Toxic wastelands threaten Bird World

In the course of a few hours today, a friend living in Pennsylvania sent me the news and a video from Twitter showing the nuclear waste being pumped into a holding area in Sarasota, Florida. Moments later, the Cornell Bird Lab e-mailed the latest edition of Birdlife Magazine with its story of the threats to African vultures from farmers using anti-inflammatory pain killers, dielofenae, on their cattle to stop pain and increase milk yields. Another reader sent me an article on the red algae along the coast of Texas and Florida that causes damage to the nervous and digestive systems of marine life and the birds that eat the fish. All of this information arrived on my desk just moments after one of the chatters on the Achieva Osprey streaming cam in St Petersburg brought up the fact that the male Ospreys in the area, there are reported to be thirty Osprey nests, have to compete with lots of motor boats in order to feed their families.

I sat staring at the screen remembering that eons ago, my father fished with a motorboat in Lake Texhoma. It was a time when no one considered their environmental actions. What I remember were not only the 31.7 kg or seventy pound catfish my father regularly caught but also that beautiful iridescence floating on the water around the boat. As a child I did not understand that the fuel and the oil my father mixed with it was poisoning the fish that we would eat – and neither did he. We know better today.

Humans are capable of cleaning up much of the mess that we have made to the planet. When I was a graduate student, my advisor, Dr Klaus Klostermaier, informed me the reason that there were no insects in Germany was because the massive pollution had killed them all. The industrial area around Dusseldorf cleaned up the river system. It took some time but it was accomplished I think, also, of the groundbreaking work that Rachel Carson did on the impact of DDT and her book, Silent Spring. Today, we still feel the impact of DDT, despite it being banned now for nearly fifty years. That poison still remains in the soil and the plants. Bald Eagles in certain parts of the world still have thin egg shells because of it. Regardless of how long it takes and how defeatist some feel about our ability to survive a sixth extinction, I believe, like Greta Thunberg that we have an obligation – each of us as individuals – to try and make a difference. It doesn’t have to be some great international effort. The women saving the General Adjutant in Assam began at home and so can the rest of us.

In Winnipeg, members of the Manitoba Birding FB group are considering how to best address the issue of feeding bread to the ducks and geese at the ponds in our two big parks – St Vital and Assiniboine. Bread is not good for any bird. Yes, it fills them up and they seemingly love it but it is empty calories. It would be like us eating junk food all day long every day, losing our taste for good nutritious food. I know, first hand, that parents do not necessarily know that bread is bad for the birds. This was something that I did with my parents. For many, taking their children for a walk at the park and bringing a loaf of bread is almost free entertainment for an afternoon. We delight at the geese scurrying across the water of the pond to grab the bread. It makes people feel good. However, the bread is not only bad for the bird’s health, it also deteriorates in the water causing algae growth which leads to the death of the pond and the plants that the geese and ducks need. No one wants to take away the fun that people have feeding the ducks and geese. It is hoped that through education people will choose to find food that is healthy for both the birds and their ponds. My plan is to write our City Parks and Recreation Department asking that their staff put up posters on the buildings near the ponds or have permanent signs made at significant sites around the ponds. There should then be a convenient place for individuals to purchase appropriate food at a reasonable price. An option would be to license a vendor to sell food at the ponds. It’s a beginning!

Please feel free to grab this poster and spread it through social media and if you are a teacher perhaps include this in a science lesson. And for those of you who find yourself with a glut of lettuce in your garden, those ducks and geese will sure love it. Chop it up before heading out.

For those of you that do not live in Winnipeg, it is very possible that you have this very same issue. Check it out and see what you can do. It is one way to help the local birds.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate the messages and all of the information that you send to me. Next week I will be addressing the issues of dumping toxic and nuclear substances into the ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans. For now, I just want to smile. Someone on the Achieva Osprey chat said that they had never seen a chick like Tiny Tot/Lionheart/Braveheart/Tumbles/3 survive such testing conditions in any Osprey nest. Diane really filled him up this afternoon and even though the fish brought in around 6pm was not enough to feed it, the little one still had a crop and its little bottom is getting some flesh on it. So I want to close with an image of Tiny Tot’s large crop and another of Tiger and Lily, the two owlets living in a nest stolen from a Bald Eagle near Newton, Kansas. My how they have grown! Some days we just have to not allow the massive environmental issues to cloud the joy and the love we get from the birds. My friend, Phyllis, would say put it in a container and leave it there for a few hours – it isn’t going away!

