Pretty Parents Posing

With the news of more Great Horned Owl attacks on Bald Eagle nests (post on that tomorrow), I wanted to stop and find something joyful to celebrate. Certainly the birds have brought so much joy to all of us. I hear from someone every day telling me what the streaming bird cams have meant to them and how they have begun to take an interest in the birds outside their windows. It is still difficult, in most places, to walk freely outside because of the pandemic. I really do appreciate those little notes that you send me. And I am also grateful for news of new nests. I will be bringing some news of those later this week. Birds have connected us all from the Canadian prairies where I am all the way south from me to a PhD student in Brazil, across the Atlantic and Europe to a lovely woman who cared for a raven for five months in Poland, to Australia, Europe, Asia, and back to North America. It really is hard to measure just how much being able to watch the daily activities of our feathered friends has added to our mental well being for more than a year. They have really kept a lot of us sane and grounded. I hope that the love and concern that you have for the birds now will continue to grow and enrich your life even more.

N24. NEFL Eagle nest, 24 February 2021.

It is pretty hard to beat Samson and M15 for being great dads. The pantries are filled up with every type of prey that they can find, they are both great at incubating the eggs, and are there to see their new babies hatch. Lately I have had fun watching Samson trying to get N24 under him to brood while also incubating that egg that we all know will never hatch. He has been so delicate. Sometimes N24 seems to be brooding that egg that winds up all over the nest. It is almost like it is now an ornament that no one knows precisely what to do with. Eventually it will get broken and make its way down between the branches and leaves and become part of the nest.

N24 looking out at the world, fish in the pantry and ‘that egg’. 24 February 2021.

Yesterday Samson seemed to pose for a photographer out of the frame with N24. I don’t think you could ask them to stand any better! N24 is sixteen days old today and already he has really accelerated in growth over the past week. Juvenile feathers are coming in and since he was five days old, Samson has had him crawling up to the pantry to be fed. A wonderfully strong little eaglet, N24 has been flapping its wings. I wonder how long it will be til he walks?

Look at how proud Samson is of his baby! I think this is my most favourite photograph ever of an eaglet with their parent. Even the lighting is perfect.

Samson and N24. 23 February 2021

The Great Horned Owl has been causing disruptions over at the SWFL nest with Harriet and M15. M15 was knocked off of his branch into the nest and the owl almost pulled Harriet off the nest. These disruptions have happened on a daily basis causing worry for the eaglets’ safety.

I love the image below of Harriet standing over the eaglets in that most defiant pose daring that GHOW to mess with her babies!

Harriet watching over E17 (r) and E18 (l), 24 February 2021

I became acquainted with birds as a child. When I was a little girl, my father fed ‘the red birds’ in our back garden. They were actually a family of cardinals that had a nest in our Magnolia tree. Even though they were wild they knew to trust my dad and they would come and take nuts out of his hand. It was magical to watch. My maternal grandfather had been a rancher. He was the last person anyone would have thought would own a bird but he did. It was a little blue budgie bird named Jimmie. That bird was more special than anyone including me and my grandmother. It ate off the side of his plate at lunch and it pretty much had the run of the house. One day when my grandfather was away, Jimmie flew out the front door. My grandmother and I panicked. We wondered if we could buy another one and would my grandfather notice? Of course he would have noticed! Luckily for us, we left the screen door open and Jimmie flew back into the house after being out for a couple of hours. As a child I was taken to the Natural History Museum at the University of Oklahoma to go through the drawers of eggs and stuffed birds and there was always a stop on the way home to feed the ducks. It was not, however, until a very personal encounter with a female Sharp-Shinned Hawk in my own garden in January 2018 that my interest in the welfare of birds began to grow exponentially. I was less than a foot away from her, both of us were looking intently into one another’s eyes. That moment changed my life.

And that magical moment can happen for you, too. If it hasn’t, already.

This morning a pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red who is 18 years old and Arthur who will be five this year, are pondering what to do about their nest in Ithaca. The three Js sure made a mess of it hopping and flapping last year. Both of them have been in and out of the nest lately and today they were there together testing the nest bowl and looking around at all the nestorations needed. The time until Big Red lays her first egg is getting closer. We should be looking for that egg around the first day of spring. Gosh, time passes quickly.

Their nest is on a stadium light box on the grounds of Cornell University. In fact, the Cornell Ornithology Labs operate a number of streaming cameras including this one. There is also a very informed chat group that is often moderated by Laura Culley. She has owned falcons and hawks for almost thirty years. She knows so much. And this nest of Big Red and Arthur’s has already changed what we know about the life cycle and behaviour of these hawks.

The link to the Red Tail Hawk streaming cam is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/red-tailed-hawks/

Big Red and Arthur, 24 February 2021.

Cornell operates a number of its own streaming cams and partners with other agencies. One of those is the New Zealand Department of Conservation. They both support the camera for the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head, NZ. This is a great camera to start watching right now. The chick is unnamed and we will be finding out the gender shortly. I am betting on a boy because right now, he is so big he has to be weighted in a laundry basket and his parents can no longer brood him. He is too big to be under them. The mother, LGL, left him alone for the first time the other day (this is called pre-guard stage) and a red banded non-breeding juvenile kind of roughed the little one up a bit. The juveniles are curious. They have been at sea for five or six years and are returning to find a mate. They haven’t seen little ones before. While it tears at your heart strings when you see these little albatross all alone, around the world there are thousands of others sitting on their nest waiting for their parents to return and feed them. Eventually they will make play nests around their natal nest and begin flapping those big wings of theirs to get their strength for fledging. Weigh ins are Tuesday mornings New Zealand time. On the Canadian prairies, this is Monday 2pm to around 6pm. The link to that streaming camera is:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/royal-albatross/

Royal Cam Chick left alone for the first time in pre guard stage

In about a week to ten days, this little Royal Albatross will be nothing but a ball of fluff. They are so cute and so gentle. It is a very relaxing nest to watch. There is a FB group that brings up to date images and activities surrounding World Albatross Day which is 19 June. I will bring more information on that as it approaches. There are colouring contests for children, cake contests, and eventually, the name the chick contest later in the year. The Royal Cam chick will fledge around the middle of September.

There is joy in the Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest as the snow is finally melting. This eagle mom was encased in snow until recently. We are getting closer to hatch on this nest! There are three eggs under there. I hope there is a lot of prey and that these parents are good at tag team feeding. They are going to need all the coordination they can get!

Snow is finally disappearing. 24 February 2021.

And what a beautiful view from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources nest. This is the nest of that cute little sub-adult male. The snow is disappearing there too making it easier to get prey.

I want to leave you with a big smile on your face. It just goes to show how these birds can just make our moods so much brighter. Look at these two below. That is E17 and E18. They both look like they could simply pop! Or perhaps they are thinking about trying out to be clowns with those big clown feet! How can you not love these two?

E18 closest to the front, E17 toward the back. 22 February 2021.

Take care everyone. Please feel free to let me know of your favourite nest or an experience that changed your life because of birds. I promise to respond. You can leave a comment or you can e-mail me. That e-mail is: maryannsteggles@icloud.com

Thank you to the AEF, the streaming cam at NEFL Eagle nest, SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, Duke Farms, Cornell Ornithology Lab, NZ DOC, the MN DNR.

Milestones

Birds have developmental ‘milestones’ just like humans. Right now there are so many Bald Eagle nests where eaglets are already two or four weeks old. In others, the parents are incubating eggs. And there are others where the parents are only beginning to start working on the nests. You can see every stage of a Bald Eagles growth from the female laying the egg to their fledging from the nest on the many streaming eagle cameras. Every eaglet is different, just like people and their development will not happen on a single specific date.

