Late news in Bird World

Around the beginning of May, people in Manitoba get ‘itchy’ to get out in the garden. The garden centre catalogues have been sitting since December, the days are getting warmer, and that urge to get out and plant starts taking over our thoughts. Today was a quick trip to a garden centre just outside of the city near the river. On the way there I was delighted by the hawks soaring. One Red Tailed Hawk (RTH) was being chased by a couple of crows while a Broad-winged Hawk was flying above the banks of the river. I did not stop and take photographs. By the time I would have pulled over they would have been gone. But, thank heavens, for a book that I got at Christmas. The RTH I recognized immediately but not the second raptor. That book is Hawks from Every Angle. How to Identify raptors in flight by Jerry Liguori. I wish the images were bigger but, other than that, it has been a great help in identification.

Speaking of identification, the two eaglets on the Minnesota DNR nest were banded on 4 May. I tried to catch a good image of their legs but those two are not giving one thing away!

Here is a close up of their young father, Harry. No, he isn’t dirty! He hasn’t completely ‘matured’ (someone might have to adjust that) as he is not believed to be five years old yet! Well, Harry, you are a great dad. You stepped up to the plate and incubated your babies, learned how to feed them, and brought in prey. It took you a bit to catch on – but, you did!

The cameras at the MN DNR Bald Eagle nest were turned off during the process of banding. They also did a health check and took blood samples. Soon we will know the genders of the two eaglets! Here is a video from 2015 at the same nest showing the process:

Many were very sad when California Condor’s Redwood Queen and Phoenix’s egg was deemed non-viable. Those two will try again next year. But congratulations go out to California Condors Condor 589 and Phoebe (569) known as the Pinnacle Power Couple. Their baby hatched on 12 April and is #1078. #1078 will need to survive for six months in the nest being fed by 589 and 569. #1078 will be learning to fly in mid-October. The couple have been together for five years and this is the third chick – hence the designation ‘power couple’. Most California Condors only breed every two years.

#1078 one week old. Phoebe is feeding the baby. Taken from video feed Pinnacles National Park Cam. 19 April 2021

Over in Hellgate Canyon in Missoula, Montana, the oldest Osprey in the world, Iris, landed a whopper!

Just look at the size of that fish and the perfect form Iris has. I am impressed.

Iris got to enjoy some of that magnificent catch and then Louis must have heard about that great catch and thought she might share. In the end, he did steal part of that fish and took it to the pole to eat. Darn that Louis. Iris doesn’t fish for him! He is supposed to be taking care of her.

Gabby has been with Legacy all day at the NE Florida Bald Eagle nest in Jacksonville, Florida. It seems that Samson and Gabby are keeping a close eye on Legacy so she doesn’t get lost again! Well, was she lost? She sure might have been. She has stayed at the nest. It is another hot and very windy day but, if Samson continues his regular food drop, Legacy will have some dinner around 5:30 nest time.

Legacy is sure watching for Samson to appear with her dinner! It is nearing 5pm nest time. Good training for Legacy once she gets the confidence to fly about more.

Arthur has made several prey drops trying to encourage Big Red to let him incubate the Ks but Big Red is steadfast. It is raining and she still doesn’t trust Arthur enough to let him take over when the rain is pitching down! K1 and K2 got a quick feed. Meanwhile, K3 is hatching. The progress is unclear – cannot see the egg!

It’s dinner time at the Achieva Osprey nest and Diane brought in a catfish for #2 and Tiny Tot. It has not been that long since Tiny polished off an entire fish so he is not rushing to get in line. In addition, Tiny might have figured out that the best meat on the catfish comes a little later. Mom has to fight with the head to get it all open. Diane doesn’t like a flake of fish to be wasted! No doubt. She is a good fisher, like Iris, and takes great care of her kids.

Oh, Tiny Tot is so smart. See. He waited. If you look carefully there is really good fish left – nice big chunks of flaky catfish! Sometimes it is good to not rush. Diane is happy to feed that back half of that fish to Tiny and have some bites herself. So Tiny had at least one entire fish to itself and half of another big catfish. He’s set for the night!

There were alarms in the Matsalu National Park in Estonia. Eerik stayed on the White-tailed Eagle nest tree with Eve in order to protect the family. If he wasn’t on the nest, he was on a close branch in case there was an intruder.

Oh, everyone is eating!!!!!!

