Bird Mothers of the Year

Every year we stop and think about the women who gave us life and mentored us to become independent adults. I want to stop for a moment and consider a few of the bird mothers. Last year I was able to single out one bird that seemed to give it her all and that was Big Red, the Red tailed-hawk whose nest is on the Cornell Campus. This year I have a few more to add. I am certain that you have your own list as well.

In studying the social behaviour of birds, one of the things that has astonished me is how complicated the lives of our feathered friends are and how the behaviour of humans has impacted their lives.

The birds are not listed in any particular order – I could not, for the life of me, rank them. They have struggled against the greatest odds sometime. The first bird mentioned does not have a happy ending and this is a warning about that. If you would prefer to skip this mom, then please scroll down to Big Red.

The first female on my list is Milda. Milda is a White-tailed Eagle. She worked with her long time mate, Raimis, and rebuilt their nest near Durbe, Latvia. She laid her eggs on March 12, 15, and 21. The last time that Raimis was seen was the 27th of March. Milda incubated her eggs and stayed on her nest, despite several intruders, for eight days without eating. Then on two occasions, she had to leave the nest to try and find food and was off her eggs for periods nearing five hours at a time. It is not clear how successful she was in hunting. A male WTE appeared and tried to help incubate. By some miracle two of the three eggs hatched on the 21 and 24th of April. The people of Latvia and those who adore Milda were overcome with emotion. But that joy was short lived. It was pretty clear that Milda was almost starving to death. She had completely depleted her bodily resources. The male brought a crow to the nest and the eaglets were fed and then he took it away. It was very cold and Milda had to eat. She had to leave the nest to find food. She was desperate. If she did not survive neither would her eaglets. It is like the instructions when you fly on a plane: put your own oxygen mask on first before you help your children. Did Milda know that her eaglets would freeze? was this a form of euthanasia? did Milda think the male would incubate the eaglets while she found food? In all of this, there was also an intruder. Milda’s eaglets slowly froze to death. Later that day she consumed them.

Cannibalism in eagles is a new area of study with the growing number of streaming cameras. In 2002, a group of wildlife biologists in Virginia were stunned when they observed a male eagle killing his eaglets alive and eating them. More reports of similar behaviour came in leading researchers to believe that the behaviour may be more common that believed particularly in times of food shortage.

Milda was a very devoted and dedicated single mother. The circumstances were dire. She could not help her babies if she could not feed herself and she was starving. We have watched birds mourn their dead. It is beyond my comprehension to understand how difficult all of this was for Milda. The lack of a partner and the inability of a female parent to provide enough food for their eaglet also happened at another nest in Latvia. That was the nest of Spilve whose beautiful eaglet, Klints, perished from starvation. Spilve mourned the death of her Klints. This year, she refused to use the nest that Klints’s body has become a part of. Instead, her and her new mate went to another.

I am really aware of the dedication that the Latvians have for their wildlife. What has caused a drop in prey? has it always been this difficult? and would it be possible to stock artificial ponds for these large raptors? Those are just three of my questions.

Milda feeding her two little ones their last meal. 25 April 2021

My second bird mother of the year will always be first in my heart- Big Red whose territory is on the Cornell Campus.

Big Red is even wetter. 8 May 2021

Big Red hatched near Brooktondale, New York in 2003. She was banded on 20 October 2003 in Brooktondale. She is eighteen years old. The exact history of her mates and the number of eyasses she has raised to fledge will never be known. She was known to have a nest in 2010 on the Cornell Campus and two years later cameras were installed. Her mate at the time was Ezra. Ezra was killed in 2017. It is the only year that she did not have a clutch. She bonded with her current mate, Arthur, that same year. It is entirely possible that Big Red has fledged no less than 35 eyasses. This year she has another clutch of three. Big Red is a devoted mother. By the fall she is already selecting which light tower to use as a nest and is working with Arthur then and to a greater degree in February to ready the nest for the upcoming breeding season. She has been encrusted in snow more times than I want to remember and soaked to the bones. She has been blown off the nest! Still she works and keeps those kiddos of hers full to the brim. As someone recently said, ‘No one leaves Big Red’s table hungry.’ And when her eyasses fledge she will spend days with them in family hunting expeditions so that they are as prepared as she can make them for the outside world.

Today, she was soaked to the bone and cold – even the babies are a wee bit ‘wet’. Those heavy raindrops wanted nothing more than to turn into icy slush. She fed her three little ones as quickly as she could so they would not get wet and catch a chill. Just look at the love in those eyes! Being a mom is what it is all about for Big Red.

Unlike Milda, Big Red has a devoted mate, Arthur, who is busy filling the pantry providing food for Big Red and the Ks as well as security for the territory. Arthur also gives Big Red much needed relief breaks despite the fact that she prefers to look after the little ones almost 100% of the time! Her territory is also prey plentiful.

Big Red will always be at the top of my list. She is just simply amazing.

A soaked Big Red. 7 May 2021

My third female is Diane at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida. I am including Diane in my list for one single reason. This year her three eggs hatched and she had three osplets to raise. At the time the three were born (5th and 7th of March), there was plenty of prey on the nest. However, a week later the fish deliveries became irregular causing food insecurity on the nest. It was unclear whether or not the third hatch would survive. There would be days of plenty and then hardly any fish. If the babies didn’t eat neither did Diane. Many suspected that Jack, her mate, might have another nest. Diane began to go fishing supplementing the fish that were brought onto the nest and that is why I am including her. When she was able she would leave the nest and bring in huge catfish to feed her babies and herself. She was a selfless mom. The two older siblings and in particular, the second hatch, demanded more and more food. For days in a row the third hatch had no food. Even Diane acted on several occasions like the little one would not live. Then something happened. The food became more plentiful and she paid particular attention so that the third hatch was full. I call him Tiny Tot. This year Diane will fledge three – . Tiny Tot is the only one left to fledge and his feather growth is behind. And that is OK. Tiny Tot is simply a delight.