Within the overall umbrella of bird development, you might remember Daisy the Duck (see previous blogs for more information on this remarkable little duck). This Black Pacific Duck laid her eggs in the Sea Eagles nest. We knew that the ducklings would jump from the nest 24 hours after hatching if we actually got to hatch – which, sadly, we did not. Those ducklings could see, forage, swim, and take care of themselves without help from the parent. Daisy would, still, gather them up and protect them during the night. Fully independent of their mother, those ducklings would have been ‘precocial’. In contrast, the eaglets are not fully developed, nor are they able to feed themselves, or fly down from their nest. Indeed, they are covered with fluffy down but are unable to regulate their temperature.

It takes from ten to thirteen weeks for eaglets to fledge whereas the ducklings do this at twenty-four hours. Eagles as well as all other hawks or raptors are ‘semi-altricial’. This means that they will be dependent on their parents for everything they need until fledge. Even after fledging, the parents will teach them to hunt and will provide prey supplements for them.

Until the onset of streaming cams, there was very little quantitative information on the development of Bald Eagle Nestlings. Today, there are cameras, often more than one, on nests around the world. You can, at any time of the day, watch Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles etc. at your leisure. The growing community of citizen birders has impacted the knowledge of avian development and behaviour considerably. We are, indeed, continuing to learn every day. Advances in satellite transmitters means that birds can now be studied after leaving the nest providing much information about foraging, distance from natal nest to establishing their own territory, etc. This blog today is general and non-scientific in its terminology.

Many look at the development of Bald Eagles through three stages: structural growth, feather growth; and behavioural growth. Others attempt to combine feather growth with behaviour and structural development into weekly goals. In fact, I have pondered over this blog and how to approach it for several days because there are different factors that impact development. One of those is gender. There are also studies that have shown that the levels of salt in the diet impact growth while others have examined the amount and quality of prey. We know from studying Red Tail Hawks that if you double the amount of prey and the eyases remain in the nest for several days beyond the average, they are better equipped to fly and hunt. Their overall condition is much stronger. For the purposes of our discussion, I have used evidence from the NEFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and the SWFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and 2017 (E9). There is one eaglet on the NE nest and two on the SW nest in 2021. The parents on the NE Florida nest are Samson and Gabrielle. Samson was born on this nest on 23 December 2013. He is a little over seven years old. We do not know the age of Gabrielle. At the SW nest, Harriet is in her mid-twenties and M15 is 11 years old. Both nests are located within close proximity to a city – Fort Myers and St Augustine. The Fort Myers nest is unique in that the D Pritchett family has a working farm on the land where the nest is located. They also stock a pond in close proximity to the nest specifically for the eagles. This means that there is always food available. Still, the parents bring in road kill as well as fish from the pond. The NE nest does not have this advantage but nest observations reveal that there is an abundance of food although the variety might not be the same as the SW nest.

Both E17 and E18 were born on 23 January 2021. N24 was born on 8 February.

The first week of their lives, eaglets are covered with fuzzy down. The proper term is natal down. They can sit up but it is difficult to support their heads and focus. You can see the white dot indicating the egg tooth. This will disappear later. They use the egg tooth to break through the thick shell. This is often called the ‘bobble head’ phase. Their heads are big and they do not yet have the neck strength to keep them upright at all times. Their eyes are adjusting to focus. Sibling rivalry might already have started. As the days progress, the eaglets will get the strength to hold up their head and balance it. They will also be able to focus with their eyes so they do not look like they are using their beak like a dart but with a moving target (often their sibling). While the bobble head stage is very cute, it is often a relief when the eaglets are more stable.

SWFL nest 2021. Sibling rivalry began immediately. E17 is on the right and is only two hours older than the twin, E18. This rivalry persists but has dissipated to being only occasional and directly related to feeding.
The egg tooth is clearly present on the eaglet to the left.

By week two, the eaglets will be observed crawling out of the nest bowl. They are not walking. They are crawling. N24 is using its feet and wings to help it get out of the nest cup and up to the pantry. It is five days old! Food is a great motivator! Samson has the little one ‘working’ for its dinner. This helps to strengthen its wings and legs. In the Captiva Florida Eagle nest, Peace climbed out of the nest bowl towards the food on day 2. The inclines of both nests are different. The parents present the eaglets with challenges to help them develop their strength such as stretching their necks, grabbing and holding food, working their legs and wings. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

N24 crawling out of the nest cup on 13 February 2021, 5 days old

The beak will begin to grow and the little ones should begin shooting the ‘ps’ out of the nest bowl by the end of week one or beginning of week two.

N24 doing a great pose to get that PS clear of the nest. Watch out mom!

The eaglets are more observant of their world. They will have doubled in size from the day they hatched and their eyes and beak continue to develop. You will begin to notice that pin feathers are growing in at their wing tips. They will start to stand keeping their balance with these wing tips.

N24 12 days old. Notice the feathers coming in on the wing tip (left side)

More feathers begin to appear on the shoulders and the back and the wing feathers are getting longer as the days progress. They are starting to wing flap and they will try picking up food.

N24 wing flapping, 12 days old

N24 is twelve days old in the picture above and the one below. In the one below, you can also see the pin feathers right at the tip of the wing starting to come in. N24 is also standing for several seconds, getting its balance, and flapping those wings.

N24, 12 days old. Wing flapping.

During the third and fourth week, a pattern of accelerated feedings and growth begins. Head and chest are still showing signs of some fluffy down but more dark feathers are starting to emerge.

E17, SWFL Nest, Age 31 days

The eaglets are actively preening those feathers to help condition them as well as to help stop what some say is an itching as the feathers grow in. There is more wing flapping and the eaglets stand with confidence and stability. During this time you will see attempts at standing and walking. They begin to make some effort at self feeding. They are eating much more at each feeding often lunging at the parent to take the food out of their beak. Many observers say that their crops appear like they could burst! These big feedings often result in the eaglets sleeping immediately after a feeding. This is a ‘food coma’. The enlarged crops are extra storage spaces where food is held before being ‘dropped’ to the stomach. Sometimes people call this accelerated growth period the ‘clown feet’ era because the feet seem to grow way out of proportion to the rest of their body. They will also cast pellets. Pellets are food that is undigested such as fur and bones. Pellets are compressed into a hard shape and regurgitated. This often involves coughing and sometimes the eaglets appear not to want to eat the day the pellet is cast. This level of peak energy demands appears to begin to wane after about five to six weeks.

E18 has its wings dropped while sitting (eaglet on left). Crop is full. 23 February 2021.

Beginning around week five to eight, the eaglets often sit with their wings drooping (getting heavy). Hopping and flapping wings occurs more often. They are very interested in what is happening outside the nest. By the end of this period, they will begin to have more of their juvenile plumage colouration. They will be able to hold food and tear bits. They will begin to mantle food. Mantling is the covering of food with the wings in order to have the prey item to themselves. They will stand for longer periods of time and are able to walk easily by the end of the period.

From week nine to fledging. The feathers will become more defined over their entire body and they will stand for longer periods of time upright. They can stand easily on one leg. The hopping, jumping, and flapping of wings accelerates. They are self-feeding but the parents will also continue to feed them. They will now spend their nights sleeping upright like their parents with their head tucked under their wing. They can easily perch on the edge or rim of the nest and will be branching, hopping up to a branch and back down into the nest. Branching tends to occur from seven to ten days before fledging, generally.

Juvenile feathers are not all in. E9, 2017.
E9 Branching, 2017.
E9 trying out a thinner branch, 2017.

It is always exciting to see the eaglet hatch and sad when they fledge. Unless there is a transmitter or bands, they fledge and there whereabouts often goes unknown. Once they are wholly independent of their parents, the juveniles need to find their own territory and source of prey. Sadly, fifty percent of all first year eaglets perish while ninety percent of all year two eaglets tend to survive. The average age of maturity for Bald Eagles is five to six years although there is a young sub-adult male who is incubating his first eggs with his mate in Minnesota right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe. Be well.

Thank you to the Eagle streaming cams at NEFL and SWFL as well as the D Pritchett family. The scaps came from their streams.

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.