It is Happy Hatch Day for Izzi, the Peregrine falcon eyass of Xavier and Diamond. Their scrape box is on the water tower on the grounds of the Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia. Izzi has not left home. Will Izzi ever leave home? Many are probably asking the same question. For me, it is a joy to see him grow into a healthy capable falcon!

@ Charles Sturt University Orange Australia. 5 May 2021

And it wouldn’t be fair to check on Izzi and not on the trio at the UC Berkeley Campus. Oh, my how they have changed from the marshmallows last week with the pink beaks and legs. So imagine these three growing up and looking like Izzi in a few months. They will, I promise. They are already charging Annie and Grinnell and trying to self feed. Oh, they are adorable!

It is Day 36 for Maya and Blue 33 (11)’s first egg. Eggs have been rolled and Maya has been enjoying the nice weather. That one egg looks terribly suspicious but no word of a pip or a hatch yet!

Thanks everyone for joining me. I hope where ever you are that your Wednesday has been a good one. Take care. See you soon in Bird World.

Remember: 8 May is Bird Count Day. Get all the information on how you can participate here:

https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-8-may-2021

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: LRWT Rutland Osprey Project, UC Falcon Cam, Achieva Credit Union, Eagle Club of Estonia, Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam, NEFlorida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF, Cornell Bird Lab RTH Cam, Cornell Bird Lab and the Montana Osprey Project, MN DNR, Ventana Wildlife, and Pinnacle Wildlife.

It’s 3 for Big Red and 4 for Dahlgren

The Guardian ran a story, ‘All my eaglets: pandemic audience spellbound by saga of nesting bald eagles’ in its Wildlife section this morning. While the story focused on the growing number of people watching bird streaming cams during the pandemic, it chose to use the example of two nests. The sadness of Jackie and Shadow at the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest in the San Bernadino Valley and the joy of Liberty and Guardian and their three chicks at the Redding Bald Eagle nest. Richard Luscombe really caught the moment – the joy celebration, the sadness and loss. Jackie (9 year old female) and Shadow (7 year old male) are two of the most popular Bald Eagles on streaming cams and yet, their story encapsulates great sadness. For two years they have tried to raise a chick. This year in their second clutch there was a hatch. Heartbreak came when that chick died trying to break out of the shell. Jackie and Shadow continue to care for the second egg which watchers know will never hatch. Last year they sat on two eggs for sixty days before giving up. In contrast, Guardian (7 year old male) and Liberty (22 year old female) are raising triplets and Liberty has, in her lifetime, successfully fledged 22 and outlived two mates. Like human families and stories, every bird nest is different.

Over the past year, I have received (or seen) letters, comments, and testimonies about the birds. It is clear that the ‘bird’ families streaming into our living rooms have become ‘intimate’ friends whose daily lives we share – their joys and their challenges. One woman wrote to tell me that she knows ‘her bird family’ better than her own human family! She is not alone. From the infertile eggs to the cheeping of the hatching chick, people have watched the birds and their loneliness and pain have been diminished. Many of you have written to me to tell me how the birds have saved your lives, including several with stage 4 cancer and partners who have died from COVID. Caring for the birds has lessened the impact of the isolation and has given us something to focus on besides ourselves. ‘A distraction from our lives’ a woman from The Netherlands said.

When the pandemic ends, I hope that all of you will continue to watch the lives of your favourite bird families unfold. And I would encourage you to talk to your children and your grandchildren or the neighbour’s children so they will become interested in wildlife. They need all of us to help them have better lives.

Jackie and Shadow continue to incubate an egg that will never hatch. Many wonder if there is not DDT still present in the soil or something causing this lovely and entering couple so many issues trying to have a little one. Clearly the thinness of the eggs that have broken could indicate that. 1 April 2021.
The triplets at the Redding nest being fed. There is plenty of food and all are lined up nicely.

I received a very touching letter from a woman from New Mexico who commented on the tragic events unfolding at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. She was reminded of a news story where a family went into a cafe for a meal -the parents, a young girl, and boy. The parents fed the young girl and themselves. The boy watched the others eat while he was offered nothing. The boy appeared to be bruised as if he had been physically harmed to the wait staff. The waitress wrote on her hand ‘Do you need help?’ to the child who, eventually, shook their head yes. The waitress phoned the authorities and the children were taken into care immediately. The boy had been abused and food had been withheld for a long time. The woman from New Mexico said, ‘Humans do it, too’. As sad and angry as I am at the Ospreys in St Petersburg, for them it is a matter of having at least one healthy fledgling. The biology books stress the survival of the fittest! Someone who has filmed birds said to me and I have reiterated it many times, ‘If they cannot survive on the nest being fed, they cannot survive in the wild – it is brutal out there’. This morning a huge fish came in but the middle Osprey made sure Tiny Tot did not get anything to eat. Tiny was too weak to fight. I had hoped that his suffering would be taken away in the night.

