Second Hatch for Savannah (in pictures) and Tiny Tot update

There was a wee bit of a pip overnight at The Landings Osprey Nest on Skidaway Island near Savannah. At 3:45am the second hatch pulled itself out of the egg. By breakfast time, the little one was dry and ready to go!

No training necessary. Stand up at the rim of the egg cup near mom and open your mouth. 2 caught on quickly.

There is one more egg to hatch on this Osprey nest. Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps these two will not feel the hungry that starts the food competition and they will go big and strong.

Back at the Achieva Osprey Nest, a fourth fish landed at 5:22:37. It is a big bony one. Of course, 1 and 2 are eating but surely there will be food for Tiny Tot if Dad doesn’t come and take this fish off the nest!

The fish arrives. Already 2 has Tiny Tot in the corner.

2 wants to make sure that Tiny Tot knows it is not welcome to eat. And look at that crop 2 has from the first three fish.

Never mind. Tiny Tot is watching and making its way around.

At 6:13:59, Diane, the mother, leaves Tiny crying for food by the rim and walks across the nest to pick up a fish tail to eat. She has to be as hungry as Tiny is! Tiny Tot has been chewing on the bones – self-feeding if you like – but not enough meat there to matter.

Tiny Tot blasted to Diane at 6:14:34 and Diane pulls on the end of the bone and tail. By 6:15:49 there was nothing there. Tiny Tot got on a little bit of food, but Diane is also hungry. The others are too full and sleeping. If Diane is that hungry can we count on another fish for her and Tiny? or would she eat off the nest?

Even when there is only a scrap left, 2 continues to try and keep Tiny Tot away from any food, however small. Diane was back pulling the flesh off of a piece of bone and Tiny thinks he might get a morsel. 2 wakes up to stop him.

It is clear that neither 1 or 2 need any more food. If Diane and Tiny can eat tonight it will be very good for both of them. If another fish does not come until tomorrow morning then the cycle begins again with 1 and 2 hungry. We wait and we hope.

Thank you for checking in today. You get to see the full range of Osprey growth today – the just hatched and those getting ready to fledge. You can sure see the change from the tan wooly coat to the beautiful juvenile plumage.

Thanks to Cornell Labs for the cam at the Savannah Osprey Nest and to the Achieva Credit Union for their cam. Those are the sites where I grabbed my screen shots.

Late Thursday updates in Bird World

Last year, the streaming cam viewers of Loch Arkaig Osprey nest went from its norm of 60,000 viewers to over 400,000. People from around the world watched Louis and Aila raise three – Dottie (male), Vera (female), and Captain (male)- Ospreys to fledge. As the pandemic moves into its second year, each one of those viewers and more are holding their breath, biting their finger nails off, pulling their hair out, or pacing back and forth for the arrival of Aila. Louis has now been home from his winter migration to Africa for five days. He is working hard to get the nest ready for Aila’s arrival. But where is she?

Loch Arkaig. Louis waits. 15 April 2021.

Late this afternoon, there was a spotting of an unringed Osprey passing over Arran heading due North. Could it be Aila? Depending on how the Osprey flies it is 80-100 miles and if it is Aila, she should arrive tomorrow! It is going to be one sleepless night with devotees getting up early to fix their eyes on the screen! One woman said it very well, ‘They saved my life last year during the pandemic. I want Aila home safe!’

The Osprey nest on The Landings Golf course on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia is expecting its second hatch soon. The first is getting around nicely after hatching on 13 April.

Just look at those beautiful baby blues. They will change to an orange-yellow and then when this little one is an adult, they will turn to that bright yellow distinctive iris of the Osprey.

Now are you going to be nice to your little sibling?

At the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Latvia, Andris is bringing nice presents of prey to Anna. They are both working hard on preparing the nest. Look at all that beautiful pine.

Also in Latvia, Milda took several breaks from incubation. She was looking around but I did not see Mr C trying to incubate eggs today (let me know if he did). She just might have given him the boot. There has sure been a lot of drama around and under this nest with White-tailed eagles fighting. Very disturbing for Milda who, sadly, is probably incubating unviable eggs.

At 7:14:44 pm Diane is calling to Jack to bring food to the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot is asleep. Fish was delivered at 3:21:46 am and again at 11:55:01. Tiny Tot had a good feed on the early fish and had a good crop. He did not get any of the 11:55 fish despite being up close. If the weather forecast is correct, this nest can expect thunderstorms beginning around 4am Friday morning. It says 40%. I hope they are wrong. The temperature is cooling to 23 or 24 right now.

7:16:00. Diane is calling Jack to bring fish. 15 April 2021

Tiny Tot is hungry and he is starting to call Jack, too. He’s there calling on the far left.

7:43:37. Hurry up with the fish dad! 15 April 2021

Now the two larger osplets are up and calling for dad, too. Unless this is a whopper – and I do mean a HUGE fish – Tiny Tot might not get any food tonight. He ate his fill this morning when the other two weren’t that interested – and yesterday, too.

7:58

And there it is. The third fish of the day, if you count the middle of the night delivery, lands at 7:59:14.

And who got the fish?

It looks like 2 mantled the fish and has it. You can see her in the middle. Tiny is to the far left keeping himself down. Dad quickly leaves. But thank goodness, Diane steps in and takes control of the food delivery! That is all Tiny Tot needs – the older stealing the fish! That fish is not that big.