In the image below Tiny Tot sits in the middle of the nest with its full crop and its ever growing wings. At one time no one believed #3 would survive and most thought it would be stunted but Tiny is filling out all over. Diane makes sure that sibling #2 standing on the rim of the nest at the back does not eat all of the fish that comes on the nest. I have to give her like 5 gold stars for stepping in and making sure that the food is shared between these two. No one is left out.

Tiny is really growing. Maybe he is a she? 7 May 2021

Diane is on the nest with Tiny. They are both waiting for an incoming fish.

Diane on the left and Tiny Tot on the right. Not so Tiny anymore!

Tiny Tot can self-feed. He was the first of the three to do so. To survive he found fish bones with a little flesh on them and ate it. Diane does love to feed him, tho.

Diane loves to feed Tiny Tot even tho he can do it himself. 7 May 2021

As the sun goes down, Diane and her two little ones are full. Tiny is actually full to the brim. You can see that glimmer of the sun on his big crop.

The sun sets on the St Petersburg Osprey Nest and all are full. 7 May 2021

Another bird mom that has touched my heart in a way that I cannot quite put my finger on is Eve, the mate of Eerik, whose nest is in the Matsalu National Park in Estonia. It is so cold in Estonia that the geese had to stop their northern migration. Eve is a huge White-tailed Eagle – she almost looks ‘wooly’ because her plumage is so thick to keep her warm. She is the most gentle of mothers with her two little eaglets.

Eve does not have the prey problem that Milda had in Latvia. There are plenty of fish and other birds that Eerik brings to the nest. Eve carefully conceals them and keeps them fresh in the straw around the rim of the nest-like an old fashioned ‘ice box’. What they have had to contend with are intruders and lingering cold weather to the extreme. It is especially important because the eaglets cannot thermoregulate their temperature. They depend on Eve and Eerik for everything. Many mornings Eve has woken up to be completely covered in a cold frost. I am really looking forward to these two growing up. Look at the little one put its wing around its big sib. This is such a peaceful nest. Eve keeps everything under control.

Eve feeding her two growing eaglets. 7 May 2021

There are so many bird mothers whose lives need celebrating if for nothing else than they successfully raised their clutches. It is not easy. Humans have impacted their lives in so many ways it would take an entire blog to list them but climate change and its impact on prey, loss of habitat, plastic in the oceans, toxins, etc come to the top. I cannot even begin to create a list of all of those. If I continued to include images and write ups for the mothers, the blog could easily include Harriet at the Bald Eagle Nest in SW Florida in Fort Myers. She is just an amazing mother to E17 and E18. Those kiddos are well equipped to take on the world. Then there is Anna, the first time Bald Eagle mother, who had to learn along with her eaglet how to feed her baby properly. Kisatchie has thrived and is now branching on his nest tree in the Kisatchie National Forest. On the Mississippi River, the nest of Starr and the Valors was destroyed last year by the winds. Starr had to work with Valor I and II to build a new nest for the 2021 season. They built an amazing nest and now have three growing eaglets. Or what about the female at Duke Farms who spent the entire incubation period encased in snow? Her two eaglets are now branching. Diamond, the Peregrine Falcon, in Orange, Australia still has her seven month old fledgling living in her scrape box. Her patience is amazing and her and Xavier have raised a formidable falcon! What about the Osprey females who lay eggs and raise their little ones in nests so full of toys and blankets they often cannot even find the chicks. This year, Harriet at the Dahlgren Nest, lost one of her eggs in Jack’s deliveries! They probably deserve a medal every day for their good humour. Then there are the ones, driven by their instincts and ‘Mother Nature’ that want to be mothers so badly such as Jackie at Big Bear or Iris at Hellsgate? If certificates were given out, they would all receive them – every single one of them!

Here is Iris bringing in a whopper of a breakfish for herself. Iris is the oldest living osprey in the world – the grand dame of all Ospreys. She has fledged no less than 35-40 osplets – no one really knows for sure, that is just an estimate. Since the death of her trusted mate, Stanley, Iris has returned to her nest every year during breeding season. Her current mate, Louis, has another nest and another mate and Iris is now, by default, a single mother. Her natural instincts bring her back from her 4,000 mile migration to her nest in Missoula, breeding with Louis, and because she is both provider, incubator, and security guard – like Milda and Spilve – her clutches have not been successful. Her last fledge was a single osplet in 2018. Still she is there doing her best!

And Happy Mother’s Day to Maya on the Rutland Mantou Nest whose first osprey egg of the season hatched at 15:23 today, 8 May. You can just see the little one getting out of its shell.

Thank you for joining me today to appreciate the difficult circumstances each of our bird mothers face. There is a story for each of them! They are all much loved.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I get my screen shots: LWRT Osprey Project, Cornell Bird Lab and Montana Osprey, The Eagle Club of Estonia, Cornell Bird Lab and RTH, Latvian Fund for Wildlife, and the Achieva Credit Union.

Tuesday in Bird World (updated)

Redwood Queen is keeping an eye on that egg. If this is a successful hatch – and there is no reason to think it won’t be – it will be the first chick for Redwood Queen and her second mate, Phoenix. The egg is believed to be laid between 26 February and 3 March. What a wonderful event for this giant Redwood scorched with Iniko, Redwood Queen and Kingpin’s chick from 2020, inside. Both of the parents of this fortunate chick have survived major fires in the area. We know that Redwood Queen survived the Dolan Fire last year and Phoenix survived the Basin Complex Fire in 2008, the year he hatched. Redwood Queen is much older, having hatched in the Los Angeles Zoo, in 1998. She might have survived other fires. Let us all hope that the entire population of Condors – a little over 500 – is safe from any wildfires this year.

