Oh, it is going to be hot for Daisy!

Oh, welcome to The Daisy Chronicles, a daily update on the life of the little Black Pacific Duck that has made a nest in a White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the Sydney Olympic Forest. It is Day 13 of incubation. We could be half way to hatch!

Och, witamy w The Daisy Chronicles, codziennej aktualizacji życia małej kaczki Black Pacific, która założyła gniazdo w gnieździe bielika morskiego w lesie olimpijskim w Sydney. Jest 13 dzień inkubacji. Mogliśmy być w połowie drogi do wyklucia!

————————————————————————————-It is 7:44 on the nest in Sydney, Australia and Daisy knew what the weather was going to be today. She got up early, at 4:13:44 to go for a swim and some foraging. The weather news says it will be 36 in Sydney today and it will be hotter on the nest with the direct sunlight at times.

How many times have you checked the weather only to find out that the weather report was wrong? When I was a little girl staying with my grandmother, she would open the front door of her house and ‘sniff’. Then she would declare that it was going to rain. At the time, not knowing anything, I thought she was a witch! How silly was that? But how do birds know the approaching weather?

Some say that the hollow bones of a bird help them determine the barometric pressure and, thus, they are able to anticipate incoming weather. Others say that it is the pressure plates within their ears. Daisy is not a bird but a waterfowl and still she anticipates the changing in temperature, rain, etc. That is because she, also, has hollow bones. Recent research at The University of Western Ontario suggests that birds have an internal barometer. They can tell even the slightest change in barometric pressure and temperature. And, of course, they have these skills because knowing if they should forage or hunt immediately, if rain or snow are coming, are essential to their survival. Researchers at the University tested their ideas by lowering and raising the air pressure inside a specially built wind tunnel. If they lowered the air pressure, the birds would immediately start looking for food and prey. Low pressure means that a storm or rain and winds is approaching. They might even have to find a safe place to stay for hours or even days depending on the strength of the storm. Likewise, if the barometric pressure and temperature rise a bit, the birds will have a reasonable morning in the nest preening before heading out to hunt or forage. Today, Daisy leaves her nest early because she knows that it is going to be very hot during the day and she may need to dabble several times rather than just one long foraging trip.

For those of you who are ‘sort of’ keeping up with Daisy, things have been relatively quiet for a few days. Today is day 13 of brooding. The WBSE ‘Dad’ made a surprise visit to the nest tree last evening at 16:59:24 but as quick as he appeared, he left at 17:03:43. I am sure he thought he would catch whoever was brooding in his nest. But Daisy has been very smart. And with the heat she may stay out foraging or dabbling longer. She landed on the rim of the nest at 19:49:49 but was very cautious looking around before venturing over to her eggs. In fact, she did not actually go over to the nest cup until 19:52, three minutes after arriving.

Daisy lands on the right side of the nest. She does not look at her nest and proceeds with caution in case there are predators about.
Daisy is listening and looking.

Daisy is very much aware that the White Bellied Sea Eagles come and go in the forest. Sometimes they stay for a few minutes, other times for many hours. She listens for the vocalizations from the other animals and birds in the forest to let her know if they might be coming. Her survival depends on it.

Daisy aerating her nest.
Satisfied that no one is around, Daisy sits on her eggs.
Daisy is busy as the sun sets and the Infra-Red cameras come on. Here she is fixing the down.

At 4:13, it is already more than 22 degrees C on the nest. Daisy is anticipating a very hot day. She has decided to go dabbling early before all of the other birds and animals in the forest are awake. You can see from the image below that it is still very dark in the forest. What we are learning is that Daisy, a Black Pacific Duck, can see in the dark better than the WBSE.

In fact, anyone observing this nest is learning a lot. No one can remember a Black Pacific Duck making their nest on a Sea Eagle camera or a place where we could easily observe without threatening the wildlife.

Daisy turns in the down and scatters the plant material around so no one will notice her eggs.

If you look carefully at the image above, you can see Daisy’s tail on the right behind the tree branch. She is just preparing to fly off to the water.

Daisy tucks her bill under her wing resting.

Daisy forages for a little over an hour. She returns to the nest and quickly bets on her eggs to incubate them. She rolls them with her paddle feet carefully and turns in the nest gently.

Daisy has returned from her morning foraging.

Daisy returns just after 5am. Sunrise is at 6:05. She knows that the sea eagles often fly into the forest at dawn. In the image below she has heard the sound of ravens. Ravens, you will remember, often chase the sea eagles. She listens carefully for several minutes before settling down.

