Noisy Ravens come to call on Daisy

It is a soggy day in Sydney, Australia. Rain is falling and the temperature is 20 degrees C. What a change from a few days ago! Wish I knew if Daisy liked it cooler or hotter. Do ducks have a preference? They certainly don’t mind water and their down nest would get wet if Daisy built in on the ground.

Australian Raven

For those of you dropping in but who haven’t been able to catch up with Miss Daisy’s news, I want to focus, for a bit, on the impact of the showers and WBSE Lady’s tearing the down off Daisy’s nest. Daisy doesn’t look like she is sitting on that lovely fluffy nest any longer. Daisy has collected all of the tossed down that she could – which was a lot – and has brought it back onto her nest. Just as quickly as it dries, it rains again. Then the eiderdown gets soaked and turns into a soaking blob. The heat from Daisy’s body will eventually dry it but the forecast is for four more days of rain and cool weather.

There is that saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. I am a very visual person as I imagine many of you are. So I am posting two images in order for you to easily see the impact that rain has on the eiderdown that Daisy has plucked off her breast to line her nest. The top one shows Daisy on her nest when it is dry. Notice how thick and fluffy the eiderdown is. Daisy looks like she is brooding on a cloud.

Fluffy nest with dry down.

The image below is not focused but you will still be able to see the impact of the rain on the insulating down. The down is no longer fluffy. The wetter it gets the more it loses its volume. You can also see that the eggs can no longer be covered leaving them vulnerable to predators. Daisy does try hard to move other plant material on top. She has only so many leaves to use. If you think about it, she has not pulled any twigs over her eggs. She might intuitively know that those sticks of wood could break her eggs.

Matted wet eiderdown

It is right after noon on the nest and it has been a relatively quiet morning for Daisy. She did have several visits from Ravens that sent her hunkering down on her eggs. They flew back and forth around the nest tree and into the forest and back again for about fifteen minutes. They were not chasing the sea eagles but when Daisy hears their caw she really pays attention.

Daisy going into defensive mode.
Daisy relaxed ater ravens leave.

After the Ravens had their turn disturbing Daisy, the Butcher Birds came to the nest tree. Butcher Birds are songbirds. They are similar to Magpies. The grey ones only live in Australia. They have a dark mask or an eye stripe just like Daisy! It is thought that these black stripes or masks help to block the sun for the birds so they can hunt or dabble better. If you know about American football, you might have seen the players smearing a black substance under their eyes. That also helps with the glare and I bet, a long time ago, humans learned that trick from birds. They have brown eyes and legs. The pointed beak, with a hook, is also grey. They can be very aggressive. They live in forests and mangroves feeding on insects and small mammals, fruits and seeds. They are known to also eat lizards or other small reptiles.

Butcherbird

Daisy waits to go dabbling and to the bathroom. Around 15:31, she begins to gather the leaves and tuck in the down to try and cover her eggs as best she can.

Daisy begins to cover her nest.
Daisy pulling down and leaves with bill.

She is in no rush. The ravens and the sea eagles are not about. She can take her time. Because it is cool, she will want to try and get as much insulation as she can over the eggs along with the leaves that she has been pulling toward her all day.

Daisy leaves her nest at 15:31:45.

Daisy leaving to go forage.

Despite the down being somewhat soggy in places, Daisy does a really good job concealing her eggs. Notice the two identical leaves across from one another. Daisy has done a marvellous job at decorating her temporary nest with the terracotta covered foliage.

Eggs are concealed with down and leaves.

So far, except for the anxiety produced by the Ravens’ visit, Daisy has had a relatively quiet day. She has waited til later today to go hunting for food. It is now 21 degrees C and 100% humidity with rain. Sun set is around 20:04. That is four and a half hours away. It is certainly safer for Daisy to go foraging as late as she can because she would miss the sea eagles if they came right before dusk. However, WBSE Dad has been known to show up around 17:00 on several occasions. Let us hope that no one comes, the eggs stay covered, and Daisy returns in about an hour and a half. Hopefully those eggs will still be warm. It is too bad we can’t somehow slip a little electric or solar blanket in that nest for them!

Thank you for stopping in to check and see how Daisy is doing. It is currently day 17 of incubation. The hatch window opens on day 26. So many did not believe that Daisy would still have a nest or any eggs. No one knew how the sea eagles would react. Many thoughts the ravens would force Daisy off the nest and they would then devour the eggs. But so far, none of that has happened. The sea eagles have been confused and have not harmed the eggs other than the one dad ate. So, there could be hope for some of the eggs to be viable. Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the little fuzz balls jump off the old Ironbark Tree nest? Ducklings born in a big sea eagle nest. Puts a smile on your face!

Thank you again for joining us to find out what is happening with the brave little duck whose nest is in an old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. We are so glad you stopped by.

