You can always count on Arthur

Big Red, the grand dame of the Red Tail Hawks, whose nest is on the Fernow Light Stand on the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, New York lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March 2017. She had many suitors who were put through the rigours to find out if they were good providers and devoted so that their chicks would grow and thrive. Big Red chose Arthur. All of the humans thought that Big Red had ‘lost her mind’ in selecting such a young male to be her companion.

Big Red hatched somewhere near Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She received her leg band on 7 October 2003 in Brooktondale. I have yet to find out the name of the bander. In 2017, Big Red was fourteen years old. Arthur, who had been born in an adjacent territory and who was known by some as ‘Wink’, was born in 2016. When he arrived checking on the Fernow Nest, he was only a year old and did not have his red tail feathers. He caught Big Red’s attention and by the fall they had totally bonded and were fixing up the nest for the coming breeding season in 2018. Big Red could not have chosen a better mate!

In the image below, Arthur has delivered prey to the nest so that Big Red can go and eat and he can take over the incubation duties of their three eggs. This was last evening.

13 April 2021

While Ezra was known as the squirrelinator, Arthur is known for capturing more chipmunks. Hence, he is often called the chippyinator. However, Arthur is like a jet plane when it comes to hunting. Rumour has it that he has flown onto someone’s porch to get a squirrel! So maybe Arthur is both squirrelinator and chippyinator!

In the image below, Arthur is delivering a Robin to Big Red as she incubates the eggs in one of Ithaca’s snowstorms. It was the day she laid her third egg of the 2021 season.

1 April 2021

The images below are from last year. The Js have hatched. How can you tell? Look at all the prey around the nest. Arthur will bring in so much that Big Red can line the nest bowl with fur! I am serious. No one on this nest is going hungry.

6 May 2020

Arthur has found a nest of goslings and thought Big Red might like one for dinner.

6 May 2020

Unlike other raptors, hawks will only eat road kill if there is a food shortage. On occasion, Arthur has brought in live prey to the nest. Some believe this is a teaching lesson for the nestlings.

Of course, people that watch hawk nests have a strange habit of trying to identify prey or making up names such as ‘Dunkin’ Chipmunks’ or ‘Chocolate Chippie Cookies with a Squirrel Glaze’. All kidding aside, researchers watch what prey is brought into the nest and the amounts. A typical Red-Tail hawk diet consists of 68% mammal, 17.5% other birds, 7% reptiles/amphibians/snakes and 3.2% invertebrates. Those amounts come from research by Johnsgard in 1990 but those observing the Cornell nest say that they still apply, for the most part. In 2020 with the pandemic, there was a proliferation of chipmunks. It is believed that the lack of cars killing chipmunks on the road helped with this along with just not having people around.

In April of 2018, Ferris Akel caught Arthur eating a skunk:

The same researchers have tested prey for its caloric/protein/fat/cholestrol components. Did you know that 3.6 ounces of raw pigeon has 294 calories compared to the same amount of squirrel which has only 120 calories?

From the prey delivery reports, it was established that nearly .7 more prey was delivered in 2020 compared to 2016, 2018 and 2019. That is an enormous difference. None of it was wasted, everything was eaten. The factor that changed – the pandemic. Arthur was able to freely hunt all over the campus. There were hardly any people or cars to contend with. The more food the healthier the chicks are. Even feather growth can indicate when a bird was hungry. Also, the longer the eyasses stay on the nest the better their survival rates in the wild.

Big Red laid three eggs for the 2021 season. The first was on 26 March followed by 29 March and 1 April. Red-tail hawks generally incubate their eggs for 28-35 days. Big Red’s incubation periods have ranged from 38 to 41 days. Still, by the 28th of April all eyes will be on that nest! The Ks are coming. Yippeee.

Why do I mention all of this? There is no doubt that Arthur is a devoted mate. When it is time to fix up the nest, work on the nest bowl, incubate the eggs, provide prey for Big Red and then for her and the eyasses, Arthur is right there! You know the other ones that I wish were like Arthur if you read my blog. I will leave it at that. Can you hear me growling at them?