It is a strange angle. Tiny Tot is preening but that big grey beach ball where you would think his head would be is his crop. He is on the far left. Oh, how I love this little bird – like so many of you. His determination to live, to not give up, to figure an angle around to get fed is impressive. It is day to day. He is getting a cute little tail and well, we hope for several fish in a row, large ones, tomorrow.

Tiny Tot ate and ate. Thank goodness. He will have enough to keep him til tomorrow. 3 April 2021

Tiger and Lily are being left alone more and more by their mother, Bonnie. Butt, no worries, she is just on another branch on the tree. Look at how big they are and how well they blend into the environment.

Thank you to everyone who wrote and sent me links to information today. I really appreciate it. Anyone reading this loves birds and we are all in this together. The streaming cams give us a glimpse into their lives that we would never have otherwise. We share their joys and their sorrows. Take care everyone. Stay safe!

Thanks also to the Achieva Credit Union and to Farmer Derek for their streaming cams. That is where I took my screen shots.

It’s 3 for Big Red and 4 for Dahlgren

The Guardian ran a story, ‘All my eaglets: pandemic audience spellbound by saga of nesting bald eagles’ in its Wildlife section this morning. While the story focused on the growing number of people watching bird streaming cams during the pandemic, it chose to use the example of two nests. The sadness of Jackie and Shadow at the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest in the San Bernadino Valley and the joy of Liberty and Guardian and their three chicks at the Redding Bald Eagle nest. Richard Luscombe really caught the moment – the joy celebration, the sadness and loss. Jackie (9 year old female) and Shadow (7 year old male) are two of the most popular Bald Eagles on streaming cams and yet, their story encapsulates great sadness. For two years they have tried to raise a chick. This year in their second clutch there was a hatch. Heartbreak came when that chick died trying to break out of the shell. Jackie and Shadow continue to care for the second egg which watchers know will never hatch. Last year they sat on two eggs for sixty days before giving up. In contrast, Guardian (7 year old male) and Liberty (22 year old female) are raising triplets and Liberty has, in her lifetime, successfully fledged 22 and outlived two mates. Like human families and stories, every bird nest is different.

Over the past year, I have received (or seen) letters, comments, and testimonies about the birds. It is clear that the ‘bird’ families streaming into our living rooms have become ‘intimate’ friends whose daily lives we share – their joys and their challenges. One woman wrote to tell me that she knows ‘her bird family’ better than her own human family! She is not alone. From the infertile eggs to the cheeping of the hatching chick, people have watched the birds and their loneliness and pain have been diminished. Many of you have written to me to tell me how the birds have saved your lives, including several with stage 4 cancer and partners who have died from COVID. Caring for the birds has lessened the impact of the isolation and has given us something to focus on besides ourselves. ‘A distraction from our lives’ a woman from The Netherlands said.

When the pandemic ends, I hope that all of you will continue to watch the lives of your favourite bird families unfold. And I would encourage you to talk to your children and your grandchildren or the neighbour’s children so they will become interested in wildlife. They need all of us to help them have better lives.

Jackie and Shadow continue to incubate an egg that will never hatch. Many wonder if there is not DDT still present in the soil or something causing this lovely and entering couple so many issues trying to have a little one. Clearly the thinness of the eggs that have broken could indicate that. 1 April 2021.
The triplets at the Redding nest being fed. There is plenty of food and all are lined up nicely.

