Time to Catch up with the Royal Albatross

The 2021-22 breeding season is beginning. One of the first to arrive on Taiaroa Head was OGK (Orange-Green-Black), the mate of YRK (Yellow-Red-Black) and the father of Miss Pippa Atawhai, Royal Cam chick of 2021.

OGK arrived on the headland a few days ago waiting for his mate. The males generally arrive first and select the nesting site. Then the females arrive. Last year, YRK arrived in the middle of the month.

OGK has been making sky calls.

Look carefully. To the far right are two Royal Albatross. One of them was OGK doing his sky call. Is the other YRK? Has she arrived? The couple were first spotted doing sky calls together on 10 October at 16:22:54. Oh, I do hope so!

Wish we could see through grass! According to Ranger Sharyn Broni, there are now 30 toroa back on the peninsula. After the chicks have fledged, the new birds arrive on the headland. (The younger first time to return home since fledge birds arrive in late November and December). The adults have been at sea for 12-13 months. They will build their nests and mate. Often the male will pick a spot for his nest close to the one where he hatched and fledged. Those that breed successfully will remain until their chick fledges next September going out to sea to forage for food for themselves and the little one, returning to the headland and going out again. Because of the stress on their bodies, the Royal Albatross raise a chick every other year – not every year.

Here is a short video of OGK doing some of his amazing sky calls several days ago when he first arrived at Taiaroa Head waiting for YRK.

This year’s Royal cam chick, Tiaki, was fitted with a satellite GPS locator just like her parents. She has really been making good progress and is getting near the Chatham Islands.

Here is the link to follow Tiaki’s progress as she makes her way to the waters off the coast of Chile:

The satellite pack on Tiaki’s mother, LGL (Lime-Green-Lime) stopped working long ago. It was faulty. The one on her father, LGK (Lime-Green-Black) was functioning properly until recently. No data has been uploaded for 8 days. Ranger Sharyn Broni says this could because his feathers have moulted and the tracker is lost or a failure for it to charge properly. It could also have been a malfunction. The last option is that something has happened to LGK. It may be some time before there is any confirmation.

Mel, the manager of the retail store at Taiaroa Head, is adding more products for holiday shopping to their on line store. Check out the soft Albatross plushies and the books or the other unique gifts. You might find something for just the right person – and it will not only make them happy but will help support everything that is done for the welfare of the birds at Taiaroa. If you have questions for Mel, he normally answers quite quickly. His e-mail is: mel@albatross.org.nz

Here is the link:

https://shopalbatross.org.nz/

Here is the link to the streaming cam on Taiaroa Head:

There is lots happening in Bird World! Things will start to get complicated soon.

OTHER BIRD WORLD NEWS: Sad news today. The environmentalist and BBC presenter, Chris Packham, was the victim of an arson attack on his home in The New Forest. The perpetrators burnt his gate and set a car alight in front of CCTV cameras. This is the article on this tragic event in The Guardian. Thankfully, no one was injured but they could have been.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/10/chris-packham-vows-to-continue-activism-after-arson-attack-on-home

The Big Bird Count that took place on the 9th of October had wonderful results. 29,282 participants took part around the world. There were 6885 species and 66,020 checklists submitted. Fantastic! If you want to check out more data surrounding the results and checklists, please go to:

https://ebird.org/octoberbigday

Still waiting for news of a second hatch for Xavier and Diamond at the scrape box on the water tower at Charles Sturt Orange University. Xavier is there with Diamond and is doing is creaky door call to welcome the day. Will check in with them throughout the day.

It is a soggy but welcome rainy day on the Canadian Prairies. Tomorrow Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving – quite different in spirit than that of the Americans south of us. For Canadians, its origin was a time to be thankful for the bounty of the fall harvest. It is a time for families to join together, if they can, and share a meal and is quite low-key compared to the American version. There are so many things and people to be thankful for. The list is long!

Thank you for joining me today. Please take care. See you soon.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Cornell Bird Lab and the NZ DOC, Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam Project and Cilla Kinross.

