Wonder what will happen today on ‘As the Nest Turns’?


Before I begin today, I want to thank all of Daisy’s fans from Poland who come every day to check on her well-being. It is so nice to have you with us on her journey.

Zanim zacznę dzisiaj, chciałbym podziękować wszystkim fanom Daisy z Polski, którzy codziennie przyjeżdżają, aby sprawdzić jej samopoczucie. Miło jest mieć cię z nami w jej podróży.

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I have to admit that the time difference between the Canadian Prairies and Sydney, Australia often means that I am awake at 1:30 am waiting for Daisy to return to the nest from foraging. Last night it caught up with me and I turned out the light. Daisy is being smart. She waited til the sun was beginning to lower itself before returning to the Ironbark Tree. It was 17:07.

Daisy approaches her nest cautiously. Remember, she has, at the last minute, looked up and glanced the White Bellied Sea Eagles sitting stone cold still on the camera tree and had to leave quickly. I am impressed with her approach. She lands on the old creaking tree, stopping and looking, and slowly proceeding to her nest. Someone might think she is just a curious visitor. But we know better! So far this little Black Pacific Duck has outwitted the sea eagles!

Daisy continues to be cautious as she slides onto her nest.

The sun lowering on the horizon leaves a beautiful filtered light on our beautiful little duck. For those of you who have been following along every day on Daisy adventures, you will notice that she is really cleaning up the down that was tossed about and getting it back on the nest.

It is 4:40 am in Sydney and Daisy is enjoying the cool before the heat of the day arrives.

The Homebush Bay weather says it is now 21.9 degrees C at 5am. It is expected to climb to 33 degrees C at the height of the day. Oh, Daisy, it is going to get pretty toasty on that nest!

In an article for the Smithsonian Magazine, Brian Handwerk says in ‘Defying Stereotypes, Ducklings Are as Clever as They Are Cute’ that “a duckling’s ability to imprint confers a remarkable ability for abstract thought, often associated only with primates and other animals considered highly intelligent. Ducks even outperform supposedly “smarter” animal species in certain aspects of abstract reasoning. Just hours after birth, those yellow fuzzballs understand concepts like “same” and “different,” remember them, and apply them to never-before-seen objects with no social cues or training” (14 July 2016). In being able to distinguish likeness and difference, the ducklings are demonstrating that they are not ‘bird-brained’ but, rather, they have a high level of abstract thought.

I was so glad to see someone writing something positive about ducks. It isn’t that I have found negative statements about ducks but, rather, it is the absence, the invisibility of ducks in recent popular books on birds. For example, in Jennifer Ackerman’s, The Genius of Birds, there is not one mention of a duck! Magpies, yes. House Sparrows, yes. Even one little mallard, no. I would like to think, from observing Daisy, that ducks are as capable of complex behaviour as every other bird discussed in the book. I think that you might agree with me. She has, thus far, outwitted the boss of the forest, the largest seabird in Australia, the White Bellied Sea Eagle. Let us hope that this pattern continues!

I begin to look at my bookshelves and realize that I have been focused entirely on Red Tail Hawks and falcons. There must be as many beautiful books on ducks. Surely people have adopted ducks, made ponds for them and feed them in the same way that people in the English countryside have swans or wildlife rehabbers have Red Tail Hawks. Perhaps you know of some books on ducks that I should read. Lists are always appreciated. When I looked on line, there are pages and pages of children’s stories about ducks and geese. There are some about making duck decoys and how to line them up so that ducks can be shot. Sorry, I don’t wish to shoot them. I would like them to live happily in a pond or at the edge of the water like our Dabbling Duck, Daisy.

It is 5:57 and the forest is beginning to wake up. Daisy hears ravens cawing in the distance. Ravens normally follow the sea eagles in the forest. She stretches her neck to listen intently and then relaxes again.

There are enormous demands and dangers for Daisy while she is nesting. She has pulled off the down on her breast to line the nest. This also creates a bare spot which is the ‘brood patch’. The heat from Daisy’s body goes directly to the eggs. Periodically during the day and night, she will rotate the eggs. Daisy has, as mentioned before, lost a lot of her body weight creating the eggs and lining the nest. She also is not able to go and forage as frequently as she would when she is not nesting. We know that she goes out to replenish herself but that is on average about three hours a day. Otherwise, she is alert and on the nest tending to her eggs. Daisy is not like larger waterfowl, like geese and ducks. She does not have a fat reserve to draw on when she is incubating. So besides the danger of her own health, there are also other animals in the forest that are predators. We have met many of them in the days that Daisy has been incubating – Ravens, the White Bellied Sea Eagles, the Pied Currawong, and perhaps BooBook Owl, Magpies, and possums. Sadly, a lot of wild ducks have an even bigger danger created by humans – the loss of their habitat.

There is no need to create any drama around Daisy. Right now she has out mustered all of the other birds and animals in the forest. As I said yesterday, an uneventful day is a good day for Daisy – just like it is for us!

The sun paints a rose-gold hue over the nest as it rises over the forest.

Our little duck uses this quiet time to do some aerating of the nest and some preening.

Look at that beautiful down nest lining! Wow.

