Gosh, lots of nest happenings!

Today is a check in with our favourite birds. I am working on a developmental chart so that you can check and see how the various birds are growing and if they are meeting their milestone goals. That will be ready for tomorrow, hopefully. We haven’t checked in with our favourite ‘babies’ for a couple of days and there has been lots of activity.

Our first stop is in Fort Myers at the SWFL Eagle Nest with Harriet, M15, E17 and E18. Just yesterday E17, the one that picks on her little brother, was sound asleep in a food coma. E18 decided it would be a good time just to sit on her! You can tell the difference between the two because E17, two hours older, currently has many black feathers on its back.

These two just get funnier and funnier. They have been working on cleaning up the nest, looking over the edge at the world around them, and flapping those wings. When they stretch, like E17 is doing now you can see how long their legs are. Meanwhile, after they have eaten themselves silly, they often look like they are turning into snow people…round blobs with very large jelly bellies.

E18 decides that E17 is a good sofa.

The parents have been introducing the little ones to various types of prey. The eaglets will imprint the animals into their memory and know, when they are older, what to hunt. The other day there was a virtual smorgasbord of three fish, a rabbit, a squirrel, and a cattle egret. The kids have eaten til their crops were so big they simply fell over in a food coma. E18 is at the top of the screen. Have a look. Looks like he has swallowed a small ball. E18 really liked the Cattle Egret. I guess eaglets get tired of eating the same old thing, too.

M15 feeds E18 rabbit and Cattle Egret, Harriet feeds E17 fish

At the same time there has been some very concerning activity. A Great Horned Owl (GHOW) knocked M15 off a branch and into the nest the other evening. It is a wonder he was not severely injured. The owl has gotten braver and almost took Harriet out of the nest – like literally pulling her out. The owl knows that there are little ones for its dinner in that nest. The advantage the owl has is that it flies silent, like a Stealth bomber and it is nocturnal. There is concern because E17 and E18 are too big to fit under Harriet anymore. They often sleep at various places on that big nest. They would be easy pickings for that owl. I know I sound like a broken record but GHOWs are powerful opponents. There is nothing cute about them when it comes to survival.

The image below is from an established Bald Eagle nest near Newton, Kansas. A Great Horned Owl is taking it over to lay her eggs. The owl and eagle confront one another. The Bald Eagle leaves. To date, there have been no other altercations that I aware. The Bald Eagles might have found somewhere else to lay their eggs this season. The GHOW’s eggs will hatch if all goes well and the little owls will fledge at the end of April.

The image below shows the Bald Eagle decided to leave and wait to fight another day. Better safe than severely injured.

And speaking of injuries. Look at this fellow. His lead levels just continue to improve. And when they are cleaning the clinic, A Place Called Hope, he gets the run of the place to walk around. The rehabbers say he loves being ‘the big cheese’ and gets to look at all of the other patients in their cages. When the weather gets better, he will be able to go to the outside aviary. My goodness, he sure looks fabulous!

Sure are lots of changes and goings on in the bird world. Down in New Zealand, the Royal Albatross Chick of 2021 was left alone by its mother, LGL (Lime Green Lime) for the first time over the weekend. This is normal and is called ‘post guard’. The parents begin to leave them alone for periods of time preparing for when the chick will only see their parents when they return to feed them. Happily, the little chick’s dad, LGK (Lime Green Black) flew in about three hours after the mother had left. So that first solitary time wasn’t so bad except for one of the red banded non-breeding juveniles that wanted to give it a hard time and scare it. In actual fact, the older ones are just curious but they can get a little rough. This causes the little ones do get frightened. Imagine the first time you are left alone ever and some big Albatross comes over and starts pulling at your head! It had to be frightening.

Red Banded Non-Breeding Albatross giving the Royal Cam Chick the ‘going over’.

In the image below, the Royal cam chick puts its head down in submission. This is the second visit from the Red-banded non-breeder and the little one wants to protect itself.

Royal Cam Chick is afraid of the Red-Banded Non-Breeder and puts head down.