Godwits…and more

I have heard the name but have never seen the bird – or, at least, I do not think I have. With my lousy shorebird IDs, I might have even confused this beautiful long-legged shorebird with a Greater Yellowlegs. Of course, everyone would have laughed.

Godwits are ‘very’ long legged shorebirds but their legs are not yellow! Their beak is ‘very, very’ long and is bi-coloured – light rose and espresso -and ever so slightly upturned at the end. They are called waders because they live in the mudflats and the estuaries. See how their legs go deep into the mud, too. They feed by sticking that very long beak into the mud, rooting around for worms and small shellfish.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by naturalengland is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The breeding adults have a chest that ranges from a deep terracotta for the males to a brighter orange for the females. The wing and back feathers are more brown and white overall with a touch of the breast colour, sometimes. They have gorgeous dark eyes.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The juveniles have a cream coloured breast with overall brown and white feathering.

“Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What is so miraculous about these shorebirds is their migration. They breed in Alaska and fly in September to New Zealand! They make only one stop, normally. And they do the trip in record time. It is an 11,265 kilometre journey or 7000 miles. They accomplish this in eight days! Yes, you read that correctly, eight days.

“Bar-tailed Godwits” by naturalengland is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Neils Warnock, the Executive Director of Alaska Audubon in 2017, remarked,These godwits are epic migrants. We had a bird, E-7, that we had tagged, and she left New Zealand in the spring. She flies non-stop seven days, ten thousand kilometres, to the Yellow Sea. All of the Bar-tailed Godwits of Alaska, they stop at the Yellow Sea.”

The Yellow Sea is located between mainland People’s Republic of China and the Korean Peninsula.

Historically the mudflats of the Yellow-Sea have been rich with food for the Bar-tail Godwits so they can fatten up and make the rest of the journey to their winter homes in New Zealand without having to stop. Today, the mudflats of the Yellow Sea are under threat – they are disappearing with coastal development. This could prove to be a major challenge for these beautiful shorebirds. There have been many studies and the researchers have seen a drop in the number of shorebirds by 30% in the last few years because the mudflat areas have been reduced by 65%.

https://www.science.org/news/2017/04/migrating-shorebirds-danger-due-disappearing-mudflats

The reports of the shrinkage of the mudflats has been coming in since 2013 with alarms sounding.

Today the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre in New Zealand reported that Bar-tailed Godwit 4BYWW made his flight in 8 days and 12 hours arriving home at 03:00 on 26 September. He flew 12,200 km. His average speed was 59kph. 4BYWW may have set a new distance record for the Bar-tail Godwits. We will know when the others return home. Isn’t that amazing?

What I found most interesting was her route. She does not appear to have gone via the Yellow Sea. Is this because of the decline of the mud flats? Have the birds adapted their migratory route? I definitely want to look at this more closely.

This was the satellite tracking image posted by the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre FB page:

The Centre was tracking another four adults and 3 juveniles on their journeys home. One of those, 4BWWB, has been reported as flying non-stop for 163 hours and over 10,000 km. Seriously, my head can’t comprehend what that must be like. I am also truly amazed at what these sat-paks can tell us about the birds and their amazing resilience. Just incredible.

Tiaki officially fledged on the 25th of September. The Royal Albatross cam chick of 2021 is foraging off the coast of New Zealand at the present time. She will eventually make her way to the waters off of South America near Chile. We wait for her return in four to six years to Taiaroa Head where we will hear that beautiful Sky call, again.

While millions and millions of birds are moving from their summer breeding grounds to their winter homes, others are waiting for eggs to hatch. Holly Parsons posted a table of Diamond’s incubation history.

Xavier and Diamond’s first egg was laid in the scrape box on top of the water tower at Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia on 31 August this year. Cilla Kinross, the main researcher, is expecting a hatch from 6-9 October with the most promising day being the 7th. Can’t wait!

Diamond was catching some sleep this morning. If all of the eggs hatch, her and Xavier are going to be very busy!