You can watch the life streaming of this nest here:

In other news, the three chicks on the Achieva Osprey nest are waiting for food. Yesterday Diane, the female, delivered many fish and Tiny Tot finally got a good feed very late in the day. As I write this it is 3pm and no food has come to the nest. The mother is not calling for food and the male touched down for only a few minutes around noon. There is something wrong at this nest today. It is extremely hot there, over 30 near the nest. Hopefully if it is the heat food will come in. Tiny was well fed but he needs to eat less more often still. The fish also provides the hydration. I wish the wildlife laws allowed for the care in these situations.

Louis is still waiting for Aila to arrive at the Loch Arkaig nest and Iris continues to bring in twigs and branches for her nest at Hellsgate. One of the members of the FB group had a really good take on Iris. Instead of bemoaning the fact that she will not be able to raise chicks if Louis repeats his behaviour, we should be happy that she can enjoy her summer vacation without the burden of care for little ones and the toll it takes on one’s body. What a positive way of looking at this. Maybe I should be thanking you Louis for just being Louis. Iris has fledged at least 30-40 chicks or more – she does deserve a break to stay healthy.

You can watch Iris at the Hellsgate Osprey Nest cam:

And you can watch Louis wait for the arrival of Aila here:

Thank you so much for joining me today. I wish the news was better on the Achieva Nest. We can hope that it is only the heat. Still the little one needs to eat more often. Take care and keep watching the nests!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I take my screen shots: Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Cornell Bird Lab – Hellsgate Osprey and Red-Tail Hawk, Ferris Akel, and Achieva Credit Union.

Iris

Iris is the oldest osprey in the world – the grand dame of all of them. In her lifetime it is estimated that she has fledged between 30 and 40 chicks but no one knows for sure. It is possibly way more. Iris is known around the world and her arrival on 7 April 2021 to her Hellsgate nest made print and television news. Social media announcements were full of joy and were sent internationally. This is a huge event. No one knows when Iris leaves Missoula, Montana in the late summer if she will return from her winter migration. In fact, no one knows where precisely she winters.

The Osprey Telemetry Studies plotting map indicates that the Ospreys in Montana winter from southern Texas to Central America. None of the birds go to South America. Dr Erick Greene of the University of Montana says that wherever Iris goes it must be great as she returns to Missoula very healthy.

It is a challenging journey. We are so pleased to be able to watch this amazing bird live her life. I just wish we could find her a fantastic mate. Even after travelling so far, she visits her nest and then goes and catches a whopper of a trout to eat. Can you imagine how great a mother she still could be?

Iris catches a whopper of a trout. 8 April 2021. Photo by E. Greene from Montana Ospreys FB Page.

Iris lands at her Hellsgate Nest in Missoula, Montana at 10:35:55 on 11 April with a nice fish for breakfast.

Landing with a nice big breakfast. 10:36 am. 11 April 2021

In the afternoon of 11 April, Iris is working on nest renovations.

Iris digging up the nest cup. 11 April 2021
Bringing in sticks and moving them about. 11 April 2021
Look at those strong legs Iris has. 11 April 2021
Iris having a break. Nice crop! 11 April 2021

Yesterday Louis came to visit while Iris was building her nest and they mated. I know that Louis and Iris are birds but Louis has a family over at the Baseball Park and it would be nice if Iris had a mate that would help her incubate, that would feed her, and that would make certain her chicks were well taken care of and fledged. Stanley was amazing. Her years with Louis have ended badly. Iris will probably not take a new mate if she still considers Louis her mate – and his other mate is Star. I think it is sad. We will never know if the oldest Osprey in the world can still lay fertile eggs and raise chicks. Last year she lost her egg to the Raven. Louis does not provide for her in terms of help – any help – and she has to leave her egg to go and feed herself. Quite honestly, I am disappointed. Will leave it at that. Iris deserves better.

There is a very good book on Iris and her mate Stanley and the studies at the University of Montana at Missoula. It shows Iris’s old nest, the erecting of the current nest, pictures of her chicks and a good discussion of the heavy metal studies being conducted due to the mining in the region. It is called The Call of the Osprey.

Thank you for dropping in. I know that the people who love Osprey love Iris. This is just a quick glimpse at what she has been up to since returning to her breeding site in Missoula, Montana.

