Sydney White-Bellied Sea Eaglets

There was concern that siblicide was occurring on the White-Bellied Sea Eagle nest in Sydney’s Olympic Park. It is time to put those fears aside. Prey delivery has become regularized and the two are fed regularly, growing, and are becoming curious about what is happening outside the nest.

The White-Bellied Sea Eagles are Australia’s second largest bird of prey. They have a wing span of 1.8-2.2 metres or 6-7 feet. They weigh up to 4.2 kg or 9 lbs. The female is larger and weighs more than the male. This is known as reverse sex size dimorphism. The adults on the Sydney Olympic Park Ironbark Tree are Lady and Dad. There have been a succession of breeding couples using this tree nest for decades.

In 2021, WBSE 27 hatched on 29 July at 4:57 and WBSE 28 hatched 31 July at 5:48 pm. Just to remind you how tiny they were here are two images in those first few days.

In the first image WBSE 27 was not quite 24 hours old.

In this one, WBSE is not quite 24 hours old and WBSE 27 is almost 48 hours old. You can clearly see the egg tooth, the white piece on the tip of the beak that helps them break through the hard egg shell.

Now look at the two of them. WBSE 27 is on the right with WBSE 28 on the left. You can see how 48 hours difference in age impacts the growth of the juvenile feathers.

In terms of the development, we are entering weeks 5 and 6. By week 5, the chicks will still have their white down. Pin feathers will appear on the shoulders, the back and the wing tips. If you look at the image above you can see these dark feathers coming in on each of the chicks. They should be standing on both feet, checking out the nest, and trying to pick up food. They may start to flap their wings. As we get to week 6, more and more of the dark feathers will begin to show all over the chick’s body. They will preen a considerable amount of time per day. They will now do more wing flapping and standing on both of their feet without the aid of the wings. They will continue efforts at self-feeding (if allowed, Lady does love to feed them!).

Looking forward to developments during week 7, the chicks will do a lot more preening as the dark brown juvenile feathers will continue to grow over their entire bodies. It has to be really itchy – those feathers coming in. Their tail will become noticeable. When they sit they may spread their wings. You may see them begin mantling. They will become more steady on their feet. One notable change is the chick’s interest in grapsing twigs and food with their feet. They should continue to work on self-feeding but this, of course, depends on whether or not prey is left on the nest for them to practice.

WBSE 27 is standing nicely on his feet. WBSE 28 still has a crop from an earlier feeding. You can really see how many wing feathers are coming in. Just look at that little tail developing.

It looks like 28 has a bit of a food coma. 27 is busy looking at what is happening outside the nest.

WBSE continues to work on its balance. Notice how it is holding out its wings for balance. Often the birds will use the tip of the win to keep them steady on their feet. By the end of the 6th week, they should be standing without using the wings. WBSE 28 is working hard to do this.

WBSE is also curious as to what the adult is doing up on the branch. Notice how 28 is sitting with its wings loose to the sides. Sometimes I find that the chicks on the nest are actually ahead of the development scales for that week.

Lady has come a long way in her parenting skills. Both chicks wait their turn to be fed. She will give 28 a few bites and then 27 and then back to 28. This method has given the chicks food security and reduced the pecking of 28 by 27.

Lady always looks like she is smiling to me.

Here is the link to the Sydney Sea Eagle Cam.

Thank you so much for joining me. I know that there are so many people who love these little eagles and I wanted to reassure all that the nest is very calm and peaceful and the chicks are developing normally. Take care everyone. Stay safe.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam@ Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.

WBSE Lady and Dad Sing the Duet

For several days I have been trying to figure out how to get the sound with the video clips I record. It was driving me crazy.

Years ago, I found myself a new faculty member at Acadia University. The very enlightened new President of Acadia was starting a programme called the Acadia Advantage. Each faculty member would get an IBM ThinkPad as would every first year student. The goal was to have all students using the newest technology – the Internet! And it was new. Most people did not have it nor had they heard about it.

I signed up as one of the first 30 faculty members —— not because I was an IT whiz, no, far from it. Because I wasn’t. We had specialist training in Lotus Notes and Tool Box. Several major corporations set up ‘Smart’ classrooms. Students and faculty could plug their computers specialty outlets and actually take their exams on line, search for material, create their own websites. I had one very clever student, WP, who managed to get the OM mantra going at the same time on my desktop computer and my colleagues down the hall. It was rather funny.

