Incubation Day 13 or the hottest day in Sydney

Daisy has been on the nest quietly but alertly brooding her eggs. She took a very early morning break from 4:13:44 to 5:16:34. Possibly a bathroom break for a duck or a chance to grab a quick breakfast and cool off in the water before one of the hottest days on the nest. It is 14:06:40 and our cute little duck is panting quickly in order to regulate her temperature despite the fact that there is now shade on the nest.

There is finally shade on the nest but it is still very very hot for our favourite duck.

Someone asked me about the ducklings. Is it safe for them to hatch and jump from a nest in a tree 75 feet high? Yes, it is perfectly safe. The ducklings are not harmed because the down on their body absorbs the impact. In fact, I am told that they actually bounce. It is hard to imagine! Last year a pair of Canada Geese laid their eggs in an Osprey nest in Minnesota. The goslings were recorded leaping down to the ground to everyone’s amazement. Some geese are known to build their nests on cliffs 150 feet high to be away from predators. No harm has come to the goslings when they have left from those nests.

Here is a video of a Wood Duck whose nest was in a very high tree. It is only 1.33 minutes long. Have a look. This is what Daisy’s ducklings will do. She will leap down to the forest floor and they will jump! Enjoy.

Wood Ducks Leaping from a very high nest in a tree.

Of course, there are many fears for Daisy. Remember, she is effectively a single mother in an environment that is unusual. Her ducklings will hatch and immediately start peeping. This will draw attention to the nest. It is only twenty-four hours after hatch that they take their ‘leap of faith’ jumping off of the big nest on the Ironbark Tree. But first, before they can do that, they have to survive any predators and somehow make their way through all those twigs to the rim without getting their little paddles caught up in them. And then there are the predators on the ground. I have often wondered why WBSE Dad has not damaged any more eggs. Is he just dropping by to check, waiting for them to hatch? Him and Lady are well known for bringing in the Silver Gull chicks to the nest for their eaglets. And then there is Mr. Raven and all the Pied Currawongs and last, but never least, the foxes. I am told that they have been removed from the park. I hope so. That would be one less thing for Daisy to worry about. But for now, we will just simply rejoice in every hassle free day that Daisy has. We are now half way in the incubation period to hatch watch: February 6-10.

It is now late afternoon in the forest. The sun is back shining on Daisy’s head and the nest cup. It is so hot that there are no sounds of any birds. Everyone is trying to keep cool.

Daisy begins to tuck the down in around her nest along with pulling leaves closer to her nest. Then she sees a shadow of a bird cross the nest and she stops! She waits and listens. Five minutes later she resumes her preparations for concealing her nest and heading to the water to eat and cool off. She flies off the nest to the left, to the closest water source, at 15:11:10.

Daisy moves her quickly to tuck in the down and pull leaves towards the nest.
Daisy finding some last plant material to conceal her eggs before leaving.

It was so hot yesterday and it is even hotter today. If Daisy follows her pattern of late, she will return to the nest between 19:45:00 and 20:00. And if the Sea Eagles are being typical, if they are coming in to check it will be around 17:00 and Daisy will be gone!

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Daisy wants to say hello to all her friends in Poland and she welcomes her new viewers from China. Thank you for joining us on Daisy’s journey.

Thank you to Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for providing the camera for my scaps.

The Continuing Saga of Dad and the Duck or ‘As the Nest Turns’

Just to bring those of you up to speed in case you haven’t read my earlier blog. In early December, a pair of Pacific Black Ducks investigated the nest of a pair of White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) in an old Ironwood Tree in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia. On 14 December, a nest cup was excavated in the centre of the sea eagle nest by the ducks. (Note: This is off-season for the sea eagles.). Six days later, ‘Dad’, the male partner of ‘Lady’, to whom the nest belongs, came to the nest for one of his periodic territory checks. The female aptly named ‘Daisy’ by Phyllis Robbins of the WBSE chat group laid her first egg in the nest cup on 5 January 2021.

Female Black Pacific Duck

On the morning of 11 January, Daisy arrives at the nest just after dawn. Before she could lay her egg, vocalizations from other birds in the forest alert her that the sea eagle is about. Indeed, Daisy might have been listening for the male sea eagle because he had come to the nest the previous day. That day she quickly covered the eggs and flew off the nest but stayed in proximity. Dad stayed for about half an hour before leaving and within a few minutes, Daisy returned to lay her sixth egg without interruption. This morning, however, Daisy had not laid her egg when the large sea bird appeared. She stood on the rim of the nest and quacked as Dad flew to the camera tree. She left so abruptly that she did not have time to cover her eggs but, it seems that Dad did not notice her physical presence on the nest or her quacking.

Dad surveyed his territory remaining on the tree that supports the camera for the live stream for about an hour. He might have thought that the bird laying the eggs would return without noticing him and he would find out who this mysterious bird is.

White-Bellied Sea Eagle Male known as ‘Dad’ scanning his territory for intruders.

After about an hour and a half, Dad flew to the nest tree to see first hand what was happening. He had noticed the eggs the previous day by rummaging around in the leaves. He even tried to pick one up with his bill but to no avail.

Three of the six Black Pacific Duck Eggs

Today the eggs were clearly visible. Look carefully. Daisy has started removing down from her breast to line the nest. This physiological process is called zugunruhe.

Under normal circumstances, Daisy would arrive at dawn to lay her egg. She would do this every day until she finished laying all of the eggs for her clutch. This can vary between 8-13 eggs. After laying her egg, Daisy often remains on the nest for a period of about an hour before departing for the river to forage for the rest of the day. Once all of the eggs are laid, Daisy will begin full incubation, being relieved periodically by her mate. After twenty-eight days, the ducklings will hatch. Then, the following day (after 24 hours), they will take a giant leap of faith and jump off the rim of the nest, a distance of approximately fourteen metres, to the forest floor. Here they will follow their mother to the Parramatta River where they will immediately begin foraging for themselves.

Dad inspecting the Black Pacific Duck’s eggs

Today, Dad began to curiously inspect the nest with the eggs. For what seemed like an eternity, he would look at the eggs and then look around the immediate environment of the tree. It was actually like he was confused. At one point he tried to pick up one of the eggs but he couldn’t do it. It isn’t that they are heavy; the shape is just awkward for him to handle with his beak. He did not try to move the eggs with his giant talons nor did he attempt to break them. He did toss some of the down around. At one point, it even looked like he might start brooding the eggs. It was a very strange exchange because Dad’s hormones are not thinking about breeding or brooding. He is in the midst of moulting.

Dad trying to move one of the eggs

The entire morning was very suspenseful. Currawongs and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were screeching in the background and at one point, it was thought that Daisy even did a fly by.

And then the oddest thing happened. Very delicately, Dad covered up the eggs at 9:01 am.

Dad covered up the duck eggs so that no one could see them

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, Dad went up to one of the ‘parent branches’ on the nest tree and stood vigil. More than once, Dad flapped his wings to keep the Currawongs away! Take altogether, these three actions scream out that his intuition is to protect the eggs.

Dad standing guard over the nest

Dad stayed for more than an hour before departing. At the time of this writing, he has returned once again to the nest tree where he is keeping watch over his territory.

Stay tuned!