This little boy (OK, they haven’t announced that but because of its size and rapid growth everyone believes it is a boy) entertained itself with stretches and playing with nest material when it was fully alone. Over the course of the next months, it will build play nests all around its natal nest for something to do.

Solly, the Port Lincoln female Eastern Osprey, with the satellite tracker had been heading north. We have been watching her break records for moving so far away from her natal nest. Now at 154 and 155 days she appears to be heading south. Perhaps she has finished her adventure for now and is going home to her barge nest in Port Lincoln.

She had gone north of Eba Anchorage and now she has doubled back. Streaky Bay is on the way to Port Lincoln!

And one last check in for the day, little E24 over in North East Florida Eagle nest with parents Samson and Gabby. What a cutie! Talk about milestones – this little one seems like it is going to beat all of them. So precious. Pin feathers are coming and his eyes are nice and clear.

Gabby still incubates that egg and you might be wondering about it. The folks at the American Eagle Foundation determined that the second egg never began cracking. Half of E24s shell did slip over the small end and because of the yolk oozing out and an illusion where the crack was it looked like the other eaglet had been cracking around the middle to get out. They are saying that never happened. The second egg was not viable and it was all just an optical illusion.

E24 will not mind growing up an only eaglet. His parents take such good care of him and they challenge him every day with something new to learn.

To make sure that he clears the nest with his ‘ps’, NE24 tucks his head way down low and his tail high up. Incredible! Just watch out parents if you are in the line of fire.

So right now, everything is alright on the two Florida eagle nests, SWFL and NEFL. The Great Horned Owl still occupies the Bald Eagle nest in Kansas. The Eagle Warrior continues to improve. The Royal Albatross chick is growing by leaps and bounds and is in ‘post guard’ stage. Meanwhile Solly has decided, for some reason, to maybe head back home or to go back to Streaky Bay. She seemed to like that place a lot. We last saw her there a week ago or a little more hanging out with the pelicans. And NE24 remains adorable.

Thanks for checking in. Take care everyone. See you soon!

Thanks to the AEF and the streaming cams at SWFL and D. Pritchett, AEF and the streaming cam at NEFL, A Place Called Hope for the image of the Warrior, Derek the Farmer for the streaming cam with the GHOW, Port Lincoln Ospreys for the tracking information on Solly and the Cornell Cams and the NZ DOC for the Royal Cam Albatross.

Don’t mess with a Great Horned Owl named Bonnie

On a farm near Newton, Kansas, there is a tree. It has a Bald Eagle’s nest that, until a little over a week ago, belonged to a mated pair, Willie and Marie. It was ‘borrowed’ by a pair of Great Horned Owls, sometimes called Hoot Owls, that have been aptly named Bonnie and Clyde after the infamous bank robbers.

On 26 January 2021, the owls came to check out what appeared to be an unoccupied nest. This reminds me of when Daisy the Duck and her mate came to check on the WBSE nest in mid-December. Both have a look over the property to see if it is good for eggs and protection.

The owls decided that this would be the perfect spot to raise their family.

The next day the Bald Eagles come to check on their nest. Did they know that the owls had been there?

Something gave Willie and Marie concern. Normally they roost with a large group of eagles but that night, they chose to sleep on their nest.

In the middle of the night, a Great Horned Owl attacks them knocking one of the Bald Eagles from the nest. That was a game changer.

It wasn’t long til Bonnie, the GHOW, had laid her first egg right in the centre of the Bald Eagle’s nest.

In the image above, Bonnie, the owl, is on the nest. She has laid at least one egg. The norm is from one to five eggs. Great Horned Owls are absolutely fierce opponents as you can see from the confrontation that is taking place. In fact, Bonnie will defend her nest without hesitation. While most people will immediately think that owls are ‘cute’ and often ‘cuddly’ or ‘wise’ as in children’s story books, it is good to keep in mind that these are large raptors. They can easily kill, and do, all manner of falcons, Ospreys, as well as other owls. They are known to kill large prey by breaking their spines.