When I came to the University of Manitoba in 1999, the art historians were using still slides. They thought I was crazy when I suggested Powerpoint and digital learning. We did not get smart classrooms for art history til when? 2008?

So to not be able to get audio when something was recorded with the audio just simply did not seem possible. If any of you have the same problem with WordPress what you need is another app. FonePaw Screen Recorder seems to be the most popular and it is easy to use. And it is free if your recordings are less than 3 minutes long. My hint for the day!

I wanted to show you Lady and Dad singing ‘The Duet’ yesterday. I could not get the sound. You just needed to see and hear the two bonding through their morning song. Lady did what she did yesterday. She got up incubating the egg and went up and joined her mate, Dad.

So here is this morning’s version straight from the White Bellied Sea Eagle Nest in the Ironbark Tree in Sydney Olympic Park, 22 June 2021 featuring Lady and Dad.

The featured image is Dad taking his turn at incubating the egg while Lady goes off to have some rest and relaxation after being on the nest all night.

To start the video with sound, just click on the arrow. Enjoy.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, BirdLife Australia, and the Discovery Centre at Sydney Olympic Park for their streaming cam where I took this video clip.

Let’s Talk White-Bellied Sea Eagles

My ‘love affair’ and complete obsession with birds goes back to a single moment looking into the eyes of a large hawk only 30 cm away from me. I have not looked back, as they say, since that day. It is the behaviour of the birds that I find so interesting – the challenges they face, their daily rituals, how they learn and respond to events that simply amazes me.

There had never been a plan to even observe a White-Bellied Sea Eagle nest. It was one of those things that simply happened. The events that unfolded last year on the WBSE nest in the Sydney Olympic Park were utterly inspiring. A chick born, its leg broken almost immediately, couldn’t stand for well over a month that was determined to self-feed, branch, and fledge taught a lot of people that you never give up, you continue to strive for your goals, and you darn well don’t complain. Literally hundreds of people that had mobility issues stepped up and were determined to face their demons and challenges – ‘if 26 can do it, so can I’ became a bit of a mantra. I doubt if another chick will ever take her place in the hearts of so many where she ‘lives now’.

One of the things that 26 loved to do was to sing the duet as dawn broke with Lady and Dad. Oh, how I wish that I knew how to record those mornings then but, I didn’t.

The Duet is a form of bonding. The adults – well, sing isn’t quite the word..honk it?? Lady and Dad do this every morning. It is also a way to wake up the forest, a way of thanking the sun for living through the night and welcoming the day.

Dad is higher up on the branch. Lady has been incubating the egg over night and has gotten upon the branch to do the duet with Dad. I do not have the sound which really bothers me but I love the way that Lady moves up from the nest cup to join Dad.

I have put another YouTube Video of the duet in 2017 below my video non-audio.

So enjoy!

The juveniles join in. I can’t find a clip with WBSE 26 singing with Lady and Dad so right now this one from 2015 will have to do. However, it is wonderful because you can see the beautiful rich plumage of the eaglets.

The juveniles are really beautiful and here is a longer look at WBSE 25 and 26. WBSE 26 – the one who won everyone’s heart for its dedication, has the lighter head and is facing the viewer in the image below.

You can watch the gorgeous White-Bellied Sea Eagles yourself. Lady has laid one egg and we will be expecting a second in about a day. Then she will incubate those eggs and hatch will be around the 23 or 24th of July. It is marvellous to watch these beautiful birds. I hope all goes well this year for them.

The couple have already done their duet – it is early morning the 21st of June in Australia. Remember that if you go to watch this nest! I sometimes forget. These is not much that goes on at night except for Boo Book Owl trying to knock the sea eagles off their branches. Last season Boo injured Lady’s eye. He is tiny but fierce and has a nest close to this one.

Thank you for joining me. Have a great start to the week. Take care.

Thank you to the White-Bellied Sea Eagle Cam, BirdLife Australia and the Discovery Centre in the Sydney Olympic Park for their streaming cam where I took my video clip and screen shots.

Nest Stealing, Nesting, and sad news out of Glaslyn

There are no real estate agents exchanging bird real estate and, as we have seen on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida (see Tiny Tot blog, 27 May 2021), the shortage of trees and platforms can cause intruders to battle it out with nest occupants. Tiny Tot defended the nest as best he could yesterday, 27 May. Jack came along and got rid of the intruding adult around 4:10 but it was back this morning around 9:20. Ospreys will protect their territory and then feed sibling 2 and Tiny Tot so the food deliveries could be low today like they were yesterday.

