Lots happening in Bird World and it is just Tuesday!

My goodness. Monday and moving into Tuesday in the UK turned out to be a blur. Mrs G officially had her and Aran’s first hatch at Glaslyn Osprey Nest in Wales at 00.08 18 May. Mrs G, with her great experience – this is her 47th hatch – removed half of the shell. Good work, Mom. You can see the little Osprey to the left of the white egg – that sweet little stripe down its back.

There is Aran coming to check out how Mrs G and Q1 are doing in the early morning. Mrs G told him it won’t be long til Q2 is here – there is a big crack in that egg.

Little Q1 wanting some more fish. Oh, goodness. Not even 24 hours old and look how strong!

Here is the link to watch Aran and Mrs G with what will soon be the two Qs.

NC0 had her first hatch ever! The little one just needs mom to nudge that shell a bit. It has a really loud cheep that can be heard on the microphone under the nest cup.

And here is the little one getting its first feeding! So tiny.

No one gives the Ospreys a manual and it takes time to get to know how to feed a bobble head. I remember aching every time I saw Anna feeding Kisatchie at the Bald Eagle nest in Louisiana. Now Kisatchie is ready to fledge – it all worked out. Nessie (Blue NC0) is trying hard to connect with the little one to feed it and Laddie (LM12) seems to understand he is to deliver fish. Fingers crossed. I am certain they will have the feeding all sorted quickly before number two arrives.

Here is the link if you would like to check out this nest.

White YW (male) and Blue 35 (female) celebrate the arrival of the first hatch of 2021 at the Foulshaw Moss nest in Cumbria.

There is a lot of excitement at the Poole Harbour Nest and ironically, I was just reading through Roy Dennis’s account of when they were first setting up the nests at the most opportune locations in Poole Harbour in his new book, Restoring the Wild. Sixty Years of Rewilding our skies, woods, and waterways. It is very interesting how they use Google Earth to help pick out the best places for the artificial nests.

CJ7 flew in with a fish and lo and behold, there is a male. It is Blue 022. They have been seen mating on the camera pole. Late eggs?

Another nice view of female CJ7 with her catch. Oh, the folks at Poole Harbour would be elated if there was a new pair at this nest! Blue 022 is a 2019 translocated Osprey.

The Cal Falcons need a name and the folks at UC Berkeley have narrowed down the field from 650 suggestions. If you would like to vote to name Annie and Grinnell’s vivacious boys, please go to the link below. There they provide information on the names submitted and then you just choose three. Why now join in the fun?

https://calfalcons.berkeley.edu/names/

Here is Grinnell giving the three their morning breakfast. They were fantastic for their dad, all lined up and being nice. Sometimes they run all over the place when Annie tries to feed them later in the day. Nice, healthy falcons!

You can catch the action here when they are inside:

And this is the link to the outside camera:

Oh, those babies of Big Red and Arthur’s get more adorable every day – even with their pin feathers starting to show. Glad to see Arthur snagged a chipmunk for the gang. Did you realize there is a shortage of chipmunks in 2021? It isn’t just Ithaca – across the state of New York. I also wonder about squirrels. Did Arthur wipe out the colonies of squirrels and chipmunks last year when he delivered 2x the normal amount of prey to the nest? It has to take many more Starlings – and I understand that hawks and falcons don’t particularly like Starlings. Wish for a chippie!

They are sure growing but immediately you can still tell which is K1, K2, or K3. Oh, the little wings and tails.

The little ones at The Landings Osprey Nest on Skidaway Island (Savannah Ospreys) are doing great. It is easy to tell them apart. The youngest one has a very dark breast. That one struggled for awhile but the feeding has levelled out and both are fed well and growing. This morning the youngest decided to try walking for the first time! Wow. What a milestone! These two have beautiful peach in their plumage.

Checking in on Iris, she brought in an amazing catch yesterday at 12:45 pm. She could hardly pull it into the nest and then she decided to fly off with it to the pole.

Iris already had a pretty full crop when she caught this one. She has to be the envy of everyone there on the river in Missoula.

Iris is such a beauty. I wonder if she remembers how nice it was to have Stanley for a mate? someone to share these precious moments with? to help her with the eggs and the chicks? Those are, of course, human questions but, you can’t help but notice when a chick is born how quickly the female wants to show it to the male. Iris, the oldest Osprey in the world, is much loved – by tens of thousands.

Iris is not tied to her eggs. Thank goodness. She spent the night on the perch and did not go down to the nest til 8:44 am and was gone by 9:06. She is taking care of herself this year knowing that a single parent cannot raise a family of Ospreys. It is very interesting to me. I would love to have a coffee with Iris and hear what she thinks about Louis! Can humans learn Osprey speak? Probably not. It remains a great unfortunate in the Osprey World that Louis has two nests and that he doesn’t have the energy of Monty to try and keep both thriving.

It won’t be long until Tiny Tot fledges. He is getting a lot of good height and is exercising those wings.

Tiny and Diane are waiting for a fish delivery. The pair enjoyed a late night delivery the other day from Jack and were eating well into the night. It is hot and windy in St Petersburg today, 30 degrees C. Fishing might not be that good.

Tiny has grown into a beautiful osprey. Such joy he has brought to everyone who cheered this little one being clever and wanting to live. It is one of those good news stories from 2021 for sure.