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, BirdLife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the streaming cameras where I captured my 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.

Sea Eagles arrive and almost catch Daisy!

Before I start with today’s update on Daisy, our beautiful little duck living in the forest, I want to thank Daisy’s friends from Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Canada, Australia, the US, and China for checking on her. The whole world cares about a little duck trying to brood her eggs in a huge nest that belongs to the Australia’s largest sea eagle. We are on day 15 of brooding. I am beginning to believe that some of the seven eggs will turn into ducklings leaping to the forest floor. Everyone please send Daisy positive energy. She has had to deal with the sea eagles and the ravens, twice each, in twenty-four hours and now it is 40 degrees C with 98% humidity. In other words, it might feel like a sauna.

Daisy in the hot noon time sun filtering through the tree.

Daisy, you are so beautiful!

Every once in awhile, Daisy tucks in the down and uses her bill like a broom to shift the leaves and plant material closer to the nest so that she can use them to conceal her eggs when she goes foraging.

Daisy stretches her neck to collect more leaves.
Daisy uses her bill to pull the leaves over close to the nest.

Daisy gets every more busy moving leaves. She even gets up off the eggs to bring in some old down and more leaves. Then she begins to cover up her nest so that she can depart for a break.

Daisy begins to conceal the eggs.
Daisy works to make it look like their is no nest.

Daisy was slow and methodical in getting many more leaves up toward the nest cup. Now she is beginning to take some of the down and folding it over.

There were no alarming sounds in the forest and Daisy made a slow walk over to the left hand side of the big nest to fly off. Two things are interesting to me. If she is caught on the eggs by the WBSE who are literally landing on the big nest, she can fly off from her nest through the twigs on the left. Second, today Daisy spent a lot of time getting leaves over. Look how many there are! But she left them scattered and she did not cover the eggs completely with down (or that is how it appears from this angle). I wonder if this is because of the heat – the 40 degrees C scorching heat on the nest?

After having a couple of frights from the sea eagles, Daisy has been very smart to return to her nest about ten to fifteen minutes before sunset. Tonight, she arrives on the big sea eagle nest at 19:55:48. She does not immediately head to where her egg cup is concealed. She stops and listens.

Listening.

Daisy raises her neck up as far as it will go to listen. She has returned a little before sunset and the sea eagles could still come and check on the nest to see if anyone is there.

No alarming sounds so Daisy settles down to incubate her eggs. It is a good time of day to really see her beautiful plumage and the distinctive markings on her head. Did you know that she has about 12,000 feathers?

It is now Day 16 of Daisy’s incubation, 27 January 2020 in Sydney, Australia. This means that there remains 10-14 days til hatch!

Daisy did very well in the 40 degree C heat. It is already 22.8 degrees C on the nest at 4:45. But, there could be a little rain today in the forest where Daisy’s nest is. It will certainly be cooler. The weather report says it should not get hotter than 26. That, of course, means that the sea eagles might want to check on their nest since it is cooler! Let’s hope they just stay at Goat Island. There will be gusts up to 29 kph which means the old Ironbark Tree will really be creaking and swaying.

All is well at 5:15:00

At 5:37:07 Daisy hears someone coming! She puts her head down and then realizes she has to get off the big nest. There is no time to cover the eggs!

Daisy on alert.

It is Lady! And she has seen Daisy. You cannot see her in the picture below but she just got off the nest the second the WBSE landed.

Lady lands.

This is the first time that Lady has seen that there is a real live bird sitting on his nest. This is the first time that one of the sea eagles has swooped in fast enough to catch a glimpse of Daisy as she flies out. Lady is not happy! Someone is trying to take over her nest she thinks. She is puffing out her chest.

Lady looking around for Daisy.

The most interesting thing to me is that the Sea Eagles have not disturbed the eggs as of late. Remember, before she finished laying all her eggs, Dad removed one and ate it. He did not like the taste or he would have eaten all the eggs. And both him and Lady have been curious but not destructive to Daisy’s nest.

Lady stands guard on the parent branch.

Instead of destroying Daisy’s nest, Lady flies to the parent tree. She can hear Daisy quacking in the distance.

Lady watching.

At 6:00:28 Lady is joined by Dad. Since Daisy began laying her eggs, I have never worried about Dad, the WBSE. For some reason, he was very curious when he ate the first egg but he is ‘hard wired’ not to step on eggs in his nest because they might be his eaglets! Lady knows better. And she is fierce and would not want another female bird using her nest. It is hers.

In the image below, Lady is getting ready to jump off the parent branch and join Dad on the main nest.

Lady preparing to return to the nest area.
Lady is not happy.

Dad, sea eagle, just doesn’t seem to care as much as Lady. She is starting to look at that nest with eggs again.

