Birds bring us so much joy

I want to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Welcome’ to all of you. I do not know how you found this site but I am very grateful that you did. You and I share a passion for birds. We are curious about their lives. People from around the world have joined with you and me to learn about the challenges these fascinating creatures face. We have experienced their triumphs and cried at their loss. Collectively we wept when the Ravens made off with Daisy the Duck’s eggs. Together we worried whether or not Harriet and M15 would accept their little eaglets once they were returned from the wildlife rehabilitation centre. And today we marvel at how these magnificent creatures manage when they are severely injured like our Warrior Eagle in the care of A Place Called Hope tonight. Each of us wonders how we can make their lives a little easier because as each of us knows – the birds bring so much joy into our lives.

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The Polar Vortex is causing extreme weather in Canada and the United States. Europe is also experiencing an extremely cold Arctic air mass that is causing temperatures to plunge. Seattle has had more snow today than they have had in fifty years. In Norman Oklahoma where I grew up, they have more snow than I have in Canada. It is hot and hotter in Florida. These extremes are unprecedented and there will be another system rolling through on Wednesday. That is what the meteorologist on CNN was saying a few minutes ago. Wonder what our birds would say if we could communicate with them?

I am not someone who sits and normally watches the weather as closely as I have for the past several days or a week. Sometimes the days just melt together and you look up and seriously, a week or more has passed as quickly as if you snapped your fingers. So why do I care? Because these severe weather challenges impact every aspect of our feathered friends lives.

This is what it looked like yesterday on the Mississippi River. The image is grainy but if you look carefully, you will see an elongated dark blob with a white head – those are your adult Bald Eagles! And this is near the nest of the Trio up near Fulton, Illinois. The eagles are there not just because of the magnificent old trees but also because there are fish in that river.

Speaking of The Trio, you have only been able to see them from a distance since their tree was destroyed during the heavy winds last year. They have been busy fitting up another one for this breeding season. In celebration of Valentine’s Day someone posted an image of the Trio from last May. Aren’t they just a gorgeous threesome? Starr and her two Valors. They aren’t all lined up proper but you can see how much larger Starr is compared to the two males. Just a beautiful family working it out so that their eaglets grow healthy and thrive.

One of the things I learned last year observing a Red Tail Hawk nest is that the more prey that is brought into the nest the better the offspring do. They grow bigger and healthier. Their feathers are stronger. Researchers have been comparing the amount and type of prey on that RTH nest on the Cornell Campus since 2012. Last spring with the pandemic and a four year old male that is a psychopathic hunter, Arthur brought in almost twice the amount of prey from any other previous year. It is assumed that the presence of humans on the campus impacts the chipmunk population negatively. (People run over them with their cars or scare them away.) These cold temperatures will also impact the intake of food negatively right now. It will add stressors to the birds (and all other animals as well as humans). The advantage for the Trio is that they have an additional eagle to hunt or protect the nest – both much needed.

And that is going to be very helpful now. What you are seeing is an early morning exchange. Yes, Starr laid an egg in that nest for the Valors on Valentine’s Day! How special is that. And, apparently, she laid her first egg of the 2020 season on Valentine’s Day, too.

I don’t know if you have ever thought about it but the ‘normal’ (what is normal anymore????) laying eggs and hatch is normally linked to the onset of spring when all the babies hatch. The prey is waking up from their winter hibernation and there is lots of food. The problem right now is first the bitterly cold winds, the snow that is gathering on nests, and the availability of food.

As you can see in the image below the snowing is getting deeper on that Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City. And as you know, that nest is currently being occupied by a Great Horned Owl who is incubating eggs. She has been on the nest a little over a week. At 3pm today, it was snowing and as you can see it was 0 degrees F. I just checked the temperature there and it is now -7. These are simply temperatures that are unknown. No one is prepared for them. The mice and squirrels that these owls eat hunker down just like everyone else trying to stay warm.