I received a very touching letter from a woman from New Mexico who commented on the tragic events unfolding at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. She was reminded of a news story where a family went into a cafe for a meal -the parents, a young girl, and boy. The parents fed the young girl and themselves. The boy watched the others eat while he was offered nothing. The boy appeared to be bruised as if he had been physically harmed to the wait staff. The waitress wrote on her hand ‘Do you need help?’ to the child who, eventually, shook their head yes. The waitress phoned the authorities and the children were taken into care immediately. The boy had been abused and food had been withheld for a long time. The woman from New Mexico said, ‘Humans do it, too’. As sad and angry as I am at the Ospreys in St Petersburg, for them it is a matter of having at least one healthy fledgling. The biology books stress the survival of the fittest! Someone who has filmed birds said to me and I have reiterated it many times, ‘If they cannot survive on the nest being fed, they cannot survive in the wild – it is brutal out there’. This morning a huge fish came in but the middle Osprey made sure Tiny Tot did not get anything to eat. Tiny was too weak to fight. I had hoped that his suffering would be taken away in the night.

UPDATE: Tiny Tot was fed at 9:27 this morning. His crop was about a third full. The saga continues.

After my tirade on birds laying too many eggs to care for if they all hatched – and hence, having the situation of the St Petersburg nest – Jack and Harriet of the Dahlgren Osprey Nest in Machodoc Creek in King George County, Virginia laid a fourth egg! You might not immediately recognize the osprey nest that I am talking about but if I said to you that Jack is the one that brings in the most toys to the nest, often covering it while Harriet has to keep busy finding space for them, I think you might know the nest that I am talking about. There was a toy shark or dolphin the other day. As it happens, the first egg is either lost in the nest or broke – there are three eggs being incubated despite four being laid. Last year the couple successfully fledged three and all of us join in hoping that happens this year! Unless there is a problem in the river, this couple has their nest in a prime location for fish!

And to add to the jokes that go along with April Fool’s Day, Big Red and Arthur not only woke up to snow this morning but also to their third egg.

Big Red is eighteen years old. She was ringed at Brooktondale New York, about eight miles from Ithaca. She has known this weather all her life and can deal with it. Her and her mate, Arthur, do not migrate but stay in Ithaca all year long. They have a prey rich territory and both work like a well oiled machine. Unless there is some strange surprise, I expect we will see three eyases fledging in June.

All is well over at the Great Horned Owl Nest on the farm in Kansas. Both Tiger, the eldest, and Lily, the youngest, are growing. To the delight of viewers, Bonnie brought in a very large rabbit to the nest in the Cottonwood Tree. Everyone wondered how she managed. Great Horned Owls can actually carry prey three times their weight – an advantage over Bald Eagles who can carry only 66% of their weight. Besides rabbit, the owlets have had a diverse menu. One food item that might not have been expected in such quantities has been snake. Farmer Derek probably had no idea he had so many snakes on his property! Using March 7 as a date for hatching, we should be watching for Tiger to fledge around 42-56 days which would be 18 April to 24 April. Tiger’s extremely soft feathers – they look like mohair to me – mean that he will be a formidable predator being able to fly without being heard. With his short rounded wings he will also be able to make tight corners and quick turns around the trees in the woods.

And down in Orange Australia at the Charles Sturt University, Peregrine Falcon couple, Xavier and Diamond, are in the scrape box having a conversation and bonding. The conversation might be about their cute little Izzi who fledged three times from this box. The first time Izzi was napping on the ledge and fell out. He was returned by the researcher, Cilla Kinross. The second time he did fledge but then flew into a window and was taken into care and returned to the scrape box. The third time he fledged properly. While most of the falcons would have left the scrape box to find their own territory by January, Izzi appears determined to live out the rest of his life chasing Xavier and Diamond and sleeping with Diamond in the scrape box. It is an unfolding soap opera that is delightful.

Izzi is adorable.

I will leave you with that adorable face. Peregrine falcons are the cutest. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my scaps: Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon Cam, Farmer Derek, Friends of Big Bear Bald Eagles, Friends of Redding Bald Eagles, Cornell Bird Lab, and the Dahlgren Osprey Cam.

Bonnie, Clyde and the Rabbit

The camouflage is so good. Can you find the rabbit next to Bonnie?

The owlets are being well fed and they are growing. Their plumage changes every day and they seem to be constantly hungry. It is no wonder. The eldest, Tiger, was born on 7 March and the youngest, Lily, on 9 March. Just think of them as two weeks old for ease. By the time they are five weeks old they will be climbing around on the branches of the tree and they will be flying at nine to ten weeks.