Legacy is still with us! Samson brought in two fish today for her – two at the same time! This is really amazing as there is a high rip tide warning for the coast between Jacksonville and Georgia.

Samson waits and protects Legacy while he eats.

We are so lucky to have this extra time with Legacy. He has not strayed since he was missing for three days. That must have been very scary. Samson is doing a great job feeding Legacy and keeping him on the nest.

Thank you so much for joining me today. We are once again on hatch watch at the Glaslyn nest of Aran and Mrs G. If I look at the other potential hatches in the UK, things are getting busy. It is difficult to keep up.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams. That is where I get my screen shots: Cornell Bird Lab and the Montana Osprey Project, Cornell Bird Cam RTH, Cornell Bird Lab and Skidaway Audubon, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Loch of the Lowes, UC Falcon Cam, Poole Harbour, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, NE Florida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF, and the Achieva Credit Union.

Nest Hopping

We are getting some really good looks at the California condor egg in Redwood Queen’s nest tree in Big Sur, California. This is the same tree that Red Wood Queen raised Pasquale and Iniko with her long time mate, King Pin. King Pin is believed to have perished in the Dolan Fire in 2020.

Redwood Queen 190 and Phoenix 477 have been taking turns incubating the egg. We will be looking for a hatch in four days time – on April 24.

Did you know that on Easter Sunday in 1987 the last living California condor was captured and taken into captivity? Today, thirty-four years later condors are being released and living in the wild again. After the fire in 2020, there are 9 missing condor including Redwood Queen’s old mate, King Pin. There are 90 California condors living in Central California and 507 in total. Those numbers show the success of the captive breeding programme that Ventana Wildlife Society and the USFWS undertook three decades ago. Seeing Redwood Queen who was born in captivity lay another egg in her burnout Redwood Tree just puts a smile on your face!

Everything seems to be fine on The Landings Savannah Osprey Nest. The two little ones are growing and had crops this morning. As everyone knows, I am hoping that the third egg is not viable. These two are great and mom and dad can handle them easily.

Two little ones waiting for breakfast. 20 April 2021

The three little Peregrine Falcon eyasses of Annie and Grinnell’s are just adorable. They are growing and getting feisty. Grinnell has been very busy catching the local pigeons and turning them into raptors. Everything is fine on this nest. Watch for the hatching of the fourth egg tomorrow!

Cute. 20 April 2021

Open wide! Peregrin falcons make a ‘clicking’ sound alerting the eyases that it is time to open wide and eat.

Time for pigeon! 20 April 2021

The sun is going down on Loch Arkaig and, as yet, there is no news of Aila returning.

Louis continues to bring in moss for the nest. 20 April 2021

All of the nests in the UK that have eggs on them are doing great. NC0 is incubating at Loch of the Lowes – what a gorgeous place for a nest! Just like that of Annie and Grinnell who are in the penthouse of the Campanile at Berkeley.

NC0 and Laddie have three eggs! 20 April 2021

Over in Wales at the Dyfi Nest, Idris is showing off his amazing fishing skills to Telyn (Blue 3J). Wow. Apparently, Monty, Idris’s predecessor was also good at catching two fish at the same time. It’s great. Idris and Telyn can have dinner together!

20 April 2021. Idris landing with 2 fish!

Tiny Tot is enjoying the view and his nice full stomach from the feeding this morning. Or in my world, I am not going to start to worry about him again for another day or so – Tiny Tot is a miracle!

There he is looking out at the traffic below. His tail is coming in nicely.

Have a terrific day everyone. Take care, stay safe!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Achieva Credit Union in Dunedin, Florida, UC Berkeley Falcon Cam, Cornell Bird and Skidiway Audubon Savannah Osprey Nest, Woodland Trust and People’s Postcode Lottery, Dyfi Nature Reserve, Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Ventana Wildlife Society and Explore.org.

We have lift off – Big Red laid her first egg

For the past month, Arthur and Big Red have been arriving early to restore their nest on the Fernow Light Tower on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By yesterday, that nest was looking rather amazing. The egg cup was nicely lined with strips of bark and there were even some berries and pine needles. The question remaining in everyone’s mind was: when will Big Red lay her first egg?

Big Red and Arthur are Red Tail Hawks. The scientific names is Buteo jamaicensis. You will find these hawks across North America. Those that breed and lay their eggs where I live – in Manitoba, Canada – only reside with us during the late spring, summer, and early fall. They will migrate to warmer climates for the winter just like the Ospreys in the United Kingdom. Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. They remain in Ithaca throughout the year. They have a territory that is normally rich in prey.

Big Red is 18 years old this spring. She was tagged at Brooktondale, New York in 2003. Arthur will be five years old this spring. Birders on the ground knew him as a nestling in 2016; a chick from an adjacent territory near to the cemetery in Ithaca. He is often called the nickname he was given then, ‘Wink’. His real name is, however, Arthur. Arthur and Big Red have been a bonded pair since the death of Big Red’s long time mate, Ezra, in 2017. Big Red chose Arthur to be her mate in the fall of 2017 before he even had his red tails! Many thought that she was making a huge mistake but Big Red has proven over and over again that she knew precisely what she was doing. So far the streaming cam on her nest has helped to re-write our understanding of Red-Tail Hawk behaviour. As we go through the season, I will point out all the things that Big Red is teaching us. For today, however, let it suffice to say that an eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk can still lay eggs!

The image below is from the nest tower cam over the track at Cornell.