The Ventana Wildlife Society issues the following statement on 26 April:

“Redwood Queen and Phoenix are still incubating and we are hoping their egg will start hatching any day now. The hatch date of 4/24 was our best “guesstimate”, we could be off by as many as 2-4 days. We first observed the egg on March 3rd and estimated the egg was laid on 2/26. This was based on radio telemetry data and movements of the pair from the week prior. If Redwood Queen actually laid closer to March 2nd, which is possible, then the egg wouldn’t start hatching until April 28. So we have a 3-4 day hatch window.”

Speaking of eggs, an intruder eagle came to the nest of Milda and broke her remaining egg and made a mess of her nest. It is one of those blessings in disguise. It is believed that the egg in the nest was the first one that Milda had laid on the 12th of March and that it was non-viable. I am not an expert and cannot tell. The intruder eagle ate most of the insides of the egg. Now Milda can forage for food for herself and build up her strength. She is not a mate of Mr Chips (Cips) yet – they did not mate. I hope that she finds a really extraordinary mate and that she will have a successful clutch next year.

Grinnell has his hands full today. It looks like the little fluff balls of his and Annie’s are growing so fast that they will not fit under him anymore. Look how they look at their dad. Grinnell, you are so cute!

Isn’t Grinnell handsome? 27 April 2021

And talk about cute – have a look at this adorable little Moli waiting for its parents to come and feed it. This is a special Laysan Albatross chick. It is the 39th chick of the oldest banded bird in the world – Wisdom. Wisdom is 71 years old and her band number is Z333 (Red and White). Her mate is Akeakamai. Her baby has a temporary band so it is easy to recognize and that number is 33 in honour of its mother.

A bit of relief over at the Savannah Osprey Nest on Skidaway Island. The dad has brought in a fish and both are getting fed. Maybe this will ease the food competition and let these two get on to growing and enjoying one another’s company.

Yesterday it was a feast on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida. Today it is hot, 29 degrees C, and there has been only one delivery. That came at 7:02:16. Tiny Tot got enough of that fish that he had a nice little crop. Still, he is at the quick growth stage and he needs more food more frequently. It is 4:30 on the nest. Fingers crossed for a couple of late night deliveries.

Tiny is grabbing the shade from Diane around 10am in the image below and Diane is calling. Chicks thought it might have been a delivery for a bit.

You can still see Tiny Tot’s little bit of a crop.

At 13:38:31 on 27 April 2021, a mysterious stranger with a metal band on its right leg landed on Iris’s nest at Hellgate. Well, now. This could get interesting.

I am going to say ‘he’ in the hope that ‘he’ might be a fantastic mate for Iris and claim this part of Louis’s plot.

Everything is just fine on the Red Tail Hawk Nest on the Cornell University Campus of Big Red and Arthur. There are three eggs being incubated and we are heading into hatch watch.

Thanks for joining me today for a peak at the nests. All of the Osprey Nests are doing grand in the UK except for the Loch Arkaig Nest. Hope that Aila will return from her migration to raise a family with Louis is quickly dissipating. Louis has been bringing fish to another female on platform 1 and they have been mating. It is an arduous migration. Many hope that if Aila did not arrive in Scotland that she settled somewhere else – she was loved by so many. And there is news that there are now three eggs on the Osprey nest in Urdaibai, Northern Spain. Take care. I hope it is nice where you are. The weather is grand on the Canadian Prairies and it is time to go and take care of the birds in my garden. The water bowls need filling. Everyone is enjoying a good bath today.

Thanks to the following streaming cams: Ventana Wildlife Society, Explore.org, Cornell Bird Lab and Red Tail Hawks, Cornell Bird Lab and Montana Osprey Project, Cornell Bird Lab and Skidaway Audubon, UC Falcon Cam, Achieva Credit Union, and the Latvian Wildlife Fund. Thanks also to the Midway Atoll FB Page where the image of Wisdom’s Moli was posted.

Open Wide!

The grey skies and the cold to the bone weather on the Canadian prairies just added to the sadness at the Latvian White-tailed eagle nest. Parallel with the events of the two chicks dying from hypothermia came a wonderful letter from the LDF answering many questions I had about Milda and the nest. I will write up that information in a couple of days.

Milda was starving. She is a devoted mother but she had no food for her or her chicks and Mr C appears to be an on again, off again mate. It is unclear if there were intruders in the area. Mr C is on the branch watching the nest while Milda eats a nice big piece of fish – this fish arrived 24 hours after the nest ran out of food when Mr C removed the few remains of the Crow Milda had been feeding to the chicks. Sadly, she is now incubating the unviable egg.

The fourth egg at the UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon nest in the Campanile must have been removed. The three little marshmallows are getting some pin feathers. It is hard to believe! They are consuming vast amounts of pigeon and transforming it into the fastest raptor on the planet. Here Annie is saying, ‘Open Wide!’

Annie and Grinnell are such devoted parents. Look at those little ones all tucked under mom right after their feeding.

Sometimes ‘open wide’ does not necessarily relate to food and a feeding. In the case of N24, our beautiful Legacy, it meant open your wings and fly. Legacy fledged this morning at 9:01! All of the aunties and uncles and grannies will be crying tears of joy and sadness. Legacy is a magnificent fledgling Bald Eagle now. She overcame Avian Pox and is the pride of Samson and Gabby and her grandparents, Romeo and Juliet. Look at the gorgeous profile of that head! And that deep, deep espresso plumage. Stunning.

There she goes at 9:01:54.

Lady Hawk put a video together from the three separate cameras. You can watch this historic event in this eagle’s life here:

In the case of Tiny Tot on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida, we can talk about opening wings and mouths. Tiny Tot loves to open his wings like a Lamborghini. Wonder if the car designers looked at the birds for inspiration? Certainly those that built the bullet train in Japan did – they used four different birds to help them get the fastest train on the planet (at the time).