Diane feeds 1. Tiny Tot is between Diane and 2 who is watching but not being aggressive.

At 8:05:09, 2 has walked around and behind 1. There was no attack on Tiny Tot. Meanwhile, Diane continues to feed 1. It is unclear if Tiny Tot is getting any bites of fish. There are no tell tale signs of his body moving slightly up and down but I cannot be certain, one way or the other.

And then 2 who is so aggressive to Tiny Tot just gets up and turns and goes the other way. By this time there is only half of the small fish left. Is it possible that Tiny Tot will get a little of this fish?

8:05 Diane is feeding 1. Cannot tell if Tiny Tot is getting any fish. 15 April 2021

A few minutes later, 2 turns around behind Diane. The behaviour is quite odd because if food is involved, 2 is always threatening to Tiny Tot. Yesterday 2 was not hungry. I thought it was trying to pass a pellet or it was just the heat. This is perplexing.

And then 2 flaps its wings and goes towards the rim of the nest looking back.

Then 2 walks behind Tiny and raises its neck like it is checking on the fish.

But nothing. 2 turns around and goes to the rim of the nest. Meanwhile, less than half the fish is left and 1 is still eating. At 8:11:49, 1 walks across the nest and, once again, comes up behind Diane settling under her tail. How odd.

But just as quickly, 2 backs up and sort of looks off the rim of the nest, again.

At 8:16:05, 2 is back up by Diane and she feeds it a bite of food.

At 8:17 Diane is still feeding 1. 2 is behind under between her legs and Tiny Tot is at the rim at the far edge of the nest watching. He will move up closer to Diane and the feeding. But as the light dims it is very unclear whether or not there was any fish left for him. It looks like 1 might have eaten the entire delivery. Still, around 8:30 it appears a slight shift in angle and height and perhaps, just perhaps, Tiny got the last bites by the tail. Tiny had a crop at 12:04 from the big meal earlier and while it is preferable that he eat more food more often, he will be alright. What is strange about this entire feeding is the behaviour of 2. And that is why I have detailed it so closely. Is 2 struggling to cast a pellet? Or is something else wrong?

The Great Horned Owls have amazing plumage and they are starting to get the distinctive tufts of feathers for their ears. Here they are, Tiger and Lily, looking like they are standing and having a chat. Some will think that they are ‘so cute’ but these owls are deadly. In Europe, there are more incidents of GHOWs killing entire raptor families than I want to think about. We have seen them hurling Harriet and M15 off their Bald Eagle nest in Fort Myers, Florida or the much smaller Boo Book Owl in Australia knocking WBSE Lady and injuring her eye. They travel at night while the other birds are sleeping and they fly silently with the help of their soft rounded feathers. The increase in their numbers, the loss of habitat and stated another way, the loss of large trees for nests is causing problems. These two should be branching and fledgling shortly.

15 April 2021

Over at the UC Berkeley campus, Grinnell is having a very difficult time trying to get Annie to get off the eggs. Hatch watch starts on Saturday and Annie is always reluctant not to be right there when it starts!

While the Peregrine Falcons are on the verge of hatching, fledge watches are also going on around the globe. In Taiwan, the Black Kites ‘Pudding’ and ‘Brulee’ were born on 3 and 5 March, respectively. They were banded on 2 April – Orange K2 and K3. The average amount of time for Black Kites from hatch to fledge is 42-50 days. Pudding is 44 days old and Brulee is 42 days old.

Both are getting their wings stronger by flapping and flapping. And look at that magnificent tail. The fledglings generally stay in the nest perfecting their flying and hunting skills for another 42-56 days until they are self-reliant. The parents supplement their food.

Once the nestlings are older, they will sleep with their head tucked on their back. It is not under their wing although their beak might be. Did you know that sleeping this way allows the bird to relax its neck?

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe everyone!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Taiwan Black Kite Cam, Achieva Credit Union, Farmer Derek, UC Berkeley Cal Falcons, Latvijas Dabas, Latvian Fund for Nature, Cornell Bird Lab, and Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery.

UC Berkley Falcons and quick Friday updates

The University of California Campus at Berkeley is ‘falcon crazy.’ They even named their basketball team the Falcons. Indeed, the feathered pair nesting on top of this beautiful building are ‘stars’. Everyone knows about them and gets excited – how grand is that?!

“The Campanile of UC-berkeley” by ChanduBandi is marked with CC0 1.0

The Campanile was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1914. The tower, reminiscent of the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, is ninety-four metres or 308 feet hight and has four bells. It is the most recognized building on the University campus.

This is the view from the roof:

In 2016, a pair of Peregrine Falcons began to roost on the roof of the Campanile. Their scrape box is two floors up from the bells and to everyone’s amazement the bell concerts do not seem to bother the raptors. If it did, we can imagine that they would have left quickly. Most of the time it is a safe place to raise their young but they have had, like other nests, intruders checking out their prime real estate.

In 2017, the same pair returned to raise eyases. They were given the names Annie and Grinnell in honour of the founder and first director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Annie Grinnell. Annie is not banded and her history including how old she is remains unknown. However, Grinnell was banded in 2013 as a nestling near Martinez, California. All of their chicks are banded in the nest.