The nest cup – where the eggs are laid – is lined with tree park and pine. You can see this in the image below. Pine is traditionally an insecticide to keep the flies away. You will see the couple bringing in a lot of pine branches til the eyases fledge. Eyas is the singular and eyases is the plural form of falcons or hawks in the nest.

It was 21 degrees and the wind was blowing at 31 kph or 19.26 mph. All eyes were on the Fernow Tower nest. Big Red arrived at 11:46 alone.

She was acting peculiar. And we all held our breath. Might this be the day?

It is unclear precisely when Big Red laid her first egg or how long her labour was but by 12:51 everyone watching knew there was an egg!

The wind was blowing so strong that many were reminded of when Big Red was blown off her nest during the 2020 season. And we all wished that the sun would come out and it would be calm. Big Red has been through so much.

Red tail hawks typically lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs. Last year, Big Red and Arthur fledged three healthy chicks, the Js. This year it will be the Ks. If all goes to schedule, Big Red will lay an egg every other day. She can lay three eggs in four days. Traditionally she does not begin hard incubation until all eggs are in the nest.

For many, watching this nest will be the joy of their days. If you would like to join thousands watching Big Red and Arthur, here is the link to the Cornell Streaming Cam:

Big Red has already been busy rolling that egg and tweaking the egg cup. We are waiting for Arthur to arrive so she can tell him the good news!

Thank you for joining me today. My passion for these beautiful hawks will be coming through from now until August. Updates on other nests later today.

Thank you, as always, to the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cameras (there are two) on the Fernow Tower.

UC Berkley Falcons and quick Friday updates

The University of California Campus at Berkeley is ‘falcon crazy.’ They even named their basketball team the Falcons. Indeed, the feathered pair nesting on top of this beautiful building are ‘stars’. Everyone knows about them and gets excited – how grand is that?!

“The Campanile of UC-berkeley” by ChanduBandi is marked with CC0 1.0

The Campanile was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1914. The tower, reminiscent of the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, is ninety-four metres or 308 feet hight and has four bells. It is the most recognized building on the University campus.

This is the view from the roof:

In 2016, a pair of Peregrine Falcons began to roost on the roof of the Campanile. Their scrape box is two floors up from the bells and to everyone’s amazement the bell concerts do not seem to bother the raptors. If it did, we can imagine that they would have left quickly. Most of the time it is a safe place to raise their young but they have had, like other nests, intruders checking out their prime real estate.

In 2017, the same pair returned to raise eyases. They were given the names Annie and Grinnell in honour of the founder and first director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Annie Grinnell. Annie is not banded and her history including how old she is remains unknown. However, Grinnell was banded in 2013 as a nestling near Martinez, California. All of their chicks are banded in the nest.

If you have read most of my blogs you will know that I am a great proponent of banding. The amount of information that can be discovered is significant. And for Birders on the Ground it is an opportunity to take part. It takes a village to chase after falcons and check their bands, photograph them, and then find the right person to contact to tell them of the sighting.

If you have never seen a nestling banded, here is your opportunity. This is a short video of Poppy, Sequoia, and Redwood being banded in the scrape box in 2020 along with a Q&A:

Annie and Grinnell made their first nest on a sand bag on the roof of the Campanile in March of 2017. Poor things! But they had nothing else. In the wild, Peregrine falcons make their nests on a the edges of cliffs with a sandy base or in gravel.

In the image below, Grinnell is incubating the eggs in the permanent scrape box. Notice that it is a simple enclosure, with a single opening at the front. Wooden rulers have been fixed to the frame of the door and the corners so researchers can check the height of the young. Simple pea gravel or small river stones line the bottom. This is the ‘nest’. No other materials will be brought in. The falcons will rub their breast into the gravel to make a hollow for the eggs.

When two of the eggs of Annie and Grinnell’s first clutch rolled off the sandbox and broke, the University decided to install a temporary scrape box. Annie and Grinnell accepted the box and fledged their first babies – two eyases- from the Campanile. They were a male named Fiat and a female named Lux. The names were derived from the University motto, Fiat lux, which means bringing knowledge to light. Fiat survived but Lux was killed by window strike.

The following year the University installed a permanent nest box for the pair hoping that they would return and lay their eggs again. In April of 2018, Annie and Grinnell had three eggs hatch. Named after three elements discovered at Berkeley the chicks were a male named Berkelium, another male named Californium, and a female named Lawrencium. All three fledged. Lawrencium is the only one of Annie and Grinnell’s chicks that has been spotted. She is nesting on the island of Alcatraz.

In 2019, the exploits of Annie and Grinnell were streamed to the world. That year two chicks hatched and were successful fledges. One was named Carson after Rachel Carson. Hers is a name that you should know. Carson is the author of the book Silent Spring that led to the banning of DDT. Cade was named after Tom Cade, an Ornithologist recognized for his efforts to both protect and reestablish Peregrine Falcon populations after they were wiped out by DDT. Cade was the founder of the Peregrine Fund. He died in 2019 at the age of 91.

In 2020, Annie and Grinnell fledged three – a female named Poppy, a male named Sequoia, and another male named Redwood.

It’s 2021 and Annie and Grinnell are incubating four eggs! The first was laid on 10 March, followed by the second on 12 March, the third on the 14th and the final egg on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the image below, Grinnell has arrived to partially incubate the first three eggs. The eggs can actually range from a cream colour to red but here you see that Annie has laid three lovely red eggs.