When I posted the picture above it was snowing and 0. It is currently -9 and the snow is actually getting deeper on this nest. These poor animals are not used to this kind of weather but I am told that is what feathers are for. Those eggs are comfy and toasty. That is the benefit of being in the centre of that great big eagle nest. It will hold in some of the heat. I wonder if the owls knew this big storm was coming when they decided to occupy this eagle nest? Owls are smart!

Three other updates for you this morning. Despite the snow on the ground, Big Red, my most favourite Red Tail Hawk in the world is 18 years old this spring. She was banded at Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She has been at her nest on the light tower on the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York this morning bringing in twigs to do some nestorations. You will hear a lot about her and Arthur. I adore this family.

Big Red has some of the most beautiful rich red plumage. You can see her beautiful red tail that indicates she is an adult Red Tail Hawk. The juveniles do not get these until after their first moult.

Big Red lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March of 2017. He was killed protecting her from intruders. She did not raise any eyases that year. But she met Arthur in April of 2017. Apparently Big Red had a lot of suitors. She is a fantastic mother and has an amazing territory. Instead of selecting an older male, she picked Arthur. Everyone thought that the bird was crazy! Arthur was born in 2016. But, by the fall when he had his beautiful red tail they were a couple. He won her over with his flying, hunting, and protecting abilities. Arthur is simply one amazing hunter. A hawk with a jetpack on his wings. And he is one of the best providers I have seen in the bird world. Big Red trained him right.

Have some fun watching this video. Each year the chicks are given a letter of the alphabet for their name. Last year was J. So there were three of them: J1, J2, and J3. They all fledged. J1, the oldest and largest and for sure a female who loved to play with her twigs and work on the nest was reluctant to fledge. She left right after her little buddy J3. Oh, the three of them stayed together and played with pinecones and learned how to hunt. Sadly, J1 was killed when she flew into a building window on the Cornell Campus. I am still not sure that I am over that. It was so avoidable. Because of that you will hear me often talk about window strike and what big businesses and you can do to help stop the birds from flying into your windows.

This year we will welcome the Ks. Eggs normally laid in March with hatch around the end of April.

The Bald Eagle fighting for its life because of high levels of lead and two old injuries – the Warrior Eagle – is eating well this morning. A friend asked if they will be able to return him to the wild. If he survives, that is a good question. I am sure he will be observed closely to see how he can eat with his injured beak. It is an old injury but that may, in part, have lead to an inability to hunt well enough to thrive. Here he is this morning. He is finishing up his breakfast. He is doing so well. Keep sending your good wishes his way. It’s working!

Thank you for joining me today. It is cold in Canada but the sun is out and it is bringing me joy just as the good news on our birds is today. Everyone of our birds is OK. They are monitoring little E24s eyes to make sure he gets to the vet if needed. — And it is definitely a good day when they are all fine or fine and improving.

Stay warm and well. See you tomorrow.

Thanks to A Place for Hope for their images of the Warrior Eagle, to the Cornell Lab’s streaming Red Hawk camera for the images and video of Big Red and Arthur’s highlights of last year. Derek the Farmer provides the streaming camera for the owl in the eagle’s nest and for those individuals who posted the updates on the Trio, thank you.

This Eagle is a Warrior

In the Bald Eagle world, it has been a stressful day for many. Snow and plunging temperatures in areas that normally are warmer with flowers blooming have caused a lack of prey. Others sitting on nests are facing snow and more snow and some are having freezing winds blow those nests about. So it is nice to have one when something wonderful happens and it warms your body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. And that spark of ‘hope’ comes from A Place for Hope.

Many of you will recognize this Bald Eagle from an earlier posting but for those who don’t know I will briefly explain why this is such a miracle. This eagle was seen last October with a very injured beak. The eagle was in flight and could not be captured so nothing could be done for him at the time. The eagle made the local news because of its injured beak. So when he was found near dead and hardly able to move in a ditch last week, the person who found him knew that it was the eagle with the injury in October. He was taken to A Place for Hope. They determined that he had an extreme case of lead toxicity. They fed him and gave him fluids and after 24 hours this eagle still wanted to live. He was started on Chelation Therapy. In Chelation Therapy, EDTA is given to the eagle through an IV. The wildlife rehabbers said if he had the will to live they would work with him. Well, look at that picture today! Amazing, isn’t it? The lead levels were so very, very high that the wildlife rehabbers honestly did not think he would survive. He is responding and everyone is joyful. And guess what? By taking the x-rays they found that this warrior had also survived a broken leg which probably happened at the same time as the beak injury. This is one tough eagle. Incredible.