Thank you to the Montana Osprey Project and the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cam where I got my scaps and to Dr Erick Greene for posting the image of Iris and her first trout on the Montana Osprey FB Page.

Starting off to be a great day in Bird World

Looking out onto the garden in the morning is always a delight, even when it feels like rain or snow is coming. The sky is a white-grey. The trunks and branches of the trees are all manner of brown except for the Flame Willow which is the most striking orange-red. Our forecast is for three days of snow starting Monday. They are mostly wrong. Fingers crossed.

The Grackles are building their nest and the Starlings seem to have taken over the feeders while the Dark-eyed Junco are dancing around on the outdoor carpet finding any little seed they can. How many grains do they need to keep up their energetic activity?

“Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)” by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“European Starling” by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For the past four years, the European Starlings and the Dark-eyed Juncos arrive in the garden in early April. This year they came in mid-March. The Starlings are known to chase the sparrows away from the feeders but, in my yard, they seem to prefer to forage around on the ground. It is the Grackle family that causes the most mischief but I adore them. They always arrive around the end of March and did the same this year. Two years ago they fledged a single chick. The extended family arrived to cheer it on. It was the most amazing moment. I am going to get an outdoor camera! There were seventeen of them gathered. The fledgling and its family all left together. Last year Mr Crow raided the nest and ate the new fluffy chicks right after the Great Horned Owl threatened its nest. It is always a big saga during the summer. Things quiet down again in October when the visitors return to their winter vacation spots.

Speaking of migration, there is a lot of news. I have borrowed the image below from the Loch Arkaig FB page. I do hope they don’t mind. The credit goes to Hugh William Martin. The posting says it all. The much loved and long awaited male osprey who doesn’t hesitate to tandem feed with his mate, Aila, stole my heart last year for that single reason. He is an amazing dad and mate. Louis will fish day and night for his family and he will help Aila keep the kids sorted. No fears for JJ7 the third, the tercel, the smaller male named after Captain Sir Thomas Moore. You will remember Sir Tom, the war hero who, at nearly 100, pledged to walk 100 lengths of his garden to raise money for the National Health Service (NHS). His goal was 1000 GBP but his venture captured the hearts of people around the world and he made over 13 million GBP for the health services in Britain. Incredible. I hope that Captain’s (JJ7) life is as long and illustrious.

But for now we celebrate the arrival of Louis. There are more than 300 people at this moment watching an empty nest; Lewis is off on his roost or fishing. Hopefully, Aila will return shortly and we will be able to watch them again outfit their nest and get to raising a healthy happy family!

In other migration news, the book, A World on the Wing. The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Widensaul arrived this morning in the mail. I cannot wait to grab some time and read it. Glancing I notice a lot of material on satellite transmitters.

The other day someone watching one of the nests that I check said they did not believe in banding or transmitters – the osprey are not endangered. I would argue, as they did at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania in the 20th century, that you need to know when you are entering a decline to find out why. That is one reason that you want numbers. How do you really know if there are too many? Hawk Mountain is on the migratory bird route from the Eastern parts of Canada and the US and they literally count the birds. A research project coming out of the University of Montana at Missoula with Dr Erick Greene has to do with migration and the understanding of the perils the birds face. Dr Green is also interested in the mercury levels in the local osprey as well as foraging and how a colony of ospreys can help one another find more food versus a solitary osprey. Some of the Montana birds are wintering in southern Mexico. At Port Lincoln, Solly, the 2020 first hatched female, was fitted with a satellite transmitter and ringed. She has already changed what we know about osprey movements away from their nest in that area where Osprey are highly endangered. Lots to learn about the long and arduous trips that all the migratory birds make – not just Ospreys! The bird books are stacking up but I do hope to get to read them shortly!

There have been a few chuckles up at the Loch of the Lowes Osprey nest since Laddie (LM12) inadvertently gave a fish to an intruder sitting on the nest and not to his mate NC0 yesterday. To put it mildly, don’t get a female Osprey upset!!! Everyone wondered if NC0 would forgive Laddie – she kicked him off the nest. Everything looked as if it was going fine this morning. NC0 returned to the nest cup. Everything appeared to be rather serene. Is she preparing to lay an egg?