What a fantastic day

Today a woman who answers all manner of questions about The Love Trio, Starr and the two Valors whose nest is on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois, answered a question for a member of the FB group. The question was: Do all of the eagles take turns incubating the eggs? Joan Dice’s response was simply priceless and I want to share some of it with you. I know you will have a smile on your face. I wish that all of the Bald Eagle nests had such attentive parents like these three!

She said: “Definitely all 3! So it is a struggle getting time. Starr broods during the night. V1 does all he can to get a lot of the day. He will let someone brood, but come back a few minutes later with a stick to be annoying. In fact it is a full circle on who can get one up the easiest. Starr can get V2 up by giving him kisses, which he doesn’t like, so usually quickly gets up. V1 can get Starr up easier than V2 can just by being annoying…walking all over her by placing a stick & hitting her with it, putting his rear end right in her face, or standing next to her, pushing on her side with his leg or body. It is very subtle, but you can tell by Starr’s reactions what he is doing. And V2 can get V1 up more easily than Starr can. He either stands there & waits (more patient than Starr) until V1 gives in. Or V2 will lay next to V1 a little while, then start shoving him off the nest bowl with his body by scooting over. Starr’s kisses are mostly ineffective on V1, but there are times he senses he better turn over duty to her. And V1 does the stick tricks to V2, also. He has even brought fishes to the nest to bribe V2 off the eggs. And that is why we call him the Brooding King”.

The image below was taken at 2:30pm 17 February 2021. One is incubating the eggs (or maybe laying another egg if it is Starr) and another is towards the left protecting the nest. You can see the bright yellow beak if you squint at the nest to the left front. This is when you want eyes like a hawk!

17 February. @2021 Stewards UMRR
17 February 2021 3:40 pm. @2021 Stewards UMRR

Normally eggs are three days apart. Starr laid her first egg on Valentine’s Day for the boys. Wonder if we will get another one today?

Usually there are only two eggs. There are sometimes three but this is rare and you really hope that there is a lot of food and a good feeding strategy and no problems between siblings if there are three. The incubation period for Bald Eagle clutches is 35 days. The eggs are rolled on average every two hours. You will notice the Bald Eagles rising up slightly and using their beak to do this. The Red Tail Hawks do it this way and that GHO has the cutest egg roll. She hoots to the eggs while using her feet and doing a little shimmy over the eggs. Indeed, most parents talk to their eggs so that the hatchlings recognize their voice. And rolling the eggs is not just so the parent can move around a bit. The purpose is to make absolutely certain that the yolk does not stick to the shell. If it did it would kill the chick that is growing inside.

All is well with Bonnie. She has been regularly rolling her eggs. Oh, the weather has certainly improved for this devoted mom. It is +26 with a little snow. That is thirty-three degrees warmer than it was two days ago. Clyde should have good hunting tonight.

And while so many are incubating eggs, M15 sits on the rim of the nest at SWFL in Fort Myers with two big babies, E17 and E18, below. They are 25 days old today. Harriet and M15 are super parents.

And despite 17 being a bully on several occasions today, E18 got a good feeding at 4:20. In fact, he had a nice big crop. It is hot in Fort Myers, 28 degrees C. The eaglets get their water from the moisture in the food. It is important that they get fed.

E18 has a nice crop full of fresh fish.

Over in St Augustine it is much, much cooler with grey skies and rain. Gabby is making sure that NE24 stays dry and is fed.

Parents are rolling the eggs and changing shifts over at the eagle nest at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. How grand is it to see no snow on that nest? These two have it slow right now. There are three eggs there! Three. I can’t even imagine what that will be like to keep law and order and get all of them fed. And that is where those eaglets being raised by The Trio are so very, very lucky. Each one could feed an eaglet if there were three and avoid all manner of sibling rivalry. When you have two parents and one needs to hunt and also protect, it can get tough.

Solly is on the move again. She is 150 days old today and there are said to be a lot of fish at Perlube. She has gone a distance of six kilometres from Eba Anchorage where she was the other day. She is still heading north.

Now, this really is what all the excitement is about today at my house. Remember this fellow? He came in with an old beak injury and a healed broken leg (on its own so not perfect). Those injuries happened in the fall, perhaps October or late September. But he was grounded, starving, and on the verge of dying. And someone had the vision to get him to A Place Called Hope. His lead levels were 49. And the top image below is what he looked like.

This old Warrior would not give up so the wildlife rehabbers and the vets did not give up on him. He is eating well and look at this today! I mean this is the kind of news in the ‘Bird World’ that causes you stand on the top of a building and shout. A miracle. No doubt about it. The Chelation Therapy worked.

Now look at that reading………..wow. 12.5. You can tell just by looking at him that he is feeling so much better. Thank you to all those people who believed in him – and spread the word. A reading of 49 does not mean a death sentence to a Bald Eagle if you have ‘Hope’.

And down in New Zealand, this chick is causing so many problems. Not because he is sick or underweight – oh, no. It is because he is so big! Yesterday at weigh in, he was 1.9 kilos. He is so big that is getting extremely difficult for him to fit under his dad, LGK (Lime Green Black) who is now on nest duties. What a problem to have! Great food, great parenting. Again, if every nest could be so lucky.

Lime-Green-Black looks down with those same gentle loving eyes at his little son who is becoming fluffier by the day. Soon this little chick will be left all alone on its nest. Each parent will be out at sea foraging and returning to feed it and then leaving. Always pulls at my heart to see them sitting there waiting for a parent to return.

It takes both parents to keep up with feeding the growing chick. Last year OGK (Orange-Green-Black) was injured and was away for forty days. Something had happened to his leg.

As the sun lowers on the Canadian prairies, all of the birds in our update are doing great. What a nice relief.

I hope that all of you are well and warm and staying inside if you are in the middle of the next weather system moving around.

Thank you to the following streaming cams: Cornell Labs and NZ DOC; Duke Farms, Farmer Derek, SWFL and NEFL. Stewards of the Mississippi and to Port Lincoln Osprey for the tracking images for Solly and to A Place Called Hope for the images of the Warrior Eagle.

Nova is Wandering

Today’s ‘brief’ focus is on Wandering Albatross. This is because the British Arctic Survey and the Albatross Task Force have just posted Nova’s tracking. Yes, she is being monitored by a satellite transmitter, just like Solly. Today, Nova is feeding near the Patagonian Shelf off the coast of Argentina.

Nova right before she fledged.

The Wandering Albatross is also known as the Snowy Albatross and it has the largest with a wingspan of 3.4 metres or 11.15 feet. They weigh between 8 and 12 kilograms or from 17.6 lbs to 26.45 lbs. In other words, they are enormous compared to many of the other seabirds. They live and breed on remote islands such as South Georgia or smaller islands in the Southern Ocean. The word ‘live’ is misleading. The albatross spend all their time on the ocean except during breeding season, laying and incubating eggs, and raising the chick. Like all Albatross the parents take turns feeding the little one. And, like the Northern Royal Albatross, most will take a year off between breeding so that they can rebuild their bodies. They will spend that time foraging in the Southern Oceans. Like the Kakapo in my last posting, Albatross can live for a very long time. Some are older than sixty years while many never reach their first birthday.

The vast majority of the deaths are entirely caused by humans except for the fur seals who eat the vegetation on the islands. The Wandering Albatross spend the majority of their life on the high seas foraging for food, mostly squid but some fish. As well, they are carried great distances by the high winds. Because of this they have the potential to come into contact with many different legal and illegal fishing trawlers. These beautiful seabirds get caught in the long fishing lines or get trapped in gill nets and are killed. But, they don’t have to be. There are some easy solutions. These include the use of streamers, brightly coloured metallic streamers like people use to play with their cats, only a much larger size will scare the birds away. An even easier solution is to set the fishing lines at night. The third is to weigh down the lines so that they sink very quickly. Normally, they are so long and stay near the surface with their bait that the Wandering Albatross see the fish and want to eat it. The Seabird Task Force is working with fleets of boats from Spain to use demersal longlines. These catch fish at the bottom of the ocean and have been proven to be effective against bycatch.