Another end of the day happy story. One of the Bald Eagle nests that is not suffering high stress levels due to diminishing prey because of the frigid cold is the SWFL Eagle nest in Fort Myers, home to Harriet and M15 and E17 and E18. Today there were six prey items brought to the nest ranging from a squirrel to a huge rabbit and a pile of fish. It was fabulous to see E18 being fed a huge portion of squirrel after 17 had eaten and fallen asleep. This evening E18 was fed rabbit. It was fed so much rabbit that when he walked the cropped swung and he fell over. It was humorous and heart warming. I never worry about 18 when he goes to bed full and today was a very good day.

In the image below, E17 is asleep with its head on a twig. E18 is behind the bunny and Harriet the mother is getting ready to leave. The darkened spot that makes E18 look like he is nine months pregnant is his crop and it is bursting. Gosh, it was good to see him fed. It was good to see lots of food in the nest, too.

And tomorrow, E17 and E18, the twins, will be 21 days old. Happy three week birthday!

Harriet departing after feeding the Es some rabbit.

And another nest with a big pile of fish on it is NEFL. E24 would not stop wiggling. Look at the size of that fish it is eating now. It is just such a cute fur ball. And E24 loves its fish. Because it is so little Gabby feeds her a multitude of times a day and if she wants some fish, E24 is quick to let mom know. Little cheep, cheeps OR like she did the other day, she crawls right out of the nest bowl. Very strong and healthy! That is the third really good story of the day.

E24 loves its fish.

Unfortunately, it has been noticed that this little eaglet has some eye issues. Its right eye is irritated and its left eye is a little squinty. Because E17 and E18 had to go into the clinic for nearly a week for eye treatments, E24 is being monitored very closely. The update is that the eyes have improved over night and there are no plans for an intervention. This is one feisty little eaglet! You can hear it chirping very loudly when it wants some of that fish! Adorable. And last but not least, Bonnie is still incubating one or more eggs on that Bald Eagle Nest near Kansas City. That owl is not budging. Her mate is protecting her on a branch but he does not incubate the eggs. Yesterday she took only one break. And Bonnie is not giving up any secrets. One egg has been seen but the cup holding the eggs is deeping and there is a guessing game going on as to how many there really are in that nest. This morning her mate brought her a mouse for breakfast.

Below the male lands on the rim of the large Bald Eagle nest around 6:28 am.

He quickly transfers the prey to his mate incubating the eggs and leaves. It was literally a blink and the mouse that you can partially see was gone.

Looking at the temperature in the upper right hand corner indicates that it was actually warmer at dawn than it is currently.

Gosh, it is cold there and they have had some snow. The weather than they are having in Missouri and Kansas, across that whole belt of the United States, is almost unheard of. A friend of mine living in Arkansas says it has never been as cold as it is where she lives and she has been there for more than two decades. And the amount of snow and ice is more than she remembers. Thank goodness for the insulating warmth of those beautiful feathers. Stay warm little owl!

Thank you so much for joining me today. There are so many positive things happening despite the frigid weather that just seems to have hunkered down over Canada and the United States. Last night there was more snow in Victoria British Columbia than here on the Canadian Prairies and, of course, everyone out there is watching the Delta 2 Eagle Nest on Vancouver Island. Will being you news of that later. But for now, stay warm and stay safe wherever you are.

Thank you to Farmer Derek for the streaming camera on his property in Kansas City; to a Place for Hope for the fine work they are doing on that amazing eagle and for providing images on their FB page; to SWFL Eagle Cam and the D Pritchett family thank you and to the AEF and the NEFL cam, thank you for your streaming camera. My screen shots have come from those live feeds.