If you have read most of my blogs you will know that I am a great proponent of banding. The amount of information that can be discovered is significant. And for Birders on the Ground it is an opportunity to take part. It takes a village to chase after falcons and check their bands, photograph them, and then find the right person to contact to tell them of the sighting.

If you have never seen a nestling banded, here is your opportunity. This is a short video of Poppy, Sequoia, and Redwood being banded in the scrape box in 2020 along with a Q&A:

Annie and Grinnell made their first nest on a sand bag on the roof of the Campanile in March of 2017. Poor things! But they had nothing else. In the wild, Peregrine falcons make their nests on a the edges of cliffs with a sandy base or in gravel.

In the image below, Grinnell is incubating the eggs in the permanent scrape box. Notice that it is a simple enclosure, with a single opening at the front. Wooden rulers have been fixed to the frame of the door and the corners so researchers can check the height of the young. Simple pea gravel or small river stones line the bottom. This is the ‘nest’. No other materials will be brought in. The falcons will rub their breast into the gravel to make a hollow for the eggs.

When two of the eggs of Annie and Grinnell’s first clutch rolled off the sandbox and broke, the University decided to install a temporary scrape box. Annie and Grinnell accepted the box and fledged their first babies – two eyases- from the Campanile. They were a male named Fiat and a female named Lux. The names were derived from the University motto, Fiat lux, which means bringing knowledge to light. Fiat survived but Lux was killed by window strike.

The following year the University installed a permanent nest box for the pair hoping that they would return and lay their eggs again. In April of 2018, Annie and Grinnell had three eggs hatch. Named after three elements discovered at Berkeley the chicks were a male named Berkelium, another male named Californium, and a female named Lawrencium. All three fledged. Lawrencium is the only one of Annie and Grinnell’s chicks that has been spotted. She is nesting on the island of Alcatraz.

In 2019, the exploits of Annie and Grinnell were streamed to the world. That year two chicks hatched and were successful fledges. One was named Carson after Rachel Carson. Hers is a name that you should know. Carson is the author of the book Silent Spring that led to the banning of DDT. Cade was named after Tom Cade, an Ornithologist recognized for his efforts to both protect and reestablish Peregrine Falcon populations after they were wiped out by DDT. Cade was the founder of the Peregrine Fund. He died in 2019 at the age of 91.

In 2020, Annie and Grinnell fledged three – a female named Poppy, a male named Sequoia, and another male named Redwood.

It’s 2021 and Annie and Grinnell are incubating four eggs! The first was laid on 10 March, followed by the second on 12 March, the third on the 14th and the final egg on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the image below, Grinnell has arrived to partially incubate the first three eggs. The eggs can actually range from a cream colour to red but here you see that Annie has laid three lovely red eggs.

While it is known that falcons sometimes lay five eggs, it is rare. And this brings me to why I love falcons so much and it isn’t just their very ‘cute’ plumage. It is because of delayed incubation. Annie and Grinnell can hatch four eyases but I am not up worrying all night when one didn’t get fed or the eldest was aggressive – it would be rare for that to happen but I am aware that it does.

Grenville on hard incubation duty, 19 March 2021.

The embryos inside eggs only develop when they are warm. Peregrine falcons, Red Tail Hawks and other raptor species (other than Ospreys and various species of eagles) want their eggs to hatch at roughly the same time. That way there is not a significant difference in development. To achieve this synchronization, the early eggs are only partially incubated until all are laid. Then hard incubation begins. Annie and Grinnell will take turns incubating the eggs. After hard incubation starts the eggs will hatch in roughly 32-33 days after the last egg was laid. The eyases use their ‘egg tooth’ to help them get through the thick shell which can take from 24-48 hours. Pip watch should start about 19 April! I am so excited!

UPDATES: Speaking of pip watch, Jackie and Shadow can hear one of their little ones chirping in the shell. Big Bear Eagle fans are on hatch alert!

Maya and Blue 33 have both arrived at the Mantou Bay Nest at Rutland in the UK on 19 March. Blue 33 (11) came in at 12:29 and Maya was right behind him at 12:56.

Maya and Blue 33 (10) arrive at the nest in Rutland on 19 March 2021.

So far it appears that Blue 25 (10) is still waiting for her mate at Rutland.

The three on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida have now been fed to the relief of everyone. The storm caused Jack to bring in only a small fish last evening. Brutus, the eldest, was very aggressive towards the smaller two and they went to sleep without any fish. (Brutus is the name given to the eldest by the chat group). First fish this morning was also small and caused aggressive behaviour. However, Jack went and brought in a nice sized second fish right away and everyone ate and were congenial.

Both were fed at the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey so all is well on that nest.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, is 181 days old today. She spent the night at the Streaky Bay Hospital and has been out and about looking for fish. She loves this area. I hope it keeps her safe and is her forever home.

It’s nearly 4pm on a beautiful sunny day on the Canadian prairies. Let’s hope it stays that way so that everyone can get out for a walk and check on the local wildlife in their area.

Thanks to UC Berkeley Falcons, Duke Farms, Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Big Bear for their steaming cams and Rutland Wildlife where I took my scaps and to Port Lincoln Ospreys and the PLO researchers for the satellite tracking for Solly.