As with all other raptors, the female is the largest. Bonnie weighs, on average, 2 kg or 4.4 lbs. It is entirely possible that Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, weighs half what she does. Male GHOWs generally weight between 1 – 1.5 kilos or 2.2 – 3.3 lbs. Their wing span is about the same, measuring 1.2 metres or almost four feet. In comparison, a Bald Eagle has a wingspan of 1.8 – 2.3 metres or 5 ft 11 in – 7 ft 7 in. The average weight of an adult bald eagle is 6.35 kilograms or 14 lbs. In other words, the Bald Eagle is a lot larger than the Great Horned Owl. In the picture, it is hard to tell which of the raptors is, indeed, the largest. Had there been a fight between the two, both might have been injured. Thankfully, nothing has happened to date.

GHOWs have their young earlier than most other raptors. Generally, they lay their eggs and begin raising their young when the snow is on the ground. The Red Tail Hawks, on the other hand, do not normally lay their eggs until the third week in March, right about the beginning of spring. However, that does not seem to be the case with Bald Eagles. For example, the nest in Fort Myers Florida has eaglets that are twenty-six days old while E24 over at NE Florida, is nine days old. The Love Trio near Fulton, Illinois have laid their first egg on Valentine’s Day while other nests are ahead of them. It is unclear to me when this young mated Bald Eagle couple would have begun laying eggs on this nest. It seems to vary by geographical region and I presume normal climatic conditions. We know that this year in the US it is anything but normal now with the Polar Vortex taking over and causing severe winter storms.

I am left wondering about the Bald Eagles, Willie and Marie. What will they do for a nest? This GHOW has at least 21 more days til hatch. Those beautiful little owls aren’t going to immediately jump out of that nest and begin catching mice! No, they will branch (hop up to a close branch) when they are about six weeks old and will fledge taking short flights at seven weeks. That is, by my crude calculations, around the end of April or the beginning of May. Ah, those Bald Eagles aren’t going to wait that long to lay their eggs.

GHO chicks at 3 weeks of age. USFWS image.

These little fluffy owls are seriously cute with their big eyes. Not sure I would want to cuddle one thought unless it was a stuffy.

Adult GHOW and Juvenile, approximately 6 weeks old. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In Canada, the GHOW is our second largest owl. The Snowy Owl is bigger.

There are GHOWs that live in a tree on a nearby golf course. On occasion, the owls come near to where I live. Indeed, last summer there was a huge commotion in the large trees in front of my house. Neighbours ran out to see what was going on. Everyone thought that the cute owl – it was a Great Horned – was being attacked by the crows. In fact, the owl had come to raid the crow’s nest. The crows had called in family and friends to help them move the owl along.

As I watched, the cheering section for the owl grew in size. Is it because owls are ‘wise’ or ‘cute and fluffy’ and Crows are black with sharp pointed beaks? I wondered about the impact of children’s literature and movies on the reactions of the onlookers to the avian behaviour. All manner of misconceptions have come to us through writers. One that really bothers me often is ‘fish do not feel pain’. I say that because many people get upset if, for example, White-Bellied Sea Eagles eat a Silver Gull because it has feathers but they don’t care at all if it brings a live fish onto the nest for the eaglets. What I have learned, most explicitly, is that birds are extremely intelligent. Their senses are more highly developed than humans and they share the same emotions that we have including mourning, joy, love, and intimidation.

In the course of six weeks, I have witnessed a Pacific Black Duck (our sweet little Daisy) make her nest in an unusual place, in a forest in the centre of a White-Bellied Sea Eagle nest. We will never know ‘why’ Daisy risked laying her eggs there and trying to incubate them to hatch but something motivated her to get her nest off the ground. Owls are often opportunistic. Their nests are not normally constructed year after year, twig after twig, like the eagles, for example. Did the owls lose their nest? Was their nest destroyed? Was the nest of the Bald Eagle just convenient for Bonnie and Clyde? This evening a Barred Owl attached Bonnie around 11:05pm. Bonnie was actually rolling her eggs when the owl came up from behind. You can see Bonnie trying to get her footing and the face of the attacker on the right. It is possible that owl has a nest close by or maybe it has its eyes on this prime piece of real estate. However, it would be a whole lot better if the smaller owl was ‘wise’ and didn’t try that move again. Bonnie just might be having a much bigger dinner than a mouse!

