So excited, had to share

Today is my wedding anniversary and we had a lovely breakfast – croissants with lovely marmalade – and my husband bought me two books and I can’t tell you how excited I am. One is Raising Ducks and the other is Wilding. The Return of Nature to a British Farm. Can he read my mind? Ducks! I wonder if the city would give me a permit? I was threatening to dig up our 10 x 10 lower deck for a little pond for ducks the other day. Oh, how to breed, care, and keep healthy ducks. Yes.

Oh, I miss Daisy the Duck!

But three other things also caught my attention just have I had posted my earlier blog. The first is an update on E17 and E18, Harriet and M15s kiddos. They still have their eye infection and they still are eating CROW out of house and home. Gosh, those eaglets love being fed by tongs! But what I noticed was a feisty attitude in the images and I had to share them with you.

In the top image, E17 and E18 look like little angels. They are getting pin feathers (oh itchy), losing their egg tooth, and they are grey with little tails starting to grow. Precious.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Ah, this is more like it. E18 with its beak open ready to start the bopping game! These two look like they could climb out of their fresh white towel nest at any moment! But look, I think they are also enclosed in an aquarium. Smart.

Oh, I love to see the cheekiness. It means they are getting better. Just like us when we are sick and fighting an infection.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Here they are on January 31. Look at the difference in their colouring from then and until today and those eyes are so much better. They are not out of the woods on that infection. I had hoped to hear they might be returning to their nest in Fort Myers tomorrow but, no. Poor darlings.

Image courtesy of CROW FB

Some of you will be very familiar with my rant against rat poison. Several years ago I had the most gentle cat, Duncan. She would go outside and sit with me while I drank my morning coffee on her leash. The minute Duncan smelled the coffee she would sit, back straight, right at the end of the kitchen counter waiting to go outside. She was an angel of a cat. She never tried to get away. One day Duncan caught a mouse in our house. At the time, the mice were very bad in our neighborhood despite there being feral cats still out and about. Duncan died because of the rat poison. It does terrible things to cats. I was devastated.

Duncan had been one of three kittens born to a feral cat that my neighbour, Bert, took care of in his old school van. He fed all of the feral cats and any time one of them was to have kittens, Bert would take it into the van, feed it, and then find homes for the little ones. I took Duncan when she was not ready to leave her mother because the other two would not allow her to nurse. She was raised on a bottle and well, she was just the sweetest cat! To lose her was terrible but it also made me realize how the new designer pesticides and rodenticides could cause many more to lose their pets. We have sense filled in every hole with copper mesh so that the mice cannot get in the house. There is also the hawk that visits our garden. I hope he enjoys them. BUT, I don’t want this tiny Sharp-Shinned Hawk to die either.

Since the death of Hope and Peace at the Captiva BE nest, there has been a concerted effort across the state of Florida to ban these anticoagulant killers. I don’t live in Florida but I belong to the group to raise awareness. Below is an image of an owl that was in care because of poisoning and an image of the d-Con boxes of this poison.

So why am I so happy? d-Con has announced that it is pulling this highly effective anti-coagulant poison from the shelves! This is an even more effective killer than the one that Duncan died from. The cats don’t even hate to eat the poisoned mouse, they just have to bite through the skin. Well, my hats are off to d-Con.

Now spread the word. If you know of anyone that has used this, is using it, or has some in their cupboard, ask them to find out where in their community they can safely take the box to have it disposed of. Do not put these boxes in the garbage. It may take you a bit of time during the pandemic to even find the place to turn these poisons in for destruction.

Images courtesy of EarthJustice.org

I can promise you that no one wants to get me started talking about wind turbines. As I continue to say, I will be the first one on my block to stand up for the environment but I have a problem with wind turbines. The older ones are real killers of birds. As my son reminded me, cats are the number 1 killer and that is actually a sore spot with me, too. But today, let’s just focus back on the wind turbines. To power our homes, shops, factories, and cars, I am all for alternative sources of energy. In the case of wind turbines, I am concerned about the lack of regulation and where big companies are proposing to position these contemporary wind mills. More and more birds are being killed. It is a fact. One solution is to paint one of the blades black. But, here today, is news of another way to stop Bald Eagles from being cut to shreds.

The smart camera systems stops the wind turbine before the birds get killed. The URL is below so so that you can read the article that has me smiling by copying and pasting. For some reason it will not embed properly.

https://interestingengineering.com/smart-camera-system-saves-eagles-from-wind-turbine-deaths

What a grand day. There are good people working hard to protect the world’s wildlife. And everyone can help in their own little way. I am attaching the poster that we made for our campaign to get rid of rat poison. Feel free to share it on Social Media. And also remember to check your own cabinets and tell your friends and family. Good old human interaction often works best!

Thank you for checking in with me today. I have some ‘bird’ stories that will warm your hard coming up this week. Take care and please stay safe.

What a winter storm!

What do you do if you are a Bald Eagle and you arrive at the nest to see your mate who is incubating three eggs buried by snow? Well, that is precisely what happened at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey yesterday during that terrible nor’easter that hit the region.

At times, during the big storm, you could see the female’s head but there were other times when she was entirely buried or so it seemed. The snow was so heavily and blowing so fiercely.

I wonder if the warmth of her head kept the space open from the snow or if the female eagle tossed her head and opened up a breathing spot?

Mom is buried under the snow incubating eggs. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

By the time the male arrives the female has been entirely covered. He was calling to her and she raised her neck. Then the male began to use the beak that he normally feeds his babies with and catches prey to dig his mate out.