UPDATE: Tiny Tot was fed at 9:27 this morning. His crop was about a third full. The saga continues.

After my tirade on birds laying too many eggs to care for if they all hatched – and hence, having the situation of the St Petersburg nest – Jack and Harriet of the Dahlgren Osprey Nest in Machodoc Creek in King George County, Virginia laid a fourth egg! You might not immediately recognize the osprey nest that I am talking about but if I said to you that Jack is the one that brings in the most toys to the nest, often covering it while Harriet has to keep busy finding space for them, I think you might know the nest that I am talking about. There was a toy shark or dolphin the other day. As it happens, the first egg is either lost in the nest or broke – there are three eggs being incubated despite four being laid. Last year the couple successfully fledged three and all of us join in hoping that happens this year! Unless there is a problem in the river, this couple has their nest in a prime location for fish!

And to add to the jokes that go along with April Fool’s Day, Big Red and Arthur not only woke up to snow this morning but also to their third egg.

Big Red is eighteen years old. She was ringed at Brooktondale New York, about eight miles from Ithaca. She has known this weather all her life and can deal with it. Her and her mate, Arthur, do not migrate but stay in Ithaca all year long. They have a prey rich territory and both work like a well oiled machine. Unless there is some strange surprise, I expect we will see three eyases fledging in June.

All is well over at the Great Horned Owl Nest on the farm in Kansas. Both Tiger, the eldest, and Lily, the youngest, are growing. To the delight of viewers, Bonnie brought in a very large rabbit to the nest in the Cottonwood Tree. Everyone wondered how she managed. Great Horned Owls can actually carry prey three times their weight – an advantage over Bald Eagles who can carry only 66% of their weight. Besides rabbit, the owlets have had a diverse menu. One food item that might not have been expected in such quantities has been snake. Farmer Derek probably had no idea he had so many snakes on his property! Using March 7 as a date for hatching, we should be watching for Tiger to fledge around 42-56 days which would be 18 April to 24 April. Tiger’s extremely soft feathers – they look like mohair to me – mean that he will be a formidable predator being able to fly without being heard. With his short rounded wings he will also be able to make tight corners and quick turns around the trees in the woods.

And down in Orange Australia at the Charles Sturt University, Peregrine Falcon couple, Xavier and Diamond, are in the scrape box having a conversation and bonding. The conversation might be about their cute little Izzi who fledged three times from this box. The first time Izzi was napping on the ledge and fell out. He was returned by the researcher, Cilla Kinross. The second time he did fledge but then flew into a window and was taken into care and returned to the scrape box. The third time he fledged properly. While most of the falcons would have left the scrape box to find their own territory by January, Izzi appears determined to live out the rest of his life chasing Xavier and Diamond and sleeping with Diamond in the scrape box. It is an unfolding soap opera that is delightful.

Izzi is adorable.

I will leave you with that adorable face. Peregrine falcons are the cutest. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my scaps: Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon Cam, Farmer Derek, Friends of Big Bear Bald Eagles, Friends of Redding Bald Eagles, Cornell Bird Lab, and the Dahlgren Osprey Cam.

What a joyful day in Bird World!

The Achieva Credit Union’s Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida has caused a lot of people to become anxious and loose sleep. It hasn’t just been me. Tiny Tot (or Tumbles) has a fan club that wants this clever little bird to succeed. It is now 7:30pm Saturday 27 March nest time. Jack has made four fish deliveries today – FOUR! The last days have had the little one, number 3, Tiny Tot or Tumbles – whatever you want to call him – begging for food and trying out ingenious ways to try and get it. Sometimes he was too late and the fish was gone but, today Tiny Tot prevailed.

The deliveries were made at 7:30, 9:48, 1:15, and 5:33. During the second delivery, Tiny Tot got under Diane, the female, just enough that he was out of range of any bonking. #2 tried to batter the little one but it stopped short – because it would have hit its mom! Brilliant move. #2 zero – Tiny Tot 1. It also put Tiny Tot in a good position for getting some nice bites. Progress continued.