Barred Owl knocks Bonnie off balance while she turns her eggs.

That was not the drama that I was expecting. Sometimes these bird nests are better than anything being shown on the streaming stations on your telly! Happily no one was injured. Wonder what will happen tomorrow?

JUST A NOTE: IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING OF THE 18TH OF FEBRUARY WHEN IT WAS STILL DARK, AN OWL KNOCKED THE BALD EAGLE M15 OFF OF THE ATTIC WHERE IT WAS SLEEPING (IN A TREE ON THE PRITCHETT FARM) AND INTO THE NEST WITH HARRIET AND E17 AND E18. BONNIE IS A LARGE OWL SITTING ON THIS NEST IN KANSAS AND SHE IS A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT.

Thank you for joining me today. I am so glad that you stopped in. Stay safe and take care.

Thank you to Derek the Farmer for his streaming cam, the USFWS, and Wikimedia Commons.

As the sun goes down

Typically I check on ‘the babies’ many times a day. This evening there is a soft glow coming across the eagle nest onto Gabby and little NE24. The Japanese have a name for this particular light that shimmers down through the trees causing everything to appear slightly golden. It is komorebi and it is magical. It looks like the universe is laying a soft warm blanket around Gabby and NE24.

Just look into Gabby’s eyes gazing down on NE24. Pure love.

It is just turning 6pm. The setting sun is softly lighting the Spanish moss hanging down from the old tree, too. And up in that deep nest where Samson was born is Gabby and Samson’s little one, NE24. NE24 is nine days old today.

It is a Slash Pine tree. Sometimes these trees are called Swamp Pines because they grow in the watery swamps of Florida.

Samson’s parents, Romeo and Juliet, brought the very first twig for this nest for the 2008 breeding season. They placed twig after twig in that spectacular ‘V’ about eighty feet off the ground. And every year they added more. It is now estimated that the amount of sticks and leaf debris, moss, etc. making up the nest would weigh more than a metric tonne. For ten breeding seasons Romeo and Juliet successfully fledged every eaglet they reared in that nest, nineteen in all. There was plenty of food and little sibling rivalry.

No one knows anything about Gabrielle. She appeared one day, a female looking for a mate and Samson liked her out of all the others. We know that Samson was born on this very nest on 23 December 2013. He fledged on the 22nd of April 2014. Samson returned four years later and bonded with Gabrielle. Their first breeding season was 2019-20. The administrators for the NEFL Eagle cam named the eaglets Romy and Jules after Samson’s parents. Both fledged successfully.

The same soft glow of the day’s end falls over Bonnie, the GHO in the Eagle’s nest. Bonnie must be anticipating that her mate, Clyde, will come in with some treats for her. It has now been sometime since she had a meal because of the frigid temperatures. The temperature may stay in the range around 6 degrees F so there might be hope that those mice Bonnie loves will be running about tonight so Clyde can catch one for her.

As the sun set, Clyde was ready to wake up and go hunting. It wasn’t long until he brought Bonnie her first mouse of the evening.

I wish that my hearing and my eyesight were as good as Bonnie and Clyde’s. It is said that a Great Horned Owl has such good hearing that if a mouse steps on a twig they can hear it even if they are 23 metres away (75 feet). And, from observing Bonnie, we know that she really can turn her head for a complete 360 degree view. But, even though she is called a Great ‘Horned’ Owl, she doesn’t have any horns! How silly. But she does have those soft feathery tufts coming off of her incredible ears that resemble horns. Bonnie’s feathers are not hard like other raptors; they are very soft. The ends of Clyde’s feathers are round which allows him to fly virtually undetected – like a Stealth bomber – just not as fast. Bonnie hears him; she sits up in anticipation as he nears the nest (below).

Clyde flies into the nest with the mouse.
Bonnie quickly took the mouse.
After dinner they had a wee bit of a conversation.

We are so fortunate to be able to see the exchanges with these owls – what a rare treat! And aren’t they cute together?

Updates on all the gang will come later tonight. Have a fantastic day everyone.

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Thank you to NEFL Eagle cam and Derek the Farmer for their streaming cameras where I took my screen shots.

