Ravens threaten Daisy!

Daisy’s Monday morning in Australia (Sunday in North America) started out as beautifully as it ended the evening before. She had gone to forage returning at 19:45 yesterday evening. It appears to be a growing pattern, leaving in the heat of the afternoon and returning right before dusk. This pretty much ensures that she will miss the sea eagles if they come.

While she was away yesterday, the Rainbow Lorikeets came to visit Daisy, full of energetic chatter but, at the same time, wondering where she was! They are so cute. They almost look like stuffed plushies someone has placed on Daisy’s nest tree.

Where’s MY Daisy?

It is going to be hot again today for Daisy. They are predicting temperatures of 34 climbing to 39 tomorrow. Our pour little duck needs a paddle pool up there with her!

Daisy decided not to leave this morning for a bathroom break or to forage. Instead, she stayed on the nest. The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos can be heard around 7:15 but it is an Unkindness that rattles Daisy’s world at 8:04. A group of Ravens is called an Unkindness and they were certainly not nice to Daisy. In fact, they were downright threatening. They moved from the top of the tree down closer. It was impossible to get am image of them in the tree (see second image below) but their shadows could be seen and their noise was deafening. Daisy was so frightened.

Australian Raven. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Look at the image below. Notice that Daisy has spread her feathers out in a manner similar to when a raptor mantles its prey. Her tail is fanned out and the feathers on her back are raised. She is protecting her clutch of eggs from these predators. The Ravens try harder and harder to get Daisy off her nest of eggs so they can eat them!

Daisy flattens her feathers and her head against the nest.

The Unkindness bullied Daisy trying to get her off her nest for five minutes. It must have seemed like a life time. And then they were away!

Except for the heat, the rest of the day has been relatively uneventful. The birds and animals of the forest are trying to expend as little energy as they can and remain cool in the hot Australian heat.

Daisy gathers up leaves and methodically covers her clutch of eggs and flies off to forage at 13:04:44.

Daisy leaving her nest to forage.

Notice how Daisy has moved leaves over on top of her down and tucked it in tight today. She might be worried about the Ravens coming back to try and find her nest. Or maybe she thinks the sea eagles might stop in to see if anyone is incubating the eggs.

Daisy flies from the nest.

Look at the image above. You can just see Daisy flying off. It got really hot on the nest today. The afternoon is the worst. Daisy left a little earlier than usual. Eggs are incubated at 37.5 degrees. It is possible that the heat from outside and the down stuffed around could keep the eggs toasty warm until later today. I wonder if Daisy will return around 17:00 or if she will wait til almost dusk.

Update: It was a very short foray for Daisy. She was gone only until 14:32 – so under an hour and a half. When she returned it looked like she was pretending like she had just landed on the nest. Like always, she looked around and walked very slowly before going over to her nest. What I find interesting is that she does not immediately move the leaves or open the down. It is always like she is simply waiting a little more being overly careful. Daisy is so cautious. What a good little mother!

Thank you for joining us and checking in on the little duck that built her nest inside the nest tree of the big sea eagles.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the cameras that provided the images.

Day 11 of incubation

It is noon on Daisy’s nest in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. She has started to pant as the sun shines directly on her. Like other birds, panting is a way for Daisy to regulate her temperature; she does not sweat like humans. It is, as summer days go, hot. The weather at Homebush Bay indicates that it is 34.1 degrees C. I wonder if it is actually hotter on the nest?? It is normally understood that heat rises. And, as you can see from the image below, Daisy is in direct sunlight right now. Some parts of Australia are bracing themselves for very hot weather in a few days, up to 39 degrees C.

The hot sun at high noon is shining directly on Daisy.

Many have thought that Daisy would need to take more breaks during the day as the heat builds. However, since it is 12:30 and she remains, I am thinking that she will follow her regular pattern of going off in the afternoon to forage. She has now gathered up more down to cover up the eggs from predators.