While it is known that falcons sometimes lay five eggs, it is rare. And this brings me to why I love falcons so much and it isn’t just their very ‘cute’ plumage. It is because of delayed incubation. Annie and Grinnell can hatch four eyases but I am not up worrying all night when one didn’t get fed or the eldest was aggressive – it would be rare for that to happen but I am aware that it does.

Grenville on hard incubation duty, 19 March 2021.

The embryos inside eggs only develop when they are warm. Peregrine falcons, Red Tail Hawks and other raptor species (other than Ospreys and various species of eagles) want their eggs to hatch at roughly the same time. That way there is not a significant difference in development. To achieve this synchronization, the early eggs are only partially incubated until all are laid. Then hard incubation begins. Annie and Grinnell will take turns incubating the eggs. After hard incubation starts the eggs will hatch in roughly 32-33 days after the last egg was laid. The eyases use their ‘egg tooth’ to help them get through the thick shell which can take from 24-48 hours. Pip watch should start about 19 April! I am so excited!

UPDATES: Speaking of pip watch, Jackie and Shadow can hear one of their little ones chirping in the shell. Big Bear Eagle fans are on hatch alert!

Maya and Blue 33 have both arrived at the Mantou Bay Nest at Rutland in the UK on 19 March. Blue 33 (11) came in at 12:29 and Maya was right behind him at 12:56.

Maya and Blue 33 (10) arrive at the nest in Rutland on 19 March 2021.

So far it appears that Blue 25 (10) is still waiting for her mate at Rutland.

The three on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida have now been fed to the relief of everyone. The storm caused Jack to bring in only a small fish last evening. Brutus, the eldest, was very aggressive towards the smaller two and they went to sleep without any fish. (Brutus is the name given to the eldest by the chat group). First fish this morning was also small and caused aggressive behaviour. However, Jack went and brought in a nice sized second fish right away and everyone ate and were congenial.

Both were fed at the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey so all is well on that nest.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, is 181 days old today. She spent the night at the Streaky Bay Hospital and has been out and about looking for fish. She loves this area. I hope it keeps her safe and is her forever home.

It’s nearly 4pm on a beautiful sunny day on the Canadian prairies. Let’s hope it stays that way so that everyone can get out for a walk and check on the local wildlife in their area.

Thanks to UC Berkeley Falcons, Duke Farms, Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Big Bear for their steaming cams and Rutland Wildlife where I took my scaps and to Port Lincoln Ospreys and the PLO researchers for the satellite tracking for Solly.

Peregrine Season has officially begun in Manitoba (and mini-updates)

It is the middle of March and it smells like spring outside – the air is fresh and crisp and the sky is blue. In fact, it has been so nice that everyone is beginning to shed their heavy winter boots and coats just like a snake does its skin! Still, there is reason not to get overly excited. You see there is snow falling on a Great Horned Owl in a Bald Eagle nest in Kansas -at this very moment – in March. How crazy is that? We have been tricked before only to have a blizzard on 1 May.

“Crocus in Snow” by oschene is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Many people wait til the crocus push their beautiful buds up through the snow to even think about spring but, we don’t have any snow. So I am going to put my faith in the birds. The Canada geese and Bald Eagles are returning, there are amorous swans strutting about on some of the remaining ice on the river, and the number of photographs of song birds on the Manitoba Birding FB site is growing daily.

“Canada-Geese-3” by Chris Sorge is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As it happens, I love raptors — you might have noticed. And that is what is keeping me awake late on St Patrick’s Day. The first two Peregrine Falcons have returned to Manitoba from their winter vacation!

Dennis Swayze caught Ella on the ledge of the scrape box at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg today. Welcome home, Ella. Ella is six years old. She hatched in Brandon in 2015 and is the daughter of Brooklyn and Hurricane.

Below is the picture from this morning’s streaming cam of Ella sitting on the ledge of the scrape box.

Ella. 17 March 2021. Radisson Hotel, Winnipeg. @PFRP Streaming Cam

And, speaking of Hurricane (Ella’s mother), her current mate was spotted on the McKenzie Seeds Building this morning. His name is Wingo-Starr and the spotter got real curious as to why there were no pigeons on the building when they are always there – unless there is working being done on the roof or unauthorized visitors. The spotter was patient and got a full look at the leg band. Wingo-Starr was hatched in Moorhead and this is his third year in Brandon. Migrating is treacherous and there is a really bad storm system moving through the US right now. Let’s hope any migrating birds are hunkered down and safe.

Wingo-Starr. 17 March 2021. McKenzie Seed Building, Brandon, Manitoba. @PFRP Streaming Cam

The Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project began in Winnipeg in 1981. at that time four captive-bred falcons were obtained from the Canadian Wildlife Service’s breeding facility in Wainright, Alberta. It was not, however, until 1989 when everyone got really excited. The mated pair using the scrape box on top of the then Delta Hotel (now the Radisson) fledged four eyases. Four! These were the first documented fledglings in Manitoba in fifty years. Can you imagine the excitement and the tears?! Between 1981 and 2012 more than 200 peregrine eyases fledged from four different locations in Manitoba – Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and Gimli. (I have not found an official count covering the last eight years but it is easy to imagine that the number would be more than 250). The birds are banded, thankfully. The Peregrine Recovery Project traces the birds and they know that those born in Manitoba now have territory of their own in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba as well as in the United States in Topeka, Kansas, Red Wing Minnesota, Grand Forks and Fargo North Dakota and Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. They have thrived!