But, as this soap opera continues, no more had everything appeared to be settled than the intruder arrived and Laddie flew in to assist. Didn’t someone say that there are eight Osprey males in Scotland needing mates?! or is it also this prime piece of real estate?

A female osprey has returned from her migration and has, for the past couple of days, been hanging around the Llyn Brenig nest in north Wales. It is the home to male Blue HR7 and female Blue 24. Please note the wind turbines. Some chicks have been killed in them. Spotters are hoping to identify the bird by her tag. She is being very mysterious and teasing us and not revealing anything, not even one number!

This morning I decided not to get up and check on the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg- at least, not first thing. Some days my whole body seems to go on a food strike in support of Tiny. But I seem to have helpers these days -wonderful ones -and I was told right away that Tiny was eating after 10am. So coffee in hand, I decided to go back and check. I am happy to report that although he ate last, Tiny did get 88 bites (call me obsessive) between 7:46:22 and 7::52:27. Diane offered him the tail at the end and he mantled it. Great work Tiny Tot!

Here he is with fish flakes around his mouth at 7:50 having a private feed:

And here is Tiny mantling the fish tail that Diane gave him:

Tiny had a crop, in the image above, at 8:01. He dropped that crop prior to 9:30. Note: Dropping food from the crop sends it to the stomach. It is like a holding and processing tank. At 9:40:39 a second fish was delivered to the nest. At 10:04:20 Tiny is fed. There is a lot of skin but Diane is also finding flakes of fish. Tiny had 97 bites. Diane offered him the tail. At 10:16, Tiny had a crop again. In the scheme of things anyone watching would realize that the amount of food to fill Tiny is insignificant in the face of what the two older siblings eat.

Someone asked if Tiny would catch up in size. That is an interesting question. I have not gone through all my notes but it appears that from 12 March to now, Tiny missed seven (7) complete days of food. And we know that he has not eaten nearly the amount of fish as the others on the other days. A real reveal would be to compare meals and length of feeding times since we cannot weigh the food. Still, skin or not, I was glad that Tiny was rewarded by 97 bites on that second feeding. It is nearing 4pm on the nest. Hopefully two more fish will come in before dark – two more fish that are large enough for all.

Diane trying to provide shade on a hot 26 degree C day in St Pete’s.

The three siblings on the Achieva Osprey nest. From left to write 1, Tiny Tot, and 2. Everyone hopes that any intruders that may be in the area will leave so that Diane can go fishing, too. We wait and hope. It is all anyone can do.

I want to leave you some close up images of Iris, the world’s oldest osprey. She returned from her long migration to Missoula, Montana yesterday. It wasn’t long til she was over in the river and had caught herself a whopper. Apparently, Louis has been around for a visit today. Louis became Iris’s mate when her faithful companion Stanley died. Louis has been around for 4 years with no breeding success. He has another family so food and nest security are all left to Iris who also has to lay the eggs, incubate, and eat. Last year a raven stole her egg. Prior to Louia, Iris has raised, it is believed, anywhere from 30-40 chicks to fledge. All are hoping for a devoted partner. Hopefully she will kick Louis from the nest for good!

And a quick peak at the two Great Horned Owlets in the Bald Eagle nest in Kansas. They are growing and growing and Farmer Derek’s snake population on his farm is declining! If you can’t get mice, snake is an excellent second choice! It is hard to believe but these two will be branching soon. They look like little people with those big eyes all wrapped up for winter. Adorable.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me and the birds in ‘As the Nest Turns’. I hope you have a great end of the week wherever you are.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my images: Farmer Derek, Montana Osprey Project and Cornell Bird Labs, Friends of Loch of the Lowes and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Friends of Loch Arkaig, Scottish Wildlife Trust and People Play Lottery, Friends of Llyn Brenig, and the Achieva Credit Union. Also the Friends of Loch Arkaig FB Page.

What is it about Ospreys?

I keep telling myself that I am going to write about the new murder mysteries set in Paris by Cara Black, or my trip to the duck pond to try and convince the geese that they really should eat lettuce and not bread, or the hope in everyone’s heart for the COVID vaccines to work BUT, the universe keeps drawing me back to Ospreys.