The following graphic made by the Albatross Task force shows you how long lines and gillnets attract the seabirds.

Nova’s transmitter will, like Solly’s, let the researchers know where she is foraging for squid and fish. And because there are satellite maps of the locations of legal fishing trawlers, many of the Albatross with transmitters have helped to locate illegal fishing fleets. I do not condone industrial fishing and definitely not illegal boats that churn out fish from the ocean on a 24/7 basis but you would think that if they were illegally fishing they would want to have all of the safe systems in place so as not to have the Albatross with the transmitters be attracted to their boats.

Diagram designed by the Albatross Task Force showing the Patagonian Shelf and Nova’s locations along it.

What can you do to help? If you are concerned about the fish you eat, you can go to seafoodwatch.org for lists of sustainably caught fish. You can also learn to read the labels. Look for the red and blue label ‘Friends of the Sea’ or the blue and white label ‘Marine Stewardship Council’. Friends of the Sea has lots of information on its Website about what they are doing to make the information about the fish you eat more transparent. Have a look!

Check out the website of the Marine Stewardship Council for lots more information.

Below is a link to certified products:

https://friendofthesea.org/certified-products-and-services/

There are phone apps such as Seafood Watch which help in addition to several restaurant watch dogs. One of those is Fish2Fork.com

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Some quick updates:

Arthur and Big Red were both at the nest on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca chipping away at the snow and ice that formed overnight. For the next month they will be restoring the nest of the Js and getting it ready for the Ks. Oh, this is such a sweet couple. They work so well together.

Big Red checking out nest cup.
Arthur is helping with nestorations.

Bonnie, the Great Horned Owl, the owl that everyone loves, still has occupancy rights. The Bald Eagles have, so far, not attempted to kick her out of their nest. She sure has had it a lot easier than Daisy the Duck. In part that is thanks to the cold. There is currently no snow falling and the sun is out. The temperature has risen to 8 degrees F which is a lot warmer than the -7 F temperatures yesterday. Let’s hope that her mate is able to scare her up a nice fat mouse for dinner today. He had trouble finding prey yesterday.

Bonnie is happy the sun is shining and it is warmer.

The torrential rains that fell on the NEFL Eagle nest near St Augustine last night are gone. The sun is out and Gabby has been busy venting the nest while keeping the little one close to her in the shade. Samson did a terrific job bringing in all the fish yesterday ahead of that storm. He is now my official weatherman for this nest!

So hot that E24 is staying in the shade of mom.

When I first checked the twins over at the SWFL nest in Fort Myers, I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. They are very much looking like their dinosaur ancestors if they get their bodies positioned just right.

Looks like a pile of dinosaurs!

Ah, it is always nice when E17 is full and passed out so that E18 can get a private fish feeding! All is well on the SWFL nest. Just hot like it is for Gabby and Samson over at St Augustine.

E18 getting a private feeding.

So far, that E18 has been eating solid for twenty minutes! The adult tried to stop and clean its beak and E18 indicated ‘nope, I am still hungry’. The image looks the same but it isn’t. E18 is simply not moving. You can see that 17 has shifted its wing a bit. The little one wants his private fish dinner while 17 is passed out in a food coma. So smart. These little underdogs that get picked on often turn out to be highly creative. After all, it is all about surviving.

E18 is STILL eating.

And no. That parent is not going to be able to eat that fish or leave because now E17, the oldest, is awake and wants some more too! Fresh fish must taste a whole lot better than week old dry catfish!

It is also a time when they are growing and changing so much that their consumption of food is increasing steadily. But, I just love it. There is something about seeing a parent have food in the nest and filling the babies up that just makes life so much more serene.

In the image below, the oldest one, the one that picks on the little one, is now up getting some more fish and the little one, E18 is acting like it is the caboose. But wait! That older one is full quick and now the little one is back up at the feet of the parent. E18 has learned if it pecks at the feet of the parent it gets fed. Wonder if he will get another twenty minute feeding?

E17 decides it wants some fish.

E18 kept tapping on the parents talons and the parent is now feeding him again. I think this little one is going to stay there and eat every last flake of that fish even if its crop almost bursts!

E18 is back eating…again.

The wind is really blowing over in Big Bear California but the sun is shining and there isn’t any snow. Jackie and Shadow are really happy about that. It is so nice to see the weather improving. Jackie and Shadow lost their first clutch of three eggs and Jackie is incubating the second clutch of two eggs. I hope everything goes well for this great couple.

Jackie incubating her two eggs.

And, oh, my goodness. We can see the nest at Duke Farms. For more than two weeks, this poor eagle has been snowed in. How amazing. There is another system moving through on Wednesday. Let us hope that it bypasses New Jersey and gives this mom a break. She is incubating three eggs – three!

Snow is off Duke Farms Eagle nest.

I wanted some news of the Trio since Starr laid her first egg on Valentine’s Day for the Valors. The only person going in and out is this amazing photographer Dennis Brecht. The image below was taken by him and I hope that it is OK to use it since it was posted on the Trios FB page.

I would love to know what the conversation is between the three of them. Starr, the female, is the one standing up with her wings spread. Valor II is to the left and Valor I has his beak open. From the recent history of this nest, I understand that Valor I does not like sharing incubation duties. He wants to do it all by himself. But so do Starr and Valor II. Starr might even want to get on there to lay another egg! Too funny. Remember this is the guy I called the ‘Dead Beat Dad’. Look at him now. Wow.

Photo of the trio taken by Dennis Brecht.

Thanks for checking in today. Everyone appears to be doing fine. Temperatures appear to be warming up in places and we hope that they stay that way. These birds are so intelligent and beautiful. But they need to eat and those little critters hunker down in the cold! But I wish you could see the smile on my face. That little E18 melts my heart. When he was brought back from the clinic and crawled over to Harriet, his mom, well, it was priceless. I sleep a lot easier when I know that he is full to the brim!

Stay safe everyone! See you tomorrow.

Thank you to the Albatross Task Force for the images of Nova. Thank you to the streaming cams at NEFL, SWFL, Big Bear, Duke Farms, Pritchett Real Estate and Farms, Farmer Derek’s and Cornell RTH. Thank you so much to Dennis Brecht for getting out in the storm and posting the picture of the Trio on FB.

Kakapo and more

Everyone is talking about the Kakapo today because two of the 208 died. These events are always full of sadness.

Have you heard of Kakapo?

They live in New Zealand and they are parrots that cannot fly. Wings are only for balance and support. Some people think they look like an owl. In fact, they are nocturnal and only move around at night. Their plumage is a beautiful moss green with some yellow and black. Their feathers are very soft because they do not need them for flight. Their bill, legs, and feet are grey. Using those grey feet they run all over the ground and climb trees. They blend in perfectly to the forests of the small islands where they now live. These islands are designated nature reserves and only authorized personnel can go on them.

Before humans arrived on the shores of new Zealand, the forests were full of these amazing creatures. Many of the early settlers kept them as pets saying that they were as friendly as dogs. They are still friendly towards humans today. In the 1990s, only fifty existed. The predators of the adults were cats and stoats while rats were known to eat the eggs and the chicks. The New Zealand Department of Conservation undertook an amazing intervention in order to try and save the Kakapo. They literally gathered up the fifty that were alive and moved them to islands where there were no predators. In June there were 210. Sadly, today there are now 206. Every Kakapo has a radio transmitter whose battery needs to be changed at least once a year. They are carefully monitored and health checks are undertaken on a regular basis. Birds may receive supplemental feeds and eggs and chicks can be rescued and raised by hand. Because there are so few, the genetic diversity is extremely low and there is also a very low fertility rate. The Kakapo are managed on three islands and there is now managed mating using artificial insemination to help manage genetic loss. They are currently sequencing the genomes of all living kakapo to aid in their conservation. The females start breeding around five years but the males are not able to fertilize the eggs until they are about ten years old. They are said to only breed when the fruit of the Rimu trees bloom which is every 2-4 years. The males get off pretty easy. The females have to incubate the 1-4 eggs, feed themselves and their chicks, and also protect their nest and young. That is the reason that so many fell victim to cats and stoats in the past. They are strict vegetarians. Kakapo generally live to be ninety years old if they do not come to harm by predators or viruses.