What’s in this nest?

Dad goes up on the parent branch to keep watch. Daisy is quacking and flying around the forest. Daisy knows that this is the last half of her brooding and the eggs cannot get cold! Daisy must be afraid that the big sea eagles will tear up her nest.

In fact, Lady tries to do just that. She pulls out down and tries to grab an egg with her beak but the egg is too big. Relief for Daisy. For some reason, Lady does not try to destroy the eggs which she could do with her talons. But she starts to pull apart the down. She doesn’t like it. It feels funny and sticks to her beak. And she stops.

Lady does not like down in her beak.

Lady jumps up to the other parent branch and watches out for Daisy in the forest as she flies about. And then, she gives up. First Lady flies out of the forest and then Dad. They are both gone by 6:15:15. This terrifying event for Daisy has unfolded over a period of fifty-two minutes!

In the image below you can see the huge sea eagle flying into the forest from the nest tree. In a few minutes, Dad will join lady down on the Parramatta River for breakfast.

Wonder if Daisy will be scared and stay away for five or six hours? She must be quite shaken.

Lady flies into the forest.

Remember that Daisy didn’t have time to cover her eggs for protection. Well, when Lady was trying to demolish the nest, she tossed the down about covering up the eggs. How lucky for Daisy. Now the Ravens will not see them.

The sea eagles left the nest covered.

But wait! I cannot believe it. This is one brave little duck. I think she needs a big round of applause. Daisy only waits in the forest for twelve minutes. The sea eagles leave at 6:15 and she gets back on her eggs at 6:37. Tears of joy are pouring down my cheeks. The eggs will not get cold!

Daisy, you are the bravest little bird I have ever seen to stand up to the big sea eagles.

No doubt Daisy will be on her guard today. The sea eagles are not far away. Instead of being at Goat Island today, they will stay at their roost on the Parramatta River since it is cool.

Oh, my. I hope this is the last excitement Daisy has until sunset. That is when the sea eagles might return to check on their nest. Sometimes, you will remember that they come earlier in the afternoon. Each time Daisy has been away foraging.

Daisy returns to her nest.
Daisy listens.

Daisy has some nestorations to do but her eggs are safe and so is she. That is the important thing. Daisy looks so happy to be back on her nest. She has in a few minutes gathered up some of the down. Thank goodness Lady just really doesn’t like it. She didn’t make a big mess. Daisy can easily get her cozy nest repaired!

I will bring you an update tonight, in about nine hours. Thank you for checking in on Daisy, perhaps the bravest little duck in Sydney, Australia.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discover Centre for providing the camera for the scaps.


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.

And then a Currawong arrived!

If it wasn’t enough that the WBSE ‘Dad’ decided that he would keep vigil over his nest and Daisy’s eggs all morning, the Currawong that had been pestering Dad returned later when the eggs were exposed and no one was home!

The Pied Currawong is a nuisance to the WBSE. They dive at them especially when they have a nest in the area but, sadly, they also chase after the young eaglets and often send them out of the forest before they are really mature enough to leave.

At 14:55 a ‘Curra’ came on to the nest. It saw the egg that Dad had rolled out and attempted to eat it. It rolled it around in the nest but to no avail. The egg did not fit in its beak and, perhaps, because it was young, it did not know just to beat and break the ones in the nest.

But that Curra threw a hissy fit because of it! It took all of the down it could find and threw that over the rim of the big nest and then went and pulled the down that Daisy has so beautifully built her egg cup with and threw it over the rim. And then it left, in a big puff.

Daisy finally returns to the nest at 17:51. Within a few minutes she has rolled her egg back into the nest cup and has begun pulling leaves once again over to help insulate her eggs. At the time of this writing I do not know if she has enough down left on her breast to pull and add some more to the nest. The old pieces are too full of twigs and leaves to be of use to the duck.

It is nearly dawn in Australia and Daisy remains quietly incubating her eggs. The sun will rise around 6:05 and that is the time that the WBSE usually arrive to check their nest for its ‘illegal’ occupant.

As dawn breaks, Daisy awaits another day. The little duck who has faced such adversity continues to brood her eggs. No one knows whether or not the heat from the sun will have kept the eggs warm enough for them to hatch. Indeed, no one knows if the eggs are even fertile. But there is a single male down by the canal that Daisy joins when she is foraging. And that male came with her to make a hole in this big sea eagle nest around December 11, 2020. Hopefully they are fertile and Daisy will endure. But the life of any bird is full of adversity.

Will the White Bellied Sea Eagles return to the nest? will they come and leave? Will Dad decide to stay all day? It certainly seems that he can sit for hours and that is what I am told eagles do – sit and sit for long periods of time. If no one is on the nest again, will the Curra return to destroy Daisy’s nest? We wait.

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!

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?

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!