Daisy raises her neck and listens for intruders.
Daisy resting.

By 8:30, Daisy has already had visits from at least one Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and the Ravens were alarming at 8:04. Now the Rainbow Lorikeets can be heard in the forest but I cannot see them on the nest yet.

A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is now after 10:00, and the sun is shining on Daisy in the nest. She has already starting panting in order to regulate her temperature.

The hot sun pounding down on Daisy.

It will be 36 degrees C in the forest today. It is understood that it is hotter on the nest. Look carefully and you can see Daisy’s bill open. That is her panting. The shade is ever so slowly moving over Daisy but the heat is almost unbearable. Instead of panting slowly, now it is a fast clacking of her bill.

Let us hope that it is way too hot for the sea eagles to be in the forest today. A day without sea eagles is a safe day for Daisy! And it is going to be so very hot that she doesn’t need a hassle with other predators either today.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the camera that supplied the scaps of Daisy and her nest.

Galah and more Rainbow Lorikeets come to visit Daisy!

Yesterday afternoon Daisy the Duck, the current ‘illegal tenant’, if you like, of the WBSE nest in the Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest, went for her usual break to forage in the canal and the Parramatta River nearby. Right before she left a couple of Galah decided to come for a visit. Daisy has had a lot of curious visitors!

Galah in Kensington Park, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Galah are also called the ‘Pink and Grey Parrot’ or the Rose-Brested Cockatoo in Australia. Galah is the Yuwaalaraay name for them, a native language, where the word means ‘fool’ or ‘clown’. They are highly intelligent and are said to make very good pets. That said, anyone who has spoken to me about them in relation to the Peregrine Falcons and Sea Eagles of Australia, thinks they are not very smart. I was told that if you visit Australia and someone calls you a ‘Galah’, it means they are saying you are stupid. Remember that if you travel ‘down under’. Galah eat plants and insects and would not harm Daisy or her eggs. They are, like the Rainbow Lorikeets that also visited yesterday, curious about this new bird in the forest who is brooding eggs in an active sea eagle nest (off season for them now).

She returned to her nest to brood her seven eggs and then, she took another break, returning around dusk. Save for the arrival of a host of Rainbow Lorikeets and the sound of ravens nearby that caused Daisy to lay flat and still for over half an hour, her day brooding her eggs was relatively uneventful. The WBSE did not show up and none of the animals or birds living in the forest bothered her eggs. Even BooBook Owl did not show up in the middle of the night to go ‘bump’.

But something very odd happened the morning of January 21. Daisy covered her eggs, as best she could, pulling down and leaves and even small sticks over it, and left the nest around 4:25 am. Sunrise is at 6:05. That is when the WBSE come, if they do, in the mornings. Why so early?

Daisy leaves her nest at 4:23. She returns in about an hour, before dawn arrives.

The leaving of the nest at 4:20 and returning an hour later leads me to wonder about the eyesight of the Black Pacific Duck. The sea eagles fly right at or after dawn when they are about. They come back to the nest or their roost at dusk. But Daisy is able to come and go when it is dark. Plan to do some research on the eyesight of ducks. Daisy is similar to a Mallard and that might help me. If you know about the difference in night vision, please leave me a note. It would be much appreciated!

So far, it has been a pretty uneventful morning for Daisy and that means it is a great day for a little determined duck brooding her eggs.

Around 9 am the visitors begin to show up. First are the curious Rainbow Lorikeets and then you can hear but, not see, the Ravens. The Lorikeets or Loris are chattery and loud and very curious but they will not hurt Daisy, her eggs, or her ducklings. But the Ravens will. Daisy always places her body really low on the ground when the Ravens are about.

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets peaking at Daisy (on the right).
The old Ironbark Tree is full of Lorikeets this morning wanting to see Daisy!
Daisy can hear the Ravens. When she does she begins to lower her head to be flat with the base of the big WBSE nest.

Daisy gets low and really still, just as if she is frozen. Soon, the Ravens disappear. Not only would they eat the eggs but, the Ravens also chase after the White Bellied Sea Eagles. They are, often, a warning of their approach.

Daisy is frozen waiting for the Ravens to leave.
Daisy is relaxed, brooding her eggs.

It is even quiet enough for this busy duck to catch a few zzzzzs.

It is 10 am in the forest and all is quiet. The WBSE were seen at Goat Island last night. Maybe they will stay there. It is a nice vacation time for them with no eaglets to raise and both are moulting which causes some distress. That would be good for Daisy. She can rest all day like she is now incubating her little ones.

