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.

Ravens threaten Daisy!

Daisy’s Monday morning in Australia (Sunday in North America) started out as beautifully as it ended the evening before. She had gone to forage returning at 19:45 yesterday evening. It appears to be a growing pattern, leaving in the heat of the afternoon and returning right before dusk. This pretty much ensures that she will miss the sea eagles if they come.

While she was away yesterday, the Rainbow Lorikeets came to visit Daisy, full of energetic chatter but, at the same time, wondering where she was! They are so cute. They almost look like stuffed plushies someone has placed on Daisy’s nest tree.

Where’s MY Daisy?

It is going to be hot again today for Daisy. They are predicting temperatures of 34 climbing to 39 tomorrow. Our pour little duck needs a paddle pool up there with her!

Daisy decided not to leave this morning for a bathroom break or to forage. Instead, she stayed on the nest. The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos can be heard around 7:15 but it is an Unkindness that rattles Daisy’s world at 8:04. A group of Ravens is called an Unkindness and they were certainly not nice to Daisy. In fact, they were downright threatening. They moved from the top of the tree down closer. It was impossible to get am image of them in the tree (see second image below) but their shadows could be seen and their noise was deafening. Daisy was so frightened.

Australian Raven. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Look at the image below. Notice that Daisy has spread her feathers out in a manner similar to when a raptor mantles its prey. Her tail is fanned out and the feathers on her back are raised. She is protecting her clutch of eggs from these predators. The Ravens try harder and harder to get Daisy off her nest of eggs so they can eat them!

Daisy flattens her feathers and her head against the nest.

The Unkindness bullied Daisy trying to get her off her nest for five minutes. It must have seemed like a life time. And then they were away!

Except for the heat, the rest of the day has been relatively uneventful. The birds and animals of the forest are trying to expend as little energy as they can and remain cool in the hot Australian heat.

Daisy gathers up leaves and methodically covers her clutch of eggs and flies off to forage at 13:04:44.

Daisy leaving her nest to forage.

Notice how Daisy has moved leaves over on top of her down and tucked it in tight today. She might be worried about the Ravens coming back to try and find her nest. Or maybe she thinks the sea eagles might stop in to see if anyone is incubating the eggs.

Daisy flies from the nest.

Look at the image above. You can just see Daisy flying off. It got really hot on the nest today. The afternoon is the worst. Daisy left a little earlier than usual. Eggs are incubated at 37.5 degrees. It is possible that the heat from outside and the down stuffed around could keep the eggs toasty warm until later today. I wonder if Daisy will return around 17:00 or if she will wait til almost dusk.

Update: It was a very short foray for Daisy. She was gone only until 14:32 – so under an hour and a half. When she returned it looked like she was pretending like she had just landed on the nest. Like always, she looked around and walked very slowly before going over to her nest. What I find interesting is that she does not immediately move the leaves or open the down. It is always like she is simply waiting a little more being overly careful. Daisy is so cautious. What a good little mother!

Thank you for joining us and checking in on the little duck that built her nest inside the nest tree of the big sea eagles.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the cameras that provided the images.

Galah and more Rainbow Lorikeets come to visit Daisy!

Yesterday afternoon Daisy the Duck, the current ‘illegal tenant’, if you like, of the WBSE nest in the Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest, went for her usual break to forage in the canal and the Parramatta River nearby. Right before she left a couple of Galah decided to come for a visit. Daisy has had a lot of curious visitors!

Galah in Kensington Park, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Galah are also called the ‘Pink and Grey Parrot’ or the Rose-Brested Cockatoo in Australia. Galah is the Yuwaalaraay name for them, a native language, where the word means ‘fool’ or ‘clown’. They are highly intelligent and are said to make very good pets. That said, anyone who has spoken to me about them in relation to the Peregrine Falcons and Sea Eagles of Australia, thinks they are not very smart. I was told that if you visit Australia and someone calls you a ‘Galah’, it means they are saying you are stupid. Remember that if you travel ‘down under’. Galah eat plants and insects and would not harm Daisy or her eggs. They are, like the Rainbow Lorikeets that also visited yesterday, curious about this new bird in the forest who is brooding eggs in an active sea eagle nest (off season for them now).

She returned to her nest to brood her seven eggs and then, she took another break, returning around dusk. Save for the arrival of a host of Rainbow Lorikeets and the sound of ravens nearby that caused Daisy to lay flat and still for over half an hour, her day brooding her eggs was relatively uneventful. The WBSE did not show up and none of the animals or birds living in the forest bothered her eggs. Even BooBook Owl did not show up in the middle of the night to go ‘bump’.

But something very odd happened the morning of January 21. Daisy covered her eggs, as best she could, pulling down and leaves and even small sticks over it, and left the nest around 4:25 am. Sunrise is at 6:05. That is when the WBSE come, if they do, in the mornings. Why so early?

Daisy leaves her nest at 4:23. She returns in about an hour, before dawn arrives.