They are so very cute. They love to hide from the Rangers when they come to change their transmitters but they also love their almond treats after!

If you would like to learn more about the Kakapo, this is a seven minute video that is quite good:

And if you are a teacher or you know someone who is and who might like to show their students this amazing non-flying parrot – that is so utterly sweet – head over to this site sponsored by the NZ Government:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-education/resources/kakapo-recovery/

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It’s time for updates:

That Great Horned Owl on the Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City is still there. The Bald Eagles have not evicted her. Poor thing. That snow is really packed around her. The flakes stopped coming down and while it has warmed up, it is still a frigid -4 F. Our owl (I was tempted to say little but they really are not little) is trying to sleep and keep those eggs warm. Her mate, Clyde (gosh that was my dad’s name- who would name their little son Clyde???????) is very good at bringing her prey during the night. Last mouse deposit was right before dawn broke this morning.

Bonnie took a break – less than two minutes off those eggs. Gosh she was fast! That got me to wondering how quickly that -5 temperature would impact those eggs.

It doesn’t look like any of the snow fell in over the eggs. I wondered if the warmth of Bonnie’s body would have made a bit of a crust??? Just a silly thought but, maybe.

The Bald Eagle sitting on the nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey at Duke Farms is getting some relief. The snow has stopped falling and is actually melting there. We can finally see the nest. Let’s hope she catches a break and doesn’t get hit by the system moving through on Wednesday. This poor mother has had snow for twice as long as anyone else with eggs underneath them. She should get some kind of endurance prize!

And there is some really good news on the nest of Gaby and Samson over at NEFL. Little E24 was having problems with its right eye. This morning it was completely closed again but later in the day it opened up. I could not see any discharge. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it just got a poke from some of that nest material. And give a hand to Samson who brought in five big fish. I wonder if he is expecting bad weather to set in?

Oh, just look. There is the little one’s tiny little foot close by its mom. How precious.

Samson can be my weatherman any day. He brought in such a big pile of fish earlier. Now you can hardly make out his silhouette as the rain pelts down at the nest near St. Augustine, Florida. There are also thunderstorms in the area but no tornadoes. Smart dad. That little one will be under its mother staying dry while she continues to incubate an egg that will never hatch.

It has been a beautiful day out at Big Bear. That snow and chilly winds are gone! How nice for Jackie and Shadow.

I am also very happy to report that there was so much food on the SWFL Eagle nest of Harriet and M15 that the bopping of 17 towards 18 was next to nothing today. In fact, I hope they are growing out of that behaviour. There is lots and lots of food. Indeed, hold on. Harriet even brought in some road kill today in the form of a grey tabby cat. So again, if you ever find yourself near someone who is saying eagles only eat fish, well they sure don’t on Harriet and M15’s nest. They are great opportunistic eagles. At the same time it is extremely worrying when the hawks, falcons and eagles land on the streets and highways to get the carrion and get hit themselves. It is also, of course, tragic when someone’s pet gets hit by a car.

And last, let’s check up on Solly to see what she is up to. To date Solly has re-written a lot of aspects of Osprey behaviour in Australia. That is fabulous news and supports putting satellite transmitters on birds for additional research and learning. Of course, the streaming cameras that I watch, like you, are invaluable as are the BOGs (Birders on the Ground).

Solly is 149 days old and she is still enjoying Eba Anchorage and flying over to Kiffin Island to find her dinner. Look at that seabird go!

And speaking of Ospreys, one of the Scottish Kieldner Ospreys Blue Y6, White EB’s youngest daughter, that hatched in 2016 was seen at Tanji Marsh Bird Reserve in The Gambia by bird guide, Fansu Bojang. This is just excellent news. You might recall that Avian Flu went through the Pelican population in Senegal and there was some worry for the UK Ospreys. This is just wonderful news! Last year was Blue Y6’s first year to raise chicks. She had two with her mate at a nest in Perthshire. Let’s hope she does it again this year.

There is lots of good news all around in the bird world. Even the Kakapo Recovery said that they are grateful for the growth in the numbers and with that also comes higher numbers of those dying.

The Ospreys will be making their way back to their nests across the UK and Europe soon. We wish them all safe travels. The hawks and falcons will be finding twigs for their nests and in a few weeks we will begin to welcome another group of baby eagles.

I am keeping a particularly close eye on that nest of Big Red and Arthur.

Stay safe and stay warm! Thank you for joining me today. See you tomorrow!

Thank you to the Kakapo Recovery, the AEF for the streaming cams at Big Bear and NEFL, the SWFL streaming cam and the D. Pritchett family, Derek the Farmer’s streaming cam, Port Lincoln Osprey for the tracking information on Solly, Duke Farms streaming cam, and Kielder Ospreys.

The Great Bird Count – and you can join in the fun

Friday, 12 February kicks off four days of bird counting. It does not matter where in the world you live. My readers come from every continent and I know that you will want to take part. So, what’s up and how can you join in the fun.

It’s free. Anyone can participate. You can count the birds in your garden, at the park, at the beach, or on a walk. And because of the frigid weather, you don’t even have to go outside. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t. You can look out of your window. You will need a pad of paper and something to write with. And you will need to log in to submit your observations. What if you don’t know what bird it is – well, the organizors have you covered. You have free access to Cornell’s Birds of the World to help you. And for anyone who submits sightings longer than 15 minutes or through the Merlin app on their phone, they will be entered to win a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 24 binoculars. Fantastic. So here is how to do.

I want you to go to: https://www.birdcount.org/participate/

I cannot get the link to embed in this posting, so please cut and paste.

Once you get to link, you will see the text and the images at the right (in the picture above). Please select the device that you will use to submit your count. You do this by clicking on one of three links in green. (If you are a group, like a school classroom, you click on Group Counting).

You will need to sign up for an account. It is free and once you have joined, spend some time at the Cornell site. There are free courses, bird identification postings, and you can find the links to all of the streaming cameras that Cornell Ornithology Lab helps to sponsor. Once you are signed up or signed in, you will need to determine what kind of a device you will be using to upload your counts. I will be using my laptop computer. During the day I will note the time I started watching my garden and what birds I saw during that period. In our garden it is particularly busy around 12 noon when we fill the feeders. I will start my bird count then. For four days I will count the birds that come to the garden. Don’t worry if you think you haven’t seen enough birds to bother. Every bird counts! And I really mean that.

Several years ago I noticed the Sharp-Shinned hawk and I went in and listed in on e-Bird. I had an e-mail that afternoon telling me that I could not have a Sharp-shinned hawk in my garden in Canada in January. But I did and I had a picture of it. Do not underestimate the importance of this count.

There will be another one in May. You can join in then or maybe you will want to count the birds more often and submit them to e-Bird. Taking a walk becomes fun. Just take a small notebook and pencil or your phone. Keep a list and submit it when you get home.

If you can’t count birds every day of the four days – no problem! Just submit when you can. You will be able to see the live count around the world. To see the live tracking go to birdcount.org

Have some fun. Get your friends to join in and compare the birds that you saw.

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One of the things that I am most interested in is bird behaviour. When Daisy the Duck had her nest in the centre of the old Ironbark Tree, where the White Bellied Sea Eagles raise their eaglets, will remember the reaction of the various birds to Daisy being in the nest. In the case of the Bald Eagles, I have noticed the behaviour of the adult male, M15, at the SWFL Eagle nest in Fort Myers since the twins returned from being at the clinic. M15 has gotten at least one gold star and last night, after sunset, he got another.

In the clinic it was noticed that E17 was extremely aggressive to E18. In fact, the behaviour got so bad that the clinic staff literally separated them at meal time. E17 got time out.

So it was with great interest that I watched a feeding on the nest just as dusk was falling tonight, 11 February. The events at this feeding are quite telling. Let me show you.