Loch Arkaig Ospreys

What can I say? Spring is in the air everywhere and the folks in the United Kingdom are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their beloved Ospreys. There are now sightings for some of the nests and, we are, like them, getting ready for World Osprey Week. Today, the focus is on Loch Arkaig.

The staff at Loch Arkaig were shocked – pleasantly so – when the numbers of viewers of their streaming cam jumped from 60,000 to 400,000. Can you imagine? Many of the viewers during the pandemic were first time visitors to streaming cams. It is delightful because so many who began watching in the spring of 2020 now realize how much they enjoy the birds and how precarious their lives are. The people advocating for safety measures and donating to streaming cams has increased significantly. Many fell in love with the Scottish wilderness and the beautiful Osprey. Loch Arkaig is located in one of the only remaining Caledonian pine forest. These trees are part of the very first pine trees to be brought into Scotland during the Late Glacial period, about 7000 BCE.

Despite the fact that the Loch appears to be far away from Glasgow, it isn’t. If you travel to Scotland and like hiking, this area is a place not to miss. There are no less than twenty different trails near Loch Arkaig ranging from an easy walk of 9.5 km or 6 miles to a very hard walk of 224 km or nearly 15 miles. There are moors and there are hills, some of the highest in the area. And if you are a Harry Potter fan, you can catch the Harry Potter train at Fort William.

“LOCH ARKAIG: Forest road above the loch (5/16 an038)” by Ted and Jen is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“File:Beinn Bhan from Loch Arkaig woods.JPG” by Mick Knapton is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

As elsewhere, the Scottish Osprey disappeared during the twentieth century. In Scotland, the game keepers of the large estates killed the Osprey because they believed they were a threat to the wildlife on the grounds. The other major destruction came from egg collectors. Breeding pairs were seen before World War II at Loch Garten but it was not until 1954 when a pair of Scandinavian Ospreys arrived at the Loch that the modern era of Ospreys began in Scotland. In 2011, there were 202 known pairs and a decade later, there are more than 300 breeding pairs. Today, the Osprey is a Scottish icon.

In the United Kingdom, the ospreys grow to about 55-62 cm or 21 to 24 inches in length. Their wings span ranges from 145-180 cm or 57 to 71 inches. Their heads are white with the tell tale brown band running from the gorgeous yellow eyes. The breast of the female has a darker apron than the males with beautiful brown plumage on the backs and wings. They weigh 1.2-2 kg or 2.6 or 4.4 lbs. They have Reverse sex-size diamorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.

The Scottish Ospreys are a migratory species. They return to Scotland in late March (or early April) where they will stay til September raising their young before returning to Senegal or The Gambia for the winter. The clutch has an average of three eggs which are incubated for five weeks (35 days). The female does most of the incubation and brooding while the male provides the food and security. The Osplets will fledge between 51-56 days. About 21 days after the young fledge, the female leaves the nest for Africa. The male remains feeding any chicks for another 7-14 days. Then the male leaves for Africa. The juveniles also go to Senegal or The Gambia although some have been noted to remain on the southern coast of Spain and Portugal. The juveniles will not return to Scotland until they are two years old. To avoid interbreeding, the males tend to return to their natal nest area while the females go elsewhere.

The return of the Osprey is being celebrated during World Albatross Week from 22-26 March – the return of the Osprey to Wales, England, and Scotland! It is a joyous time with birders tracking the bands from the south of England and posting the notices on various FB pages. Indeed, it appears that the Ospreys in Scotland could be arriving back early. The bands on the Perth and Kinross Osprey were seen at Glen Shee flying west today, 21 March 2021 at 15:54. Wow!

Last year I marvelled at Louis and Aila at the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest. Louis first appeared in 2017 and was later joined by Aila. Their first Osplet was named Lachlan by the public and hatched in 2017. They lost their clutch in 2018 to Pine Martens (many sites are putting up protections for the Osprey from the Pine Martens) but fledged two in 2019, Mallie and Rannoch. And in 2020, nearly half a million people watched Doddie, Vera, and little Captain. To aid in identification, Scottish Osprey have a blue/white Darvic ring (blue band, 3 white letters/numbers) on their left leg and a metal British Ornithological band on their right. This is reversed for Welsh and English Ospreys. In Scotland they are called tags and in North American, they are called bands.

The unique letter and number code for Loch Arkaig Ospreys is:

JH4 – Lachlan, male, fledged in 2017
JJ0 – Mallie, female, fledged in 2019
JJ2 – Rannoch, female, fledged in 2019
JJ6 – Doddie, male, fledged in 2020
JJ8 – Vera, female, fledged in 2020
JJ7 – Captain, male, fledged in 2020

The family keeps Louis busy fishing. Loch Arkaig is 19 km or 12 miles long. Louis has brought in both fresh and salt water fish meaning that he also fishes at sea. That is apparently a little farther distance than if the fished at the very far end of Loch Arkaig. The favourite fish on the nest appear to be Brown Trout and Salmon.

In 2020, Louis brought in 553 fish. Ailia fished and brought 26 to the nest late in the breeding season. Breaking this down, information from the Loch shows that of those 579 fish there were 459 trout, 64 flat fish, 34 mackerel, 11 sea trout and grilse, 7 Arctic Char and 4 pike. Impressive.

