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.

White Bellied Sea Eaglet 26

Has anyone’s life not been changed by something happening in 2020? Have you had to work at home? did you have a friend or a family member get Sars-COVID 19 and die? Did your business have to close? Did you wonder how you would pay your rent or mortgage? Did you long just to visit with family or friends? Or take that vacation you had been planning for years only to have it cancelled? It clearly has not been an easy year for everyone.

My blog is normally about contemporary Canadian ceramics but this year has been different. In between writing book chapters on ceramics and the environment, I have, like millions of others, taken the time to watch live bird cams. I became very attached to Big Red and Arthur, the Red-Tail Hawks whose territory includes the Cornell University campus in Ithaca. Like so many others, I would wake up in the middle of the night and check on Big Red. Often she was encased in ice (yes, that is true) incubating her eggs or protecting her eyases. The Js fledged about six weeks before the time that the White-Bellied Sea Eagles were hatching in their nest. That nest is in an old Ironwood and Turpentine forest near the Sydney Olympic Park. Two eggs with both hatching. This years numbers are 25 and 26.

WBSE 26 was inspirational. Sometime, shortly after hatching, her leg was broken.  When 26 would cheep when the parents would leave the nest, 25 would comfort 26. This is something very special. Normally sea eaglets are very competitive because that is their instinct, to survive. Even when they were getting ready to be fed, 25 would help 26. What an amazing sibling 25 was.

For more than a month, 26 scooted on its ankles always getting to the prey first but losing it because she could not hold on tight. It didn’t matter. Both thrived under the good care of Lady and Dad.

In the image above, 26 is on the left and 25 is on the right. If they were sleeping in the nest, you could hardly tell them apart. 25 had a little more colour, a little more rust or peach around its head. It was only when they stood up or when 25 was jumping up and down and walking easily that you knew which was which.

26 worked hard to do all the things that her older sibling could do and in turn, she provided inspiration for the elderly and physically challenged on the chat line.  She practiced her wingersizing. She climbed higher and higher on the branches til she got as high as where her parents roosted at night. She figured out how to feed herself and hold on to the prey. Everyone hoped that she would be able to hunt and live like a normal sea eagle in the wild. She had worked so hard to attain every milestone.

26 fledged but returned to the nest after six days.  She rested and the parents fed her.  On the fifth day, she fledged again.  She was harassed by a bunch of currawongs and to help fend them off, a Magpie joined 26.  This is not normal, like everything else in 2020. Normally the Magpies and the eaglets are sworn enemies.

Later that day the currawongs chased 26 out of the forest.  A day later she was discovered on the 22nd floor of a high-rise apartment building a mile away from the nest in the Sydney Olympic Park.  What a surprise that must have been for the owners finding a nearly 75 cm high eaglet with a wingspan of 2.5 metres on your balcony before you have even had breakfast? 26 could not, however, fly out of the balcony because it was partially covered and there was lots of furniture. The owner called the wild life rescue and 26 was taken into care, first by WIRES who provides care and vet services. Later 26 was taken to the team at the Taronga Zoo.

All of her on line fan club hoped that 26 would go through rehabilitation and become an educational bird. She had, however, a broken right leg that had not healed properly. She could not put any weight on it and because of that the left leg had suffered major cuts and lesions for overcompensating. Even the right leg was injured. The veterinary team determined after observing and feeding 26 for several days that she could not survive in the wild if they amputated her leg. They were also concerned about the high level of pain she was experiencing. To try surgery to mend the broken leg meant even more pain and no guarantee of success. However, it was determined that she was in such pain that the kind thing to do would be to euthanize her.  This turned out to be a bit of a controversial decision because of the physically challenged/people with disabilities who saw themselves in her struggle. It will be awhile before all of the tears dry up. Every day someone tells me how much 26 meant to them. Many wrote poems and tributes and I am including the one that I wrote for 26. I hope that it might also be inspiring to you. She was special. No one can quite put their finger on the ‘why’ of it all but there is no doubt in my mind that 26 gave hundreds of people a great gift and that gift was her time with us.

My greatest glory is not my falling but in rising up when I did.

Many believed I would never stand but, I did.

Many believed I would never branch.

Many believed I would never stand to sleep.

Many believed I would never self-feed.

But, I did all of those things.

Many believed I would never fly.

But I flew, high and fast, with strong wind in my wings.

Believe in yourself as I believed in me.

Soar above everyone’s expectations.

Don’t count how many days you soar but how well and high.

Never give up.  I didn’t.

Images Courtesy of Sea-EagleCAM@BirdLife Australia Discovery Centre, Sydney Olympic