  1. At the onset, E17 is asleep. E 18 is sitting up and is awake. There is an old catfish by E18 (left) and fish to the right of the sleeping sib.

Harriet begins to feed E18 the old catfish. M15 has arrived on the nest to the right. E17 remains asleep.

Harriet is still feeding E18. E17 raises its head, opens its eyes and notices that its sibling is being fed. M15 is eating fish.

In the image below, E17 has sat up and bonked E18 who lies in the submission pose. Harriet has moved the old catfish around to feed E17.

Harriet continues to feed E17 but E18 is raising its head. M15 is now raising his head from eating. He is noticing what is happening. Eagles have amazing vision. His line of sight lets him know that E18 is not being fed any longer.

M15 leans over E17 to feed E18. Harriet does the same thing. E18 has not turned around to eat because he is afraid of E17 bonking him.

M15 actually feeds Harriet so she can feed E18. M15 hovers directly over E17 so it cannot cause any trouble.

Harriet continues to feed E18. E17 has gone to sleep. M15 is leaving the nest. Whew! I hope you can keep all of that straight.

Harriet and the eaglets are trying to sleep despite the mosquitoes which seem to be quite bad at both this eagle nest and the one near St. Augustive, NEFL.

It turned out that E18 has a very nice late dinner. He had some of the old catfish while E17 was sleeping and then when M15 stepped in, he had some of the new fish after E17 was asleep again.

And a quick check in this morning. I did not know that there are still eagles in Minnesota that did not migrate. They are apparently having great difficulty in this cold finding prey.

Down in Florida, it is a different story. E17 and 18 are already panting it is so hot.

And all is well in NEFL at St Augustine. Lots of fresh fish on deck and the little one just waiting for a nice bite.

And remember that beautiful picturesque Big Bear? Look what is happening to Jackie and Shadow today? The winds are horrific! And snow is coming down like hard pellets. Not the soft dancing flakes we have.

Poor Jackie. She has her head hunkered down. She is now into hard incubation as she did lay that second egg late last night! I hope Shadow can find you some nice prey in this horrific weather!

It looks like the only nice weather for our eagles is down in Florida right now.

That is our morning check in. Please remember to take part in the Great Bird Count if you can – and, of course, if you want to.

Will be back this evening with an update on the Eagles and how they are holding out in this weather. Take care everyone. Stay safe.

Thank you to the streaming cams at SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, at NEFL, and at Big Bear. I get my screen shots form these cams.

And for the life of me I cannot get rid of this block. I had tried to post a link to you about the bird count – so ignore it!

Saving their wildlife

The New Zealand Department of Conservation takes care of the country’s wildlife. If there is a problem, especially one created by humans, there will be ways to intervene on behalf of the non-humans. The country is quite amazing. I have a dear friend who lives there who says, “New Zealander’s love their birds and what the government is doing to protect them”. The only other comment my friend has is that they hope the country will end the use of coal.

Northern Royal Albatross. Wikimedia Commons.

During 2021, the NZ government will be undertaking a broad study of the Northern Royal Albatross. A part of this study will involve attaching trackers to birds on Chatham Islands as well as the mated pair that are the parents of the Royal Cam chick at Taiaroa Head. The solar powered trackers are extremely light and weigh 20 grams. They are placed on the back feathers and will stay in place until the first moult, approximately one year. You might remember from an earlier posting that Australia put a tracker on Solly, the female Eastern Osprey, born on the barge at Port Lincoln this year. Already Solly is changing what is known about those amazing sea birds and the tracking of the Albatross will yield, hopefully, good results, too.

Lime-Green-Black (LGK) was on the nest so his transmitter was attached today. When Lime-Green-Lime (LGL) returns to relieve LGK from his feeding duties, the rangers will attach hers.

Below is an image of LGK spreading his wings. You can see his tracker. And look! there is the chick looking at its dad. Hopefully the information the trackers provide new information for the researchers. At the same time, we know that these transmitters are able to show how close the albatross are to legal fishing vessels as well as illegal. Perhaps, some way, they can help bring about international legislation to end fishing practices that cause these gentle birds to become bycatch.

Royal Cam Chick of 2021 looking at its dad, LGK.
Royal Cam dad, LGK with his tracker, resting above the chick at sunset, 11 August.

The New Zealand DOC is extremely active ridding Taiaroa of predators that humans have introduced. Those in need of protection that are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or near threatened include the Otago Shag, the Northern Royal Albatross, the Sooty Shearwater, and the Red-billed Gull. The predators that have required eradication are stoats, rabbits, hedgehogs, and feral cats. The DOC has various methods that they use to capture these animals. In their information, they indicate that they gauge their success rate by the number of chicks that are alive not by the number of predators that are caught. Increased heat causes more flies and there are issues with fly strike and newborn albatross. Rangers spray the nest with an insecticide to eliminate this issue.

There are other human introduced issues to other wildlife at Taiaroa such as the Blue Penguin. The rising heat from climate change, fishing net, line, and hooks, marine pollution such as oil spills, chemical spills, and plastic are among the direct threats caused by humans.

Halfway around the world from New Zealand is tiny Gough Island.

Gough Island, December 2005. Photo by M. Chowd. Wikimedia Commons.

They are separated by 10,964 km (6812.7 miles) and yet Taiaroa Head has much in common with Gough – mainly, Albatross! Gough Island is rugged and is a UK territory and it is home to the Tristan Albatross which is on the verge of extinction by human introduced rats that have grown into mega-sized monsters.

Tristan Albatross, 2009. Photograph by M. Clarke. Wikimedia Commons.

In the 19th century, sailors brought mice with them when they arrived on Gough. They have no natural predators on the islands. The mice learned to love the taste of the Albatross eggs and the chicks. With no where to flee, the birds were literally ‘sitting ducks’ so to speak for the mice who grew into enormous rats. They are so big and so bold now that they are attacking even larger sea birds and endangering the Atlantic Petrel and the MacGillivray prion. They are, in fact, able to eat a large seabird whole and alive. Cameras have caught the rat behaviour and it is alarming. The rats gather at night and form groups. As many as nine will attack a nest.

The operation is due to take place in 2020. Given the location of the island, it is an enormous logistical challenge.

It involves chartering a ship from South Africa, which will carry two helicopters and a load of poisonous, cereal pellets. These will then be spread across the island by the helicopters. They contain an anticoagulant which should kill the mice within 24 hours.

The eradication of the mega-rats was supposed to happen in 2020 but will now take place this year. And it is a seriously difficult task. In fact, sitting on the Canadian Prairies, this seems like a logistics nightmare. Gough Island is tiny and in the middle of the Atlantic. The plan, as I understand it, is to charter a ship in South Africa that will then travel over some of the roughest seas in the world carrying helicopters and poisonous cereal pellets. They will be dropped from the helicopters onto the island. The poison that will be used is the same type as that which people are lobbying to be banned. I have been writing about this since the death of Peace and Hope at the Captiva Nest.

Of course, before any of this can happen any birds or other animals on Gough will need to be removed safely. I wish I could ask someone questions. What happens to the cereal pellets that aren’t eaten? could the poison go into the soil? what if there are cereal pellets left and the returning birds eat them? I am sure that these have been answered somewhere because the debate on how best to deal with the issue of the ever-growing rats and rat population on Gough has been on going for at least a decade.

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Updates: Gabby is feeding E24 a gourmet meal of squirrel and fish. And this little one is so cute. When mom gets up it follows her big yellow beak because it knows that food is coming. Its eyes, feathers, and general overall appearance, despite the mass of nasty mosquitoes at night, seem fantastic. There appears to be no more change to the egg.

Cute and fuzzy, changing from white to grey before our eyes.


E18 was wanting more of the fresh catfish and then…

E17 woke up and noticed! E17 immediately came over and demanded to be fed while pulling at the little one’s wing. This kid really needs a time out.

E18 is, however, learning how to deal with the issue. It goes down in a pose of submission but making sure its back is to the larger sibling. This protects its head and neck.