In the image below you can get a glimpse of the changing plumage on Tiger. Note the colour of the beak. When Tiger was born it was pink. Now it is a lovely espresso black. You can also see the coloured plumage coming around the neck and the wing. Behind them you can see the green ‘8’ of the Garter snake in the pantry and in front of Tiger are the parts of a rabbit brought in by mom last night.

Bonnie heaves the rabbit up and over the edge of the twig nest.

She brought the head of the rabbit in earlier. In total, the lapin was broken up into three pieces but still, the headless back seemed like it was pretty heavy for Bonnie to lift. But she did it! It is certainly a feast for the owlets.

The oldest was doing a little bit of preening and then they both heard mom coming. Look at their sweet faces looking at Bonnie. A happy, well-fed raptor family! And no real drama. It is nice for a change.

This is a quick posting. All is going well at this nest. The owlets are growing and growing and getting to eat a variety of food. They will imprint that into their memory for when they are hunting for themselves. Bonnie is a fantastic mother and with the rains settling in around 4pm in Kansas she will need those little ones to cuddle up and sleep.

Thank you for dropping by to check in on the birds in Bird World.

Thanks to Farmer Derek for his streaming cam. That is where I captured my images.

Sunday Babies

It is Sunday, 7 March 2021. The sun, peeking over the horizon announcing a new day reminds us that it has been twenty-four hours since Bonnie did not eat the mouse that Clyde brought her (5:20 am 6 March). Instead, Bonnie flew to the branch where Clyde was, picked up the mouse, and dropped it into the egg cup. Very unusual behaviour for someone who normally eats that mouse right away! Everyone wondered about a pip or a hatch. This morning at 6:31 am Clyde flew in. Bonnie stayed on the nest and Clyde brought the mouse to her. There was a bit of a conversation between the two. Bonnie is definitely behaving differently and it is possible that some of her movements might have been feeding actions – biting off small pieces of mouse and feeding. All we know for certain is that the usual routine in that nest has changed over the past twenty-four hours.

Sun is rising and Clyde is on the branch with a mouse. 7 March 2021. @Derek the Farmer
Clyde carefully carries the mouse to Bonnie. 7 March 2021. @ Derek the Farmer
Hi Sweetie. Here’s your morning mouse. 7 March 2021 @ Derek the Farmer
Clyde and Bonnie having a chat. Isn’t he cute?! 7 March 2021 @Derek the Farmer
7 March 2021 Clyde flying off. @Derek the Farmer

And just as a reminder, the eagle’s nest is about 1.8 metres (about six feet) across. Look at the size of Bonnie and Clyde. And then look at how well they blend into their environment. Nature’s camouflage is magnificent! Talk about getting lost in the crowd. These owls do that very well. The Great horned Owl will be even more fierce protecting this nest. As I wrote in another blog several weeks ago, you don’t mess with a GHOW! They may look cuddly and sweet but I don’t think anyone should get between them and their owlet.

To give you an idea, the Bald Eagle nest in Fort Myers, Florida of Harriet and M15 is constantly having GHOW attacks. Last night the GHOW knocked M15 off his branch (again). Remember, GHOWs are silent when they fly. They can sneak up on Bald Eagles who will not hear them coming. Lady Hawk caught the attack and the reaction in this video:

And since we are here with Harriet and M15, best have a look at E17 and E18. If you haven’t been following them you will not believe how much they have grown. I will post a picture of the twins at the clinic when they were getting their eyes treated and another one today. Hold on for a big surprise.

The first image is 4 February, just a little over a month ago. E17 is in the time out corner because it has been very aggressive towards little E18 especially around meals times.

4 February 2021. E17 and E18 are at CROW for treatment of conjunctivitis. @CROW FB

If you are going to ask yourself how these two grew so fast, the image right below is 24 February. E17 is at the front and E18 is at the back. They have eaten so much food that their crops look like huge bellies! It could be a crop pop. Oh, and look at how big those feet are. Even so, there are still some dandelion bits remaining.

The image below is 7 March 2021 – thirteen days after the image above. You will see that the twins are getting their juvenile feathers. E18 is at the top looking out of the nest and E17 is flat out asleep on the nest. These two are forty-two days old today. Fledge watch for Bald Eagles is ten to twelve weeks. Oh, my. They are half way grown!