“Peregrine Falcon” by Sai Adikarla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Peregrine falcons are known as the stealth bombers of the sky. They are a specific ‘aerial’ predator. That means that they hunt their prey and capture them when in flight. They are the fastest raptor in the world being clocked at more than 390 kilometres per hour or 242 mph. They are about the size of a crow with very distinctive marking. You will never mistake one of these beautiful falcons for a Red Tailed Hawk. They have gorgeous steel blue-grey back plumage. They have a barred belly – very distinctive stripes with a black head. The adults have distinctive bright yellow around their eyes, talons, and beaks. Adults weight between 1-1.5 kg or 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. They have reverse sex dimorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.

Females lay their eggs in a scrape box or on the side of a cliff or cave. There is no nest material like you might think of with a Bald Eagle or even songbirds. There is gravel or sand. The courting ritual consists of a circular dance in the scrape box between the male and female. The male does a kind of dance while scraping his feet on the box. Falcons are also known for fantastic aerial displays, as well as some acrobatics on ledges. There will be 2-4 eggs laid at intervals of forty-eight hours. Many sites say that it is 32 days from first egg to first hatch but several researchers are reporting 39 days from first egg to first hatch. Falcons tend to do hard incubation only after the second or third egg has been born. A good example of this was the 2020 season of the Collins Street Peregrines in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Because the delayed hard incubation, all three eyases were born within six hours. There was no sibling rivalry and the triplets fledged successfully. It was simply beautiful to watch.

And a quick update for 18 March 2021. Bad storms are in the United States and all of the nests could be impacted. The snow has stopped on the GHOW in Kansas but Clyde has brought Bonnie food for her and the owlets. It is raining at Duke Farms and unless the female has food hidden, that pantry is bare. I am beginning to think something has happened with the male there. Has anyone seen him? So far Legacy in Jacksonville has a great day but Jacksonville is set to get hit by the storms around 5pm today – that bad weather will hit Fort Myers (E17 and 18, Harriet and M15) and St Petersburg (Achieva Ospreys) earlier. Plus all of the nests – keep them all in your thoughts today.

Thank you for checking in. As always I am grateful to those providing the streaming cams and in Manitoba it is Shaw Cable linked up with the Peregrine Recovery Project. Stay safe everyone.

Ever wonder what it is like to be a first time bird mom?

One of the wonderful things to come out of the pandemic is the number of people who started watching streaming bird cams. Testimony after testimony speaks to the transformative power of the birds. They have brought joy to so many of us. The birds have taken away the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic. Together we have marvelled at how a Bald Eagle can shake the snow off her wings but never get a flake on the eggs she is incubating. We have held our collective breathes when Big Red, the Red Tail Hawk at Cornell, was blown off her nest.

We cried with joy when Ms Pippa Atawhai literally ran with her webbed feet to get to her dad, OGK, when he returned after being at sea. We smiled when they fledged wishing we could just hold on to them for a few more days. They touched our hearts.

Pippa (left) with OGK (right). @Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC

Since the end of January there have been many Bald Eagle hatches. There are many pip watches on the horizon and eggs are being laid around North America. In fact, the Bald Eagles in Canada’s most western province, British Columbia, have recently laid eggs, the earliest in the history of the nest at Surrey. Some of the parents are older and very experienced and for others, this is their first time to lay an egg, have it hatch, and have a tiny little eaglet to care for. It cannot be easy. They have no manuals. Their mothers or grandmothers are not there to help the young mothers understand how to feed their baby and care for it. And, yet, they do. The term ‘bird brain’ is misdirected. Study after study speaks to the genius of birds in terms of their communication, navigation, and their use of tools. An excellent book on this topic for the lay person is Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds.

Along with using tools, communicating, and the migrating birds navigational system to get them to their favourite feeders in the summer, birds instinctively know that they must cover their babies in the snow and pouring rain when they have only natal down. The chicks, eaglets, eyases, or ‘babies’ as I often call them know to raise their little bottoms and shoot their ps out of the nest. They learn so fast! But wonder what it is like to be a first time ‘bird’ mother?

RTH hatchling J1, 2020. @Cornell Labs RTH Streaming Cam

At 11pm on the 23rd of February, the single eaglet on the Kisatchie National Forest nest hatched. Its parents are, as far as anyone knows, first timers. The nest is located in Central Louisiana. From the food deliveries, it appears that the area is relatively rich in prey, especially fish, which, of course, Bald Eagles love. The father understands his role as providing food to the nest, sometimes incubating the eggs, brooding the eaglet, and defense. The other evening when he took over brooding duties, out of habit he rolled the eaglet thinking that it was still an egg! The eaglet is fine but having rolled eggs for more than a month – it seems it might have become a habit, at least for the dads. The mother, in her enthusiasm, tried first to shove large bites of food in the eaglets mouth. It wasn’t working. It also was not working that she was holding her beak straight and vertical. Oh, when that poor baby got only one or two bites and the mother was ready to get back to brooding, I became the ‘auntie’ trying to explain to the young mother what to do through the screen. It didn’t work! Somehow the little thing managed grab enough of the big pieces that it survived. I admit to having my doubts for a couple of days. But then magic happened! On 1 March, the whole feeding process changed. Let me show you in a few images. I am so proud of both of them. Gold stars all around.