Both eaglets had big crops and after two bites, E17 fell over in a food coma and the little fella turned back around and ate lots more fish. Good work around E18! Maybe you will give your sis another one of those mysterious wing pokes today!!! Bad old sister.

Ah, sweet. Nothing like having a fresh catfish dinner by yourself.

Proud parents, M15 on the left and Harriet on the right are really enjoying having their babies back. I know many worried that they might not accept them but from the evidence above all is well. Including E17 being a little stinker!

The bitter cold that hit Canada, that Polar Vortex, dipped way down into the United States including the eagle nests along the Mississippi River. Historically, Starr has laid her eggs around the middle of February. She is seen in the image below on the right with one of the Valors to the left (apologies I can only identify them from the front). Ground watchers say that the trio have been working on the nest despite the very blistery cold weather. They have also reported that Starr spent last night sleeping on the nest. Eggs coming soon!

It’s a great photo actually showing the difference in size between the female (on the right) and the male (on the left).

The cold weather in the US is treacherous. The birds are definitely not used to these types of dipping temperatures. Many spend the winter in Kansas and Oklahoma and do not migrate. I wonder if this winter might change that. It is being reported in Kansas that the beautiful hawks are freezing. Many are being rescued by kind individuals. If you live in areas where there are hawks, put the number of the local wildlife rehabilitation clinic on your cell phone in case you see a bird that needs help and you don’t know what to do. Thank you!

All of the eagles and the Albies are doing good today. There is news coming out of Pennsylvania, despite the cold weather than another mated pair of Bald Eagles have laid their first ever egg. It is eggciting! News on that later tonight in a quick update on that and I plan to check in on Solly and she where she is today. Wonder what new records that beautiful Eastern Osprey is breaking today?

Stay safe everyone. If you are in the area of this extreme cold weather, stay inside. Make sure your cell phone is charged. Stay warm. Double up your socks. Whatever you need to keep well.

Thank you so much for stopping by. It is so nice to have you with me.

Thank you to Cornell Lab Cams, the NZ DOC, the SWFL cam and D. Pritchett family, and the NEFL streaming cam where I grab my images.

The babies are home, the babies are home.

I have to admit that I was a little concerned about E17 and E18. How many days could they be in the clinic? how soon would their eyes heal? would Harriet and M15 accept them? Falcons have been removed from their scrape box and returned in five days with no problem and someone did tell me that an eagle had been away from its nest for treatment for eleven days with the parents accepting it fully. Remember, Laura Culley, the falconer, says that “worrying is nothing more than establishing the outcome in your mind before anything has happened”. I get it but it is really hard not to be concerned. The eaglets are so little and vulnerable.

Yesterday E17 and E18 arrived back at the nest at 9:20 am.

Joshua Tree loans their truck to return the eaglets. Image courtesy of CROW.
CROW returns eaglets on 5 February. Image courtesy of CROW.

The parents were off soaring and fishing. Harriet did not come to the nest for five hours. She was almost shocked to find her babies there!

This is a cute little video of the arrival. My heart broke and tears rolled down my cheeks when E18, the little one (facing its mother in the image below), runs to its mom.

Oh, my babies are home! Little E18 runs to its mother. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

There has been a lot of discussion on FB about the aggression of the oldest one, E17 to E18. You will remember that E17 got time out when the pair were at the clinic having their eye infection treated. I will not say that aggression has stopped, it hasn’t.

Harriet and M15 have been together a long time and successfully fledged their eaglets. They know what they are doing. I am just a human without feathers and I cannot fly. M15 brought in a rabbit this morning. E18 ate first and she ate until her crop was about to pop. And then E18 fell asleep and guess what? Little E17 was fed. For those of you not familiar with Bald Eagles, it is often best to let the aggressive one get fed and fall into a food coma and then the other one can eat in peace. Both had full crops. And M15 has also brought in a fish to go with the rabbit for later feedings.

In the image below, E18 is being fed while E17 snores away. Nice to have a private feeding without any intimidation!

M15 feeding little E18 while E18 sleeps. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

If you look carefully, you will see that E18, the eaglet farthest away from the parent, has a nice crop. The crop is a storage area for food in a raptor’s esophagus. Food sits in the crop waiting to be digested. Raptors do something called a crop drop that moves the food to their stomach. Sometimes you can actually see this happen if you are watching one of the streaming cameras. The food that cannot be digested is formed into a pellet and is thrown up. The proper term is ‘casting a pellet’.

I have a crop too: E18. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

E18 is asleep and E17, that little stinker, is over by the parent. You can easily see its full crop (large dark grey sort of shiny area below its head). No doubt Harriet and M15 will feed them several times today.

It wasn’t quail but it was good. E18 is in a food coma and E17 has a bulging crop, too. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

And while I was absorbed by these little fellas being returned to the nest, something wonderful, halfway around the world, happened.

On Midway Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean, a little Moli was born. But this isn’t just any Moli, it is the baby of Wisdom, the oldest known banded Laysan Albatross in the world. She is at least 69 years old. Wisdom’s mate is Akeakamai. Most Laysan Albatross return bi-annually to breed, lay their egg, incubate, and fledge their Moli. Wisdom and her mate have, since 2006, met every year on Midway. How remarkable! It is believed that Wisdom has now laid between thirty and thirty six eggs. Four years ago, in 2017, a chick that Wisdom hatched in 2001 made her nest just a few feet away from her mother’s nest.

In the image below, you can see the tiny Moli that had just hatched. It is 1 February 2021. Wisdom is out fishing and Akeakamai was there to welcome his little one. Wisdom is helping scientists learn about the longevity of Laysan Albatross. In fact, she is rewriting everything they thought they knew.

Wisdom’s Moli. Born 1 February. Image courtesy of the FB page of the Pacific Coalition.

One of the biggest challenges facing Laysan Albatross are rising sea waters and storm surges. Approximately half a million breeding pairs of Laysan Albatross lay their eggs and raise their chicks on the Midway Atoll. Midway is only eleven feet above sea level. While the rate of ocean rise is not yet enough to submerge the island, the increase in storms and flooding are of concern. In February 2011, ten years ago, a storm destroyed 40,000 nests at a time when the eggs were just hatching. A third of the entire population was destroyed. Because the albatross are faithful to the nest, they return, year after year, to the same location. This process is known as philopatry.

To help solve the problem of seas rising and storm surges, there are projects between the US Navy, the US Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Pacific Rim Coalition. They are working together to create a new albatross colony on Oahu, one of the Hawaiian islands. In 2017, fifteen five-week-old chicks were moved to Oahu to try and form a new colony.

Besides sea water, Midway Atoll is like the garbage can for all the plastic in the Pacific Ocean. And the birds eat it and they die. We need to do better. But, it’s Saturday and we will talk about that and sticky paper traps for mice on Monday. Today, let’s just feel good about the eaglets being home and having full crops and Wisdom’s healthy chick hatching.

One of the things that I love about the Albatross – it doesn’t matter which species – is how gentle and fun these big seabirds can be.

Here is a quick little video of their mating dance. Look! They do sky calls. Don’t you just wish you could dance like these two?

And last but not least, another smiling story for a cold, cold Saturday. The snow on the nest of the Bald Eagles at Duke Farm in Hillsborough, New Jersey is almost completely melted. Yippee. What a change from a few days ago when the mom was buried in snow during the nor’easter.

The snow is melting. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

The Polar Vortex has hit the Canadian Prairies and it is dangerously cold. We are being told to stay inside. The birds have been fed and I am going to hunker down with some nice hot tea and read a new book that arrived, Late Migrations. A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl.

Thank you for checking in with our favourite birds today. I needed to post some cheerful stories because marked on my calendar in big red letters is ‘hatch watch for Daisy the Duck’. Oh, how I hope she is paddling away enjoying herself. She gave us such joy and I know that many of you miss her as much as I do. Take care. See you soon!

A Bald Eagle threesome, really?