7 March 2021. SWFL Bald Eagle Nest. @SWFL and D. Pritchett

It’s after 2pm on 7 March and E17 and E18 are hungry. E18 is at the top and E17 nearer the bottom. E18 has become the master? mistress? of the snatch and grab. E18 is perfectly positioned watching Harriet rip off the pieces of meat and she goes in for the grab. It is amazing how those second hatches figure ways out to get around the more dominant sibling.

The snatch and grab. 7 March 2021. @SWFL and D Pritchett

This is N24 on 7 March 2021, below. Typically, he or she is close to ‘the egg’. N24 incubates the egg, rolls the egg and is typically just a ‘good little mom’. There is every indication that N24 is in the last phases of the Avian Pox and healing well without any issues to the beak.

N24 and eggie. 7 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF Cams

And another picture with Samson this morning. N24 is twenty-seven days old today. Wow. And losing all of its baby down.

N24 with Samson. 7 March 2017. @NFL and AEF Eagle Cam

Hey Mom! Look. I can fly!!!!!!!! Look at how big those wings are. They are so heavy that in the picture above the wings are relaxed.

Look I can fly! 7 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF Eagle Cam

The two little eaglets at Duke Farm are doing well and mom seems to have any bonking issues under control. Meanwhile dad is working overtime to get fish stacked in that nest! They are so cute. Little bobbles.

Lined up for lunch. 7 March 2021 @Duke Farms

The little one at the Kisatchie National Forest (KNF) Bald Eagle nest is growing fast. Both the eaglet and mom have really worked out any issues with feeding. And with all that fish that dad is bringing in there are bound to be insects. The couple are now bringing in pine boughs to counter that – pine oil, anything pine, helps with bugs and mosquitoes!

Little one waiting for a name. 7 March 2021. KNF Bald Eagle Nest @KNF Bald Eagle Nest

It’s a beautiful day in Central Louisiana. The sun is filtering down through the trees on to the nest. The little one is resting with its mom. So cute.

Warm early spring afternoon at the KNF Bald Eagle Nest. 7 March 2021. @KNF Bald Eagle Nest

Today is the last day to send in a potential name for this little eaglet. A committee will narrow the submitted names down to three for public voting between March 11 and 16. The public’s choice will be announced on March 17, St Patrick’s Day. If you want to submit a name, today is your last chance. Send the name to: nameKNFeagle@gmail.com

Have a great end of the week everyone. Thanks for stopping in to check on the babies!

All the little bird babies

Tonight Gabby and Samson have both been on the nest looking at their little one.

Samson and Gabby looking adoringly at N24. @NEFL and AEF

Observers over the last few days have mentioned how attentive the two parents have been since it was discovered that N24 has Avian Pox. Lesions were first noticed by AEF monitors on 20 February. The lesions became more noticeable and by 27 February many citizen-birders were reporting them in FaceBook posts and videos.

I wanna be pretty like you. @NEFL and AEF

Gabby and Samson look at their baby who was born on 8 February. It is 23 days old. Little N24 is full and sleeping with ‘its egg’.

Thinking about their baby. @NEFL and AEF

Little N24 has a very good appetite. And that is such a positive thing. Yesterday, despite a late delivery of food, he ate really, really well. And today, he has another fantastic crop. The crop stores food. The eagle can do a crop drop when its stomach is empty. The crop is like a holding area for additional food.

Oh, yum. I like it when my dad feeds me. @NEFL and AEF
My mom is going to send an order for more fish! @NEFL and AEF
Fish dreamin’. @NEFL and AEF

The lesion that was on the left side of the mouth appears smaller today than it was yesterday.

Avian Pox lesions. 2 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF

I tried and tried to get a proper close up and just kept missing the opportunities. The nest has several cameras and the best one to get the left side of N24’s face has had some condensation on it. So, it is not easy to compare because of the angle, the distance, and the lighting but it does seem like the right side of N24’s mouth has made some improvement in healing. It takes 1-4 weeks for the lesions to dissipate.