The leaving of the nest at 4:20 and returning an hour later leads me to wonder about the eyesight of the Black Pacific Duck. The sea eagles fly right at or after dawn when they are about. They come back to the nest or their roost at dusk. But Daisy is able to come and go when it is dark. Plan to do some research on the eyesight of ducks. Daisy is similar to a Mallard and that might help me. If you know about the difference in night vision, please leave me a note. It would be much appreciated!

So far, it has been a pretty uneventful morning for Daisy and that means it is a great day for a little determined duck brooding her eggs.

Around 9 am the visitors begin to show up. First are the curious Rainbow Lorikeets and then you can hear but, not see, the Ravens. The Lorikeets or Loris are chattery and loud and very curious but they will not hurt Daisy, her eggs, or her ducklings. But the Ravens will. Daisy always places her body really low on the ground when the Ravens are about.

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets peaking at Daisy (on the right).
The old Ironbark Tree is full of Lorikeets this morning wanting to see Daisy!
Daisy can hear the Ravens. When she does she begins to lower her head to be flat with the base of the big WBSE nest.

Daisy gets low and really still, just as if she is frozen. Soon, the Ravens disappear. Not only would they eat the eggs but, the Ravens also chase after the White Bellied Sea Eagles. They are, often, a warning of their approach.

Daisy is frozen waiting for the Ravens to leave.
Daisy is relaxed, brooding her eggs.

It is even quiet enough for this busy duck to catch a few zzzzzs.

It is 10 am in the forest and all is quiet. The WBSE were seen at Goat Island last night. Maybe they will stay there. It is a nice vacation time for them with no eaglets to raise and both are moulting which causes some distress. That would be good for Daisy. She can rest all day like she is now incubating her little ones.

Stay tuned for updates later in the day. Have a good one.

Was it THE Standoff?

Daisy the Pacific Black Duck returned to incubate her eggs in the old Ironbark Tree at 7:46 pm. She had a really uneventful night on the nest.

The pattern has been for the WBSE ‘Dad’ to come either alone or with his mate, ‘Lady’, at dawn to check on the nest. Every morning Daisy has been alert and has been able to leave the nest quickly, sometimes even being able to cover up her eggs. Today was her fifth day of incubation.

The cameras have not yet switched to their daylight setting and Daisy is very alert to everything that is going on in the forest. If Dad sticks to his pattern, he will show up any time.

At 6:05:49, Daisy hears Dad landing on the branch that supports the camera tree. She has only a split second to get off her nest before the largest sea bird in Australia arrives!

The camera operator took the opportunity while Dad was still standing at the edge of the nest to zoom in on the eggs to see if any of them were broken. It appears that all six are intact. Daisy laid eight. Dad ate one and one was probably lost in the forest the day Dad chased her off of the tree before she could lay her egg. And that is only a guess. She had laid an egg each morning so there is no reason to presume that she did not that morning.

To me, one of the most interesting aspects is the way in which the little duck made the egg bowl or cup to hold her eggs. Using the down she took from her breast and simple plant material and leaves she has almost felted together a lovely nest, the envy in its colour selections of any interior designer.

Dad still remains confused. He knows ‘something is up’ but precisely what that is, he is unsure. This is his nest in his territory and there are eggs and some lightweight fluffy material that is new to him.

At first Dad simply messes with the down like he has done every morning. It seems to mystify him. But at 8:21:31, he sticks his beak into the nest cup and rolls out an egg. You can see that egg in the featured image at the beginning of this blog. Then he goes back up to the parent branch of the Ironbark Tree and stands guard.

WBSE Dad was just not happy when he could not catch the intruder in his nest.
Dad poked around the duck’s nest but did not break any eggs.
Dad was always on alert to see if anyone was going to come to the nest.

Dad monitors all of the activity in the forest. Each little thing that moves gets his attention. What became interesting was that the Pied Currawongs that bother him and Lady and also chase their young out of the forest before they are ready to fledge, sometimes, came around the tree. Just as Dad would have done if it was his eggs on the nest, he sounded an alarm, a honk, for them to leave. And they complied!

Dad guarded his nest and Daisy’s eggs against the Pied Currawong who might have eaten the eggs.

Dad left the nest to chase some small birds at 11:54 am. He has not returned. At that point, the eggs had been uncovered for six hours. It is now almost 3pm and the eggs have been uncovered for nine hours. One lucky thing for Daisy is that the sun shone directly onto the nest cup. Whether or not the egg that is showing (see below) that Dad rolled is too hot is unknown.

It is summer in Australia and the temperatures range from 25-29 or even 30 C. It is anyone’s guess if the eggs are viable or if they were even fertilized in the first place. Some birders on the ground did see a lone Black Pacific male duck swimming in the canal yesterday.

The big question is: Did the WBSE finally achieve their goal which was to scare away the intruder for good? Stay tuned!

The one egg that Dad rolled out of the nest is sitting in full sunlight.

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.