At 13:18 Daisy begins to take the down of the nest cup and fold it over inwards. Sometimes she just does this and then will turn and do her cute tail wiggle. Occasionally, she does this when she is rolling her eggs but, most often, it is a sign that she is thinking about leaving to eat. Remember, Daisy does, if all things go serenely, have a pattern of leaving the nest between 1300 and 1400 to forage. Yesterday it was 14:02. And yesterday, she returned at 16:49 but noticed both WBSE on the camera tree and aborted her landing on the nest. So, on average, if voluntarily, it appears that she takes about a two and a half to a three hour break.

In the images below, Daisy begins to tuck the down in around the egg cup. Once the down is folded onto the top of the eggs, she then goes about placing leaves and plant material, and small twigs to further disguise the location. It took her eight minutes to get everything right so that she can leave. She departed at 13:26.

Daisy is busy folding the down that lines the nest cup inward.
Very methodically she continues folding the down in a clockwise direction.
After folding the down, Daisy begins to use her bill to bring in plant material.
It is not always easy to move the leaves and twigs with her bill but Daisy is tenacious.
Once she is satisfied that the eggs are covered as best she can, she leaves to forage to keep up her strength. It is very hot in Hornbush Bay and she needs food and water.
Daisy’s nest is nicely concealed.

All birds have predators and Daisy is particularly vulnerable as she is an outsider to the forest. Her presence and her seven eggs have caught the attention of some, like the Raven and Pied Currawong, that would eat her eggs. Like Daisy’s plumage that serves as camouflage, the manner in which she has concealed her nest is meant to distract any potential threats. She has used the leaves and plant material on top. They blend in perfectly, there is absolutely nothing that would call attention. Daisy is also very discreet and alert in her comings and goings from the nest. Every move is slow and calculated unless she is frightened off by the approaching sea eagles or if she notices their arrival in another tree. Then she leaves quickly!

This is day 11 of Daisy’s brooding or incubation. Even though the eggs were laid on different days, Daisy did not start hard incubation until the last egg was in the nest. Imagine that one minute there are eggs, and within a few minutes the nest will be brimming full of peeping and clacking ducklings. This is precisely what will happen. This is known as synchronized hatching. The number of incubation days to hatching varies but is normally 28-30.

Daisy’s little ducklings – should the nest survive and they make it through the forest to the water – will be covered with fuzzy yellow down. They will have a characteristic dark chocolate brown-black line running from their bill through their eye. There are some white patches on their wings. They will be ever so cute!

Black Pacific Ducklings

Daisy’s ducklings are precocial at hatch. This means that they do not need Daisy to feed them. Daisy’s role will be to lead them to the water where they can forage themselves. Daisy will also help them to learn about predators and she will keep them warm in the evening. In a couple of months their new plumage will be that of an adult Black Pacific Duck, like Daisy.

They are known as ‘dabbling or puddle ducks’. They feed by tipping rather than diving to the bottom of the shallow water. They often forage at the edge of the river and lake like they are doing in the images below. They do not, however, hunt for food on land.

Black Pacific Ducks foraging on the shore. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Dabbling along the muddy shoreline. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A great image of a Black Pacific Duck foraging in shallow water. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is due to be another hot day in the forest tomorrow. The prediction is that it will be 37 degrees Celsius. This might turn out quite well for Daisy as the White Bellied Sea Eagles could be at Goat Island enjoying the cooler weather near the water. It is 16:42 and Daisy has not returned to her nest. She will be enjoying the cool waters of the canal and the river and, since it is so hot, might decide til near dusk when it is safe for her to return to her nest. The sea eagles are normally roosting then.

An uneventful day is a good day for Daisy the Duck.

Thanks for dropping by to check on the little duck who is occupying the large sea eagle’s nest in Sydney Olympic Park forest. Stay safe everyone. See you tomorrow!

I am grateful for the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery centre for the cameras they support. This is where I get my scaps.

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!