Why is my head still fuzzy? @NEFL and AEF

You can still see N24’s crop at 6:48pm when he is watching some interior decorating happening in the nest. N24 is alert, moving around the nest, eating well, and growing. Let us all continue to send warm wishes to the little cutie pie with ‘its egg’ for a complete recovery.

My parents think the rails need to be a little higher on my crib. @NEFL and AEF
Oh, that fish was good! @NEFL and AEF

Flight feathers are starting to grow on N24’s wing tips. The itchy stage is coming.

Gonna get itchy soon! @NEFL and AEF

In the image below, the little cutie pie is sleeping, sitting up like Gabby, its mom, with its head tucked under its wing. They are both incubating ‘the egg’.

I Wanna Be like my beautiful mom, Gabby! @NEFL and AEF

It is impossible to keep track of everything going on in all of the nests. As Bald Eagles around North America lay eggs or eggs start to hatch, there is a lot of activity. The hawks and falcons are renovating nests and the Ospreys are migrating home. One thing for sure – there are going to be a lot of bobble heads within the next 4 to 6 weeks.

At the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey, chick 2 hatched at 1:03 am on 2 March. Both of the little ones are doing fantastic. Aren’t they cute? Eaglet #1 got a chance to have eel for dinner the other day. Looks like it is fish in the pantry today. All of these fathers are great providers.

Two perfect little bobbleheads. @Duke Farms.

If you would like to keep up with these two (and maybe a future three), here is the link to the Duke Farm’s streaming cam:

The Great Horned Owl that borrowed the Bald Eagle nest near Newton, Kansas is still incubating eggs. Some are expecting there to be a pip watch in the coming days.

Bonnie in the warm late afternoon sun. @Derek the Farmer

Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, often stays on the branch above the nest to protect her and is busy at night furnishing her with ‘Mouse Take Away’. Bonnie and Clyde are fierce predators especially during nesting season. Remember that they stood their ground with the Bald Eagle and did not relinquish the nest once Bonnie had laid her egg. We still do not know how many eggs Bonnie is incubating. There could be any where from 1-5. Bonnie has not given any secrets up! Her owlets will be born with whitish-grey down with a little bit of brown. As they mature, they will become more brown.

Did you know that the tufts (they are not really horns) of hair on the Great Horned Owls are thought to break up the profile of the head to improve their camouflage abilities? Their short curved feathers mean that they are silent night fliers. Indeed, these large owls are notorious, as of late, for knocking Bald Eagles off their branches in the night. Just the other evening, a GHOW knocked Harriet off her branch at the SWFL Eagle Nest and into the nest bowl! GHOWs will hunt large raptors such as Ospreys, other owls, and Peregrine falcons for food. They are equally happy to have reptiles for dinner as well as mice, fish, insects, worms, and rats.

And so happy to report that the mother and eaglet at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest are also doing fantastic. It has been raining alot and this mother is a really good ‘mumbrella’. Both of them have figured out the feeding and the little eaglet is growing.

Oh, I love my fish dinners! @KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Central Louisiana.

And another really good news story. The ‘Old Warrior Eagle’ that had broken its leg and had its beak injured early last fall was down, emaciated, and full of lead toxins. If you are any raptor and have that many problems, the best place to be found is near A Place for Hope in Connecticut. The Old Warrior has been on Clemation Therapy to get the lead out of his system. When he came in, the levels were over 48. Look at the levels today:

This is a huge drop in the lead. This eagle is lucky. Most die. A Place Called Hope FB Page.
Old Warrior and his injuries. A Place Called Hope FB Page.

He is going to be so excited to be outside in the aviary!

Look at that face. And those beautiful big eyes of this Peregrine Falcon. He was attacked by a cat. And, lucky for him, he is there in the same clinic with the Old Warrior. Get well soon! You are adorable. I could just scoop you up and take you home. Would you like to live in Canada?

Please keep your cats inside! A Place Called Hope

Take care everyone. Thanks for dropping by and for caring about all of the wildlife.

Thank you to A Place Called Hope for the images on their FB Page. Thank you to the KNF Eagle Nest, Duke Farms, NEFL and the AEF and Derek the Farmer for their streaming Cam. Those streams provided the screen captures.

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.