Gusts and a creaking Ironbark Tree kept the curious away

Daisy might have been awake all night with the loud creaks and swaying of the Ironbark Tree in the frequent gusts of high winds last night but not a single intruder was spotted. BooBook Owl stayed home. WBSE Dad didn’t venture out to check on the nest in the evening or this morning. It has been more than twenty-four hours since he has been about. Spotters on the ground say that he is off at Goat Island, some 12.2 km away, with Lady. And, so far, Raven has not made an appearance. It is nearly 7am, the tree is creaking gently and Daisy is quietly doing nest maintenance. If you squint your eye, the white in the down lining of the nest looks like little twinkle lights.

Notice how Daisy turns clockwise in the nest as she continues maintenance and rolling the eggs.
Daisy continues to take down from her breast adding it to the nest and turning clockwise.

Sometimes Daisy will quickly get off the eggs to go and fetch more plant material somewhere else on the big WBSE nest that she can’t reach by extending her neck as far as it can.

Daisy quickly leaves nest to gather up more plant material from the WBSE nest.

When Daisy prepares to leave to forage for food, which she did last evening for about an hour, she tucks the down into the nest cup folding it over on the inside. She also uses her beak and stretching her neck she pulls leaves up close. This way she can cover the eggs while she is away. Of course, we have now seen times when Daisy is frightened off the nest by both the WBSE Dad and BooBook Owl but, normally, she takes the time to gently and quickly conceal those precious eggs.

Daisy Stretches her Neck to bring in plant material near to the nest cup
Daisy continues to use her bill to bring in leaves and plant material close to the neck cup. She might be preparing to cover the eggs and leave for a quick morning foraging.

I wonder if you have ever thought about the amount of energy it takes a duck to lay an egg? I certainly hadn’t until this year when I watched Bald Eagles have hard labours when laying an egg and then Daisy. Those eggs don’t just pop out easy!

Sibley says that a single egg can weigh as much as 12% of the bird’s body weight. For Daisy, remember that she layed an egg every day for nine days. That has to be exhausting! Specials with precocial young often lay more eggs because the mother does not have to feed them. Precocial young are more fully developed when they hatch. Their eyes are open and they are fully feathered. In the case of the Black Pacific Ducks they can walk and find their own food. Remember that the ducklings will jump off the nest and follow the parent to the water to forage for food. They will actually jump off the nest before they are fully capable of flying like their mother. Daisy will keep them warm at night for approximately two to three weeks. Altricial young require much more care. They are born without feathers and require their parents to feed them until they are capable of self-feeding. A good example of an Altricial young is a Tree Swallow.

It is now after 10 am and Daisy has had only one intruder. The Raven showed up about 8am. Daisy quickly reached over and clacked, like she did yesterday, and off it went! Hopefully Daisy will have a non-eventful day on the nest. Fingers crossed!

Daisy remains, triumphant – so far!

Just to recap what happened on January 13 at the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the old Ironbark Tree, Sydney Olympic Park. Yesterday, Daisy the Duck arrives at the nest at 5:19 am. At 10:33, Daisy laid egg number 8. It was a very hot day in Sydney, rising above 26 degrees C. It was very hot on Daisy, a water fowl, when the sun was shining directly on her as she incubated her eggs. At 16:49 Dad returns from his sojourn to Goat Island unexpectedly. Daisy leaves the nest in a hurry and does not cover up her eggs. Dad poked around the eggs in the nest bowl but he did not eat another egg nor does it appear that he damaged any eggs. In fact, Dad was pretty careful around the eggs. Dad leaves at 19:16. Daisy returns to her nest at 20:24 and incubates her eggs all night without any problems from Dad. This is the first time that the Black Pacific Duck has stayed all night incubating her eggs.

As the sun begins to rise over Sydney, Australia, WBSE ‘Dad’ returns to the branch of the cam tree and sits there observing the nest.

Daisy does not immediately notice Dad’s arrival at 5:54. When she does, she scurries off the nest leaving the eggs uncovered!

Daisy has been busy removing down from her breast to further line the egg cup.

With everyone holding their breath afraid that Dad would go and disturb the eggs or chase after Daisy, we waited and watched. But Dad only observed. He flew off the cam tree branch at 6:13.

There are, of course, many questions and no one has an answer. No other bird has ever made a nest, to anyone’s knowledge, in the WBSE nest tree. There appears to be no literature. Black Pacific Ducks are opportunists and did, at one time, make their nest in a bear enclosure at the Sydney Zoo. As their numbers dwindled, the ducks moved to another location. In fact, often their nests are in marshy areas near water. Why this duck picked this sea eagle nest seventy-five feet off the ground is anyone’s guess. Now, though, people are wondering if the sea eagle will leave Daisy alone to raise her ducklings. She is no threat to him or his territory. Only time will tell. And no one has any idea what the WBSE ‘Lady’ would do if she found some other bird’s eggs in her nest!

She returns, somewhat cautiously, at 6:37. She slowly walks down from the branch and begins incubating the eggs again. Wet grasses on her bill show that she did, in fact, have some breakfast while she was away.

It is nearing 9 in the morning, 14 January in Sydney, Australia. So far, all is well on the nest. Updates later tonight.