Tiny Tot had a crop all morning. There were three fish deliveries before 11am! Jack has really been working to keep this pantry full. There were deliveries at 6:50:30, 9:35:05, and this is the third delivery at 10:59:18:

Tiny is really growing with all the food he has been eating. Sometimes you have to look really close to figure out which chick he is now. His ‘whiskers’ are settling down and he is getting the white plumage on his chest. There he is in the middle. You can see his nice crop.

Tiny had a good feed last night and had lots of fish from 2 out of the 3 deliveries before 11 am on 26 April. The trio are waiting for delivery 4!

Tiny Tot ate lots from fish 1, none from fish 2, and plenty from fish 3. In the image below he is being fed from fish 1. Sibling 1 had some bites and sibling 2 had a couple but, as is typical first thing in the morning, the older sibs are not as interested in eating then as they are later in the day. Tiny will eat anytime! Open wide, Tiny Tot!

Here is Tiny running to get up to the fish!

Tiny does not get anything from the second delivery but he does in the third and has a very nice crop.

Tiny is really full when the fourth fish arrives but he goes up and gets some nice pieces anyway – not a lot but remember, he is full.

Tiny Tot opens his wings wide!

Tiny Tot has eaten well today and no doubt, since it is only 3:30, there will be more fish to come. Jack, you are amazing. Diane has had some fish and everyone is doing great!

And speaking of opening wide, all eyes are on the California Condor nest in Big Sur where the egg of Redwood Queen and Phoenix is between pip and hatch.

The burnt tree in the centre is where the nest is located. The Dolan Fire ravaged this area from August to the end of December in 2020. Iniko survived the fire – he was the 2020 chick of Redwood Queen and Kingpin. Iniko is at the Los Angeles Zoo and is set to be released with a group of captive bred birds later this year.

Sadly, Redwood Queen’s mate, Kingpin, did not survive the fire. She bonded with Phoenix and this is their egg in the same nest that Iniko hatched.

Redwood Queen has just returned from having a short break. There is a stream close to the nest and she might have gone for a cool drink. It is fine to leave the egg for a short amount of time.

Thank you to each of you for joining me today. I know that we all wish that the situation at the Lavian White-tailed Eagle nest were different. I will be writing a history of the nest and looking into the weather in the area. Normally the birds time their hatches to when the animals will be coming out of winter hibernation so there is lots of food. I am curious if the cold weather has caused issues with getting prey for Milda and Mr C.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams – that is where I get my screen shots: Ventana Wildlife Society, Explore.org, Latvian Wildlife Fund, UC Berkeley Falcon Cam, Achieva Credit Union, NEFlorida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF.

What a day in Bird World!

Did something happen in the universe today? Something that made miracles happen?

The White-Tailed Eagle nest in Latvia was the first today. Milda incubated her and her missing mate, Raimis’s eggs for eight days without eating after he did not return on 27 March. She had to leave to eat and experts felt that five hours at 43 degrees F would cause the developing eaglets to die. But, there was a pip and today a hatch. Egg #2 survived! Just look at that little miracle below. Milda was helped, in the end, by Mr C, Chips. And that is another miracle – it does not always happen that a male bird will want to raise another male’s chicks but Chips did. Let us hope that he turns out to be amazing father and mate.

Milda looks at the miracle!

Birds have feelings. They mourn their dead and they can also get fed up and angry and that is precisely what happened at 9:32:40 on the Achieva Osprey Nest. Tiny Tot was fed twice yesterday. This morning Tiny Tot had no food because of #2 who has intimidated and bullied him. Yes, 2 is a bird and he is also a monopolizer of food. How would it feel always having to eat scraps? not being able to eat? having someone scare you almost to starvation? The two older siblings had been flapping their wings this morning and when #2 was in front of Tiny Tot, Tiny bonked him like he is always beating on Tiny. It had to be a moment of sheer release for the little one.

I have had just about enough of you. 21 April 2021
There you go! 21 April 2021

Tiny Tot got some food with the arrival of a second fish that came in at 1:07:24. He was eating a few bites at 2:07:25 and then again from 2:38:47-2:46:16. Diane offered him the tail. It isn’t enough but he ate! And if this nest were organized, Jack would be bringing in another fish right away.

Tiny Tot finally gets some food. 21 April 2021

At the SWFlorida Eagle nest on the D Pritchett farm, the youngest of Harriet and M15’s eaglets, E18, fledged today at 8:52:46—–in the rain! Yes, you read that right. His wings were wet and he fledged. E18 jumped around on the branch and the flew to a tree, returning to the nest tree. Later he flew and joined his sib E17 on another tree. Well done and congratulations E18!

He had a very good landing!

There are still two healthy osplets on the Savannah Osprey Nest.

Two little cuties having some lunch and being nice. 21 April 2021

And Big Red and Arthur don’t seem to be able to get a break in the weather. Today it was raining down hail like snow.

Big Red is encrusted in a hail like snow. 21 April 2021

Louis is still waiting for Aila to arrive.

Lonely Louis. 21 April 2021

There is branching happening at the nest of Bonnie in Clyde, the Great Horn Owls who took over the Bald Eagle nest on a farm near Newton, Kansas. It looks like it is Tiger up on the branch near mom, Bonnie.

Branching is happening. 21 April 2021

Thank you so much for joining me. It was a good day in Bird World. I remain hopeful that Tiny Tot will have as successful a conclusion as Milda with the hatching of an egg believed to be unviable by everyone. Look at her in the image above looking at that little miracle in the nest cup.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: Latvia Fund for Nature (Durbe), Cornell Bird Lab and Skidiway Audubon Osprey Nest, Farmer Derek, SWFlorida Eagle Cam and D Pritchett, Achieva Credit Union at Dunedin, Woodland Trust, and People Postcode Lottery, and Cornell Bird Lab and Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca.

