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.

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?

Something magical is happening

A Pacific Black Duck laid her second egg in an old Ironwood nest in Sydney Olympic Park, 6 November, 2020. The first egg was laid on 5 November. Photo is screen shot of Live Sea Eagle Cam, Sydney.

A week or so ago, a Pacific Black Duck was seen investigating what she might have thought was an abandoned nest in Sydney Olympic Park. The duck made several visits and according to others, ducks have investigated this nest in the past but have never laid eggs. This year things got more serious. ‘A hole’ was observed by the moderators of the White-Bellied Sea Eagle Chat. On Tuesday, November 5, those same moderators observed that an egg was laid. This morning there is a second.

Despite the name referencing ‘black’, the adult ducks, who live only to about two years, have dark brown plumage. The coverts, which cover the very important flight feathers and help keep them smooth, are either pale yellow or white at the tips. The secondary feathers are green. The under wings are dark brown with feathers that have a yellow edge. The head features a brown crown with a pale yellow section running from the bill to the ear coverts (the feathers that protect the ear). There is a dark line running from the lores, the area between the eye and the bill, to the ear coverts.   Above and below are pale yellow areas running from the bill to the ear coverts. The bill is a dark grey. The image is of the female on the eggs below. You can see the lines running from the lores to the ear coverts easily. The bill in this image appears as a blue grey. The eyes are a deep brown. The bottom sides of the head are a lighter brown than on the body. Despite being more dull in colour than the male, this image of the female Black Pacific duck shows the beauty of her feathers and the magnificent emerald green patches on the wings.

A side view of the Black Pacific Duck sitting on her two eggs in the Ironwood Nest, Sydney Olympic Park with a lorikeet looking on.

Pacific Black Ducks only mate when there is secure quantities of food and water. They lay a clutch of eleven to thirteen eggs. Their environmental status is secure in Australia but, in reality, only about 20% of hatchlings survive to age two according to BirdLife Australia.

Why are Lorikeets so excited to see this Black Pacific Duck with her eggs? By looking at them jumping all over the branches of the tree and the one above sitting on the rim of the nest looking at the duck, you can imagine that something special is happening.

The Rainbow Lorikeet is a medium sized sweet natured parrot that is quite nosey. They are native to New South Wales where Sydney is located and farther South in Australia. They are extremely talkative and their high pitched screeches have been known to scare many. If you look at the featured image you will see right away why they are called ‘Rainbow’ Lorikeets. Their heads and bellies are a deep royal blue while a bright emerald green colour feathers on their wings, back, and heads. The red breasts have orange and yellow on the sides. Their beaks are red. Males and females have the same bright plumage and it is apparently difficult to differentiate the gender without DNA testing or a surgical procedure. They lives to be approximately thirty years. It is their inquisitive nature that has drawn them today to the large nest of the White-Bellied Sea Eagles currently occupied by the Black Pacific Duck.

White-Bellied Sea Eagles are the second largest bird of prey or raptor in Australia. The wingspan ranges from 1.8 – 2.2 metres or 6 to 7 feet. They can weigh up to 4.2 kilos or 9 pounds. The birds have reverse sex-size dimorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male. The nest you are looking at ‘belongs to’ Lady and Dad who have a river roost along the mangroves of the Parramatta River. The diameter of the nest is approximately 6.5 feet. Their breeding season is normally from June to January when they lay, on average, two eggs.

WBSE 25 (left) and WBSE 26 (right) in August. They are all covered with their baby down.
WBSE 25 (right) and WBSE 26 (left) in the nest before fledging. Notice the rich colour of the juvenile plumage. In five or six years they will get their adult feathers.

White-Bellied Sea Eagles are huge birds who live mostly on fish caught with their strong legs and held by their talons. The nests of the sea eagles is normally within a kilometre of a source of fish, either a lake or a river. Other prey brought to the nest includes eels, Silver-tipped Gulls, a fox cub in the 2020 season, a turtle, and various other opportunistic catches.

It is not uncommon for other birds to investigate the nest while the sea eagles raise their young. Many want to protect their own territory from these large raptors and that includes the small owl, the BooBook Owl who comes at night and often hits the parents roosting on the branches of the nest. The Currawong is noisy and chases the fledglings trying also to chase them out of the forest. Magpies are another nuisance. The adults flap their wings or chase them away. The eaglets quickly learn to protect their territory too often standing up in the nest, flapping their wings, and honking to get the intruders to leave. Normally, the sea eagles check their nest periodically when they scan their territory. They also bring in more sticks and leaves readying it for their next breeding season.

As the Rainbow Lorikeets circle the beautiful Black Pacific Duck in celebration and curiosity, we have to ask ourselves what will happen to this mother duck and her brood? Stay tuned.