This morning Bird World cheered as the oldest female Osprey in the world landed on her nest in Missoula, Montana. I wish Bird World could work some magic and keep Iris’s most recent mate, Louis, over in his nest with Star at the baseball park. Maybe someone could encourage a really nice male Osprey to find Iris quickly and treat her the way she should be treated – respectfully and sharing everything – including taking care of the osplets.

Iris is a real catch and I hope she proves everyone wrong when it comes to older Ospreys still being able to lay fertile eggs and raise chicks. Here is the shot of her landing. Gosh, isn’t she in magnificent physical shape? There is not a feather out of place. You really could mistake her for an eight year old bird! Wonder what Iris’s secret is?

Iris safely lands on her nest in Missoula, Montana to begin the 2021 season. 7 March 2021

Around lunch time, Iris sat, looking at her nest and the train passing. I watched thinking how grand it would be for her to arrive back at her nest with it all reconstructed and a loving mate waiting with a fish. My goodness if anyone deserves it – it is Iris!

Iris sits on her perch resting after her long migration. 7 April 2021

After Tiny Tot losing out to the food earlier, it felt like just another tense day. Two full days without food. When would Tiny get to eat this time?

At 2:44:29 Jack delivered a nice sized fish to the nest sans head. It was long and narrow but looked like enough since the big ones had already eaten. Would there be enough for Tiny?

Jack landing with a mid-afternoon meal. 7 April 2021

Diane rushes over, mantles and takes the prey.

Jack arriving with fish. Diane rushes to mantle it. 7 April 2021

Tiny Tot was in the right place in all the commotion of the landing and take off. He actually got the first few bites. That’s Tiny Tot facing mom between her and Jack, right in front of Diane’s bowed head.

Diane mantles fish arrival. 7 April 2021

And around 2:47, Diane fed him and #1 together. Then the two bigger siblings decide they are starving and over the feeding. But since the two of them had a big feed this morning and Tiny missed out, they were not as famished as they thought. It was, in fact, a strange feeding with the big sibs coming and going, #2 seemingly just blocking Tiny because she could. Tiny getting bites and the big ones deciding they want more continues until 3:19:37 when Tiny moves up. The older sibs finally leave. Diane pulls out every morsel of flaky fish she can find including some nice big pieces. Tiny eats until 3:27:54. Tiny had a great crop!

That is Tiny Tot in the image below, the one to the back. You can see his crop. You can also see how much larger the other two are because they have had days and days of food when Tiny didn’t eat.

Diane overlooking her three chicks. From left to right: Tiny Tot, 2, Diane, 1. 7 April 2021

At 4:14 Diane stands on the rim of the nest looking at her three children. For the past two years she has only had one chick each year. It must be different and challenging to understand the needs of three. She is, however, a selfless mom. Diane is also hungry. Diane calls for another fish delivery. She leaves the nest. It is unclear if Diane caught the fish or if she retrieved it from Jack off the nest but, at 5:58:23, she brings in a fish.

Diane arrives with the last fish of the day. 7 April 2021

The older siblings do not allow Tiny Tot to have any. Thank goodness he still had a nice crop from the afternoon feeding. Around 7:41, Tiny Tot tries to pull some morsels off of a bony piece that Diane hid so Jack could not remove it from the nest. It was too small to hold with his talons but Tiny did manage a few bites.

In the picture below, Tiny is to the left trying to find some fish on that piece of bone. The other two are passed out.

Tiny Tot is having a go at self feeding. 7 March 2021

The tenseness of this nest reminds me of when Daisy the Black Pacific Duck laid and was incubating her eggs on the nest of the White Bellied Sea Eagles in Sydney’s Olympic Park. Everything just hung by a thread and the pendulum could swing in any direction. My concern for Tiny Tot is that the older sibs are eating and eating and growing and growing. One of them tried to take the tail piece away from Diane today. If it had, Tiny would not have had any food in the afternoon. While Tiny does not require nearly the amount that the older do, he still needs to eat and should be doing so on a regular basis throughout the day. What happens when those two big ones grab the fish from Jack and eat the entire thing?