Here is a video of the highlights from the 2020 season:

And another. Enjoy!

None of the offspring of Louis and Aila have been spotted except when Doddie stopped in at Somerset on his first migration in the fall of 2020. The journey of more than 6400 km to migrate is treacherous. They get in storms, the winds, they can be shot, there was Avian Pox in Senegal in 2021, there are droughts, water shortage, and they can simply starve to death being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The little ones are young when they leave the nest. They have a long way to travel and find food and manage on their own without their parents or siblings there to help. Let us hope that some of them are spotted this year. That would be grand. It is heartbreaking to watch them hatch, grow, and fledge and never hear another word. It is one reason I am very grateful that some of these birds have satellite trackers like Solly from the Port Lincoln Osprey nest. (The Australian Osprey do not have to migrate but the young ones still have a daunting time surviving to adulthood).

I have to admit that the Osprey have become one of my favourite birds to watch. While I am counting down to World Osprey Week in the United Kingdom, I will also be looking forward to the arrival of the Osprey in Manitoba. More on that in the late spring.

Thank you for joining me today.

Cover photo credit: “Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)” by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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!

From calm to the Unkindness of the Unkindness.

There has been, so far, not a speck of drama on Daisy’s nest on a cool, wet Sydney Saturday. From the last posting, you will know that Daisy’s vision allowed her to get off the eggs and have a week break in the middle of the night, from 2:45-3:30.

She anticipated the sea eagles might arrive for dawn but, no one came. Maybe it is too wet and soggy for them to go into the forest to try and catch the stranger using their nest? Or maybe it is Saturday and Dad is taking a day off. That would be splendid.

When I asked my friends who normally watch the sea eagles using this nest if they thought that Daisy would still be on this nest incubating her eggs for the 18th day, everyone said no way. They believed that Daisy would be evicted early on. If you have kept up, you will know that the Sea Eagles behaviour has been one of confusion and, increasingly, perplexity. But they don’t appear hostile. I worry more about the Ravens who would love to eat those eggs that Daisy keeps rolling or, better still, grab a duckling right at hatch. The Ravens have been around today but left just as quickly as they came and made a ruckus.

It was so quiet in fact that Daisy took a short break from 9:11:27 to 10:03:59. Just as she has done over the last few days, she cautiously approached her nest while doing some preening.

And it would seem that she is rolling her eggs much more today than she has previously. This morning alone, between the first roll at 7:22 and the last one at 11:34, she did one more big roll after she returned to the nest at 10:03. Does the frequency of rolling the eggs increase as hatch approaches? or does Daisy roll the eggs more often so none of them will get soaked with the rain?

Wild duck eggs are said to have a thicker membrane than domestic birds. One of the reasons that care is needed is so the pores in the eggs do not get clogged. Apparently sitting in a lot of water can do that. If in water for too long, the pores that help regulate the air can be blocked. It is interesting, however, that ducks naturally get wet. In fact, people that raise ducks and artificially hatch their eggs, note that duck eggs require at least 55% humidity. Some actually spray the eggs in their incubators. So it would seem that Daisy does that when she returns from dabbling. The moisture remaining on her feathers coats the eggs. Well done, Mother Nature. You think of everything. Certainly the humidity in the forest is 55% or higher. Today it is 100% again! Not a surprise. Still showers and it is cool, around 21.6.

Daisy is taking more frequent shorter breaks. She is off again at 12:32. She tries very hard to completely cover up her eggs but the down is wet. The little duck tried to pull everything over so that nothing would see her precious eggs.

About thirty minutes after Daisy left to go and eat, the Unkindness showed up at the nest. The first raven looked around and then went over to the nest of eggs. One egg was removed.

That egg was broken and eaten. It was a viable egg with the growing form of a duckling that could be seen as the raven consummed it. We now know that Daisy was sitting on a nest with at least one duckling that would have hatched had this tragedy not happened.

More Ravens came.

Eggs were carried away til all of the eggs were gone.

Daisy returned to the nest. She stopped and ate the egg shell. Remember egg shells give the birds their calcium and Daisy would have depleted much of hers forming the eggs and brooding.

Daisy went to the nest and for the past hour she has been looking for her eggs. She is making the nest larger and larger as she tries to find them.

Daisy has been looking for her eggs for more than an hour and a half since she returned to the nest. While other birds, such as eagles, have mates to protect the nest, Daisy had to do this all alone.

I feel a huge sadness for this little duck who made her nest in the big sea eagle’s nest. I have always thought that she might have already lost a clutch of eggs with a nest on the ground so that was why she chose this unusual spot in the forest.

There is some information about Pacific Black Ducks that says the male helps protect the nest while the female is away. The male was only seen on this nest back in December when it was with Daisy on the first visit. Perhaps he has died. The life expectancy of Pacific Black Ducks is very short, two years.

Daisy remains on the nest. She continues to look for her eggs and to dig the nest a little deeper and wider in her search. She continues to talk to the missing eggs in the same way she talked to them when she was rolling them around today.

It is a sad ending for a little Pacific Black Duck who confused the sea eagles and defied the odds of lasting a single day. Daisy has been on the nest now for nearly a month and in about 8 days her ducklings would have hatched had all gone well.