Dad chipping away at the snow. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

It wasn’t long before he had cleared enough snow that the female could stand up! You can see on the right side just how much snow had accumulated on the female and her three eggs. Speaking of three eggs, Bald Eagles normally only lay 2 eggs. When food is plentiful and the female is in good health, there might be three eggs. Many times, only two hatch.

Dad helping to free Mom. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

Oh, it was magnificent. The female eagle sort of jumped backwards out of the nest and began flapping her wings wildly to get rid of the snow. I did think that she was going to push her mate off of the eighty foot tall Sycamore tree.

In the image below you can just barely see the eggs under the snow that has slid onto the nest cup.

Mom is uncovered but where are the eggs? Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

Some of the snow melted quickly. As you can see the female is still on the left hand side while the male has moved to the right. He is going to take a turn keeping the eggs warm while she has a wee break.

You can see the eggs! Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

It was fascinating to watch the male eagle kind of fly jump back by his mate and then get on the eggs.

Under normal conditions the eagles do not move the snow off of the eggs. In this instance, it has fallen from the sides onto the egg cup. The parents simply leave whatever snow is on the eggs. The warmth of their bodies will soon cause it to melt and the surface of the eggs will dry. The eagles are being very protective of the coating on the egg so as not to damage the pores that allow air in to the developing eaglet.

Dad taking his place on the eggs. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

There was more snow during the night. Our poor mama is covered again but this time we can see her!

Mother Eagle literally buried in snow. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

By morning, the snow storm has passed and we can get a good look at the nest.

Seeing these birds just makes me ache. I want to bring them all inside and keep them warm or at least send in warming blankets for them. How dedicated these couples are!

The snow remains on the eagle aerie at Duke Farms. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

I have watched the little birds, like the Chipping Sparrows, make their nests in my garden and then the Grackles and I understand that Peregrine Falcons lay their eggs on gravel or sand or in a scrape box. But I didn’t know that much about Bald Eagle nests. Do you? If not, you can learn along with me.

Bald eagle’s large nest is called an aerie. Apparently Bald Eagle aeries, on average, are about five feet wide and three feet deep. OK. Stop. I thought how could they get their eggs if they were that far down in the nest! Silly me. Of course, it is the distance from the first stick to the top of the nest. The nest cup ranges from 30 to 40 centimetres (12 to 16 inches) in width. The depth seems to vary a lot. Many were surprised at how deep the cup was at Harriet and M15’s nest. It seems that the nest cup range is from about 10 centimetres (4 inches) to as much as as 30 centimetres (a foot) deep.

It is easy to see that nest cup ‘where the eaglets are supposed to stay’ in this image of E17 and E18 being fed by Harriet. I say that because both Hope and Peace crawled out of their nest cavity at two days old. They were so healthy. So sad to lose those two eaglets at Captiva to poisons. Hopefully the local campaign on the radio, television, and newspaper as well as flyers will get people to find other methods to kill rodents including hawks and owls!! Birds do better.

E17 and E18 getting fed in the nest cup. Image courtesy of SWFL Eagle Cam and D. Pritchett.

Bald Eagles are known to build the largest nests of any bird in North America. The males and females bring in new sticks to add structure along with other nesting materials to make the nest soft. Harriet and M15 at the SWFL nest in Fort Myers are fond of Spanish Moss to line their nest. You can see it in the image above. Just a few kilometres away on the Captiva Nest, Joe and Harriet use leaves. Each mated pair is different depending on what is available and what they like.

The largest Bald Eagle nest ever discovered was in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1963. It was 2.9 metres wide (9.6″) and and 6 metres deep (20 feet). It weighed more than two metric tonnes (4409 lbs). The bald eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird, up to 13 feet deep, 8.2 feet wide, and 1.1 tons in weight. If you look at images, you will generally see that the Bald Eagles, like the Osprey, construct their aeries near rivers, coastlines, or lakes where there is enough food for them and their little ones. The pair of eagles that are at Duke Farms hunt in the Raritan River.

The nest that you see at Duke Farms was rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the top half of the tree the pair had their nest in. That was November 2012. Both eagles worked hard to construct a new aerie. They brought in sticks and you will notice how big that nest has gotten in fourteen years! Let us hope that they do not have to ever rebuild again.

And now it is time to bring you up to date on one of the nests we are watching together. What is happening with Harriet and M15’s little eaglets with the eye infection? And when will they get to go home? CROW says they are eating ferociously. Neither leave a drop of quail or rat! And they are putting on weight. And this morning I spotted a slight tinge of black or charcoal coming over them. It is their juvenile colours starting to break through! My goodness, these little eaglets grow up so fast.

In the picture below, the little eaglet is getting an injection of antibiotics. Their eyes are inproving and their appetites are good but the infection is still present. The vets do not want to send the eaglets back to Harriet and M15 til it is completely gone. Will keep you posted every day about their progress.

Eaglets get injection at meal time. Image courtesy of CROW.

Have a peek. Look at all that dark plumage coming in and if you look at the end of their beaks you will notice that the egg tooth is almost gone. It is that little white dot. When they arrived at the clinic, it was much bigger. Also their necks are getting longer too! They will be able to grab that fish and rabbit from their parents easier now. But I wonder if they will want the nice quail they have been eating?

Eaglets preparing to be weighted. Image courtesy of CROW

Oh, their eyes look so much better. Thank goodness that there are people who can muster the resources to take care of these beautiful eagles. Thank you CROW!

Thank you for joining me today. Tomorrow I will bring you an update on the eaglets, some images of the change over with the Albatross, and we will see what is happening elsewhere in the world of birds.

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.