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.

A Tree full of Rainbow Lorikeets

I was reminded yesterday that Daisy the Black Pacific Duck is not normally an inhabitant of the forest. She lives down by the water and would, at most other times, make her nest on the ground. She would shape grasses and other plant material into the egg cup or bowl. It is only once she has started hard incubation, that Daisy, like other ducks, will pluck the down from her breast and line the nest. She will continue to add plant material and down to the nest as needed, often replacing what others pull out and destroy.

This year, Daisy didn’t make her nest on the ground. Instead, her and her mate selected a very old nest in an Ironbark Tree in mid-December. That nest belongs to the White Bellied Sea Eagles whose territory is around the Parramatta River and the Sydney Olympic Park forest.

Daisy would have had many intruders if her nest were on the ground. But she would have been familiar with them and they with her. Because she is brooding her eggs in the forest, she is a curiosity. The birds and animals that live there do not know about ducks. They do know that it is the sea eagles that raise their young in this particular nest. Of the curious, one of the first was the the Pied Currawong who, unable to eat the exposed duck egg, threw a little mini-tantrum pulling out much down from the rim of the nest and tossing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. Others who have come to the nest to check out Daisy have been the BooBook Owl, possums, Ravens, and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.

Today, the Rainbow Lorikeets returned. They are the most colourful parrots in the forest! They are ever so curious about the duck in the sea eagle nest! Oh, not just six or seven, but dozens of them! And Daisy was not sure she liked them getting close to her and her precious eggs. Rainbow Lorikeets are a medium sized parrot that are plentiful along the east coast and southern part of Australia. Unlike Daisy who has a bill, they have a beak. They are nectar feeders and are no threat to Daisy. But she doesn’t know that! And like any mother, she will protect her nest and her young as best she can.

At first, it was only three (one out of the picture frame). They were a little cheeky and one of them, totally curious as to why a bird they had never seen should be in the eagles nest, crept over close to Daisy. Daisy turned around in her nest and away from the pleasant morning she had been having and ruffled her feathers and readied to defend herself against birds that she had never seen also. She did not know if they were looking for insects in the nest or if they would harm her.

One of the rangers that researches the nest of the WBSE said that the Rainbow Lorikeet were there to give Daisy the Duck a lecture about not making a nest in a nest owned by sea eagles. But, alas, it is too late if that is what they are doing. Daisy is now on day 7 of incubation duties. She is devoted to her duties!

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets got very close to Daisy and Daisy was contemplating what to do to defend her nest.
At first there were three and then more came until there were more than a dozen chattering away non-stop.
Two Rainbow Lorikeets sat on the rim of the sea eagle nest chattering directly at Daisy who is watching them carefully.
A Rainbow Lorikeet Preening on the Nest Tree.

After all of the commotion – and it really was a boisterous affair – with the Rainbow Lorikeets everywhere, Daisy settled into a little bit of nest renovation. Remember the Curra and Dad the Sea Eagle had moved down off of the nest. Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck. I had no idea looking at her that her neck could get so long. She also used her bill to help gather up some down and plant material that had scattered.

A bill of a beak? Ducks have bills. They are very lightweight. The exterior coating over the interior spongy bone is made out of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. And just like our fingernails, the keratin covering is always growing, healing over dents and scratches, but also maintaining its shape after much use. Ducks do not have to go to a nail salon for a trim!

Look at how far Daisy can stretch her neck!
Daisy is using her bill to bring in some of the down the Curra removed from her nest.

After nest renovations, Daisy takes some time to do some preening. Daisy’s feathers are very important to her. She is a ‘diving duck’. That means that she submerges under the water to find food. For ducks like Daisy, it is essential that their feathers be in prime condition. Many types of birds spend up to seventy percent of their time preening, conditioning their feathers. Daisy’s beautiful feathers have grown very tightly. The feathers are stiff and are quite strong compared to the down. In fact, people used to use the feathers as quills to use with ink for writing. Daisy’s feathers grow close together and overlap one another. Look closely and you can see this. They make many layers that are weather resistant and protect our duck.

Daisy preening her feathers just like the Rainbow Lorikeets.

It is nearly 11am in the world of Daisy. Dad the Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn to try and catch the intruder using his nest. Daisy has decided to try and rest a bit. She is still very alert.

Will Daisy take time in the heat of the Australian summer to go and forage? Will she voluntarily leave covering her nest? Will Dad come at dusk? We wait.

Is it eviction day for Daisy?

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck didn’t have any problems during the night. She had foraged at dusk and returned and all was well.

What Daisy didn’t know is that both WBSE Dad and Lady spent the night at their Parramatta River roost. It is not farm from the Ironbark Tree nest. Some are thinking that they will try to arrive early and catch the bird that is using their nest and evict them.

Daisy begins to sense something is happening and by 6:42 she is quacking and has moved off the nest, still quacking, to a branch of the old Ironbark Tree.

She continues to quack loudly, protesting and defending her eggs, until 5:43:46 when she flies away. One second later, ‘Dad’ the WBSE arrives at the nest! ‘Lady’ arrives after Dad. Can you believe this? She flew away at the blink of an eye when Dad landed on the tree. I wonder if she went to forage or if she hid in the forest watching and waiting til it was safe for her to return.