I do not know how long Daisy will stay on the nest looking for her eggs or how she will process her grief. But I know that we all are glad she is alive and that she will live to lay more eggs. She has proven what a good little mom she is!

Thank you to all of you who believed in Daisy. Thousands of people from all around the world joined together to wish this little duck well. She was very brave and outsmarted the sea eagles many times.

Daisy, we wish you good health and many ducklings in the future! Your presence has enriched all of our lives. We just hoped the ending of this story would have been different.

Daisy, happily brooding her nest of seven eggs.

Daisy’s great night vision helped her to slip out in the middle of the night!

Daisy left to go foraging at 15:31:45 on a soggy Sydney Friday afternoon. She returned to her eggs at 17:49:49. Two hours and eighteen minutes. Not bad! There was some concern over the wet nest and the cool temperatures but, Daisy knows best!

Like all of her returns recently, Daisy is hyper cautious. She lands on the nest and looks around. Then she listens. We have all seen how the WBSE can arrive in a split second!

Overly cautious when returning from her dabbling.

Daisy even stops to do some preening.

Preening

Then, all of a sudden, Daisy rushes over to get on her eggs. She is a bit of a blur in the image below. Gosh that nest is wet and soggy.

There is plenty of time for the sea eagles or the ravens to return to the nest before the sun sets but, they don’t. Sometimes boring quiet days are the best – even for humans, too!

Daisy settles into incubating.

Not everyone believes that ducks have good night vision. Some people think that birds can only see during the daylight hours – any kind of bird. And if you have bird feeders you will have seen the songbirds arrive at dawn and depart at dusk. Falcons and hawks do that and so do sea eagles. But we have seen Daisy return after dark when the sea eagles have arrived before dusk. And we have watched her leave around 4:00 one morning and return before day break.

Last night Daisy left her nest at 2:45. She tried to cover it up as good as she could but the down is so soggy! She returns forty-five minutes later. Daisy probably took a bathroom break. But again, this solidifies our knowledge that ducks can see when it is very dark. Daisy has been able to freely move around in the forest.

I began to think that she should move any ducklings that do hatch under the cover of darkness while all of their predators are sleeping! Except, of course, BooBook Owl.

Daisy covers her eggs.
Down is wet, some eggs exposed.

You can see in the image above that some of the eggs are exposed. Daisy has done the best ever with that old wet down. Surely the Ravens are asleep and I think that the little owl will not bother them, hopefully. Daisy returns and all is well at her nest.

It is Saturday in Australia. At dawn, the temperature is 21.8 degrees C and they are predicting more showers. However, it should get fairly hot on Sunday rising to 26. This really could be a help in drying out all that down and making it fluffy again.

In the image below, it is 5:30. Daisy is waking up and waiting to see if the sea eagles will fly through the forest trying to catch her. They certainly have done this a few times lately.

Daisy is alert at dawn.

But no one comes. By 7:00 the glow of the morning is spreading across the forest. Daisy is trying to catch some rest. She has her beak tucked under her wing.

Daisy resting.

Wow! Look at the beautiful markings on Daisy’s head and those gorgeous brown eyes.

In the image below, Daisy is rolling her eggs. Remember that Daisy plucked down from her own breast to line the nest and help keep the eggs war. Removing the down creates a bald spot known as the brood patch. This touches the eggs and transfers the heat from Daisy to the eggs so that the duckling can grow. But the eggs cannot simply sit there. They must receive even heat. Daisy uses her bill and her feet to roll the eggs and move them about so that they each receive the same amount of heat. Rolling helps ensure that each of the developing ducklings will hatch at roughly the same time.

Daisy has her beak in the nest turning the eggs and her feet are also gently paddling them. Daisy is such a good mother!

Rolling eggs

It is only 7:30 in Sydney. Wet and cool. So far the WBSE have not ventured into the forest and even the Ravens are not moving about. Let us hope that it is simply a boring day for Daisy!

I will post an update on Daisy’s Day about 11pm CDT. Stay tuned for any happenings during the day. Still, I hope that there is nothing to report.

A big welcome to Daisy’s new fans from Belgium. Our girl is so happy that people around the world care about her plight.

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discover Centre for providing the camera so that I could capture the screen shots.

Noisy Ravens come to call on Daisy

It is a soggy day in Sydney, Australia. Rain is falling and the temperature is 20 degrees C. What a change from a few days ago! Wish I knew if Daisy liked it cooler or hotter. Do ducks have a preference? They certainly don’t mind water and their down nest would get wet if Daisy built in on the ground.

Australian Raven

For those of you dropping in but who haven’t been able to catch up with Miss Daisy’s news, I want to focus, for a bit, on the impact of the showers and WBSE Lady’s tearing the down off Daisy’s nest. Daisy doesn’t look like she is sitting on that lovely fluffy nest any longer. Daisy has collected all of the tossed down that she could – which was a lot – and has brought it back onto her nest. Just as quickly as it dries, it rains again. Then the eiderdown gets soaked and turns into a soaking blob. The heat from Daisy’s body will eventually dry it but the forecast is for four more days of rain and cool weather.

