You can always count on Arthur

Big Red, the grand dame of the Red Tail Hawks, whose nest is on the Fernow Light Stand on the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, New York lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March 2017. She had many suitors who were put through the rigours to find out if they were good providers and devoted so that their chicks would grow and thrive. Big Red chose Arthur. All of the humans thought that Big Red had ‘lost her mind’ in selecting such a young male to be her companion.

Big Red hatched somewhere near Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She received her leg band on 7 October 2003 in Brooktondale. I have yet to find out the name of the bander. In 2017, Big Red was fourteen years old. Arthur, who had been born in an adjacent territory and who was known by some as ‘Wink’, was born in 2016. When he arrived checking on the Fernow Nest, he was only a year old and did not have his red tail feathers. He caught Big Red’s attention and by the fall they had totally bonded and were fixing up the nest for the coming breeding season in 2018. Big Red could not have chosen a better mate!

In the image below, Arthur has delivered prey to the nest so that Big Red can go and eat and he can take over the incubation duties of their three eggs. This was last evening.

13 April 2021

While Ezra was known as the squirrelinator, Arthur is known for capturing more chipmunks. Hence, he is often called the chippyinator. However, Arthur is like a jet plane when it comes to hunting. Rumour has it that he has flown onto someone’s porch to get a squirrel! So maybe Arthur is both squirrelinator and chippyinator!

In the image below, Arthur is delivering a Robin to Big Red as she incubates the eggs in one of Ithaca’s snowstorms. It was the day she laid her third egg of the 2021 season.

1 April 2021

The images below are from last year. The Js have hatched. How can you tell? Look at all the prey around the nest. Arthur will bring in so much that Big Red can line the nest bowl with fur! I am serious. No one on this nest is going hungry.

6 May 2020

Arthur has found a nest of goslings and thought Big Red might like one for dinner.

6 May 2020

Unlike other raptors, hawks will only eat road kill if there is a food shortage. On occasion, Arthur has brought in live prey to the nest. Some believe this is a teaching lesson for the nestlings.

Of course, people that watch hawk nests have a strange habit of trying to identify prey or making up names such as ‘Dunkin’ Chipmunks’ or ‘Chocolate Chippie Cookies with a Squirrel Glaze’. All kidding aside, researchers watch what prey is brought into the nest and the amounts. A typical Red-Tail hawk diet consists of 68% mammal, 17.5% other birds, 7% reptiles/amphibians/snakes and 3.2% invertebrates. Those amounts come from research by Johnsgard in 1990 but those observing the Cornell nest say that they still apply, for the most part. In 2020 with the pandemic, there was a proliferation of chipmunks. It is believed that the lack of cars killing chipmunks on the road helped with this along with just not having people around.

In April of 2018, Ferris Akel caught Arthur eating a skunk:

The same researchers have tested prey for its caloric/protein/fat/cholestrol components. Did you know that 3.6 ounces of raw pigeon has 294 calories compared to the same amount of squirrel which has only 120 calories?

From the prey delivery reports, it was established that nearly .7 more prey was delivered in 2020 compared to 2016, 2018 and 2019. That is an enormous difference. None of it was wasted, everything was eaten. The factor that changed – the pandemic. Arthur was able to freely hunt all over the campus. There were hardly any people or cars to contend with. The more food the healthier the chicks are. Even feather growth can indicate when a bird was hungry. Also, the longer the eyasses stay on the nest the better their survival rates in the wild.

Big Red laid three eggs for the 2021 season. The first was on 26 March followed by 29 March and 1 April. Red-tail hawks generally incubate their eggs for 28-35 days. Big Red’s incubation periods have ranged from 38 to 41 days. Still, by the 28th of April all eyes will be on that nest! The Ks are coming. Yippeee.

Why do I mention all of this? There is no doubt that Arthur is a devoted mate. When it is time to fix up the nest, work on the nest bowl, incubate the eggs, provide prey for Big Red and then for her and the eyasses, Arthur is right there! You know the other ones that I wish were like Arthur if you read my blog. I will leave it at that. Can you hear me growling at them?

You can watch the life streaming of this nest here:

In other news, the three chicks on the Achieva Osprey nest are waiting for food. Yesterday Diane, the female, delivered many fish and Tiny Tot finally got a good feed very late in the day. As I write this it is 3pm and no food has come to the nest. The mother is not calling for food and the male touched down for only a few minutes around noon. There is something wrong at this nest today. It is extremely hot there, over 30 near the nest. Hopefully if it is the heat food will come in. Tiny was well fed but he needs to eat less more often still. The fish also provides the hydration. I wish the wildlife laws allowed for the care in these situations.

Louis is still waiting for Aila to arrive at the Loch Arkaig nest and Iris continues to bring in twigs and branches for her nest at Hellsgate. One of the members of the FB group had a really good take on Iris. Instead of bemoaning the fact that she will not be able to raise chicks if Louis repeats his behaviour, we should be happy that she can enjoy her summer vacation without the burden of care for little ones and the toll it takes on one’s body. What a positive way of looking at this. Maybe I should be thanking you Louis for just being Louis. Iris has fledged at least 30-40 chicks or more – she does deserve a break to stay healthy.

