Sadness and Joy

Everyone has been very saddened by the fact that there will not be four fledges from the 367 Collins Street Peregrine Falcon scrape in Melbourne. Everyone was both shocked and happy when Mum laid that fourth egg. It would have been a historic moment if all four had fledged. It is hard to lose a little one that we have come so close to – watching all of its antics.

Trichomonosis is caused by a parasite. In urban raptors, it is normally by the eating of an infected prey item. The neck and throat can swell and sores or cankers can appear. The birds cannot swallow and it is difficult to eat and breath. That is certainly not something we would wish on any bird. No one will ever know which of the prey deliveries carried this deadly parasite.

As one person said today – putting this loss in perspective – “we are lucky that we did not lose all of the birds.” They are absolutely correct. We have seen how prey items are shared and we now must hope and send warm wishes that none of the other family members succumb to this parasite. You can see in the image below how swollen the neck is of the little male in this image taken last evening. He is the one with the floof on his wings and back still. It is so sad.

Two of the siblings stayed with their little brother in the scrape box last night. The parents had been in earlier. I will disagree with anyone that says the parents and the siblings do not know what is happening with their family member. They do. They are just not afforded the luxury of having several days to mourn. They have to get on with their lives so that they survive.

In her book, The Genius of Birds, Jennifer Ackerman addresses (briefly) issues related to death and mourning in Corvids. The Peregrine Lady (Kate St John) who writes about the falcons in Pittsburg in her blog Outside My Window, has often commented that whenever one of the fledglings would die, the Mum falcon would go to her “mourning corner”. While she could not stay there for long because she had survivors to look after, it was a noticeable change in her behaviour when one of her own died and it was the only time she goes to that particular place. Kate St John’s blog is excellent and can be accessed at: birdsoutsidemywindow.org

Here is another article on mourning.

As Jennifer Ackerman states, “The jury is still out on whether birds grieve their own. But more and more scientists seem willing to admit the possibility.”

There is not a lot happening on the other Australian nests today, thankfully. The water is still a little choppy at Port Lincoln. Certainly not like it was yesterday when one of the nearby boats sunk. The three will no doubt be working on their hovering after getting some energy once that breakfast fish has arrived. And, yes, they could fledge anytime but I am counting on another week with these guys.

Yurruga is also waiting for her breakfast. She will be ready to fledge in a week but will she fly then? That is hard to imagine with all the floof still on her body! At that time the parents will continue to provide her with food and train her so that she can live a successful life as a falcon. Once she reaches that stage, they will invite her to leave their territory and find her own space.

Yurruga is adorable. Her name means ‘Sunny’ in Maori and she does certainly brighten up everyone’s day. Notice that she is standing on the rocks in the corner. She slept next to her Mum, Diamond, on Diamond’s rocks last night. Those rocks were put there on purpose so that Diamond would not be able to lay her eggs where they could not be seen by the camera. Yurruga only knows that Mum stands there and we get the benefit of seeing her beautiful face up close. What a darling.

Please do watch this beautiful family. Diamond and Xavier are fabulous parents! Yurruga is very vocal and right at this moment she is screaming for the parents to bring breakfast! I promise that Yurruga will delight you just as her brother Izzi did last year. Here is the link:

It is a very snowy day on the Canadian Prairies. A wonderful day to hunker down and read and drink lots of tea. If you have good weather and are heading out for a walk, enjoy it for me, too. This snow is like walking in a 15 cm or 6 inch Slurpee it is so heavy and wet. The birds are hiding in the wood boxes today, some of them.

Take care everyone. I so wish I had been able to have brought you good news about the little fellow. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: The Port Lincoln Osprey Project, and 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac.

Ever wonder what it is like to be a first time bird mom?

One of the wonderful things to come out of the pandemic is the number of people who started watching streaming bird cams. Testimony after testimony speaks to the transformative power of the birds. They have brought joy to so many of us. The birds have taken away the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic. Together we have marvelled at how a Bald Eagle can shake the snow off her wings but never get a flake on the eggs she is incubating. We have held our collective breathes when Big Red, the Red Tail Hawk at Cornell, was blown off her nest.

We cried with joy when Ms Pippa Atawhai literally ran with her webbed feet to get to her dad, OGK, when he returned after being at sea. We smiled when they fledged wishing we could just hold on to them for a few more days. They touched our hearts.

Pippa (left) with OGK (right). @Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC

Since the end of January there have been many Bald Eagle hatches. There are many pip watches on the horizon and eggs are being laid around North America. In fact, the Bald Eagles in Canada’s most western province, British Columbia, have recently laid eggs, the earliest in the history of the nest at Surrey. Some of the parents are older and very experienced and for others, this is their first time to lay an egg, have it hatch, and have a tiny little eaglet to care for. It cannot be easy. They have no manuals. Their mothers or grandmothers are not there to help the young mothers understand how to feed their baby and care for it. And, yet, they do. The term ‘bird brain’ is misdirected. Study after study speaks to the genius of birds in terms of their communication, navigation, and their use of tools. An excellent book on this topic for the lay person is Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds.

