Gusts and a creaking Ironbark Tree kept the curious away

Daisy might have been awake all night with the loud creaks and swaying of the Ironbark Tree in the frequent gusts of high winds last night but not a single intruder was spotted. BooBook Owl stayed home. WBSE Dad didn’t venture out to check on the nest in the evening or this morning. It has been more than twenty-four hours since he has been about. Spotters on the ground say that he is off at Goat Island, some 12.2 km away, with Lady. And, so far, Raven has not made an appearance. It is nearly 7am, the tree is creaking gently and Daisy is quietly doing nest maintenance. If you squint your eye, the white in the down lining of the nest looks like little twinkle lights.

Notice how Daisy turns clockwise in the nest as she continues maintenance and rolling the eggs.
Daisy continues to take down from her breast adding it to the nest and turning clockwise.

Sometimes Daisy will quickly get off the eggs to go and fetch more plant material somewhere else on the big WBSE nest that she can’t reach by extending her neck as far as it can.

Daisy quickly leaves nest to gather up more plant material from the WBSE nest.

When Daisy prepares to leave to forage for food, which she did last evening for about an hour, she tucks the down into the nest cup folding it over on the inside. She also uses her beak and stretching her neck she pulls leaves up close. This way she can cover the eggs while she is away. Of course, we have now seen times when Daisy is frightened off the nest by both the WBSE Dad and BooBook Owl but, normally, she takes the time to gently and quickly conceal those precious eggs.

Daisy Stretches her Neck to bring in plant material near to the nest cup
Daisy continues to use her bill to bring in leaves and plant material close to the neck cup. She might be preparing to cover the eggs and leave for a quick morning foraging.

I wonder if you have ever thought about the amount of energy it takes a duck to lay an egg? I certainly hadn’t until this year when I watched Bald Eagles have hard labours when laying an egg and then Daisy. Those eggs don’t just pop out easy!

Sibley says that a single egg can weigh as much as 12% of the bird’s body weight. For Daisy, remember that she layed an egg every day for nine days. That has to be exhausting! Specials with precocial young often lay more eggs because the mother does not have to feed them. Precocial young are more fully developed when they hatch. Their eyes are open and they are fully feathered. In the case of the Black Pacific Ducks they can walk and find their own food. Remember that the ducklings will jump off the nest and follow the parent to the water to forage for food. They will actually jump off the nest before they are fully capable of flying like their mother. Daisy will keep them warm at night for approximately two to three weeks. Altricial young require much more care. They are born without feathers and require their parents to feed them until they are capable of self-feeding. A good example of an Altricial young is a Tree Swallow.

It is now after 10 am and Daisy has had only one intruder. The Raven showed up about 8am. Daisy quickly reached over and clacked, like she did yesterday, and off it went! Hopefully Daisy will have a non-eventful day on the nest. Fingers crossed!

Oh, what a ‘BOO’ tiful night or…not. BooBook Owl comes to check on Daisy’s nest and then Daisy is ‘RAVEN’

The feature image shows an Australian BooBook Owl sitting on the rim of the sea eagle nest where Daisy has her eggs. She flew off the nest as soon as Boo arrived.

Boobook Owls are the smallest owls in Australia measuring from 10.5 to 14 cm (27 to 36 inches) in length. Those of us watching the White-Bellied Sea Eagle (WBSE) nest in the old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park are very familiar with ‘Boo’. The BooBook eats insects and small vertebrates. They breed in late winter and early summer and have their nests in tree hollows. Little Boo is infamous for striking the adult WBSE when they perch on their nest at night and for flying at and hitting the juveniles in the nest. Once or twice this past nesting season, Boo inflicted injury on the eye of WBSE mom, Lady. Boo is a nuisance but not thought a tremendous threat to Daisy. The problem is when she is frightened and flies off of the nest leaving her eggs exposed. For all purposes, it appears that Daisy is like a single mom having to do the incubating and the defence. She is one tough little duck.

Daisy returns to her nest around 4:43 am, some three hours after Boo lands on the nest. She waddled slowly over to the nest, looking this way and that, making sure that there were no more intruders. She settled and began incubation as she could not feel any threats still around.

Daisy returning to her nest after BooBook Owl leaves.

Daisy remained on the nest incubating her eggs until WBSE Dad comes to check on the nest at 5:39:25. This has to be one confused adult male sea eagle! There are eggs in HIS nest and he is trained not to step on eggs in case they might be his!

Daisy meanwhile made her quick escape just 25 seconds prior to the sea eagle landing.

WBSE arrives at dawn to his nest in the Ironbark Tree.
WBSE Dad lands at dawn to see if that strange thing in the middle of his nest is still there. Everyone holds their breath. What will he do?
WBSE Dad staring at the duck nest on the morning of January 15.
WBSE Dad arriving back at his nest and checking out Daisy’s nest. Yes, Dad, it is still there! You have not been imagining anything.
WBSE Dad poking his beak into the duck’s nest. Hopefully he did not break any eggs. He did this twice.
WBSE Dad grabbing a piece of duck down off Daisy’s nest.