You can watch Iris at the Hellsgate Osprey Nest cam:

And you can watch Louis wait for the arrival of Aila here:

Thank you so much for joining me today. I wish the news was better on the Achieva Nest. We can hope that it is only the heat. Still the little one needs to eat more often. Take care and keep watching the nests!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I take my screen shots: Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Cornell Bird Lab – Hellsgate Osprey and Red-Tail Hawk, Ferris Akel, and Achieva Credit Union.

The Ospreys are returning!

It is Day 4 of World Osprey Week and there are a lot of smiles as these fish hawks return from their winter migrations.

The seasonal movement of the Western Ospreys in the United Kingdom and Western Europe happens twice a year. This means that the birds travel a total distance of 8000 km or 4970 miles annually. They migrate north in the spring where the days are long. They are returning to their nests to breed. The summer in Europe is a perfect time to raise their chicks because food is plentiful throughout the food chain. They will return to Africa from August-October, travelling alone. The mothers leave while the dads remain at the nest to feed the fledglings. Once the fledglings leave then the male will depart. They will live in the mangrove forests and estuaries of The Gambia and Senegal. The adults return to the United Kingdom between February, March, and early April while the juveniles will remain in Africa.

This seasonal migration is treacherous. It is especially difficult for the young birds. Only 30% survive their first year. Just to get to Africa they have to go through the Bay of Biscay. In the map below the Bay of Biscay is directly to the west of France. It is a huge body of water with strong winds. The Osprey have to hug the coast or they can be blown out to the Atlantic Ocean and perish.

If they make the Bay of Biscay successfully, they have three other challenges. The first is the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Then the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the Sahara Desert. There is absolutely no water in the Sahara and, consequently, no fish. The trees are small and there are two major predators in the desert, the eagle owls and the jackals.

They will live in the mangroves and the estuaries of Senegal, The Gambia, with some staying in Guinea.

The new arrivals in the United Kingdom are exciting.

Laddie LM12 has been fixing up the nest at the Loch of the Lowes since 21 March hoping that NC0 will return and want to be his mate. And his wish came true. NC0 arrived back at the Scottish nest today, 25 March. But instead of bringing her a nice fish, Laddie decided that more nesting material would be appropriate. The image below shows Laddie (the one mantling) arriving once he had spotted NC0 on the nest. Shortly after they bonded their relationship – to the happy delight of thousands watching on camera!

NC0 has just arrived at the Loch of the Lowes nest in Scotland. Laddie flew to greet her with new nesting material. 25 March 2021.

Mrs G arrived at the Bywyd Glaslyn Nest in Wales at 8:42, 25 March. Her mate, Aran, should not be far behind.

Mrs G is approximately twenty to twenty-one years old. She has been nesting at Bywyd Glaslyn since 2004. She laid 32 eggs with her first mate 11 (98) and 17 eggs with Aran. Of those, 46 hatched and 41 fledged. She has at least 100 grandchildren and 4 great grand chicks. As the oldest Osprey in Wales, she is the matriarch of the Welsh Ospreys!

The beautiful dark plumage of Mrs G. 25 March 2021. Just after a fish dinner!
Mrs G. The oldest osprey in Wales. 25 March 2021

Dylan arrived at Lyn Clywedog in the Hafren Forest in Wales at 19:30 on 24 March. He is waiting for his mate Seren, Blue 5F to arrive.

Dylan just arriving on the Clywedog Nest. 24 March 2021

And others are starting their journeys. Rutland 4K (13) was fitted with a satellite tracker when he was five years old during the summer of 2018. Satellite imagery indicates he left his winter home in Guinea on 21 March and is traveling at a rate of 72 kph or 45 mph.

More and more arrivals will be coming in the next few days. What a fantastic way to wind up World Osprey Week.

And checking on on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida, I have a smile on my face. We are beginning the third day of the ‘turn around’. Gosh, I hope that I do not jinx it. It started with Diane bringing in an extra large catfish first thing on the 23rd of March. She fed the osplets for hours including Tiny Tot who had his first bursting crop for more than a week. The 24th was a good day. Crops on all during the day and this morning Jack brought in a fish with a head at 7:20:16. Tiny Tot had a nice crop! I wonder if Diane has been doing a lot of loud calling. Last night Jack landed on the nest without a fish. Diane and the three started yelling loudly – Jack took off quickly. You could almost hear Diane tell him not to come back without a fish. So the fish arrives this morning with its head – almost a first!

In the image below, Tiny Tot still has a full crop at noon on 25 March 2021.

Tiny Tot is still much smaller than his siblings but he is surviving and doing well the last few days. 25 March 2021. @Achieva Credit Union Osprey Cam

Oh, thank you for joining me on a beautiful spring day. In Manitoba, the sun is shining and the Grackle family of 17 have returned from their winter vacation. It’s a good day.

Thank you to the Loch Arkaig FB page, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the United Kingdon Ospreys, Bywyd Glaslyn Streaming Cam, and the Achieva Credit Union for their images or streaming camera where the images were taken. Thank you to Rutland for the satellite tracking information for 4K (13).