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.

Spring is in the air…at Ithaca

The calendar says that spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. It happened at 6:37 am on 20 March in Winnipeg just about the time the first song birds arrived at the feeders. At that moment the Sun moved from being south of the equator to heading north with our half of the globe tilted a little closer to the sun. It is warmer and the birds are arriving from their winter holidays. Soon my garden will be full of Dark-eyed Juncos and Grackles making nests. And, finally, by the beginning of May, the central heating can be turned off, hopefully!

The arrival of spring also means that my eyes are focused on a particular Red Tail Hawk nest in Ithaca, New York. The nest is on one of the Fernow light towers and it is home to Big Red, eighteen years old this spring, and her lively mate, Arthur, who will be five. This will be the third season that this bonded pair have raised chicks together.

The couple have been working on that nest continuously for the past three weeks and both were there doing inspections first thing this morning.

That nest could not be more ready! And Big Red spent more time than she has recently sitting on that nest cup. Could this be the day that the first egg will be laid? We held our breath.

And after approving the nest bowl, Big Red stood up. Isn’t she gorgeous? Her plumage is a deep coppery red right now – Arthur is lighter and, of course, Big Red is bigger – and she is the boss! Arthur might like to think that it is ‘his’ nest but, Big Red runs the show.

She stood and stared off into space and flew to another light stand with Arthur and had a confab. Then she returned to the nest.

Did she whisper sweet nothings to Arthur? did she tell him today was the day? or did she suggest that more bark strips were needed?

And, at the end of the day, Big Red is not on the nest. Will she return? We wait.

Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. There is enough prey in their territory on the Cornell campus to sustain them over the snow and cold of northern New York. This also allows them to keep an eye on their nest so no one takes it. Arthur had to remind a group of European Starlings this year that the nest was occupied -. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want to have a nest that close to Big Red. While the hawks don’t particularly care for starlings they will eat them in a pinch. Better find a nest on the other side of the campus!

If you missed the highlights of the 2020 year, here is the video compilation. There is never – and I do mean never – a dull moment. 2020 was the year of the Js and 2021 is the year of the Ks. And I say this without hesitating – little J3 is my favourite.

Updates from other nests:

Last evening everyone was excited. The microphone on the nest of Jackie and Shadow at Big Bear picked up peeps from the chick hatching. Sadly, the chick died trying to get out of shell. Let us all hope that their second egg is viable and hatches safely. This has been a really bad year for these two. The raven ate one of the eggs from their first clutch and the second egg broke. This is now their second try. Fingers crossed.

All of the other birds are doing well today. Everyone has eaten at least once if not more.

I will leave you with an image of Kisatchie at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest in Central Louisiana. Kisatchie is the first little eaglet born on this big Bald Eagle nest in the forest since 2013. She is also the first baby of Anna and Louis. These are fantastic parents. What a contented baby with its mom -Kisatchie and Anna.

Have a fantastic day. Thanks for joining me.

Thank you to Cornell Bird Labs and the KNF Eagle Cam for their streaming. This is where I get my scaps.

Does this look like an eagle to you?

This is a Kansas City Bald Eagle nest but this isn’t an eagle incubating eggs. No, it is a Great Horned Owl (GHO). She is brooding at least one egg. The egg cup is deep and there are probably more. GHOs typically have their nests in trees. Sometimes they will nest on deserted buildings and even on the ledges of cliffs. They have also been know to make their nests on platforms constructed by humans like the ones made for Osprey. Some have even been known to lay their eggs close to the ground, just like our Daisy Duck would have usually done. So, like Daisy the Duck, this owl has ‘borrowed’ a Bald Eagle’s nest for its eggs! And like Daisy, this own might pull downy feathers from his breast to line the egg cup. The farmer that owns the land where this eagle’s nest is located calls the mated pair of owls, Bonnie and Clyde after the notorious bank robbers. Normally, it would be Willie and Marie, the BE here. All of this happened about a week ago and it is believed that is when the GHO laid her egg.

Eagle fighting with GHO for the nest. Both are mantling.

The nest is high up in this tree. You can just see the Bald Eagle flying out after the fight with the owl.

Here you can see the eagle flying from the nest.

So far, the GHO is still in possession of this nest. Oh, my. This reminds me of the drama we had when Daisy the Pacific Black Duck laid her eggs on the White-Bellied Sea Eagles nest. So far, the owl is still there.