Along with using tools, communicating, and the migrating birds navigational system to get them to their favourite feeders in the summer, birds instinctively know that they must cover their babies in the snow and pouring rain when they have only natal down. The chicks, eaglets, eyases, or ‘babies’ as I often call them know to raise their little bottoms and shoot their ps out of the nest. They learn so fast! But wonder what it is like to be a first time ‘bird’ mother?

RTH hatchling J1, 2020. @Cornell Labs RTH Streaming Cam

At 11pm on the 23rd of February, the single eaglet on the Kisatchie National Forest nest hatched. Its parents are, as far as anyone knows, first timers. The nest is located in Central Louisiana. From the food deliveries, it appears that the area is relatively rich in prey, especially fish, which, of course, Bald Eagles love. The father understands his role as providing food to the nest, sometimes incubating the eggs, brooding the eaglet, and defense. The other evening when he took over brooding duties, out of habit he rolled the eaglet thinking that it was still an egg! The eaglet is fine but having rolled eggs for more than a month – it seems it might have become a habit, at least for the dads. The mother, in her enthusiasm, tried first to shove large bites of food in the eaglets mouth. It wasn’t working. It also was not working that she was holding her beak straight and vertical. Oh, when that poor baby got only one or two bites and the mother was ready to get back to brooding, I became the ‘auntie’ trying to explain to the young mother what to do through the screen. It didn’t work! Somehow the little thing managed grab enough of the big pieces that it survived. I admit to having my doubts for a couple of days. But then magic happened! On 1 March, the whole feeding process changed. Let me show you in a few images. I am so proud of both of them. Gold stars all around.

The chick is peeping and the mother responds by getting up from brooding. She moves to the pantry. The little eaglet is looking out of the nest bowl in the opposite direction from under its mother’s tail. This isn’t looking very hopeful.

Then the mother repositions herself.

OK. Mom is ready but, seriously. The little one is now in a different spot but still not aligned for a feeding.

The mother steps into the nest bowl, leans her head and tempts the little eaglet with a small piece of fish. She is teaching it to stand nearer to the pantry.

The little eaglet turns its head! And its beak aligns perfectly with its mothers. A nice bite of fish!

The mother continues offering bites, sometimes trying to hold her head differently. The little one continues to grab the fish. This is the longest and best feeding I have seen at this nest for this six day old eaglet. It is also getting stronger and can stabilize its head. I cannot even imagine what it is like trying to feed a bobble head.

It was almost a four minute feeding. The little one had a nice crop and it is now time to sleep and grow! For now the frequent feedings and smaller amounts are perfect. In a week we will see some longer feedings with larger bites. It is so wonderful to see these two figuring this most essential part of parenting and survival out. Fantastic!

Did you wait for a little one to be fed and then you said to yourself that it was alright for you to do something else or go to sleep? Everything just felt alright with the world. Well, today I smiled in relief. These two are going to be alright. If you would like to watch the little chick as it grows up at the KNF nest, please go here to watch the streaming cam:

Thank you for joining me today. It is almost spring…less than three weeks. Yippee.

Wonder what will happen today on ‘As the Nest Turns’?


Before I begin today, I want to thank all of Daisy’s fans from Poland who come every day to check on her well-being. It is so nice to have you with us on her journey.

Zanim zacznę dzisiaj, chciałbym podziękować wszystkim fanom Daisy z Polski, którzy codziennie przyjeżdżają, aby sprawdzić jej samopoczucie. Miło jest mieć cię z nami w jej podróży.

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I have to admit that the time difference between the Canadian Prairies and Sydney, Australia often means that I am awake at 1:30 am waiting for Daisy to return to the nest from foraging. Last night it caught up with me and I turned out the light. Daisy is being smart. She waited til the sun was beginning to lower itself before returning to the Ironbark Tree. It was 17:07.

Daisy approaches her nest cautiously. Remember, she has, at the last minute, looked up and glanced the White Bellied Sea Eagles sitting stone cold still on the camera tree and had to leave quickly. I am impressed with her approach. She lands on the old creaking tree, stopping and looking, and slowly proceeding to her nest. Someone might think she is just a curious visitor. But we know better! So far this little Black Pacific Duck has outwitted the sea eagles!

Daisy continues to be cautious as she slides onto her nest.

The sun lowering on the horizon leaves a beautiful filtered light on our beautiful little duck. For those of you who have been following along every day on Daisy adventures, you will notice that she is really cleaning up the down that was tossed about and getting it back on the nest.