Daisy could have been watching from a short distance because she returned to the nest as soon as Dad flew away at 6:30:29. This is one lucky duck!

After all the excitement of Boo and Dad, Daisy settles in to hopefully a quiet morning on the nest.

Two visits. It is a wonder that Daisy settled back on her eggs at all. Everything is quiet until 8:44. A raven lands on a branch of the nest and then jumps down to the rim! An egg eating raven!

An Australian Raven arrives on the nest rim.

The Australian Raven grows to 46–53 centimetres long or 18-21 inches. They appear an iridescent purplish blue-green and black in their plumage. They are part of the passerine family that includes crows. And they love eggs! Indeed, they are a great robber of nests. They are opportunistic feeders living on both plant and animals as well as food waste.

Daisy’s first reaction to the raven was to press her body flat in the nest. She appeared very frightened at first. And then she stood her ground. She leaned forward off of the eggs slightly and clacked at the raven. And, guess what? It flew away!

In the image below you can see Daisy stretching her neck and laying flat on the nest, just off the eggs, clacking. The tail of the raven can be see just slightly above the bottom right hand corner as the bird departs!

Daisy clacking at the raven to protect her eggs

Daisy has settled back on her eggs in hopes of a much more quiet day. Stay tuned! It is not even noon in Australia and no telling what is going to happen next in The Chronicles of Daisy the Duck.

Daisy often turns clockwise in her nest enlarging it and also you will see her go in with her head. She is aerating the nest.
Daisy continues to add down from her breast working to make it softer and softer.

Thanks to BirdLife Australia and the WBSE Sea Eagle cam for the scaps.

Daisy remains, triumphant – so far!

Just to recap what happened on January 13 at the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the old Ironbark Tree, Sydney Olympic Park. Yesterday, Daisy the Duck arrives at the nest at 5:19 am. At 10:33, Daisy laid egg number 8. It was a very hot day in Sydney, rising above 26 degrees C. It was very hot on Daisy, a water fowl, when the sun was shining directly on her as she incubated her eggs. At 16:49 Dad returns from his sojourn to Goat Island unexpectedly. Daisy leaves the nest in a hurry and does not cover up her eggs. Dad poked around the eggs in the nest bowl but he did not eat another egg nor does it appear that he damaged any eggs. In fact, Dad was pretty careful around the eggs. Dad leaves at 19:16. Daisy returns to her nest at 20:24 and incubates her eggs all night without any problems from Dad. This is the first time that the Black Pacific Duck has stayed all night incubating her eggs.

As the sun begins to rise over Sydney, Australia, WBSE ‘Dad’ returns to the branch of the cam tree and sits there observing the nest.

Daisy does not immediately notice Dad’s arrival at 5:54. When she does, she scurries off the nest leaving the eggs uncovered!

Daisy has been busy removing down from her breast to further line the egg cup.

With everyone holding their breath afraid that Dad would go and disturb the eggs or chase after Daisy, we waited and watched. But Dad only observed. He flew off the cam tree branch at 6:13.

There are, of course, many questions and no one has an answer. No other bird has ever made a nest, to anyone’s knowledge, in the WBSE nest tree. There appears to be no literature. Black Pacific Ducks are opportunists and did, at one time, make their nest in a bear enclosure at the Sydney Zoo. As their numbers dwindled, the ducks moved to another location. In fact, often their nests are in marshy areas near water. Why this duck picked this sea eagle nest seventy-five feet off the ground is anyone’s guess. Now, though, people are wondering if the sea eagle will leave Daisy alone to raise her ducklings. She is no threat to him or his territory. Only time will tell. And no one has any idea what the WBSE ‘Lady’ would do if she found some other bird’s eggs in her nest!

She returns, somewhat cautiously, at 6:37. She slowly walks down from the branch and begins incubating the eggs again. Wet grasses on her bill show that she did, in fact, have some breakfast while she was away.

It is nearing 9 in the morning, 14 January in Sydney, Australia. So far, all is well on the nest. Updates later tonight.

Daisy lays another egg!

Daisy, the very brave Black Pacific Duck, returned to the nest of the White Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) at 5:19 am. Everyone believed that she had laid the last of her eggs yesterday and had returned today to incubate them. Not so! Despite being concerned and ever watchful for Dad to return, Daisy did, at 10:33:34 Australian time, lay egg number nine. This means that she has a nest of seven eggs. Remember, Dad ate one and it is presumed, but no one knows for positive, that Daisy laid an egg elsewhere in the forest the day she was frightened from the nest before she could lay her egg.

Daisy pushing out her breast and pushing.

One of the things that I noticed today was that, in addition to turning in the nest often and breathing deeper, Daisy also stood up, lowered her neck, stuck out her breast and pushed down diagonally during her labour. You can see a still image of this action above. You can, if you look carefully, see the growing number of eggs in the nest cup, too. Once the egg was out, Daisy relaxed.