GHO sleeping, 12 February 2021.

When her mate brings her food, he leaves it on a tree branch and then does the beautiful hoot to her. So cute. As with the Pacific Black duck, I think we are going to learn a lot about Great Horned Owls.

It occurs to me that if there are not enough big tall trees left for the eagles to build their nest in, what about big trees for owls? Maybe they are also having a problem and needing to ‘borrow’. The farmer that owns the land says the Bald Eagles are OK and still in the area. I will keep you posted. Wonder if there is a possible eviction in the offing?

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Out in the world of the other birds who do have nests, here are some quick updates:

SWFL Eagle Nest: Harriet, M15, E18 and E17

E18 might have gone to bed with a small crop but right now its crop is bursting. The menu has included rabbit and fish but E18 was fed an entire rat. I am really hoping that rat hadn’t eaten rodenticide! I always worry about that when I see those on a nest. So, no worries. Both of these eagles are fed well and it is hot.

Big Bear: Shadow and Jackie, 2 eggs under incubation

You can’t see it but the winds are so strong they are just shaking the nest out in California. Eagles love the wind so Jackie is only suffering because it is a very cold and the wind is bringing that cold off the water.

NEFL: Samson and Gabby, E24

E24 is feisty! Look at that little one. It climbed even further and got entirely out of the nest bowl to get some of that fresh fish. What a cutie pie. Looks like a fluffy snowman with arms. It has been raining on their nest. Always brings in the flying critters. Hope that dissipates soon. And so hot and sticky.

Duke Farms Eagle Cam: 2 adults and 3 eggs under incubation

And wow, what a difference from Florida. The eagles here still have cold and snow.

The Trio over near Fulton, Illinois: Starr, Valor I and II.

The three were rumoured to have been working on the nest this morning. This is a shot from this afternoon. The temperatures are still rather frigid.

Royal Albatross, Taiaroa Head, NZ: LGL and LGK plus chick

Isn’t this the most beautiful lavender pink morning with the sun coming up over the peninsula where the Northern Royal Albatross have their nests. LGL is still on the nest with the ever growing chick. All is well way down south.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, 147 days old still seems to be at Eba Anchorage and Eba Island today.

It looks like there is going to be another adventure on a Bald Eagle nest. Who would have thought that in two months we would see a Pacific Black Duck and now a Great Horned Owl take over those beautiful big nests of the eagles?

Thank you to Derek Farmer and the streaming cam of the eagle nest at Kansas City, the American Eagle Federation for NEFL eagle cam and Big Bear, AEF and D Pritchett for the SWFL cam, the Stewards of the Mississippi for the streaming cam of the Trio, Port Lincoln Osprey and the researchers for the tracking information on Solly, Cornell and NZ DOC for the Royal Albatross, Duke Farms for their Eagle cam.

The Great Bird Count – and you can join in the fun

Friday, 12 February kicks off four days of bird counting. It does not matter where in the world you live. My readers come from every continent and I know that you will want to take part. So, what’s up and how can you join in the fun.

It’s free. Anyone can participate. You can count the birds in your garden, at the park, at the beach, or on a walk. And because of the frigid weather, you don’t even have to go outside. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t. You can look out of your window. You will need a pad of paper and something to write with. And you will need to log in to submit your observations. What if you don’t know what bird it is – well, the organizors have you covered. You have free access to Cornell’s Birds of the World to help you. And for anyone who submits sightings longer than 15 minutes or through the Merlin app on their phone, they will be entered to win a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 24 binoculars. Fantastic. So here is how to do.

I want you to go to: https://www.birdcount.org/participate/

I cannot get the link to embed in this posting, so please cut and paste.

Once you get to link, you will see the text and the images at the right (in the picture above). Please select the device that you will use to submit your count. You do this by clicking on one of three links in green. (If you are a group, like a school classroom, you click on Group Counting).

You will need to sign up for an account. It is free and once you have joined, spend some time at the Cornell site. There are free courses, bird identification postings, and you can find the links to all of the streaming cameras that Cornell Ornithology Lab helps to sponsor. Once you are signed up or signed in, you will need to determine what kind of a device you will be using to upload your counts. I will be using my laptop computer. During the day I will note the time I started watching my garden and what birds I saw during that period. In our garden it is particularly busy around 12 noon when we fill the feeders. I will start my bird count then. For four days I will count the birds that come to the garden. Don’t worry if you think you haven’t seen enough birds to bother. Every bird counts! And I really mean that.