Late Thursday updates in Bird World

Last year, the streaming cam viewers of Loch Arkaig Osprey nest went from its norm of 60,000 viewers to over 400,000. People from around the world watched Louis and Aila raise three – Dottie (male), Vera (female), and Captain (male)- Ospreys to fledge. As the pandemic moves into its second year, each one of those viewers and more are holding their breath, biting their finger nails off, pulling their hair out, or pacing back and forth for the arrival of Aila. Louis has now been home from his winter migration to Africa for five days. He is working hard to get the nest ready for Aila’s arrival. But where is she?

Loch Arkaig. Louis waits. 15 April 2021.

Late this afternoon, there was a spotting of an unringed Osprey passing over Arran heading due North. Could it be Aila? Depending on how the Osprey flies it is 80-100 miles and if it is Aila, she should arrive tomorrow! It is going to be one sleepless night with devotees getting up early to fix their eyes on the screen! One woman said it very well, ‘They saved my life last year during the pandemic. I want Aila home safe!’

The Osprey nest on The Landings Golf course on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia is expecting its second hatch soon. The first is getting around nicely after hatching on 13 April.

Just look at those beautiful baby blues. They will change to an orange-yellow and then when this little one is an adult, they will turn to that bright yellow distinctive iris of the Osprey.

Now are you going to be nice to your little sibling?

At the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Latvia, Andris is bringing nice presents of prey to Anna. They are both working hard on preparing the nest. Look at all that beautiful pine.

Also in Latvia, Milda took several breaks from incubation. She was looking around but I did not see Mr C trying to incubate eggs today (let me know if he did). She just might have given him the boot. There has sure been a lot of drama around and under this nest with White-tailed eagles fighting. Very disturbing for Milda who, sadly, is probably incubating unviable eggs.

At 7:14:44 pm Diane is calling to Jack to bring food to the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot is asleep. Fish was delivered at 3:21:46 am and again at 11:55:01. Tiny Tot had a good feed on the early fish and had a good crop. He did not get any of the 11:55 fish despite being up close. If the weather forecast is correct, this nest can expect thunderstorms beginning around 4am Friday morning. It says 40%. I hope they are wrong. The temperature is cooling to 23 or 24 right now.

7:16:00. Diane is calling Jack to bring fish. 15 April 2021

Tiny Tot is hungry and he is starting to call Jack, too. He’s there calling on the far left.

7:43:37. Hurry up with the fish dad! 15 April 2021

Now the two larger osplets are up and calling for dad, too. Unless this is a whopper – and I do mean a HUGE fish – Tiny Tot might not get any food tonight. He ate his fill this morning when the other two weren’t that interested – and yesterday, too.

7:58

And there it is. The third fish of the day, if you count the middle of the night delivery, lands at 7:59:14.

And who got the fish?

It looks like 2 mantled the fish and has it. You can see her in the middle. Tiny is to the far left keeping himself down. Dad quickly leaves. But thank goodness, Diane steps in and takes control of the food delivery! That is all Tiny Tot needs – the older stealing the fish! That fish is not that big.

Diane feeds 1. Tiny Tot is between Diane and 2 who is watching but not being aggressive.

At 8:05:09, 2 has walked around and behind 1. There was no attack on Tiny Tot. Meanwhile, Diane continues to feed 1. It is unclear if Tiny Tot is getting any bites of fish. There are no tell tale signs of his body moving slightly up and down but I cannot be certain, one way or the other.

And then 2 who is so aggressive to Tiny Tot just gets up and turns and goes the other way. By this time there is only half of the small fish left. Is it possible that Tiny Tot will get a little of this fish?

8:05 Diane is feeding 1. Cannot tell if Tiny Tot is getting any fish. 15 April 2021

A few minutes later, 2 turns around behind Diane. The behaviour is quite odd because if food is involved, 2 is always threatening to Tiny Tot. Yesterday 2 was not hungry. I thought it was trying to pass a pellet or it was just the heat. This is perplexing.

And then 2 flaps its wings and goes towards the rim of the nest looking back.

Then 2 walks behind Tiny and raises its neck like it is checking on the fish.

But nothing. 2 turns around and goes to the rim of the nest. Meanwhile, less than half the fish is left and 1 is still eating. At 8:11:49, 1 walks across the nest and, once again, comes up behind Diane settling under her tail. How odd.

But just as quickly, 2 backs up and sort of looks off the rim of the nest, again.

At 8:16:05, 2 is back up by Diane and she feeds it a bite of food.

At 8:17 Diane is still feeding 1. 2 is behind under between her legs and Tiny Tot is at the rim at the far edge of the nest watching. He will move up closer to Diane and the feeding. But as the light dims it is very unclear whether or not there was any fish left for him. It looks like 1 might have eaten the entire delivery. Still, around 8:30 it appears a slight shift in angle and height and perhaps, just perhaps, Tiny got the last bites by the tail. Tiny had a crop at 12:04 from the big meal earlier and while it is preferable that he eat more food more often, he will be alright. What is strange about this entire feeding is the behaviour of 2. And that is why I have detailed it so closely. Is 2 struggling to cast a pellet? Or is something else wrong?

The Great Horned Owls have amazing plumage and they are starting to get the distinctive tufts of feathers for their ears. Here they are, Tiger and Lily, looking like they are standing and having a chat. Some will think that they are ‘so cute’ but these owls are deadly. In Europe, there are more incidents of GHOWs killing entire raptor families than I want to think about. We have seen them hurling Harriet and M15 off their Bald Eagle nest in Fort Myers, Florida or the much smaller Boo Book Owl in Australia knocking WBSE Lady and injuring her eye. They travel at night while the other birds are sleeping and they fly silently with the help of their soft rounded feathers. The increase in their numbers, the loss of habitat and stated another way, the loss of large trees for nests is causing problems. These two should be branching and fledgling shortly.

15 April 2021

Over at the UC Berkeley campus, Grinnell is having a very difficult time trying to get Annie to get off the eggs. Hatch watch starts on Saturday and Annie is always reluctant not to be right there when it starts!