The chick is peeping and the mother responds by getting up from brooding. She moves to the pantry. The little eaglet is looking out of the nest bowl in the opposite direction from under its mother’s tail. This isn’t looking very hopeful.

Then the mother repositions herself.

OK. Mom is ready but, seriously. The little one is now in a different spot but still not aligned for a feeding.

The mother steps into the nest bowl, leans her head and tempts the little eaglet with a small piece of fish. She is teaching it to stand nearer to the pantry.

The little eaglet turns its head! And its beak aligns perfectly with its mothers. A nice bite of fish!

The mother continues offering bites, sometimes trying to hold her head differently. The little one continues to grab the fish. This is the longest and best feeding I have seen at this nest for this six day old eaglet. It is also getting stronger and can stabilize its head. I cannot even imagine what it is like trying to feed a bobble head.

It was almost a four minute feeding. The little one had a nice crop and it is now time to sleep and grow! For now the frequent feedings and smaller amounts are perfect. In a week we will see some longer feedings with larger bites. It is so wonderful to see these two figuring this most essential part of parenting and survival out. Fantastic!

Did you wait for a little one to be fed and then you said to yourself that it was alright for you to do something else or go to sleep? Everything just felt alright with the world. Well, today I smiled in relief. These two are going to be alright. If you would like to watch the little chick as it grows up at the KNF nest, please go here to watch the streaming cam:

Thank you for joining me today. It is almost spring…less than three weeks. Yippee.

Nestorations

So many people began watching streaming bird cams last year as the pandemic set in around the world. It is hard to believe sometimes that a year or more has passed. It feels like a blink. The ‘time’ has simply melted between our fingers. The very first streaming cam that I watched was after my encounter with the Sharp-shinned Hawk in my garden in January 2018. It was a camera focused on the ledge of a building that belonged to City University in New York and it was a pair of Red-Tail Hawks. There was tragedy on that nest with the male dying and the female having to raise the three eyases alone. Then there was a new male and three eggs last year and the female was killed by rat poison. The nest was abandoned. Besides having my own cat, Duncan, killed by rodenticide it was that death that stirred a desire to end the use of designer anti-coagulating poisons. Shortly after someone suggested that I check out the streaming cam for the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. And so, I began just as the resident female hawk was laying her first egg. March 2020. If you read my post regularly, you will have heard about Big Red and Arthur. Still many of you might know be aware of this amazing couple and so, I will give you a very brief introduction.

The nest on the light stand at the Cornell University campus stadium is getting readied for the 2021 season of the Big Red and Arthur show. Big Red is the eighteen year old resident Red Tail Hawk matriarch. Arthur is her five year old mate. Big Red has been raising chicks in this territory for eons. She was hatched in Brooktondale, New York in 2003 and was banded that first fall. The distance between Ithaca and Brooktondale is 7.4 miles. Her mate, before Arthur, was Ezra. Ezra was born at Judd Falls just outside of Ithaca. It is known that Ezra and Big Red raising eyases from 2012, the year that the streaming camera was installed and 2016. He was killed defending Big Red in March 2017. It is believed that Ezra and Big Red had raised eyases for several seasons before the camera was installed. Precisely how many no one knows. Arthur was born in 2016 in an adjacent territory of a family of RTHs to that of Big Red. There is camera footage of him visiting an empty light stand nest in April 2017. By the fall, just as Arthur is getting his red tail, him and Big Red become a couple. They visit the light stand nest in November. They have successfully fledged all of their eyases for three years. This season will be their fourth.

It is approximately three to four weeks til the first egg will be laid and today there were five visits to the nest to make nestorations. Arthur started bringing twigs in at 9:13 and again at 9:34.

After bringing in some more greenery and twigs, Arthur checks out the nest bowl to see if he thinks Big Red will approve.

At 16:26, Big Red arrives for her inspection.

Arthur immediately joins her to get further instructions!

Big Red does a lot of shimmies and twists and seems to approve of the work that has been done on the nest cup.

Looking adoringly at Big Red, Arthur listens intently to all of her instructions.

She has Arthur try the nest bowl so he can understand what else needs to be done. ‘Arthurrrrrrrrrr….you have to get these rails higher or those kids will fall out and land on the cars!’

Big Red departs and leaves him to it.

Arthur came back twice – at 16:46 and again at 16:58 delivering large twigs.

Arthur continues to bring in sticks and break them with his feet and with his very sharp beak. No doubt he will be back at it Saturday morning. There will be no weekends off! Big Red will be laying her eggs and incubating them through rain, snow, sleet, and hail if this season is anything like last year. And while she is doing that, Arthur will be delivering prey. So much prey, in fact, that you will not believe there could be another chipmunk left in Ithaca! Arthur knows and Big Red will remember that there is nothing nicer than having a fur lined nest, too. Helps keep those babies warm in Upstate New York!

I highly recommend this nest to all of you. It is a fabulous way to see the behaviour and the life stages of the Red Tail Hawk. After fledging, there are several people on the ground that take photos and post videos, often live, of the juveniles. Last year we saw many teaching moments when Big Red and Arthur joined together, for example, for a family hunting day. These are two fabulous hawk parents that work together so well. They are always in tune with one another and their eyases thrive because of it.