If the hatch is expected around the 7th of October at Orange, then what about those Melbourne Peregrine Falcons? The first egg was laid on the 21st of August – yes, that is right. Ten days before the Orange falcons. So, I am going to be looking for a hatch at Melbourne starting in two days!!!!!! This means that all of the Melbourne eggs, if viable, will hatch before those in Orange. It will be nice to get to enjoy them without trying to watch both at the same time!

For those of you wondering about those beautiful White-bellied Sea Eagles, 27 and 28, here they are. Talk about gorgeous.

Things will really be starting to ramp up shortly. Bald Eagle breeding season in the United States begins in a few days. Looking forward to checking on some nests to see if the birds have returned – such as Anna and Louis who had the first hatch on a nest in the Kisatchie Forest last year since 2013. His name was Kistachie – very appropriate.

Then there is always the trio at Port Lincoln. They had two feedings this morning and a third at 11:31:27 when Dad brought in a very small fish. All of the chicks were well behaved – quite civil to one another. And, of course, Little Bob is right there in front! Look carefully you can see him.

Life is good. Everything seems to be going really well for all the nests.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Godwits as much as I did. Incredible birds. Take care everyone!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots or for postings on their FB pages that I have shared with you: Port Lincoln Osprey Project, 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac, Falcon Cam Project at Charles Sturt University and Cilla Kinross, Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, Sea Eagle Cam @Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre, and Cornell Bird Lab and NZ DOC.

Feature image credit: “Bar-tailed Godwit” by 0ystercatcher is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Time with Tiaki

It is 6 September in Australia and the Royal Cam chick, Tiaki, is 225 days old. She is the daughter of LGL (Lime Green Lime) and LGK (Lime Green Black). They have been together as a couple since 2017. Their very first chick was also a Royal cam chick. Karere hatched in 2019 and successfully fledged. They laid their egg this season on 4 November 2020 and Tiaki hatched on 24 January. It looks like they will also have a successful fledge this year! Congratulations LGL and LGK!

It is early morning. Tiaki is not at her nest. She is looking out at what is happening around her. It is going to be a gorgeous day with lots of wind.

Tiaki has been really exercising her wings and has hovered quite high on several occasions.

Lady Hawk caught Tiaki’s first hovering – 3 weeks ago – in a short video.

Here she is today spreading those magnificent wings. There are only little pieces of the baby down left.

Her ultimate destination – the sea.

If the average age at fledge is 232 days then it is possible that in a week, Tiaki will begin her big adventure. She will remain on the open seas only returning to Taiaro Head in 5-6 years. It will be wonderful to welcome back and to watch her do all those amazing courtship dances with the other juveniles. For those of you that adore this lovely little albatross, stay tuned to the screen. This gal really wants to fly.

It is 15:32 and Tiaki is away from her nest. It is so windy. I wonder if a parent will arrive to feed her?

Dad, LGK – Lime Green Black- had been at sea for quite some time. He has now returned on 3 and 5 September to feed his squealing daughter. I love this video that Lady Hawk posted of LGK’s visit and the feeding. Note the sky calls! And also keep on the lookout for the neighbouring chick, SSTrig. This little corner is quite the soap opera!

I just went to check on Tiaki again and look – someone is flying in. Is it LGK or LGL, the mom?

It’s Dad.

Here comes Tiaki calling to Dad so he won’t leave without giving her that wonderful squid shake. She is moving as fast as she can.

Tiaki acts like she has eaten in weeks. She is so excited and you could hear her whee, whee for quite a distance.

Tiaki gets a nice short feeding – and she always wants more and more. Dad tries to oblige her.

Tiaki doesn’t want Dad to go. Since 3 September, LGK has been in three times to feed his daughter. That is a good record.

I wonder if he knows that his time with her is growing shorter and shorter. Perhaps he will fish close to the nest and maybe fly in when mom is there, too. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a family reunion one more time? Absolutely.