While the Peregrine Falcons are on the verge of hatching, fledge watches are also going on around the globe. In Taiwan, the Black Kites ‘Pudding’ and ‘Brulee’ were born on 3 and 5 March, respectively. They were banded on 2 April – Orange K2 and K3. The average amount of time for Black Kites from hatch to fledge is 42-50 days. Pudding is 44 days old and Brulee is 42 days old.

Both are getting their wings stronger by flapping and flapping. And look at that magnificent tail. The fledglings generally stay in the nest perfecting their flying and hunting skills for another 42-56 days until they are self-reliant. The parents supplement their food.

Once the nestlings are older, they will sleep with their head tucked on their back. It is not under their wing although their beak might be. Did you know that sleeping this way allows the bird to relax its neck?

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe everyone!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Taiwan Black Kite Cam, Achieva Credit Union, Farmer Derek, UC Berkeley Cal Falcons, Latvijas Dabas, Latvian Fund for Nature, Cornell Bird Lab, and Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery.

As Friday comes to an end and Saturday begins, Bird World is good

I spent Friday watching five fish being delivered to the St Petersburg Achieva Credit Union Osprey nest. Yes, you read that correct – there were five fish deliveries! I have already reported on the four and Tiny Tot’s strategies to getting fed mega fish. Well, before we check on a few other nests, let’s look at this last feeding.

The fifth fish arrives at 5:32:35. Now, Tiny Tot just finished eating from the fourth fish at 4:23. At that minute, Diane could not force him to take another bite. He pancaked. Tiny Tot finally felt what it is like to be so full you simply cannot stand to think about taking one more bite of fish. For Tiny, this is such a fantastic place to be.

I don’t think anyone was expecting the fifth fish to arrive when it did. Indeed, the older siblings were busy watching the traffic. Diane offers Tiny the first bites but he is still too full. It looks like sibling #1 wants some bites. Mom moves the fish away from Tiny. The older sibling stops and you can almost hear Tiny saying, ‘Did someone say fish?’ Tiny decides that, yes, he can hold some more fish! Why not? My favourite image is of the two older siblings looking down and realizing that Tiny Tot is still eating. You could almost hear them say, ‘Didn’t know the kid could eat so much! We better get in there before he eats the entire fish!’

At 5:48:28 one of the big sibs is ready to eat. Tiny Tot does not care. He couldn’t eat another bite. Tiny Tot moves away the fullest he has been in a single day – probably all his life! Wow.

What a happy Osprey nest. This is the way it should be. Full, happy, growing and healthy babies. Jack comes in to check and see if there are any leftovers at 6:53:58. Jack and Diane might have been used to bringing fish back and forth and it lasting. The last two seasons there has only been one chick each year. This year it is triple.

I got a giggle. My daughter said it looked like Diane was having a chat with Jack telling him how nice and quiet it is when all the kiddos are full and sleeping. Maybe Jack will get the hint – we need lots more fish every day just like today.

I note that the temperature is quite warm in St Petersburg today. Still, Jack pulled off some nice fish – five of them. He ate well, Diane got to eat – finally and the kids are full. Glorious. Jack you get the bouquet for the day! Your fishing skills were fantastic today. Keep up the good work.

Worrying about whether Tiny Tot was going to eat or not has really stopped me from checking on some of the other birds that we love. And, some of them are really getting close to the fledge. What is fledging? At around 77-84 days, or 11 or 12 weeks, eaglets will take their first flight. This does not mean that they will be leaving the nest forever! No, no. They will remain near the nest where they were born for a month, 6 weeks, or for some, 2 entire months. During this time they hone their flying, landing, and hunting skills. Their parents will continue to provide them with food.

Leading up to fledging, the eaglets will jump, flap their wings and look like they are on a trampoline both jumping and flapping. Then they will branch. Branching is when they will leave the nest bowl and land on one of the branches of the natal tree.

Look at beautiful Legacy (N24). Isn’t she a stunner? Her parents are Samson and Gabrielle. Her grandparents were Romeo and Juliet. She was born in the same nest that her father, Samson, was born. She overcame Avian Pox and look at those deep ebony eyes.

Legacy hatched on 8 February. She is now 60 days old. She has been preening and there is some of her baby down stuck to her beak.

You can still see a few bits of soft white down coming out where she has been preening.

Legacy is a blur she jumps up and down! Oh, she must love the wind under those wings of hers.

You can watch Legacy as she prepares for branching and her first flight.

And I can’t check on Legacy up in Jacksonville without going across the state to check in on E17 and E18. These are the twins of Harriet and M15 at the Fort Myers Bald Eagle Nest on the Pritchett farm. They were born on 23 January 2021. That makes them 75 days old today and right at the beginning of fledge watch.

Both of them have been branching.

E17 and E18 have done everything together. There are many who assume that when one flies, the other will follow. If you haven’t checked in on the SWFLorida Eagle cam, here is the link. It is really exciting to see these juveniles take their first flight.

There have been some interesting developments in Latvia on the nest of Milda. Milda is the mate of Raimis. They are White-tailed Eagles, a critically endangered species in Latvia. Milda laid three eggs but Raimis has been missing since 27 March. Milda remained devoted to her eggs and stayed on the nest with no food. Since her mate disappeared there have been at least three intruders around the nest, at least two males and a female. Because she has no mate to feed her, Milda stayed on the eggs as long as she could without starving herself. She left on day 8 to find food. Since then she has left several times to hunt and eat leaving the eggs exposed to very cool temperatures. It is now believed that they are no longer viable. In a strange twist today, Milda got up to leave and one of the strangers, they are calling him Mr C, tried to come on the nest and incubate the eggs! Milda caught him and chased him off.

Milda sees the other eagle on the branch.
Milda needs to take a break and flies off her eggs.
The eggs are uncovered on the nest.
The male stranger flies down to the nest from the branch and goes to incubate the eggs.