Lady flings the down around the nest and pokes at the eggs several times. Unlike Dad who seemed more confused for the past four days, Lady appears to be quite upset. Dad sits on the ‘left parent branch’ of the tree observing Lady who seems not to like the down sticking to her talons. It doesn’t appear that any eggs were harmed but that might not be the case. Lady moves up to the tree with Dad occupying the one of the right parent branches.

At 5:57:28 the WBSE sing their ‘duet’ or morning song together on the nest. Not only is this a way to wake up the forest and greet the sun but it is also a territorial call. ‘This is our territory!’ The White Bellied Sea Eagles are the largest birds in the old forest and, as such, are the ‘King Pins’. Little birds tease them during the night but they are not to be messed with, not their nest. Remember: no other bird has laid their eggs in this nest, ever!

Lady leaves the Ironbark Tree first and then Dad follows. A second duet can be heard near by at 6:04. Then all is quiet. Off in the distance, the WBSE do a third ‘duet’ at 6:12. The WBSE are telling the birds in the forest that they are upset and something has violated their territory! Will Daisy return? Did Lady break any of the eggs? Will the eggs be viable with so many interruptions and the down removed?

At 6:45 a cautious Daisy the Duck returns to the nest undaunted by all of the scattered down. She is accompanied by two Noisy Miners who, at first glance, appear to be her defensive escort. Noisy Miners are members of the honeyeater family. They are a grey bird with a black head and white tips on their feathers. I would not call their song ‘a’ song. It is more like a screech. They are more like an irritant than anything that can harm Daisy. They often come to the Ironbark Tree when there are eaglets on the nest.

This is such a brave little duck! She has to have the very best hearing as she makes her successful escapes the second that one of the WBSEs come to the nest.

Oh, what a ‘BOO’ tiful night or…not. BooBook Owl comes to check on Daisy’s nest and then Daisy is ‘RAVEN’

The feature image shows an Australian BooBook Owl sitting on the rim of the sea eagle nest where Daisy has her eggs. She flew off the nest as soon as Boo arrived.

Boobook Owls are the smallest owls in Australia measuring from 10.5 to 14 cm (27 to 36 inches) in length. Those of us watching the White-Bellied Sea Eagle (WBSE) nest in the old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park are very familiar with ‘Boo’. The BooBook eats insects and small vertebrates. They breed in late winter and early summer and have their nests in tree hollows. Little Boo is infamous for striking the adult WBSE when they perch on their nest at night and for flying at and hitting the juveniles in the nest. Once or twice this past nesting season, Boo inflicted injury on the eye of WBSE mom, Lady. Boo is a nuisance but not thought a tremendous threat to Daisy. The problem is when she is frightened and flies off of the nest leaving her eggs exposed. For all purposes, it appears that Daisy is like a single mom having to do the incubating and the defence. She is one tough little duck.

Daisy returns to her nest around 4:43 am, some three hours after Boo lands on the nest. She waddled slowly over to the nest, looking this way and that, making sure that there were no more intruders. She settled and began incubation as she could not feel any threats still around.

Daisy returning to her nest after BooBook Owl leaves.

Daisy remained on the nest incubating her eggs until WBSE Dad comes to check on the nest at 5:39:25. This has to be one confused adult male sea eagle! There are eggs in HIS nest and he is trained not to step on eggs in case they might be his!

Daisy meanwhile made her quick escape just 25 seconds prior to the sea eagle landing.

WBSE arrives at dawn to his nest in the Ironbark Tree.
WBSE Dad lands at dawn to see if that strange thing in the middle of his nest is still there. Everyone holds their breath. What will he do?
WBSE Dad staring at the duck nest on the morning of January 15.
WBSE Dad arriving back at his nest and checking out Daisy’s nest. Yes, Dad, it is still there! You have not been imagining anything.
WBSE Dad poking his beak into the duck’s nest. Hopefully he did not break any eggs. He did this twice.
WBSE Dad grabbing a piece of duck down off Daisy’s nest.

Daisy could have been watching from a short distance because she returned to the nest as soon as Dad flew away at 6:30:29. This is one lucky duck!

After all the excitement of Boo and Dad, Daisy settles in to hopefully a quiet morning on the nest.

Two visits. It is a wonder that Daisy settled back on her eggs at all. Everything is quiet until 8:44. A raven lands on a branch of the nest and then jumps down to the rim! An egg eating raven!

An Australian Raven arrives on the nest rim.

The Australian Raven grows to 46–53 centimetres long or 18-21 inches. They appear an iridescent purplish blue-green and black in their plumage. They are part of the passerine family that includes crows. And they love eggs! Indeed, they are a great robber of nests. They are opportunistic feeders living on both plant and animals as well as food waste.

Daisy’s first reaction to the raven was to press her body flat in the nest. She appeared very frightened at first. And then she stood her ground. She leaned forward off of the eggs slightly and clacked at the raven. And, guess what? It flew away!

In the image below you can see Daisy stretching her neck and laying flat on the nest, just off the eggs, clacking. The tail of the raven can be see just slightly above the bottom right hand corner as the bird departs!

Daisy clacking at the raven to protect her eggs

Daisy has settled back on her eggs in hopes of a much more quiet day. Stay tuned! It is not even noon in Australia and no telling what is going to happen next in The Chronicles of Daisy the Duck.

Daisy often turns clockwise in her nest enlarging it and also you will see her go in with her head. She is aerating the nest.
Daisy continues to add down from her breast working to make it softer and softer.

Thanks to BirdLife Australia and the WBSE Sea Eagle cam for the scaps.