains there. Possible lesson: Don’t ever waste your time catching a puffer fish, sons!

Thank you so much for joining me. I hope that the three lads at Port Lincoln bring a smile to your face. They do mine. But before I close, we can all use some sunshine – Yurruga style. Oh, my. She reminds me of her brother, Izzi, so much. She is soooooo loud!

Take care everyone. See you soon!

Thank you to the streaming cam of the Port Lincoln Osprey Project where I took my video captures and screen shots.


I know that some of you have watched birds fall out of nests including Silo Chick at Patuxent River Park last summer. Remember that feeling when you saw that little osplet fall into the water, heard the splash, and saw the others looking down? Felt helpless? Of course. Thankfully that story ended well. I have no idea how many called but the osprey was located and literally tossed back into the nest. It was an enormous relief. Others are not so lucky.

I posted a new owl box streaming cam in Joburg, South Africa just the other day. An orphaned Spotted Eagle owl was put in the box with two other owlets. The mother accepted it! Fantastic. The adopted owl is 5 days older than the other two and it got curious about the outside world today and fell out of the nest box!

What no one knew, at the time, was that the owl landed on a huge platform under the box. If it doesn’t get back into the box on its own, it will be placed back inside the box. Relief.

Yarruga was starving this morning. There were two prey deliveries at the scrape box and there was not a scrap left of either meal.

Yarruga was so excited when the second meal appeared that she could not stand still to eat. She literally ran around the scrape box as in the images below.

Xavier was certainly glad when that feeding was over! There is not a drop left for either of the adults. Yarruga was soooooo hungry after having only 2 feedings yesterday. She does love her food! And she is certainly growing. Look how big she is next to Xavier!

In fact, Yarruga should have had a nice tasty little duckling yesterday but Diamond saw it and quickly took it from Zavier and flew out of the scrape! One has to imagine that this is quite the delicacy (as opposed to the dreaded Starling!). After her injury, I am actually glad that she got it.

Port Lincoln did a nice close up of the juvenile feathering of the three osplets this morning. Just look at the variations in the depth of the white juvenile feather banding. Little bob is in the middle.

As the dominant bird, Little Bob often gets the first bite. She is full and letting the other two have their turns as she looks out to the water in the image below. Of course, I am saying ‘she’ because of her thick legs. Wait til Monday when the banders declare she is a he. How funny! Whatever gender, that bird is gorgeous and I will continue to celebrate the times that she put Big Bob in his place.

There she is below.

Victor Hurley, the main researcher for the Peregrine Falcons in Victoria has been posting information on the 367 Collins Street FB Page. The last posting was on ‘Dispersal’ because, as we know, the falcons will be fledging shortly. I imagine that there are many things in this column that would be of interest to many of you. This is what he wrote:

First Flight Normally, this is not such a serious undertaking as that from an inner city high rise ledge. Normally pre-fledgling Peregrine Falcons will scramble around across their natal cliff for quite some time before taking their first flight. Mostly this is successful and they land high on another ledge or small perch. In a city location they will land on the roof top of another building nearby. If the winds are tricky then things can go south pretty quickly. Once they have mastered their first flight then they will spend increasing time “on the wing” and following and learning from the parents how to hunt. As soon as each youngster achieves their first kill the adults (parents) will stop providing any more food and that youngster is on their own to find food. Once all young are successfully hunting then depending upon the experience and ruthlessness of the adults they will all be chased with serious determination out of the territory altogether. In some cases this may occur in December or even early the nest year. Either way the young tend not to return again to the nest ledge that we have been observing. Maybe occasionally, but then only briefly.

Plumage differencesLeading up to this first flight the adults restrict the level of food resources they bring to the nest. This explains the weight loss of the nestlings. The wings of the nestlings are still growing but they are also losing weight. This makes them lighter with larger wings which provides for a “lower wing loading” which makes their first flight easier. Neat, huh! The other point I thought I would raise here is that of the plumage differences. Peregrine Falcons as with most raptors and many other bird species have a juvenile plumage phase and an adult plumage phase. The juveniles are in essence a brownish colour with vertical splotchy stripes over a “dark milk tea” fawn base colour on the front and dark brown wing, back and head. Whereas the adults have a near black hood for the head, slatey grey wings and back with a soft cream bib and base colour overlayed with fine dark grey-black horizontal stripes. The tail and main wing flight feathers are also longer in the juveniles and they moult shorter feathers with each year as they get older.