Dad has stopped for a rest a little ways from Tiaki. Tiaki is in the middle of the photo and LGK is the head to the right of Tiaki. It is almost impossible to just sit with Tiaki now. She gets excited and wants more and more food. Sometimes LGK returns to do a second feeding after he has rested but, since he was just here yesterday maybe he has fed Tiaki all the squid he has.

Perhaps he will wait awhile and see if the strong winds bring Mom in?

Several times, LGK, Dad, flapped his wings at the edge of the cliff as if to show Taiki that it was a good place to fledge.

A few times I thought he had left but Tiaki would still be doing some clacking. Then dad’s wing would appear. It was hard to know precisely when he took off there were so many birds flying around.

Oh, my. Look what is happening. Is this the other parent flying in? I was not able to confirm the leg band but the camera followed the bird and we could see a chick being fed. I sure thought it was Tiaki. Hopefully someone else will be able to confirm all of this. If it was LGL then her and LGK missed one another by minutes.

The parents will not know when Tiaki fledges – unless of course they are there. I wonder if this has ever happened? They will return a few times to feed their chick and then when they cannot find her, they will take off. The couple will spend the next 14 months on the open sea building up their energy and feeding themselves. They will both meet here on Taiaroa Head in November of 2022 to begin another season in the hope of having a third chick that survives to fledge.

It is near the end of the season on Taiaroa Head. To date there have been no fledges but they will begin soon. You can still join the action, here’s the link:

I know that so many of you love the Albatross. Did you know that 15 of the 22 species of Albatross are facing extinction? It is because of the long haul fishing trawlers. Albatrosses feed on the surface of the ocean. You can see them flying about the fishing vessels who put out fish head and guts as the process the fish on board. This attracts the Osprey who get caught by the cables and are dragged under the boat and drown. The Albatross also get caught on the baited hooks of the boats. It is horrible and it doesn’t have to happen. Please check out the information on the Albatross Task Forde to fead all of the information and the solutions. There are things you can do to help!

https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/policy-insight/marine-and-coastal/saving-seabirds-globally/the-albatross-task-force/#:~:text=The%20Albatross%20Task%20Force%20%E2%80%93%20an,the%20deadliest%20fisheries%20for%20albatrosses.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay well, see you soon.

Thank you also to the Cornell Bird Lab and the New Zealand Department of Conservation for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.

The Northern Royal Albatross

We are quickly approaching World Albatross Day. That will take place on the 19th of June in New Zealand – it will be the 18th of June in North America.

Just thinking about the albatrosses had me checking on the Royal Cam Princess of 2021, Taiki. She is so sweet. She has been amusing herself and passing the time pulling up the grass around her nest. She seems to like to keep it very tidy.

When Taiki woke up it was a rather rainy and drizzly day.

Rain does not bother the albatross. Except when they are on land breeding, incubating, or feeding their chicks, they are over the ocean. They can go for years without setting foot on land.

Taiki might have been wondering if she was going to have any visitors today and she did. Both of her parents came in to give her really nice feedings.

Lime-Green-Lime, aka Mom came in with a really nice feeding for a very hungry gal today right around lunch time. LGL has been coming in to feed the little princess almost every day. She visited yesterday also. How lucky can a little chick be?

And then another visitor came. It is Lime Green Black, Taiki’s dad. I think – but I could be wrong – that it has been 4 or 5 days since he was in to feed his little chick. Taiki was really excited to see him. Normally LGK spends some time with his chick but today he didn’t. He fed his little one and took off. He missed his mate, LGL, by about ten minutes. While it would have been grand to have seen them together, those skies look like more rain might be coming. LGK knows when he needs to leave! I am told it all depends on the winds!

Taiki seemed pretty happy and settled onto her nest after those two big feedings. I don’t think Northern Albatross chicks have food comas like Ospreys do but I bet she is feeling like taking it easy for awhile. You can see how soft her white down is – she reminds me of cotton candy floss.

Taiki and her parents are Northern Royal Albatross. They are very large seabirds weighing between 6 and 9 kg. From the image of Lime Green Lime you can see that the adult body is white with dark upper wings. They have pink legs and bill. The males are larger than the females. They are considered ‘endangered’.