Here is the link to that streaming cam:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/red-tailed-hawks/

Thanks so very much for joining me. It is hard to curtail my excitement. This RTH family has really enriched my life and my understanding of avian behaviour.

Thank you to Cornell Labs for their streaming camera of the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. That is where I took my scaps.

Wait just a minute…this is OUR nest!

There have certainly been a number of nest hijacks this season as well as a number of unwelcome intruders. The threats by the Great Horned Owls continue across the United States on well established Bald Eagle nests. Ravens have been attacking the Bald Eagle at the Channel Islands nest and, of course, we are more than aware of the danger the GHOW in Fort Myers is posing to the nest of M15 and Harriet. At the Pittsburg Hays Bald Eagle nest, on the night of 23-24 February, a GHOW launched an attack on the nest. It was the first ever recorded in that nest’s history. Daisy the Duck was not a threat to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles when she borrowed their nest to lay her eggs but the GHOW sure was to the Bald Eagles near Newton, Kansas who backed off and surrendered the nest to the GHOW. It is, of course, not just the ‘top of the food chain’ raptors that are being bothered, injured, or killed, it is also the smaller raptors such as the Red-Tailed Hawks.

For the past few days, Big Red and Arthur, the resident Red-tail Hawks who ‘own’ the territory within the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, have been renovating their nest on the light stand at the Cornell stadium. The pair have been together since the death of Big Red’s long term mate, Ezra, in 2017. Ezra was killed defending Big Red. It was shortly after Ezra’s death in March, that a very young Red Tail Hawk arrived on the nest. He didn’t even have his red tail! By the fall, when Arthur had shed his juvenile plumage, Big Red had decided that he was the one. She had put several potential mates through what could only be called an exercise to see if they were worthy of her and her territory and also to see if they would be good defenders and providers for her and the eyases. Arthur won the contest. The pair successfully raised eyases in 2018 (when Arthur was two), 2019, and in 2020, the Js. This year will be the Ks.

It is now less than a month til the first egg will be laid and the two are working hard to get what is left of the nest after the fledging of the Js. They began when there was still snow on the nest a few days ago.

‘Look at the mess those kids made when they kept trying to fledge from between the light boxes! Arthurrrrrrrr. There is a lot of work to do. You had better get busy.’

These two hawks are the funniest birds I have ever seen. Big Red is VERY loud and gives Arthur distinct instructions about everything. It is quite clear who wears the pantaloons in this nest. Year after year, they have sent observers into hysterical states of laughter, this eighteen year old RTH and her five year old mate.

The pair made several visits calculating the amount of nesting material that they are going to need to get the platform readied. Arthur brings in massive amounts of twigs building up the front and the sides of the nest over the following days as the snow melts.

And then, on the morning of 25 February at 6:56 a group of European Starlings come to check out the nest! Are they thinking that this might be a really good place for them to raise their young? Oh, I don’t think so.

Twenty-three minutes later, Arthur arrives at the nest with a piece of greenery. While raptors will use evergreen to keep away insects, laying a piece of pine in the nest bowl is a signal to all other birds that this nest is occupied.

After placing the pine needles in the nest bowl, Arthur looks around. ‘Where are they!? I hope they are watching!’.

Arthur decides to work on the nest bowl rubbing his chest against the twigs and nesting material to make an indent for Big Red’s eggs.

And before he leaves he takes a very good look around. Arthur knows that Big Red might like a nice squirrel for dinner but she would also love to eat any European Starling that tries to mess with HER nest.

I want to leave you with a smile on your face. It’s the end of February and we can all use one.

Big Red and Arthur do many things to teach their eyases. Sometimes it is about nest building and at other times it is imprinting the different prey items in their mind so they know what they should and should not eat in the future. And, sometimes, Arthur plays tricks. Have a laugh. The video is three minutes long:

Aren’t those little eyases just the cutest?!

Thanks for checking in with me and the birds. Updates tomorrow on the progress of the new mom at the KNF nest and some recent happenings in the Bald Eagle nest – first eggs happening everywhere including Canada. It is going to be busy in a month!

Thank you to the Cornell Ornithology Lab for its streaming cam on the nest of Big Red and Arthur.

January 5 is National Bird Day!

Today is National Bird Day. Did you know? And, if not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is there a day to celebrate birds?

National Bird Day seeks to raise awareness about birds. It is that simple. It began fourteen years ago in the United States and spread. So today, Canadians, too, are shouting out the love for our feathered friends. Everyone is joining together to find ways to enrich the lives of these, the closest living relative to the dinosaurs, better. And why should we care? Well, there are lots of reasons but let me begin with the fact that we have over fished the oceans, made the waters toxic and decreased the amount of fish that was present at the end of the nineteenth century by 80%. We have populated the world and allowed cities to sprawl, taking away the normal territory of the birds to hunt prey and survive. We spray our lawns so they are green, use toxic pesticides, construct buildings with gorgeous winds that are not strike proof (they could easily be), while driving fast and well, quite honestly, some people go out of their way to do harm. The coffee we drink, for 94% of that grown, comes from crops grown in direct sunlight. Yes, drinking coffee causes deforestation! So part of today is to examine how we can deal with these issues and offer protection and survival to our feathered friends. Did you know that 12% of the 10,000 bird species are in danger of extinction? There is a doctor from Studio City, California traveling the world to try and photograph every species of hummingbird before they are gone. Her name is Carole and she runs Hummingbird Spot, a bird cam and chat on youtube to raise awareness.