In Orange, Australia a pair of Nankeen Kestrels were thinking they might occupy the scrape box of Peregrine Falcons, Xavier and Diamond yesterday – and, of course, Izzi. Indeed, after two returns after his first fludge and his second fledge when he hit a window and needed care, Izzi also feels that the scrape box is his private penthouse.

Nankeen or Australian Kestrels are the smallest raptors in the country. They are from 28-35 cm long with a wingspan of 66-78 cm. The female is the larger of the two. Pale rufous feathers with dark grey patterning and black flight feathers. The male has a light grey crown. They are distinguished by hovering over their prey instead of relying on speed, like the Peregrine Falcons whose scrape box they are in. They have no problem borrowing the nests of other raptors if they appear deserted. Nankeen Kestrels eat insects, small prey such as mice and other small birds and reptiles. They lay from two to seven eggs on a cliff, in a tree hollow, or in a scrape box. Those eggs hatch on average between 26 and 28 days.

Owners of nests in the Southern Hemisphere are beginning to work on nestorations in preparation for the breeding season which begins shortly, June-August.

The White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) whose nest is in the forest of Sydney Olympic Park have been making visits to the nest periodically. The WBSE is the second largest raptor in Australia. The nest in the Sydney Forest is part of the territory of Lady and Dad. WBSE are quickly recognized because the adult plumage is grey and white above. When flying, the underneath wing patterning is black and white.

“White-Bellied Sea Eagle” by sufw is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

They have a grey hooked beak and either grey or yellow legs with long black talons. The length of the wings ranges from 1.8 to 2.2 metres. WBSE weight between 1.8 and 4.5 kg. WBSE also have reverse sex diamorphism – the female is larger than the male. WBSE live along the coasts of India, SE Asia, Australia, and Pacific New Guinea and islands of Austral-Asia. Some live inland. Their conservation status varies from secure to endangered depending on the country. Shooting, trapping, poisoning, power lines, environmental pollution and human disturbance are all threats.

“Photo point- white bellied sea eagle” by shankar s. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

WBSE mate for life. Dad and Lady have their nest in a very old Ironbark Tree in the forest. Here, in the dry months, Lady will lay two white oval eggs. The incubation period is six weeks. One of my eagle friends tells me to take a breath because not all eggs hatch and not all eaglets live. The second egg is the ‘insurance’ egg if the first one fails – my friend tells me. Gosh, I would hate to just be an insurance egg!!!!! The nestlings will be fed a variety of prey including fish, birds, eels, and even turtles. They hunt along the Parramatta River, close to the nest and in the forest. The young will fledge, normally between 70-80 days. Indeed, it is unusual to have two fledges but Lady and Dad have managed this over the past few years. Last year WBSE 25 and 26 fledged. (You can read about the tenacious 26 in former blogs).

You can see the juvenile plumage in the image below. It is a range of browns and sometimes beautiful rust colours.

“White Bellied Sea Eagle Close-Up” by Peter Nijenhuis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dad has been bringing in fish gifts to Lady in the nest, they have been doing nestorations, and they were mating on 14 May. The pair have been sleeping on the parent branch of the nest tree lately. Looking for eggs the first week in June, hopefully.

Sea Eagle Cam @ Birdlife Australia, Discovery Centre, Sydney Olympic Park

The saddest news is coming out of Glaslyn and I am not sure that anyone knows what to make of it. You will remember that the terrible weather and the intruders caused Aran to be injured to the point he could not go hunting. The staff provided a fish table for the family and they were eating. On Sunday, after eating, the eldest chick died. Last night the middle chick died, and this morning, the smallest one is too weak to hold its head up to feed. Only a post-mortem could confirm the cause and I am certainly no expert so I wouldn’t even venture to guess the cause. Our hearts are breaking for this iconic Osprey family – Mrs G, at 21 years old, is the oldest Osprey in the United Kingdom, and her mate, Aran. They have lost chicks before and will move forward.

Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife

I am so sorry to bring you the sad news from Glaslyn. This has been a very difficult week for this Osprey family – the weather has been horrible and the intruders have injured Aran. And now the loss of the chicks. Credits for where I obtained my screen shots are below the images.

Thank you for joining me today. Stay safe, take care of one another.

The featured image is Daisy the Pacific Black Duck who borrowed the WBSE nest for her eggs in early 2021. You can read all about it previous blogs starting in January 2021.

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!