Does this look like an eagle to you?

This is a Kansas City Bald Eagle nest but this isn’t an eagle incubating eggs. No, it is a Great Horned Owl (GHO). She is brooding at least one egg. The egg cup is deep and there are probably more. GHOs typically have their nests in trees. Sometimes they will nest on deserted buildings and even on the ledges of cliffs. They have also been know to make their nests on platforms constructed by humans like the ones made for Osprey. Some have even been known to lay their eggs close to the ground, just like our Daisy Duck would have usually done. So, like Daisy the Duck, this owl has ‘borrowed’ a Bald Eagle’s nest for its eggs! And like Daisy, this own might pull downy feathers from his breast to line the egg cup. The farmer that owns the land where this eagle’s nest is located calls the mated pair of owls, Bonnie and Clyde after the notorious bank robbers. Normally, it would be Willie and Marie, the BE here. All of this happened about a week ago and it is believed that is when the GHO laid her egg.

Eagle fighting with GHO for the nest. Both are mantling.

The nest is high up in this tree. You can just see the Bald Eagle flying out after the fight with the owl.

Here you can see the eagle flying from the nest.

So far, the GHO is still in possession of this nest. Oh, my. This reminds me of the drama we had when Daisy the Pacific Black Duck laid her eggs on the White-Bellied Sea Eagles nest. So far, the owl is still there.

GHO sleeping, 12 February 2021.

When her mate brings her food, he leaves it on a tree branch and then does the beautiful hoot to her. So cute. As with the Pacific Black duck, I think we are going to learn a lot about Great Horned Owls.

It occurs to me that if there are not enough big tall trees left for the eagles to build their nest in, what about big trees for owls? Maybe they are also having a problem and needing to ‘borrow’. The farmer that owns the land says the Bald Eagles are OK and still in the area. I will keep you posted. Wonder if there is a possible eviction in the offing?

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Out in the world of the other birds who do have nests, here are some quick updates:

SWFL Eagle Nest: Harriet, M15, E18 and E17

E18 might have gone to bed with a small crop but right now its crop is bursting. The menu has included rabbit and fish but E18 was fed an entire rat. I am really hoping that rat hadn’t eaten rodenticide! I always worry about that when I see those on a nest. So, no worries. Both of these eagles are fed well and it is hot.

Big Bear: Shadow and Jackie, 2 eggs under incubation

You can’t see it but the winds are so strong they are just shaking the nest out in California. Eagles love the wind so Jackie is only suffering because it is a very cold and the wind is bringing that cold off the water.

NEFL: Samson and Gabby, E24

E24 is feisty! Look at that little one. It climbed even further and got entirely out of the nest bowl to get some of that fresh fish. What a cutie pie. Looks like a fluffy snowman with arms. It has been raining on their nest. Always brings in the flying critters. Hope that dissipates soon. And so hot and sticky.

Duke Farms Eagle Cam: 2 adults and 3 eggs under incubation

And wow, what a difference from Florida. The eagles here still have cold and snow.

The Trio over near Fulton, Illinois: Starr, Valor I and II.

The three were rumoured to have been working on the nest this morning. This is a shot from this afternoon. The temperatures are still rather frigid.

Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, NZ: LGL and LGK plus chick

Isn’t this the most beautiful lavender pink morning with the sun coming up over the peninsula where the Northern Royal Albatross have their nests. LGL is still on the nest with the ever growing chick. All is well way down south.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, 147 days old still seems to be at Eba Anchorage and Eba Island today.

It looks like there is going to be another adventure on a Bald Eagle nest. Who would have thought that in two months we would see a Pacific Black Duck and now a Great Horned Owl take over those beautiful big nests of the eagles?

Thank you to Derek Farmer and the streaming cam of the eagle nest at Kansas City, the American Eagle Federation for NEFL eagle cam and Big Bear, AEF and D Pritchett for the SWFL cam, the Stewards of the Mississippi for the streaming cam of the Trio, Port Lincoln Osprey and the researchers for the tracking information on Solly, Cornell and NZ DOC for the Royal Albatross, Duke Farms for their Eagle cam.