Kakapo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So what can you do to help? You might think about bird adoption. I am particularly fond of the work that the Kakapo Recovery do to help the only remaining 208 kakapo. Have you ever heard of the kakapo?

The kakapo is also called the ‘owl parrot’. The forage around on the ground of the forests in specific areas of New Zealand. They do not fly! And they are extremely endangered. Every Christmas the Kakapo Recovery issues certificates for adoption. You get a photo of your kakapo and a plushie along with other swag. The purpose of the adoption is to help fund the Kakapo Recovery. Cost of adoption ranges from $100 to $500 NZD. The birds wear transmitters that require annual or semi-annual changing of batteries. Those transmitters allow the researchers on the islands to find the birds and check their health. Today, there are only 207 Kakapo. Their existence was compromised due to habitat destruction. Today, they are threatened by disease and intruders. Don’t want to adopt a kakapo? why not buy a great beanie that comes with a really beautiful Kakapo pin?

If you have been one of the millions enjoying watching wildlife make their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young, you can donate to the wildlife cams that make this happy. You can donate just as much as you can afford. Cornell University runs a multitude of bird cams partnering with others around the world. They monitor the lives of Osprey, Royal Albatross, Red Tail Hawks (my favourite), along with countless other species living in manmade cliffs in Bermuda to fruit eating birds of Panama. Check them out! The bird cams are free! In 2020, during the pandemic, millions watched and discovered great empathy with these beautiful feathered creatures. They also learned many things. Did you know that the parents of the Royal Albatross chicks being incubated talk to their young before they hatch? Did you know that a damp nest can cause disease killing the young? If you have ever watched any of these birds feeding their young, you will marvel at how those big beaks can get such tiny pieces of food into the nestlings mouth! You will marvel at how they grow and you will come to imagine that humans might want to be so focused at the dining table. One of my favourite falconers, Laura Cully, thinks that every human should have to watch hawks raise their eyases before the humans commit to having children. Bird cams are wonderful but along with the joy there is also sadness. The norm is that only 1 out of 3 juvenile birds will live to see its first birthday. Those watching the camera of the pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red and Arthur, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were thrown in despair this past summer when the big beautiful female, who had recently delighted everyone with her baths in puddles, was killed when she flew into the window of a building. And those who watched the two White Bellied sea eaglets growing in the nest in Sydney Olympic Park, WBSE 25 and 26, learned what determination was. SE26 had its leg broken shortly after hatch. For over a month it could not stand. It would scoot on its ankles. But, the eaglet persevered and forced itself to walk despite the pain. It branched, learned to feet itself, and fledged. SE 26 returned to the nest six days later much to the delight of everyone who thought they would never see her again.

Last photo of WBSE 26 I took off the screen.

Many who watch the bird cams contend with their own physical issues and it was very easy to identify with SE26. Everyone hoped that when she had overcome everything to fly that she would be able to be a real sea eagle living in the wild. The day after this photograph, WBSE 26 was found on the balcony of a condo, 22 stories up. She was taken into care. It was determined that she was in a lot of pain, there was scar tissue on her feet, injuries to both from overcompensating only using the left leg, and the break had not healed properly. She was euthanized. It broke everyone’s heart. If anyone were to suggest that the life of a bird is one of fun and freedom, I would have them watch a bird cam for awhile.

What else can you do in your own area? You can donate money or items to your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. The one near Winnipeg is Wildlife Haven. Check their website for what they need. Take a drive out and see their resident Bald Eagle who was found in NW Ontario and who now is one of their ambassador birds. You can attract birds to your back garden. You can add feeders and bowls of water. They will thank you immensely. Crows and Blue Jays love grapes, dog kibble, hard-boiled eggs which are good for them. Avoid feeding birds bread. It is like Junk food to them. They love it and will fill up on it but will ultimately die of starvation. If you see plastic mesh bags or the plastic tops that hold cans, cut them and put them in the garbage. Avoid the use of balloons at all cost. Birds die from getting tangled in them. And last, three ideas. Coffee. Do you drink it? Do you know where those coffee beans come from? 94% of the world’s coffee is grown in the sun with only 6% grown in the shade. Coffee grown in the shade does not destroy the habitat of birds and animals. In Canada, you can order ‘bird safe’ coffee from birdsandbeans.ca It is not any more expensive than some of the other leading brands and if you order $45 worth, the shipping is free. It is also delicious, organic, and fair trade.

Only one of the signature blends at BirdsandBeans.

If you live in the United States, you can order directly from the Smithsonian who certifies the coffees that are grown in the shade.

And if you really want to get into the politics of wildlife, then go and read the website of the Albatross Task Force. You might never eat factory fish again! Lobby your government to make these fishing trawlers comply with standards so that there is no bycatch. What do I mean by bycatch? Sea birds are attracted to the fish used as bait and they get caught on the industrial hooks if they are not protected. A Wandering Albatross is decapitated every five minutes. The goal of the Albatross Task Force is to get every industrial trawler to use bird scaring lines, fish at night, and add weight to the long lines. These are inexpensive remedies meant to save 80% of the bycatch and protect the growing number of endangered sea birds.

Get a friend to join you! Have your children enter many of the bird contests. Join in on Bird counting days. Read about birds and nature. We need to protect the birds and their habitat so that they can help protect us.