You can just see Taiki’s black wing feathers coming in under the soft baby down. All of that down will have to be off before Taiki can fledge which normally takes place in September.

The Northern Royal Albatross mates for life. They only breed in New Zealand on the Chatham Islands as well as a tiny colony on Taiaroa Head. That is where Taiki’s nest is. When she is ready to find a mate, she will return to Taiaroa Head. That could be anywhere from four to six years after she fledges. During that time she will never be on land. Sometimes when these juveniles return they have very wonky legs because they are not used to walking.

The Northern Royal albatross feeds in the Southern Ocean, off the Patagonian Shelf near Argentina, and over the continental shelf and divide near Chile when they are not breeding or feeding chicks. Lime Green Lime did have a tracker and it showed that she stayed near Taiaroa Head venturing north.

Sharon Dunne posted the map showing the satellite GPS positioning of both Lime Green Lime (LGL) and Lime Greek Black (LGK) when they were out foraging for Taiki on 17 February 2021 on the Royal Albatross FB Page. The blue is LGK and the red is LGL.

Taiaroa Head is at the bottom. You can see where the lines converge. LGL or Mom no longer has her tracker but LGK does. The parents have travelled tens of thousands of kilometres to catch the squid lunch their little one loves so much!

It is really nice to have such regular feedings for these albatross chicks. The NZ Department of Conservation weighs the chicks and provides supplementary feedings for those that require it. Sometimes parents are late coming in to feed their little ones. Sometimes a parent might not return. It is really hard on one parent to provide enough food. I have always felt that the NZ Government is enlightened in its concern and care for the wildlife.

Thank you so very much for joining me today. Stay safe, stay well!

Thank you to the Cornell Bird Cam and the NZ DOC for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots and to the Royal Albatross FB page where I found the tracking map of Taiki’s parents.

Oh, it’s cold out there

It was so cold today, -14. It meant that my friend, Sharpie pretended he was a Peregrine Falcon and not a Sharp-shinned Hawk and tore between the houses and into the garden like a Stealth bomber. He first flew into snow on top of the back wood box and out, down between the houses and back again. I blinked and if I had done it again, I would have missed him. He certainly wasn’t after the European Starlings. They had been sitting on the tips of the Lilac bushes and then decided to eat the frozen grapes on the vines, instead of the bird seed, and were tottering all over the place when Sharpie arrived. Silly things! It’s like eating Ice Wine candies. Maybe Sharpies, like Peregrines, don’t particularly like the Starlings. I wonder if they are tough? Must be something. He totally ignored them.

Sharpie comes to visit and is puffed up it is so cold.

Sharpie doesn’t cooperate, too fast for me and the camera. This is a photo from a couple of weeks ago just so you can see what the little guy looks like. Oh, he is tiny. I think the plan is to get a camera and have it constantly running using solar power. That way I don’t frighten him peeking out the windows. I haven’t seen Sharpie’s mate for a little over a year. And, if you are wondering, yes, it is unusual for these hawks not to migrate with the other birds. We first noticed them in January 2018. There is a Polar Vortex heading our way for Saturday and the temperatures will plummet very quickly. I hope Sharpie is tucked up nice and warm somewhere.

UPDATES: The Threesome are working on their nest on the Mississippi River near Fulton. Valor I, II, and Starr moved a few big sticks around this morning. There is a blizzard and extreme cold temperatures headed for their area and the trio were not seen at the nest after 9:30 am.

Birds are incredibly smart as all of you know. And I am certain if they could figure out how to handle the computers and the green screens, the CBC would be wise to hire them as the weather forecaster. Seriously, it is so rare that the get the forecast right here. If you listen you might hear it is sunny but if you look out the window, you can see the rain coming down. Does this happen anywhere else?

The Threesome Nest on the Mississippi River, 4 February 2020. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

E17 and E18 were improved at 4pm on Thursday. These little muffins. My goodness, they have grown, changed colour, and are getting better. They can’t go back to Harriet and M15 until they are completely clear of the ‘pink eye’. But the news today is optimistic.