There is that saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. I am a very visual person as I imagine many of you are. So I am posting two images in order for you to easily see the impact that rain has on the eiderdown that Daisy has plucked off her breast to line her nest. The top one shows Daisy on her nest when it is dry. Notice how thick and fluffy the eiderdown is. Daisy looks like she is brooding on a cloud.

Fluffy nest with dry down.

The image below is not focused but you will still be able to see the impact of the rain on the insulating down. The down is no longer fluffy. The wetter it gets the more it loses its volume. You can also see that the eggs can no longer be covered leaving them vulnerable to predators. Daisy does try hard to move other plant material on top. She has only so many leaves to use. If you think about it, she has not pulled any twigs over her eggs. She might intuitively know that those sticks of wood could break her eggs.

Matted wet eiderdown

It is right after noon on the nest and it has been a relatively quiet morning for Daisy. She did have several visits from Ravens that sent her hunkering down on her eggs. They flew back and forth around the nest tree and into the forest and back again for about fifteen minutes. They were not chasing the sea eagles but when Daisy hears their caw she really pays attention.

Daisy going into defensive mode.
Daisy relaxed ater ravens leave.

After the Ravens had their turn disturbing Daisy, the Butcher Birds came to the nest tree. Butcher Birds are songbirds. They are similar to Magpies. The grey ones only live in Australia. They have a dark mask or an eye stripe just like Daisy! It is thought that these black stripes or masks help to block the sun for the birds so they can hunt or dabble better. If you know about American football, you might have seen the players smearing a black substance under their eyes. That also helps with the glare and I bet, a long time ago, humans learned that trick from birds. They have brown eyes and legs. The pointed beak, with a hook, is also grey. They can be very aggressive. They live in forests and mangroves feeding on insects and small mammals, fruits and seeds. They are known to also eat lizards or other small reptiles.

Butcherbird

Daisy waits to go dabbling and to the bathroom. Around 15:31, she begins to gather the leaves and tuck in the down to try and cover her eggs as best she can.

Daisy begins to cover her nest.
Daisy pulling down and leaves with bill.

She is in no rush. The ravens and the sea eagles are not about. She can take her time. Because it is cool, she will want to try and get as much insulation as she can over the eggs along with the leaves that she has been pulling toward her all day.

Daisy leaves her nest at 15:31:45.

Daisy leaving to go forage.

Despite the down being somewhat soggy in places, Daisy does a really good job concealing her eggs. Notice the two identical leaves across from one another. Daisy has done a marvellous job at decorating her temporary nest with the terracotta covered foliage.

Eggs are concealed with down and leaves.

So far, except for the anxiety produced by the Ravens’ visit, Daisy has had a relatively quiet day. She has waited til later today to go hunting for food. It is now 21 degrees C and 100% humidity with rain. Sun set is around 20:04. That is four and a half hours away. It is certainly safer for Daisy to go foraging as late as she can because she would miss the sea eagles if they came right before dusk. However, WBSE Dad has been known to show up around 17:00 on several occasions. Let us hope that no one comes, the eggs stay covered, and Daisy returns in about an hour and a half. Hopefully those eggs will still be warm. It is too bad we can’t somehow slip a little electric or solar blanket in that nest for them!

Thank you for stopping in to check and see how Daisy is doing. It is currently day 17 of incubation. The hatch window opens on day 26. So many did not believe that Daisy would still have a nest or any eggs. No one knew how the sea eagles would react. Many thoughts the ravens would force Daisy off the nest and they would then devour the eggs. But so far, none of that has happened. The sea eagles have been confused and have not harmed the eggs other than the one dad ate. So, there could be hope for some of the eggs to be viable. Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the little fuzz balls jump off the old Ironbark Tree nest? Ducklings born in a big sea eagle nest. Puts a smile on your face!

Thank you again for joining us to find out what is happening with the brave little duck whose nest is in an old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. We are so glad you stopped by.

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, BirdLife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the streaming cameras where I captured my screen shots.

24 hours full of birth and death emotion

First, before you get anxious, Daisy the Duck managed through the high temperature of Sydney yesterday. She left the nest at 15:11:10 to forage and returned twenty minutes before sun down at 19:45. It is currently day 14 of her brooding and it is 5:43 Monday the 25th of January in Sydney. All is well in the nest. The sea eagles did not make an appearance in the evening and Daisy did not go out foraging before dawn this morning. It is due to be another hot day on the nest.

Daisy just before dawn, 25 January 2021.

I have said often that the lives of our feathered friends hang on a thread. Anything can happen at any time. Sadly, much of the time the root cause has something to do with humans and our lack of respect for the environment. Rat poison – rodenticide – contains chemicals that cause the mice and rats to bleed internally. But before they did their movements slow down. Raptors (falcons, hawks, eagles) often catch the dying animals. While it is not always lethal for the larger birds such as adult Bald Eagles, it is for the smaller hawks and falcons and their babies. Toxins in the water flushed out from industrial plants is another or the heating of the oceans causes toxic red algae. Window strike breaks their necks. Tossing any food waste onto the highways causes the birds to come and not watching, they get hit by vehicles. The mesh bags that hold oranges and other fruits along with not cutting the ties on face masks tangles up the birds as does the mesh that people and farms use to cover the trees and bushes in their orchards. And of course the glue strips that catch the birds and cause them such devastating pain trying to free their little legs. I could go on. The list would be endless. The most prominent way is through the loss of habitat.