Stay tuned for updates later in the day. Have a good one.

A Tree full of Rainbow Lorikeets

I was reminded yesterday that Daisy the Black Pacific Duck is not normally an inhabitant of the forest. She lives down by the water and would, at most other times, make her nest on the ground. She would shape grasses and other plant material into the egg cup or bowl. It is only once she has started hard incubation, that Daisy, like other ducks, will pluck the down from her breast and line the nest. She will continue to add plant material and down to the nest as needed, often replacing what others pull out and destroy.

This year, Daisy didn’t make her nest on the ground. Instead, her and her mate selected a very old nest in an Ironbark Tree in mid-December. That nest belongs to the White Bellied Sea Eagles whose territory is around the Parramatta River and the Sydney Olympic Park forest.

Daisy would have had many intruders if her nest were on the ground. But she would have been familiar with them and they with her. Because she is brooding her eggs in the forest, she is a curiosity. The birds and animals that live there do not know about ducks. They do know that it is the sea eagles that raise their young in this particular nest. Of the curious, one of the first was the the Pied Currawong who, unable to eat the exposed duck egg, threw a little mini-tantrum pulling out much down from the rim of the nest and tossing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. Others who have come to the nest to check out Daisy have been the BooBook Owl, possums, Ravens, and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.

Today, the Rainbow Lorikeets returned. They are the most colourful parrots in the forest! They are ever so curious about the duck in the sea eagle nest! Oh, not just six or seven, but dozens of them! And Daisy was not sure she liked them getting close to her and her precious eggs. Rainbow Lorikeets are a medium sized parrot that are plentiful along the east coast and southern part of Australia. Unlike Daisy who has a bill, they have a beak. They are nectar feeders and are no threat to Daisy. But she doesn’t know that! And like any mother, she will protect her nest and her young as best she can.

At first, it was only three (one out of the picture frame). They were a little cheeky and one of them, totally curious as to why a bird they had never seen should be in the eagles nest, crept over close to Daisy. Daisy turned around in her nest and away from the pleasant morning she had been having and ruffled her feathers and readied to defend herself against birds that she had never seen also. She did not know if they were looking for insects in the nest or if they would harm her.

One of the rangers that researches the nest of the WBSE said that the Rainbow Lorikeet were there to give Daisy the Duck a lecture about not making a nest in a nest owned by sea eagles. But, alas, it is too late if that is what they are doing. Daisy is now on day 7 of incubation duties. She is devoted to her duties!

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets got very close to Daisy and Daisy was contemplating what to do to defend her nest.
At first there were three and then more came until there were more than a dozen chattering away non-stop.
Two Rainbow Lorikeets sat on the rim of the sea eagle nest chattering directly at Daisy who is watching them carefully.
A Rainbow Lorikeet Preening on the Nest Tree.

After all of the commotion – and it really was a boisterous affair – with the Rainbow Lorikeets everywhere, Daisy settled into a little bit of nest renovation. Remember the Curra and Dad the Sea Eagle had moved down off of the nest. Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck. I had no idea looking at her that her neck could get so long. She also used her bill to help gather up some down and plant material that had scattered.

A bill of a beak? Ducks have bills. They are very lightweight. The exterior coating over the interior spongy bone is made out of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. And just like our fingernails, the keratin covering is always growing, healing over dents and scratches, but also maintaining its shape after much use. Ducks do not have to go to a nail salon for a trim!

Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck!
Daisy is using her bill to bring in some of the down the Curra removed from her nest.

After nest renovations, Daisy takes some time to do some preening. Daisy’s feathers are very important to her. She is a ‘diving duck’. That means that she submerges under the water to find food. For ducks like Daisy, it is essential that their feathers be in prime condition. Many types of birds spend up to seventy percent of their time preening, conditioning their feathers. Daisy’s beautiful feathers have grown very tightly. The feathers are stiff and are quite strong compared to the down. In fact, people used to use the feathers as quills to use with ink for writing. Daisy’s feathers grow close together and overlap one another. Look closely and you can see this. They make many layers that are weather resistant and protect our duck.

Daisy preening her feathers just like the Rainbow Lorikeets.

It is nearly 11am in the world of Daisy. Dad the Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn to try and catch the intruder using his nest. Daisy has decided to try and rest a bit. She is still very alert.

Will Daisy take time in the heat of the Australian summer to go and forage? Will she voluntarily leave covering her nest? Will Dad come at dusk? We wait.

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!