It is 4:40 am in Sydney and Daisy is enjoying the cool before the heat of the day arrives.

The Homebush Bay weather says it is now 21.9 degrees C at 5am. It is expected to climb to 33 degrees C at the height of the day. Oh, Daisy, it is going to get pretty toasty on that nest!

In an article for the Smithsonian Magazine, Brian Handwerk says in ‘Defying Stereotypes, Ducklings Are as Clever as They Are Cute’ that “a duckling’s ability to imprint confers a remarkable ability for abstract thought, often associated only with primates and other animals considered highly intelligent. Ducks even outperform supposedly “smarter” animal species in certain aspects of abstract reasoning. Just hours after birth, those yellow fuzzballs understand concepts like “same” and “different,” remember them, and apply them to never-before-seen objects with no social cues or training” (14 July 2016). In being able to distinguish likeness and difference, the ducklings are demonstrating that they are not ‘bird-brained’ but, rather, they have a high level of abstract thought.

I was so glad to see someone writing something positive about ducks. It isn’t that I have found negative statements about ducks but, rather, it is the absence, the invisibility of ducks in recent popular books on birds. For example, in Jennifer Ackerman’s, The Genius of Birds, there is not one mention of a duck! Magpies, yes. House Sparrows, yes. Even one little mallard, no. I would like to think, from observing Daisy, that ducks are as capable of complex behaviour as every other bird discussed in the book. I think that you might agree with me. She has, thus far, outwitted the boss of the forest, the largest seabird in Australia, the White Bellied Sea Eagle. Let us hope that this pattern continues!

I begin to look at my bookshelves and realize that I have been focused entirely on Red Tail Hawks and falcons. There must be as many beautiful books on ducks. Surely people have adopted ducks, made ponds for them and feed them in the same way that people in the English countryside have swans or wildlife rehabbers have Red Tail Hawks. Perhaps you know of some books on ducks that I should read. Lists are always appreciated. When I looked on line, there are pages and pages of children’s stories about ducks and geese. There are some about making duck decoys and how to line them up so that ducks can be shot. Sorry, I don’t wish to shoot them. I would like them to live happily in a pond or at the edge of the water like our Dabbling Duck, Daisy.

It is 5:57 and the forest is beginning to wake up. Daisy hears ravens cawing in the distance. Ravens normally follow the sea eagles in the forest. She stretches her neck to listen intently and then relaxes again.

There are enormous demands and dangers for Daisy while she is nesting. She has pulled off the down on her breast to line the nest. This also creates a bare spot which is the ‘brood patch’. The heat from Daisy’s body goes directly to the eggs. Periodically during the day and night, she will rotate the eggs. Daisy has, as mentioned before, lost a lot of her body weight creating the eggs and lining the nest. She also is not able to go and forage as frequently as she would when she is not nesting. We know that she goes out to replenish herself but that is on average about three hours a day. Otherwise, she is alert and on the nest tending to her eggs. Daisy is not like larger waterfowl, like geese and ducks. She does not have a fat reserve to draw on when she is incubating. So besides the danger of her own health, there are also other animals in the forest that are predators. We have met many of them in the days that Daisy has been incubating – Ravens, the White Bellied Sea Eagles, the Pied Currawong, and perhaps BooBook Owl, Magpies, and possums. Sadly, a lot of wild ducks have an even bigger danger created by humans – the loss of their habitat.

There is no need to create any drama around Daisy. Right now she has out mustered all of the other birds and animals in the forest. As I said yesterday, an uneventful day is a good day for Daisy – just like it is for us!

The sun paints a rose-gold hue over the nest as it rises over the forest.

Our little duck uses this quiet time to do some aerating of the nest and some preening.

Look at that beautiful down nest lining! Wow.

The only visitors so far have been the Rainbow Lorikeets and they have spent their time on the bowl of the big nest.

Daisy heard them but she could not see them at first. They were climbing around on the bottom of the big sea eagle nest. When she realized that they were the beautiful rainbow coloured parrots and that they would not bother her or her eggs, she relaxed.

Daisy relaxes when she sees the Rainbow Lorikeets.
The beautiful parrots are all curious about Daisy.

I have this thought that always comes to mind when I see the Rainbow Lorikeets climbing over the nest tree. They are not frightened and that must mean that the White Bellied Sea Eagles are not close! That is a very good thing. The Lorikeets are still climbing around on the nest. They have been there for more than an hour. Daisy can relax and enjoy a nice morning.

I am so happy that you have joined me today to find out what has been happening in the world of little Daisy. I will bring updates as I try to do everyday in about six hours. Stay tuned to find out if your favourite Black Pacific Duck had any more adventures today!

Thanks to WBSE Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the cameras so I can take my screen shots.