Daisy bearing down to get the egg out
Once the egg is out, Daisy begins placing more down and enlarging and lowering the nest.

Notice the small amount of down that Daisy has pulled from her breast to line the nest cup. Over the course of the morning, she has increased the size of and deepened the nest cup by moving around and pushing with her paddle feet.

The amount of down and the depth of the nest have increased gradually during the day.

What has afforded Daisy all this time today? Remember that Dad WBSE ate one of Daisy’s eggs yesterday and then covered the eggs. I have been actually hoping that the egg gave him indigestion (do eagles get indigestion even?) and is off duck eggs! Observers on the ground say that he has joined Lady, his mate, at Goat Island. Goat Island is 12.2 km from the nest. Hopefully the sea eagles will stay there until mid-February away from the heat of the City. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Normally, Dad will come and check on the nest and the rest of his territory during off-season. It is like he is on vacation! It is currently over 26 degrees C on the ground and, presumably, a little hotter in the nest.

However, Daisy has very good camouflage and if she continues to lower her nest, just imagine. She could cover herself with fluffy down and leaves and just maybe the WBSE wouldn’t see her at all.

Stay tuned for further developments tomorrow in the adventures of Dad and Daisy.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

‘Nest Stand Off?’

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck

The continuing saga of Daisy the Black Pacific Duck and Dad the White-Bellied Sea Eagle played out over the early morning and afternoon of 12 January. Dad stayed near the nest during the night keeping watch from a branch on the cam tree when he was not snoozing.

WBSE called ‘Dad’ slept on the branch of the cam tree
Dawn is Breaking and Dad is still guarding his nest

At 5:25, Dad was on guard trying to catch the bird that was using his nest. Daisy appears at 5:27. They must have just missed one another! She checks out the nest, does some quacking, and goes up what is known as the parent branch on the WBSE nest. At 5:40:17, Daisy flies from the branch into the forest. At the same moment, Dad returns to the nest. My goodness, this little duck is awfully lucky or she has the best intuition about the forest alerts!

Daisy arrives at the nest to check things out. She might be able to sense the WBSE was there.
Daisy was alerted to the arrival of the WBSE. She is quacking and has climbed to the fork in the branch where she will depart.

According to all the people who have observed this nest over the years, no other bird has ever made a nest within the wide WBSE nest and laid eggs. Plenty of small birds come to visit, including an owl, but none have ever attempted to use it.

Within a blink of Daisy departing, Dad arrives back on the scene!

Today, Dad is hungry and he works harder to grab one of the eggs with his beak and then his talon.

Dad rummages through the nest, tossing the fluffy down. He sets his eye on one of the eggs. Tapping it with his beak, he makes a tiny dent. Working with a talon, Dad is successful in removing the egg from the nest cup. After eating the contents, Dad is very careful to clean up the shells dumping them over the side. Does he not want the owner of the nest alerted to his tampering? Daisy now has 5 eggs left in her clutch.

Dad enjoying a Duck Egg Breakfast at 5:54

Dad departs the nest at 6:08. Meanwhile, Daisy is keeping close watch from the forest. She returns to the rim of the nest when she is absolutely sure that Dad is down at the Parramatta River and might not disturb her for awhile. She watches and listens from the rim of the nest over the forest. She is so alert. She raises her head many times just to check on the sounds. You can hear the Currawong in the background. Often they chase the WBSE. Then there are the Noisy Miners. Lorikeets can be heard in the distance. Daisy is alert to each and every sound! When she feels a little safer, she moves closer to the eggs. But, interestingly, she never goes near the nest. She remains ‘frozen’, not moving or making a sound for more than an hour.

Daisy moves towards the middle of the nest from the rim where she remains frozen, not making a sound.

Daisy is very quiet so as not to draw any attention to her movements. She has waited as long as she can to lay her seventh egg. At 9:07 she sits in the nest. At 9:32:28, Daisy lays her egg.

Daisy laying her egg

During her labour, Daisy rotates in the nest, enlarging it with her paddle feet. At the same time she is breathing a little heavier and her tail is moving up and down slightly as she gently arches her back, at times.

On all other previous days, Daisy had stayed on the nest for about an hour to an hour and a half after laying her egg, leaving to go and forage at the river. Today, Daisy does not leave. It appears that she is in hard incubation.

It is nearing 2:30 in the afternoon Sydney time. Daisy remains on her eggs. Only time will tell what Dad will do if and when he returns. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Daisy has been incubating the eggs for seven hours now. It is 26 degrees C in Sydney and hotter in the sun on the nest. Daisy is panting from the heat. So far, no sign of the WBSEs.

Daisy incubating her eggs, mid Tuesday afternoon, 12 January, Sydney time

At 4:30, Daisy covers the eggs and flies from the nest.

The suspense is killing me! Back tomorrow with the latest.

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!