Several years ago I noticed the Sharp-Shinned hawk and I went in and listed in on e-Bird. I had an e-mail that afternoon telling me that I could not have a Sharp-shinned hawk in my garden in Canada in January. But I did and I had a picture of it. Do not underestimate the importance of this count.

There will be another one in May. You can join in then or maybe you will want to count the birds more often and submit them to e-Bird. Taking a walk becomes fun. Just take a small notebook and pencil or your phone. Keep a list and submit it when you get home.

If you can’t count birds every day of the four days – no problem! Just submit when you can. You will be able to see the live count around the world. To see the live tracking go to birdcount.org

Have some fun. Get your friends to join in and compare the birds that you saw.

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One of the things that I am most interested in is bird behaviour. When Daisy the Duck had her nest in the centre of the old Ironbark Tree, where the White Bellied Sea Eagles raise their eaglets, will remember the reaction of the various birds to Daisy being in the nest. In the case of the Bald Eagles, I have noticed the behaviour of the adult male, M15, at the SWFL Eagle nest in Fort Myers since the twins returned from being at the clinic. M15 has gotten at least one gold star and last night, after sunset, he got another.

In the clinic it was noticed that E17 was extremely aggressive to E18. In fact, the behaviour got so bad that the clinic staff literally separated them at meal time. E17 got time out.

So it was with great interest that I watched a feeding on the nest just as dusk was falling tonight, 11 February. The events at this feeding are quite telling. Let me show you.

  1. At the onset, E17 is asleep. E 18 is sitting up and is awake. There is an old catfish by E18 (left) and fish to the right of the sleeping sib.

Harriet begins to feed E18 the old catfish. M15 has arrived on the nest to the right. E17 remains asleep.

Harriet is still feeding E18. E17 raises its head, opens its eyes and notices that its sibling is being fed. M15 is eating fish.

In the image below, E17 has sat up and bonked E18 who lies in the submission pose. Harriet has moved the old catfish around to feed E17.

Harriet continues to feed E17 but E18 is raising its head. M15 is now raising his head from eating. He is noticing what is happening. Eagles have amazing vision. His line of sight lets him know that E18 is not being fed any longer.

M15 leans over E17 to feed E18. Harriet does the same thing. E18 has not turned around to eat because he is afraid of E17 bonking him.

M15 actually feeds Harriet so she can feed E18. M15 hovers directly over E17 so it cannot cause any trouble.

Harriet continues to feed E18. E17 has gone to sleep. M15 is leaving the nest. Whew! I hope you can keep all of that straight.

Harriet and the eaglets are trying to sleep despite the mosquitoes which seem to be quite bad at both this eagle nest and the one near St. Augustive, NEFL.

It turned out that E18 has a very nice late dinner. He had some of the old catfish while E17 was sleeping and then when M15 stepped in, he had some of the new fish after E17 was asleep again.

And a quick check in this morning. I did not know that there are still eagles in Minnesota that did not migrate. They are apparently having great difficulty in this cold finding prey.

Down in Florida, it is a different story. E17 and 18 are already panting it is so hot.

And all is well in NEFL at St Augustine. Lots of fresh fish on deck and the little one just waiting for a nice bite.

And remember that beautiful picturesque Big Bear? Look what is happening to Jackie and Shadow today? The winds are horrific! And snow is coming down like hard pellets. Not the soft dancing flakes we have.

Poor Jackie. She has her head hunkered down. She is now into hard incubation as she did lay that second egg late last night! I hope Shadow can find you some nice prey in this horrific weather!

It looks like the only nice weather for our eagles is down in Florida right now.

That is our morning check in. Please remember to take part in the Great Bird Count if you can – and, of course, if you want to.

Will be back this evening with an update on the Eagles and how they are holding out in this weather. Take care everyone. Stay safe.

Thank you to the streaming cams at SWFL and D. Pritchett Real Estate, at NEFL, and at Big Bear. I get my screen shots form these cams.

And for the life of me I cannot get rid of this block. I had tried to post a link to you about the bird count – so ignore it!