Natal dispersal This is the ultimate question. Where and how far do Peregrines disperse to find a place of their own in which to breed. Natal dispersal is the distance (and direction for those interested) in how far fledgling Peregrine Falcons ultimately move to find and establish (read take over for the most part) their own breeding site. Amongst Peregrine Falcons in Victoria, as with most bird species the world over, the females disperse further from their fledging site to breeding site then do males. Based on observing 127 breeding adults with leg bands (placed on them as nestlings) the females dispersed on average 64km (range 6-280km) and males average 25km (rang 1.6-90km). This differing dispersal distance minimises the likelihood of siblings interbreeding. The average age at first breeding is as follows: females 2.6 years (average) and for males 3.3 years (average). Another way of presenting this same data includes presenting the direction as well as the distance males and females disperse. No bias in dispersal direction was recorded.Victoria is a relatively flat area of the planet, its highest point above sea level is Mt Bogong (1,979m) and~80% of Victoria is <200m ASL. So for a predatory species like the Peregrine Falcon that doesn’t migrate annually due to milder winters and having the highest wing loading of any Peregrine sub-species globally, in a state (Victoria) with limited high altitude cliff faces with an abundance of low lying wetlands and associated birdlife and a very diverse range of parrot species what is a cliff nesting raptor to do? A look at all (256) of the Peregrine Falcon nests ever described in Victoria provides the answer to this question. The Peregrine Falcon in Victoria has overcome these obstacles by adopting a range of novel nesting situations (by nesting in stick nests of other birds, tree hollows and of course buildings (a growing trend globally). So this leads to another interesting question. Do those birds raised in one type of nest only adopt others of the same “nest type”? or will they readily disperse to a different type? That is to say, do they become behaviourally “imprinted” on the nest type they are raised on? Again thanks to the long term banding of nestlings and resighting of adults (with telescopes) by volunteers with the Victorian Peregrine Project the natal dispersal patterns of 127 Peregrine Falcons have been identified so far showing that 30.2% have adopted a different (novel) nest type from the one they were hatched and raised in. Between the sexes dispersal patterns are similar with 26% of females and 23% of males adopting different or “novel” nests in which to breed. Combined 30.2% of Peregrines undertake novel natal dispersals to find a place to breed. So the myth of nest type imprinting has been pretty thoroughly exploded with these bird banding results.Further to this, slightly counter-intuitively, novel dispersal events (dispersing from one nest ‘type’ to another) were less dispersive with no sex bias. That is those individuals who adopted a ‘novel’ nest type did so by dispersing a shorter distance on average than those undertaking a typical natal dispersal. Presumably they are doing this in order to exploit a familiar (geographically closer) food/prey resource by adopting a novel nest type in order to remain close by to that prey resource.So back in 1991 when Peregrine Falcons were first identified breeding at 367 Collins Street, Melbourne it was one of only two or three nest sites on built structures that were known. Since then over 20 new sites have been discovered and the number continues to grow. Nest site selection is driven by its proximity to food resources as well as the security (from predators and human disturbance) and how protected the nest is from rainfall and water runoff.Surviving the first two years…The third question (although not chronologically) is what is the survivorship of young Peregrine Falcons in their first two years prior to breeding. Generally, it is accepted that there is a ~a 66% die-off of Peregrine Falcons within their first year. Given the youngest breeding is at two years post hatching I have trawled the VPP database again to investigate causes of mortality of ~240 banded Peregrine Falcons in their first two years post banding. Most banding occurred at or around 24 days post hatching. When considering the various incidents there was no sex bias. That is neither sex is more prone to any cause of death compared to the other. Rock falls, cliff collapses or storms bringing down trees or stick nests have been a surprisingly regular threat to young of this species. The constant and ever present shooting of Peregrine Falcons continues to this day. The first ever band recovery of a Peregrine Falcon in Australia was in 1958 in Victoria. Disease of course is Trichomoniasis and predators varies from Red Foxes, Brown Falcons and even Peregrine Falcons in limited circumstances. Secondary poisoning has generally been a result of pigeon control campaigns.”

This information would, in general, apply to all falcon populations. And if you read all that – it is a ‘Double Whew’ for today. I have been reminded that Victoria Hurley is doing a Q & A tomorrow. I cannot find the link to it. If I do I will send it out later.

Thank you for joining me. Everyone has been fed at least once if not twice already. Diamond is looking much better. No news on WBSE 27 yet and nothing on Grinnell. Take care!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: Port Lincoln Osprey Project and Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross.

Updates on Diamond and Grinnell

Diamond slept in the scrape box last night. She continues to limp and her wing feather was drooping a bit this morning when she was feeding Yarruga. That said, the fact that she fed Yarruga instead of having Xavier undertake it seems, in my untrained eyes, to indicate that she is feeling a wee bit better.

It is a bit foggy in Orange. Diamond and Yarruga are waiting for Xavier to deliver breakfast.

Here comes Xavier! Yarruga is 28 days old. She knows when the parents make certain sounds that a prey delivery is coming. Look, she is calling with Diamond.

Xavier has arrived.

Sweet Xavier. Diamond is pulling the breakfast over. Yarruga doesn’t think she is going fast enough and wants to help! Diamond did not stumble nearly as much as she did yesterday. That is so good to see.

Bye Dad. In the image below you can see that the right wing is a bit droopy.

However, in the image below, taken 5 seconds later, the wing tips are crossing as they should. This is very good.

Breakfast is over. Both need to clean their beaks.

Ah, Yarruga has found some scraps on the gravel. It will not be long until she is wanting to self-feed all the time. She is really growing fast.

Is there another word for cute? Maybe it is Yarruga.

At this stage she reminds me of a Christmas ornament I have that is a fluffy sheep.

The Mercury News reported on Grinnell:


The Daily California is reporting on Grinnell as well.