And look, they are feeding themselves out of the little dishes. Wonder if they prefer fish or these nice tender, cut just right morsels of quail and rat?? E18 is on the left. He is a little whiter than E17 on the right E17 is still having to go to the time out corner. As she continues to feel better, she is taking it out on her little brother at meal time. And doesn’t E18 just look so sweet? I had so hoped they would have grown out of this phase. It makes me ache when one is bopping the other. Seriously, there is enough food to go around. You two are lucky. Your patron, Pritchett Real Estate, has a stocked pond full of fish just for you.

E18 (left) and E17 (right) enjoying their 4pm snack. Image courtesy of CROW.

And now on Friday morning, CROW has been able to return the pair to their nest. It is 24 degrees so warm. The little ones can pant to regulate their temperature and they are cheeping. But so far, neither Harriet or M15 have come to the nest. It has been several hours and I have to admit that I am getting a little anxious. And, of course, E17 already needs another time out!

It is a bit windy. The camera operator has moved it looking for the parents who appear to be at a distance hunting.

The image below is not great but it will give you an idea of the area around the nest. Dick Pritchett owns the land that the nest tree is located on and does have a fully stocked pond for the eagles. It looks they are flying around in the thermals.

CROW has permission for immediate rescue if the parents do not return to the nest. I am anxiously watching and will bring an update as soon as I have one.

It is Friday. For those of you out there working or working from home, it must feel really good to see a weekend coming. And since it is Friday, it is time for some cuteness overload. And where better for that than the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand.

Lime-Green-Black (LGK) is so proud of his eleven day old chick. It is so sweet how gentle he is. His eyes tell us just how proud he is of this little furry bundle. And how happy he is to be there in the warm sunshine rubbing his bill.

LGK teaching his chick to tap bills to stimulate feeding. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

Oh, and what a beautiful smile!

Hello! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

It sure didn’t take long for this little fella’ to figure out precisely how to fit that tiny bill inside dad’s great big one so that he could have some squid shake. Nature is truly amazing.

Great Feeding! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

With the little one safely tucked in between his big paddle feet, LGK does some of his morning wingersizes. I wonder if birds get ‘stiff’ from sitting in one place for too long, like humans so?

LGK stretching in the morning. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

And since it is the weekend, I have a recommendation for you. Now, I don’t always suggest movies to people because each of us has our own likes and dislikes. The little girl down the street left me a note today in my mailbox. “There is a movie that you have to see and it will make me cry”. And then one of the FB members of the Crow, Raven, and Corvid group recommended the same flick. So, I decided to put everything aside and watch it. It is on Netflix and the movie is Penguin Bloom. The woman on the FB group said:

Penguin Bloom, is the story of a woman who has had a catastrophic injury and endures depression related to her inability to lead a “normal” life with her husband and three rambunctious young boys. One of the boys finds an injured magpie, brings it home to care for it, and well, saying more would give away much of the story. It’s a charming movie, well done, probably not an Oscar contender, but the magpie’s (named Penguin) interaction with the family makes it worth a watch”.

The New York Times had a good review of Penguin Bloom. I hope that you can open this and read it.

You will need a box of tissue if you watch the movie.

I was very interested in this movie for two reasons. One is because WBSE 26, with its wonky leg, overcame so many obstacles to fly. So many people told me how inspirational she was to them. Several with physical challenges and who were not working as hard as they should said that if 26 could do it so could they! Secondly because, just the other day, one of Daisy Duck’s very good friends from Poland sent me a note to tell me that she had found and nursed an injured Raven back to health. It was in terrible shape with the feathers on top of its head all pulled out and, of course, it was starving. She took the Raven into her home and cared for it for five months til it was ready to be re-wilded. Little tears came down my cheeks. People can be incredibly kind and loving. My heart melted when I read her letter. I hope to bring you more about her story shortly.

Birds are magical if you let them into your heart.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join me. Stay safe. See you tomorrow!