And speaking of nest tensions, whew! An unringed female landed on the Loch of the Lowes nest of Laddie and NC0. The intruder was standing right over the nest cup when Laddie landed with a nice sized fish. The intruder grabbed it and flew off the nest. NC0 arrives and gives Laddie an earful. Oh, my. Here is the video of that moment:

I have always said that watching the bird cams was much better than many of the movies on the streaming stations. Osprey World could beat any soap opera though!

Will two-timing Louis draw Iris into agony again this year? Will NC0 forgive Laddie? Will Laddie have to bring NC0 two fish? And will Tiny get fed tomorrow?

I want to leave you with an image of pure happiness. The two little ones of Harry and Nancy having a meal on the MN DNR Bald Eagle cam. Aren’t they adorable?

Two little bobbleheads enjoying a fish meal. 7 April 2021

Thank you for joining me on what can only be called ‘As the Nest Turns’.

Credit for featured image: “Pandion haliaetus Osprey” by David A. Hofmann is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I take my screen images: the Achieva Credit Union Osprey Cam in St Petersburg, Florida; the Cornell Bird Lab and the Hellsgate Osprey Cam; MN DNR Bald Eagle Cam; and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Iris is home!

At 8:06:48 cheers rang out around the world. It was touch down for Iris, the oldest Osprey in the entire world! Believed to be 25 or more years old, according to Dr Ericke Green of the University of Montana.She is just landing from her winter migration. All the worrying about whether or not she survived another year is put to rest.

Welcome home, Iris!

Welcome home, Iris. 7 April 2021

Isn’t she a beauty? Imagine making that 4000 mile migration every year for 25 years successfully? And for those of you that have watched Iris, you know that she is a great fisher!

Iris’s nest, prior to this one, was on a hydro pole about 68 metres or 200 feet from this one. This artificial nest was built for Iris because of the high rate of electrocutions on power lines – all birds, not just Osprey. The power lines are high enough and have a clear view that they appear to be desirable. The new nest, erected in 2007, is all set up with a high resolution camera. Iris took to the new nest right away, thankfully.

Iris had a wonderful mate. His name was Stanley. Stanley did not return from migration in 2016. Unfortunately, she teamed up with Louis who also has a nest over at the baseball field with Star. Their relationship has been tragic for this fantastic Osprey mother who fledged no less than 30 chicks before meeting Louis.

Iris fully on her nest after landing. Gosh, she looks to be in good shape! 7 April 2021

Iris is already making renovations to her nest. Let us all send her positive energy for a new mate and a successful breeding season. She certainly does deserve it.

In terms of Osprey research, Iris can change all of the statistics if she mates, lays fertile eggs, and raises more successful chicks!

Welcome home, Iris! The world is watching and sending you the best wishes for a new mate and a very happy, full of fish breeding season and a successful fledge to your children!!!!!!

Oh, she must be tired and it must feel good to be home on your perch. Iris doesn’t have to go far to catch fish – the fork of the river is just 15 metres or 50 feet away.

Iris suns herself on her perch. 7 April 2021

You can watch Iris and hope with the rest of the Osprey world here:

Meanwhile, everyone continues to monitor the Loch Arkaig nest in Scotland for the arrival of Louis and Aila.

Here is the link to one of the finest Osprey nests on the planet because of these amazing parents:

Update on the Achieva Osprey Nest: Sadness returns at the Achieva Osprey nest. It is day 2 and 2pm nest time. Tiny Tot has had 2 or 3 bites of food. Diane, the mother, has not left the nest to fish due to an intruder. Raptors will generally protect their territory first. A small piece of fish came in this morning. Tiny Tot got under Diane’s legs and had a good spot. He got a couple of bites and then #1 – who is losing the dominant position – wanted under mum and got him out.

Tiny Tot under Diane hoping to grab more than 2 bites. 7 April 2021

Thank you for checking in today. And what a glorious day it is. Iris, it is so nice to see you. You are literally amazing.

Thank you to the Montana Osprey Project, the Cornell Lab for Birds, Woodland Trust and People’s Play Lottery, and the Achieva Osprey nest for their streaming cameras. That is where I get my screen captures.