In a short period of time, in the world of our beautiful birds, there has been intense pain and great happiness.

At Captiva Island, there was such joy when Peace and Hope were each born, within six hours of one another, on 14 December 2020.

Hope and Peace being fed fish on Christmas Day by their dad, Joe.

Fishing line was discovered in the nest with a hook on it. The American Eagle Federation got permission from the US Wildlife Service to have it removed. On or about the same day, the parents brought a rat into the nest to feed the eaglets. No one knows precisely what happened but it was observed that Peace no longer wanted to eat and was becoming dehydrated. Peace passed away. Hope continued to thrive until a couple of days ago when people started noticing that ‘something was wrong’. They didn’t know what. Many noticed tremors in her leg. Others watched as it appeared she could not cough up a pellet. (Raptors cannot process all of the food that they eat. What they can’t is formed into a pellet that is coughed up). Some saw blood on her wing and leg. She coughed and choked all day, January 23. Many think her heart gave out last night. Connie, her mother, flew to the nest as she was taking her last breaths. One of the saddest things is that prior to Hope and Peace, Joe and Connie had fledged nineteen juvenile Bald Eagles in the twelve years they have been together. In fact, people exclaimed how physically strong these two were. Hope crawled out of the nest and up to the end where the parents bring in food when she was only two days old. They were both growing and getting strong. Peace died on 13 January. A few days, Joe took her body from the nest. Many are hoping that a necroscopy can be done on Hope to determine the cause of her death.

January 20, 2021. Hope with Connie on the nest overlooking their territory.

In the image above, three days ago, you can see how Hope was getting her beautiful dark brown juvenile feathers.

Apologies. Hope is moving. 23 January 2021.

In the morning fog, the same day of her death, Hope stands talls and is jumping up and down on the nest flapping her wings.

Today, Connie is standing over the body of her daughter, Hope, shading it. From all available evidence, birds grieve just like humans when they lose a child.

Connie with the body of Hope.

There is frustration and anger and the debates continue as to whether or not intervention in the lives of these majestic birds should take place. Some argue that we are fortunate to be able to view their lives but that we should not intervene to help them unless it is clearly something a human has caused. Others state the opposite. While we are now privileged to watch the comings and goings of the birds, it is our duty to protect them so that they thrive. Unfortunately, nothing will bring back to the vibrant eaglets, Peace and Hope.

January 23 was also the day that Harriet and M15’s two eaglets hatched at Fort Myers, Florida.

E17 and E18 hatched just an hour and a half apart. What were two wet limp bodies have turned into fuzzy little bonking babies this morning!

E17 and E 18

Notice the white at the top end of their beak. That is the ‘egg tooth’. The egg tooth is a small white protuberance that helps the birds chip away at the shell so that they can hatch. By hitting on the shell, the egg tooth makes the first pip! The egg tooth disappears in a few weeks.

Bonking of bobbing into one another after hatch is a rather normal experience. The little birds cannot focus their eyes well, their heads are bigger and awkward til they get some strength in their necks, and because they know that food comes from their beak and the parent’s, you will often see them bonking back and forth. This should end after a few days but in some nests it persists as a means of establishing dominance. In some cases it can lead to siblicide, the killing of the other sibling.

And on 23 January in New Zealand, the Royal Cam Albatross chick belonging to LGL, Lime Green Lime, and LGK, Lime Green Black, hatched. New Zealand gives the albatross born at Tairoa coloured bands for identification. This couple were chosen to be the stars of the camera this year. The baby Albatross will receive a Maori name right before it fledges and we should know in a couple of weeks if it is a male or a female.

DOC Ranger Julia and LGK as he sees his baby for the first time.

I can always be found praising the New Zealand Department of Conservation. They protect their birds. Once the rangers noticed the ‘pip’ of the Royal Albatross egg of LGK and LGL, it was removed and a dummy egg was placed under the parent to continue incubating. The ‘real egg’ was placed in an incubator. The reason for this is fly strike, the infestation of fly larvae during the period that the chick is trying to hatch. This can lead to their death. Royal Albatross are a highly endangered species because of climate change and long haul fishing. The New Zealand government is taking a very proactive role in trying to keep their birds healthy and also in promoting the use of varies methods to protect bycatch, whether it is our gentle albatrosses or sea turtles.

This is a great video to introduce you to the topic of bycatch and how important it is to get international agreements in place to protect the ocean’s animals.

There is much you can do to help birds from cutting the lines to your masks and putting them in the trash, to educating people on feeding birds at feeders and ponds, to lobbying international agencies demanding the end to bycatch. If you go back through my posts you will find several dedicated to ways that you can help birds no matter what your financial status.

Daisy on her nest just after dawn breaks, 24 January 2021.

I will have a full report on Daisy’s day in about nine hours. The weather will be hot again in the Sydney Olympic Park and we hope that means that no sea eagles will come to see if they can catch Daisy!

Thank you for joining in the daily life of our favourite little Black Pacific Duck, Daisy.

And thank you to Pritchett for the camera views of Harriet and M15, Captiva Eagle Cam and the AEF for the camera views of Joe and Connie, to Cornell Bird Cams and the NZ Department of Conservation for their camera views of LGL and LGK, and to Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the camera views of Daisy.