In the bottom image you can see the male White-Tailed Eagle that had been on the branch come down and move to incubate the eggs. Milda caught him just as he was about to brood and chased him away.

It is very sad that her eggs are not going to be viable. But Milda’s health is a first priority. She will be able to lay more eggs in the future and who knows – maybe this mysterious male will turn out to be an ideal mate!

The two little Black Kite eyasses that were born on 3 March and 5 March are really growing and their plumage is changing so much. Their nest is in a tall tree in a cemetery in Taiwan. The pair survived a fire in the cemetery that almost destroyed them and their nest. As a result they were named Pudding and Brulee for being alive when the fire was cool enough for them to be checked. On 2 April, they were banded. Pudding is Orange K2 and Brulee is Orange K3.

Black kites fledge, on average, from 42 to 56 days. They are a medium sized raptor. Like the Bald Eagles, Legacy and E17 and E18, they will stay with their parents from two weeks to eight weeks after fledging to hone their flying and hunting skills. Orange K2 is 36 days old today and Orange K3 is 34 days old. We will be on fledge watch at this nest in one week. You can watch the Black Kites of Taiwan here:

It has been a rather exciting day and it continues to be harder and harder to keep up with all of the bird nests. Branching, fledging, arrivals of Ospreys in the UK, incubations – it is happening everywhere! There are not enough hours in the day. But Friday was simply special – Tiny Tot’s strategies for getting to the right spot in order to eat played out well with the delivery of all those fish.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you jumped up and down doing the happy dance for Tiny Tot. And Jack, you are amazing.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Black Kite Cam of Taiwan, SWFlorida and D Pritchett, NEFlorida and AEF, Achieva Credit Union Ospreys, and the Latvian White-Tailed Eagles.

Ups and Downs in Bird World

The Scottish Osprey nests were almost blown off their platforms on Sunday. Laddie (LM12) had no more brought a fish to the nest for NC0 than the wind began to stir. You can see the choppy waves beginning on the Loch of the Lowes. Thank goodness there were no eggs in the nest! At the beginning of the migration season, Laddie arrived early in hopes that NC0 would return to his nest and be his mate. He worked daily making sure that everything was perfect for her arrival.

In the image below, NC0 has accepted Laddie’s gift of a fish. In the background you might not be able to tell the branches are blowing but you can begin to see that the water is getting choppy. Look at their fine nest and hold that image in your mind.

Now look at the image below. This is the same nest that Laddie and NC0 were standing on. There are huge waves on the loch. The trees are twisting and the winds simply picked up the part of the nest facing away from the loch and dumped it over the egg cup.

The running joke is that the situation is so dire it would make an Osprey sea sick.

Blue NC0 stands on the nest the morning after the winds, Monday 5 April. Laddie must have been disappointed after all his hard work. They are so close to needing the nest for NC0 to lay her eggs.

NC0 got busy cleaning up undaunted by the task!

Wow. NC0 worked hard and got everything back in order. And Laddie who was MIA most of the rebuilding rewarded her with a nice fish after!

Louis is expected on the Loch Arkaig Nest on 5 April to be followed by his mate, Aila. The snow and blowing winds could cause a delayed return. We will keep an eye out! Some snow remains on the nest.

In contrast Mrs G and Aran at the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Nest in Wales had a partially sunny day with no strong winds. And it wasn’t pitching down rain.

The new parent, Harry, on the Minnesota DNR Nest, stared at his eaglets for quite a long time today. Was he admiring them? was he wondering why they weren’t moving? did he think they were dead? Well, they weren’t dead. Just food comas!

The drama at the Durbes White Tailed Eagle Nest in Latvia continues. Milda and her mate, Raimis, had been together for six years when Raimis disappeared on 27 March. It is not known if he is severely injured and cannot return or if he is dead. It is a long time for him to be away from the nest. Milda is incubating three eggs and has been protecting it from a male intruder. She has gone without food to keep her precious eggs warm. The touching story of this female eagle protecting her eggs and not leaving the nest to hunt so she can eat has captured the attention of people in Latvia and around the world. She was the feature of a recent Latvian Panorama television programme. 4 April marks what would be her eighth day without food. Today, however, Milda left with the male intruder. It is not known but is assumed that she ate while she was away from the nest. She returned with a large crop. The unringed male could form a bond with Milda and feed her while she incubates her eggs. As we have learned from the nest of Spilve, a Golden Eagle, a single parent cannot forage, incubate, feed, and protect little ones alone. The next few days should clarify the situation at the nest in Kurzeme, Durbe County, in western Latvia. This is a short video of Milda flying in with the male intruder who has been named Mr. X.

Milda had her own bad weather with high winds and snow with clearing up in the late afternoon. Milda left the nest for a few minutes when the snow cleared. There is some indication that there is some fighting going on on the ground. Is it dogs? or is it Milda’s new potential mate and another male?

Some of you might be wondering what is happening at some of the other Bald Eagle nests. It is hard to keep up this time of year with Ospreys landing in the UK, eggs hatching all over the US, eggs being laid, birds coming and going and migration still on going in Manitoba. I will try and bring news of a few nests over the next few days that I have been following just to keep you up to speed.

One of those nests is The Trio over near Fulton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. There was a streaming cam on their old nest but the high winds last year destroyed it and they rebuilt. All images are from birders on the ground with their cameras. One of those is Dennis Becht. He caught this image today. If you squint you will see the head of a wee eaglet sticking up between the adults.

Solly, the Port Lincoln female Osprey, is 198 days old today. She spent Easter Sunday at Eba Anchorage and today she is back at her favourite haunts in Streaky Bay. It is wonderful to ‘see’ the satellite tracking on Solly and to know that she is well. Birders on the ground saw her with a salmon on Easter Sunday eating on a post. How grand.