In the image below, Tiny Tot is in front of Diane. He has what we call a Cropzilla – a nice pillow. The eldest is the one nearest us and it is passed out in a food coma. Tiny Tot had passed out on the tail of #2 but he is looking like he wouldn’t mind a little top up! Too funny. Mom had a nice meal, too.

Jack was a great provider today. 27 March 2021

Over at the SW Florida Eagle Nest on the Pritchett Farm, E18 branched today. E18 is one of two eaglets of Harriet and M15. Ironically, E18 was bonked so aggressively by E17 that many worried including the wildlife technicians when they both had to go into care for having Conjunctivitis. But something magical happened. The two are twins, born within a couple of hours of one another. The other day an intruder came and E18 instinctively put those huge wings you can see in the image below over E17 to protect her. Branching is one of an eaglet’s milestones and these two are doing brilliant! E17 branched yesterday but today, E18 had to go just a little higher. Remember that old rhyme: ‘Anything you can do, I can do better!’ It is all in fun but these two do move one another along in the challenges they have to get to be juveniles.

E18 branches. Look at those gorgeous wings. 27 March 2021

And good things continue to happen over at the nest of Big Red and Arthur in Ithaca, New York. Big Red laid the first egg of the 2021 season yesterday. If it hatches first, it will be K1. Last year it was the second egg that hatched first. So one never knows! Tomorrow we should be expecting the second egg to arrive. But, over the past three seasons, Big Red has often been reluctant to give her mate, Arthur, much incubation or feeding time. Well, that seems to be changing. So far, I have counted five times that Big Red has had Arthur taking over the nest. The times were 6:36-8:56, 10:56-11:13, 13:20-13:46, 14:08-15:20, and 17:38-18:33. Arthur does a fantastic job. He always checks and rolls the egg and shimmies up. So cute! Maybe this year she will let him do a little more of the feeding! Tomorrow is egg watch.

Arthur incubating their egg. 27 March 2021

Even the hand offs of duty have gotten all worked out.

Arthur out, Big Red in. 27 March 2021.

That is it for this Saturday and Bird World. It is all good! Thanks so much for joining me. I am so glad that you are enjoying these incredible birds ‘er dinosaurs. See you soon.

Thank you to Cornell Labs Bird RTH Streaming Cam, Achieva Osprey Streaming Cam, and D Pritchett and the SWFL Eagle Streaming Cam. Those cams are where I capture my images.

We have lift off – Big Red laid her first egg

For the past month, Arthur and Big Red have been arriving early to restore their nest on the Fernow Light Tower on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By yesterday, that nest was looking rather amazing. The egg cup was nicely lined with strips of bark and there were even some berries and pine needles. The question remaining in everyone’s mind was: when will Big Red lay her first egg?

Big Red and Arthur are Red Tail Hawks. The scientific names is Buteo jamaicensis. You will find these hawks across North America. Those that breed and lay their eggs where I live – in Manitoba, Canada – only reside with us during the late spring, summer, and early fall. They will migrate to warmer climates for the winter just like the Ospreys in the United Kingdom. Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. They remain in Ithaca throughout the year. They have a territory that is normally rich in prey.

Big Red is 18 years old this spring. She was tagged at Brooktondale, New York in 2003. Arthur will be five years old this spring. Birders on the ground knew him as a nestling in 2016; a chick from an adjacent territory near to the cemetery in Ithaca. He is often called the nickname he was given then, ‘Wink’. His real name is, however, Arthur. Arthur and Big Red have been a bonded pair since the death of Big Red’s long time mate, Ezra, in 2017. Big Red chose Arthur to be her mate in the fall of 2017 before he even had his red tails! Many thought that she was making a huge mistake but Big Red has proven over and over again that she knew precisely what she was doing. So far the streaming cam on her nest has helped to re-write our understanding of Red-Tail Hawk behaviour. As we go through the season, I will point out all the things that Big Red is teaching us. For today, however, let it suffice to say that an eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk can still lay eggs!

The image below is from the nest tower cam over the track at Cornell.

The nest cup – where the eggs are laid – is lined with tree park and pine. You can see this in the image below. Pine is traditionally an insecticide to keep the flies away. You will see the couple bringing in a lot of pine branches til the eyases fledge. Eyas is the singular and eyases is the plural form of falcons or hawks in the nest.