The only visitors so far have been the Rainbow Lorikeets and they have spent their time on the bowl of the big nest.

Daisy heard them but she could not see them at first. They were climbing around on the bottom of the big sea eagle nest. When she realized that they were the beautiful rainbow coloured parrots and that they would not bother her or her eggs, she relaxed.

Daisy relaxes when she sees the Rainbow Lorikeets.
The beautiful parrots are all curious about Daisy.

I have this thought that always comes to mind when I see the Rainbow Lorikeets climbing over the nest tree. They are not frightened and that must mean that the White Bellied Sea Eagles are not close! That is a very good thing. The Lorikeets are still climbing around on the nest. They have been there for more than an hour. Daisy can relax and enjoy a nice morning.

I am so happy that you have joined me today to find out what has been happening in the world of little Daisy. I will bring updates as I try to do everyday in about six hours. Stay tuned to find out if your favourite Black Pacific Duck had any more adventures today!

Thanks to WBSE Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the cameras so I can take my screen shots.

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!

‘Nest Stand Off?’

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad enjoying a Duck Egg Breakfast at 5:54

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

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

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

Daisy laying her egg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Continuing Saga of Dad and the Duck or ‘As the Nest Turns’

Just to bring those of you up to speed in case you haven’t read my earlier blog. In early December, a pair of Pacific Black Ducks investigated the nest of a pair of White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) in an old Ironwood Tree in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia. On 14 December, a nest cup was excavated in the centre of the sea eagle nest by the ducks. (Note: This is off-season for the sea eagles.). Six days later, ‘Dad’, the male partner of ‘Lady’, to whom the nest belongs, came to the nest for one of his periodic territory checks. The female aptly named ‘Daisy’ by Phyllis Robbins of the WBSE chat group laid her first egg in the nest cup on 5 January 2021.

Female Black Pacific Duck

On the morning of 11 January, Daisy arrives at the nest just after dawn. Before she could lay her egg, vocalizations from other birds in the forest alert her that the sea eagle is about. Indeed, Daisy might have been listening for the male sea eagle because he had come to the nest the previous day. That day she quickly covered the eggs and flew off the nest but stayed in proximity. Dad stayed for about half an hour before leaving and within a few minutes, Daisy returned to lay her sixth egg without interruption. This morning, however, Daisy had not laid her egg when the large sea bird appeared. She stood on the rim of the nest and quacked as Dad flew to the camera tree. She left so abruptly that she did not have time to cover her eggs but, it seems that Dad did not notice her physical presence on the nest or her quacking.

Dad surveyed his territory remaining on the tree that supports the camera for the live stream for about an hour. He might have thought that the bird laying the eggs would return without noticing him and he would find out who this mysterious bird is.

White-Bellied Sea Eagle Male known as ‘Dad’ scanning his territory for intruders.

After about an hour and a half, Dad flew to the nest tree to see first hand what was happening. He had noticed the eggs the previous day by rummaging around in the leaves. He even tried to pick one up with his bill but to no avail.

Three of the six Black Pacific Duck Eggs

Today the eggs were clearly visible. Look carefully. Daisy has started removing down from her breast to line the nest. This physiological process is called zugunruhe.

Under normal circumstances, Daisy would arrive at dawn to lay her egg. She would do this every day until she finished laying all of the eggs for her clutch. This can vary between 8-13 eggs. After laying her egg, Daisy often remains on the nest for a period of about an hour before departing for the river to forage for the rest of the day. Once all of the eggs are laid, Daisy will begin full incubation, being relieved periodically by her mate. After twenty-eight days, the ducklings will hatch. Then, the following day (after 24 hours), they will take a giant leap of faith and jump off the rim of the nest, a distance of approximately fourteen metres, to the forest floor. Here they will follow their mother to the Parramatta River where they will immediately begin foraging for themselves.

Dad inspecting the Black Pacific Duck’s eggs

Today, Dad began to curiously inspect the nest with the eggs. For what seemed like an eternity, he would look at the eggs and then look around the immediate environment of the tree. It was actually like he was confused. At one point he tried to pick up one of the eggs but he couldn’t do it. It isn’t that they are heavy; the shape is just awkward for him to handle with his beak. He did not try to move the eggs with his giant talons nor did he attempt to break them. He did toss some of the down around. At one point, it even looked like he might start brooding the eggs. It was a very strange exchange because Dad’s hormones are not thinking about breeding or brooding. He is in the midst of moulting.

Dad trying to move one of the eggs

The entire morning was very suspenseful. Currawongs and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were screeching in the background and at one point, it was thought that Daisy even did a fly by.

And then the oddest thing happened. Very delicately, Dad covered up the eggs at 9:01 am.

Dad covered up the duck eggs so that no one could see them

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, Dad went up to one of the ‘parent branches’ on the nest tree and stood vigil. More than once, Dad flapped his wings to keep the Currawongs away! Take altogether, these three actions scream out that his intuition is to protect the eggs.

Dad standing guard over the nest

Dad stayed for more than an hour before departing. At the time of this writing, he has returned once again to the nest tree where he is keeping watch over his territory.

Stay tuned!