Tiny Tot’s crop has gone up and then down and back up again. He had two feedings today at the Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. Jack brought in a very large fish yesterday that came and went 3 times and today, a large fish arrived at 8:02. The two older ate and Tiny Tot had a private feeding from around 8:36-9:07. He was eating again around 10:27 with the others. The regular delivery of large fish and the energy that Tiny has derived from eating plus his being clever are helping this little one to start growing and get its confidence back. Tiny hangs back and let the others eat – it protects his head and neck from bonking. But he also keeps a sharp eye on what is going on and when he senses it is nearly his time to eat, he moves up carefully without causing attention. He is extremely clever and we are all hoping that the good feedings continue. His growth is a little slowed because of so many days without food. No doubt the very large fish that have come in are working to his advantage. There is always food left for him and Diane. Gold stars for Jack.

Tiny had dropped his crop (moving food from the holding area to the stomach) this morning. There had been some concern by chatters yesterday that he might not be able to do this after he was so dehydrated from not eating for three days but, luckily that was not the case. He ate for approximately 43 minutes and then ate again. Tiny is full! And the nest is peaceful.

I wonder if Jack has found a new place to fish? The fish brought in the last two days have been much larger than some of the deliveries a few days ago.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I don’t know about the rest of you but if Tiny has a full crop in the morning my day is much brighter! Stay safe. Wish for good weather for all the birds and large fish on the Achieva Osprey nest!

Thank you to all the streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, The LTV Juras erglis Durbe, the MN DNR, the FB Page and Dennis Becht for the Trio, The Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife and Friends of Loch of the Lowes, Port Lincoln Osprey FB page, and Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn.

Will Spilve revitalize the Latvian Golden Eagle nest?

It has now been five years since a Golden Eaglet fledged from this nest on an island near Spilve, Latvia. The people of Latvia were so hopeful that Virsis and his new young mate, Spilve, would raise a family last year. The pair met in 2019 but Spilve was not yet an adult and it was in 2020 that the two mated and Spilve laid two eggs. Everyone watched with great hope. One of those was fertile but, the other hatched. That little eaglet was named Klints.

In the image below prey has arrived at the nest for the beautiful Klints.

Virsis brings a bird to the nest for Spilve to feed Klints. 12 June 2020

A tragedy came to this nest when Virsis disappeared leaving Spilve to care for both herself and the young eaglet. Spilve could not leave her baby and travel a long distance to get large prey and the small voles that she could find for Klints close to the nest so she could protect him were not enough food. He died of starvation on 1 July.

For several days Spilve tried to feed her child until she realized he had died. How sad. First her mate dies and then her first child. We know that birds mourn. This must have been very, very difficult for Spilve. She returned to the nest on several occasions but no one, at the time, knew if she would stay ‘loyal’ to the nest of her mate, Virsis, or leave the area.

Everyone was very happy when they saw Spilve arrive back at the nest in January 2021 and again on several occasions in February. On 21 February Spilve arrives at the nest. She brings some pine and begins working on what appears to be an egg cup.

All the time Spilve was on the nest working on the egg cup, she appeared to be looking around for someone. Calls could be heard in the forest.

Spilve leaves and then an adult male comes to the snowy nest bringing some pine. He had never been seen on the nest cam. He has just missed Spilve.

Grislis comes to the nest on 21 February bringing some pine boughs.

The male eagle, who will become known as Grislis, actively works on the egg cup.

Grislis working on the egg cup. 21 February 2021

Spilve had to have been looking to meet with Grislis at the nest. It would be strange behaviour for a stranger to show up with pine and immediately begin working on a nest cup as Grislis did. The pair form a bond and mate that day. The pair might have met in another part of the forest where Spilve roosts. Or was it just coincidence that they both came to the same nest that day, worked on the egg cup, and then immediately became interested in one another? We may never know the answer to that question.

What we do know is that the Golden Eagle is one of the rarest birds in Latvia. These beautifully feathered eagles are slowly rising in numbers. There were, in 2018, only eight to ten known breeding pairs in existence. This means that for Spilve to find an adult male as a mate is fortuitous. Her first mate, Virsis, had been alone for many years when he met her.

In 2020, Spilve laid her first egg on March 28 and her second on 1 April. We are hoping that she will be laying eggs in that nest cup soon. It would mean that this new bonded pair and their love could bring new life to this manmade nest in the middle of an island near Spilve, Latvia. There are known to be two other nests in the bog near this one and it is possible that they could choose to use one of those. Whichever nest Spilve and Grislis choose, it will bring much joy to the people of Latvia when their eggs hatch and the eaglets fledge increasing the numbers of resident Golden Eagles in Latvia.

Spilve brings some pine to the nest on 25 March 2021.
Grislis comes to the nest on 1 April 2021.

There are no eggs yet but if Spilve is going to use this nest we should be expecting her to lay them any day now. Here is the link to the Golden Eagle cam on the manmade nest in a bog near Spilve, Latvia:

That is beautiful Klints. He was so very near fledging when this father went missing. Because the eagles are so rare, the wildlife authorities in Latvia might want to reassess their reasons for nest interventions in such circumstances. There have been such instances with the osprey in the United Kingdom and the authorities at Rutland decided to build a food table near to the nest in the hope that it would help the mother and the chick survive.

Thank you for joining me today. These are such gorgeous eagles. I will update you on any eggciting events should they occur.

Other news of Latvian Nests: Milda, the White Tailed Eagle on the Durbe Nest, stayed for days without eating after her mate did not return. There are three eggs. She seemingly left the nest for a break and food on 1 April but now it appears she was protecting the nest. She has not eaten for six days. There is a male hanging around the nest. Only time will tell if Milda will accept him and if he will help her raise the hatchlings should they survive. Right now she seems him as a threat to her eggs.

If you would like to watch this nest, here is the link:

Thank you to the LVM Klinsu and Latvijas Juras erglis Durbe streaming cam. That is where I accessed my screen shots.