It was 21 degrees and the wind was blowing at 31 kph or 19.26 mph. All eyes were on the Fernow Tower nest. Big Red arrived at 11:46 alone.

She was acting peculiar. And we all held our breath. Might this be the day?

It is unclear precisely when Big Red laid her first egg or how long her labour was but by 12:51 everyone watching knew there was an egg!

The wind was blowing so strong that many were reminded of when Big Red was blown off her nest during the 2020 season. And we all wished that the sun would come out and it would be calm. Big Red has been through so much.

Red tail hawks typically lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs. Last year, Big Red and Arthur fledged three healthy chicks, the Js. This year it will be the Ks. If all goes to schedule, Big Red will lay an egg every other day. She can lay three eggs in four days. Traditionally she does not begin hard incubation until all eggs are in the nest.

For many, watching this nest will be the joy of their days. If you would like to join thousands watching Big Red and Arthur, here is the link to the Cornell Streaming Cam:

Big Red has already been busy rolling that egg and tweaking the egg cup. We are waiting for Arthur to arrive so she can tell him the good news!

Thank you for joining me today. My passion for these beautiful hawks will be coming through from now until August. Updates on other nests later today.

Thank you, as always, to the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cameras (there are two) on the Fernow Tower.

7:46, June 12. J2 fledges.

It is the day that everyone has been waiting for – the first fledge off the Fernow light tower at the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York. The winner of the honour was J2.

J is the designation for the year, 2020. The camera began recording the activities at the nest in 2012. Knowing that Big Red had, at least, two earlier years raising successful chicks prior to the cameras, they began with the letter C in 2012. The ‘2’ is because this hawklet was the second to hatch but was, ironically, the first egg to be laid. Which if you are good at math and understand the counting indicates that this chick is actually the oldest.

J2 has beautiful blue eyes which will eventually turn darker and a wide white terminal band. Notice how the breast (or crop area) is covered with the typical peach colour for these hawks. At fledge it also had a line of ‘dandelions’ remaining on the top of its head, like a mohawk hair-cut.

J2 sitting in a pine tree across the street from the nest but within view of his mum, Big Red. Notice the little dandelions on his head. How cute! Their talons have tendons that enable them to sleep or sit standing up without fear of falling over.

J2 set a first in the recording of fledges from the Fernow Tower nest. He fledged off the back of a light box. It was, actually, more of a fludge. He/she spent some wonderful time sitting on top of the light box balancing nicely and then slipped but recovered beautifully flying under the tower, across the street, landing by its talons on Bradfield to steady itself in a nearby Ginko tree.

For nearly twelve hours, until the camera stopped rolling, J2 kept us on the edge of our chairs. I tell you it was better than a good thriller on Netflix!

He/she flew keeping the legs tucked tight like a pro. J2 spent some time on top of the Rice Building, flew back near Bradfield and played around on the steps and railings to the entrance, flew off again to another building, and finally wound up near to where it started, back in the tree. Throughout Big Red was watching from the southeast corner at the top of Bradfield while Arthur soared whenever J2 got out of sight so that the chick could be located. Nothing gets by these two parents. Parenting is a well orchestrated sharing of duties.

Big Red on the left (17 years old) and Arthur on the right (4 years old)

When I first began watching the hawks on the ledge at NY University, I naively asked the chat group what kind of dangers hawks experienced. The Washington Square group were very patient with me describing the use of rodentcides that cause blood not to coagulate as a prime poison for the hawks in the parks of NYC. This is because their primary prey are the rats of the city. And then there are cars, buses, trucks, windows, air vents between buildings -. The list was extensive.

This morning J2 flew over a street with little traffic but still the cars and buses were moving at a clip and well, who knew that he could steer itself to the safety of a tree away from the road? He/she could have also, just as easily, flown into a window. There is a box of worry beads in the chat room and I suspect most of us were helping ourselves today. The sad truth is that 1 in 3 red-tail fledglings do not live to see their first year. I hope, for these in rural New York, that is not the case.

So tomorrow will be another nail biter as we wait to see what J1 and J3 will do. Will they both fledge at the same time? on the same day but at different times? will either of them try to go over the light box like J2 or will they find some new entry way to this next stage in their life?

Stay tuned! I am now officially a hawkaholic.