Grinnell who is 8 years old and has been the mate with Annie for 5 years on University of California at Berkley’s Campanile had to undergo minor surgery and is being treated with antibiotics. One of the spokespeople said, ““Raptors heal relatively quickly … so Grinnell might be fit enough to start working on moving and flights so that he can be released,” Schofield said. “He will need to put on some extra weight to make sure he can fly strong enough to be released.”  The clinic at Walnut Creek will release Grinnell back on the UC-Berkeley Campus but not at the Campanile as the intruders are there.

I have quoted ‘intruders’ as indicated in the news bulletin. This morning UC Cal Falcon cam is only stating one male falcon and that it went into the scrape and is wanting to court Annie.

UC Cal Falcons will hold a Q & A session giving updates on Grinnell’s condition and the territory issue on Friday at 2pm. If you are interested, you can set a reminder on the link below.

I will be reporting on the announcement as soon as the session is over if you cannot attend on line.

Send good positive energy out to these two amazing birds. Swift recovery and back home with Annie, Grinnell.

It is sunny and just a lovely cool day on the Canadian Prairies. All of the Slate Eyed Juncos are gone from the garden but 3. Junior got to enjoy the corn cob this morning without Dysons’s interference, and there are still some Canada Geese on the golf course nearby. Most of the migrating birds have now left despite the fact that it will be 10 degrees C on Friday.

Take care everyone. Thanks for joining me.

Thank you to Charles Sturt Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.

How is Diamond?

Diamond is the female at the Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon scrape box on the University’s water tower. Her mate is Xavier and their only chick this season is Yarruga. Yarruga is 27 days old today. Its name means ‘Sunny’ in Maori.

Several days ago Diamond injured herself, probably in a hunting incident. Her right wing was a bit droopy and she continues to have difficulty putting all of her weight on her right foot. Her mate, Xavier, has often taken over the feeding duties of Yarruga because feeding requires putting pressure on the feet to hold the prey and pull up to get the bites off for the chick.

Yarruga was particularly hungry this afternoon. Diamond was on the ledge of the scrape watching over her baby, trying to get some sleep, and also attempting to keep the weight off the right leg.

Instead of writing how Diamond is doing, I thought it was just best to take a few video clips so you can see for yourself. They do say a picture is worth a 1000 words.

Here is the first one. Diamond has been resting on the ledge of the scrape. She has kept her right leg slightly elevated and has been able to sleep some. Yarruga is hungry and, since this is the big growth spurt for Yarruga, she sees a parent and thinks it is dinner time. Poor Diamond. Yarruga is prey begging.

Xavier brings in the Starling that was left over from an earlier feeding. The falcons have a place where they stash food. It is a great idea. They never waste a single bit of the prey they kill for food. (We could all take a lesson from them!). Diamond wants to feed Yarruga. The following two clips are from later in the feeding.

The feeding went on for some time. This is the last bit of where Diamond finishes feeding Yarruga and then flies off with the rest of the Starling. Despite the fact that she doesn’t like Starling (prefers pigeons and parrots), it would not be easy for her to hunt now while she is healing so she will happily eat the Starling leftovers.

It still appears that Diamond is in a lot of pain. She is really limping but her wing appears to be better. It must be difficult because she wants to take care of her baby. I think that is why I actually believe she is improving. She could have flown out and let Xavier feed Yarruga but she chose to do it herself. It is going to take some time for her to heal and we need to continue to send her our best and most positive wishes.

A quick glance at other nest news:

The 367 Collins Street ‘Four’ decided to run along the gutter and let us have some really good glimpses of how they are growing and changing today. Remember when you look at them that they are precisely one week older than Yarruga. It is hard to imagine that they were mostly covered with white down a week ago! Here they are wanting to fly – and way too soon, they will.

The down is really coming off. They are so curious about the world outside of the scrape. Mum and Dad have been doing aerial demonstrations for them. This is something that the adults do to try and entice the eyases to fledge.

The Port Lincoln Osplets will be banded, named, and at least one will get a sat-pak on Monday 8 November, Australian time. Remember! It is possible that we will only get to see the event on tape. It is exciting. I cannot wait to see if Little Bob is a female with those thick stubby legs!

Just look at the size of Dad’s wing. Together they would be wider than the nest! He is bringing in the second fish of the day. Now when Mum begins calling the chicks join in. It is really sweet.

Mum is so quick to pull that fish off Dad’s talons. I often wonder if the males ever get injured when this happens.

Today, Little Bob is more interested in watching Dad go down to his man cave on the deck of the barge than being first in line to eat. That is almost shocking.

The trio are pancaked. They have eaten so much. Mum brought another fish in at 13:50 – their third of the day. On average, the osplets have 7 feedings a day so far. Fantastic parents. Can’t say enough good things about how well they have worked together this season.

There has been no new updates on WBSE 27 since 1 November, Australian time. When I hear anything, I will let you know.

Thank you for joining me and checking in to see how Diamond is progressing. We just have to be patient – and that is hard when we see her in pain. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Charles Stuart University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac, and Port Lincoln Osprey Project.