Before I get to the main topic of today, I want to bring you an update on E17 and 18. You might have been wondering whether or not these little cutie pies would be leaving the clinic and going home to Harriet and M15 today. Sadly, it looks like the answer is no. It is no surprise that both of them are eating well. At today’s weight in and vet check, E17 was 445 grams and E18 was 340 grams. Oh, they sure are growing!

One thing that has happened is that E17 is showing aggression towards E18 during the feeding times yesterday, 3 February. This is about resources and is hardwired into raptors despite the presence of a full pantry from mom and dad. The staff of CROW can separate them but when they are returned to the nest the aggression will continue in the form of E17 bonking and E18 lowering its head in submission. This is natural behaviour. Do I like it? No. What I have observed is that the one being picked on gets really smart and sneaking in terms of getting its fair share. Old timers who have watched eagles for years tell me just to settle down, quit worrying, and ride it out. In the case of these two all will be well.

Harriet cannot separate them at the nest but CROW did. E17 is having a time out from bopping E18! Look at it having to sit in the corner.

Oh, gosh, these two are soooooooo cute.

Oh, gosh, they are just too cute for words. Image courtesy of CROW.

And here is the photo from this morning. They are changing colour right before our eyes. And their eyes are improving. No discharge at all. Some irritation in E17’s right eye and in both eyes of E18. My goodness from those poor crusted babes that looked like their eyes came out of a horror movie, they are looking like really beautiful strong eagles today,

They might miss that lady with that veil that has been feeding them all that yummy food. Wonder if Harriet and M15 supply quail?

4 February.

I am going to mention Laura Culley twice. Oh, I admire this woman and her wisdom about birds and, in particular, hawks and falcons. Indeed, I know much more about those smaller raptors than I do these big Bald Eagles. I know that a lot of us worry when we see the little ones bopping one another. It is funny for about a day or two and then we get afraid for the smaller one. This is what Laura tells me about worrying and I want to share it with you. “Worrying is creating an outcome in our minds that hasn’t happened yet. Soar above it all and look at the big picture.” That has helped me in other times, too, if I can remember it. Maybe it can help you, too, or someone you know.

Culley also explained to me the difference in the two terms, formel and tercel. When we talk about raptors, the formel refers to the female. The tercel is the male. ‘Tercel’ comes from the word third because it is believed that the third egg was always the male. In this instance, it is the second egg. In the case of our Bald Eagles as well as the hawks and raptors that I love, the female is the largest. This is called Reverse sex-size diamorphism. It seems that we are already seeing this in E17 and E18, perhaps.

And this whole thing about dominance and territory leads perfectly into this unusual story.

Starr with Valor I and II, February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

How many adult Bald Eagles do you see sitting on branches of the same tree? If you said three, you are right. These three eagles have a nest in a tree on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois. Just from reading about E17 and E18 we know that even eaglets fight for dominance and for food. And that is what makes this nest so special. There are two males and a female and, apparently, they are an Internet sensation.

It all began in 2012, nine years ago. Valor 1 (one of the males) was mated with a female named Hope. They had a nest along the Mississippi River. But Valor I was anything but a good dad and mate. He was completely irresponsible in taking care of the eaglets when it was his turn. Hope incubated the eggs almost entirely by herself. Valor 1 did not bring food to her nor did he appear to relieve her of her duties. He was a dead beat eagle dad. There is no other way to say it. Hope had to stay on the nest almost the entire time. But she had to get food and take breaks. Sometimes Valor 1 would incubate them but only for about ten minutes before he got bored and left. This is starting to sound like what happened to Daisy the Duck, right? The winter along the Mississippi was very cold and none of the rangers believed that the eggs would hatch. To the surprise of everyone, they did! Hope had to leave the little eaglets to get food for the three of them. Valor 1 did not help at all. Just like Daisy, Hope had to get off the nest to go to the bathroom and to get food for both her and her babies. Sadly, when they were four days old, while Hope was away both eaglets fell off the nest and died.

Next breeding season, in 2013, Hope wasn’t having anything to do with Valor I. A new male appeared despite Valor 1 hanging about the nest continually. Hope and her new mate fledged two eaglets in 2013 and 2014. Yeah for this great mom! Interestingly, in 2015, Hope mates with both males and that year, another two eaglets fledged. The following year, in 2016, Hope again mates with the two males who are now named Valor I and Valor II. All that is known is that three eggs hatched. The monitoring camera broke down and the rangers cannot say for sure what happened on the nest after hatch. But something magical happened that year. Valor I was seen helping with more of the nest building. He incubated the eggs and he helped provide food. In other words, he grew up! Maybe it was by watching what Valor II was doing?

The images below show the three Bald Eagles sharing nest renovation duties in November, 2017.

In 2017, the three assumed all duties equally. They replenished nest material, incubated the eggs, brought in food for one another, protected the nest, and fed and took care of the two eaglets that were born. On March 24, the nest was attacked by two intruders, both Bald Eagles. Hope fought them off as best she could but she was fatally injured. Her body was never found, Valor I and II protected the eaglets and remained unharmed. And, to the shock of all, Valor I and II took on shared ‘eaglehood’. They took turns keeping the eaglets warm and safe, they brought food and feed the little ones, and they guarded the nest. Indeed, they did all that and fought off continued attacks by the two intruders throughout April and into May. Both of the eaglets fledged on May 30. Isn’t that amazing? Oh, I wish Daisy had help like this.

In the image below, one of the Valors (on the right) is defending the nest from one of the intruders on 4 April. You can see the grey eaglets on the nest just behind the parent. Attacks like these continue for the entire month. Most believe that the two intruders wanted to take over the nest. Bit Valor I and II did not let that happen nor did they allow any harm to come to the little ones. What a team.

One of the two fathers fighting an intruder while brooding the eaglets. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

That fall a young female appeared. In September, Rangers noticed that she was collecting material for the nest. She mated with both Valor I and II and the trio shared all responsibilities for the nest and the eaglets. Two eaglets hatched in 2018. One is known to have died when it was about a month old. The other one fledged early but was seen by the rangers in the area and it was doing just fine. The rangers named the female Starr.

The two images below show Star and both Valors working on the nest in November, 2017.

The three work on the nest together. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR
Valor I and II with Starr in the old nest. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

In 2019, the three raised three healthy eaglets that fledged.

In 2020, two eggs were laid on 14 and 17 February. They hatched on 23 and 24 March fledging on 10 and 16 of June. Everything was wonderful until Derecho entirely destroyed the beautiful old nest in August. A derecho is a long straight line windstorm that can have speeds up to that of a hurricane. Everything was torn apart. But that did not phase the three Bald Eagles. They started to rebuild their nest across the Mississippi River from the ole one. The trio can only be seen from a distance until a new streaming camera can be installed.

In the image below, Starr is on one of the branches along with one of the Valors. It is 3 February 2020. This will be their third breeding season together. The other Valor is bringing in sticks to help continue to build the new nest. Note how shallow the nest is now. Each year they will add more and more twigs and branches and soon it will be as large as the old nest.

Valor I and II and Starr work on new nest in February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

This week Starr has been observed mating with both of the Valors. The three appear to have a fantastic relationship that is nothing short of miraculous in terms of Bald Eagle behaviour.

Every duty that is associated with a Bald Eagle nest from nestorations, to catching food, incubating eggs, feeding nestlings, and teaching eaglets is now shared equally. The rangers have not observed any animosity. This is such a rare occurrence that many are baffled at why it has worked so well. What they do know is that having three to share the duties has ensured up to this season anyway, that every breeding season has fledged healthy juvenile Bald Eagles. It certainly underscores that old saying, ‘If we just work together, we can do anything’.

I will bring you updates on this nest as more news is available. For now, the threesome continues to mate and bring sticks to the new nest. E17 and E18 are gaining weight, eating well, and their eyes are improving. I was sure hoping they would be home Friday (the 5th) but now think it will be Saturday. Oh, gosh. Harriet and M15 will hear their little peeps and be so excited.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please stay safe and well.