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.

Here a fish, there a fish, everywhere a fish!

One of the things that I have learned but which I continually have to remind myself is this: birds are individuals. They may have instincts that have developed over 50 million years but, at the same time, they definitely have their own character. One of the first times I noticed this was with the Royal Albatross Family in 2020. The Royal Cam chick was Atawhai (Pippa was her nick name). Her parents are OGK (orange-green-black) and YRK (yellow-red-black). OGK hatched in 1998 and he was 22 years old last year when Atawhai hatched. YRK hatched in 1994 and was 26 years old when Atawhai hatched. They have been a bonded pair since 2006 and 2020 was their seventh breeding attempt. They have four children and one foster chick as of 2020. So they are not ‘new’ parents. OGK would fly in to feed Atawhai. He loved to sit next to his baby girl and have the most animated conversations. OGK was never in a hurry to leave. Atawhai adored him and would go running when he would land. Sometimes he would even spend the night with Atawhai. In contrast, YRK liked to feed her daughter and leave! Then there are the adults that I call over providers. A case this year was Louis, the partner of Anna, at the Kisatchie Forest Bald Eagle Nest. They were first time parents of Kisatchie. At first I didn’t think that Anna would ever figure out how to feed her wee chick. The parents try to look straight at their chick and keep their beak straight and vertical but in fact, because of the way the raptors see, the mother needs to angle her beak. Anna figured it out – thankfully. Louis was the envy of all the people fishing on Lake Kincaid. One day there were eighteen fish piled up on that Bald Eagle Nest – 18! He had enough food for all the Bald Eagle nests in the southern US. Unbelievable. And then there are those nests where you just sit down and weep. I said I was not going to watch the Cowlitz PUD Osprey Nest but one day I peeked. How bad could this dad be? I know that I often called Jack at the Achieva Osprey Nest a dead beat dad and for several weeks he was but I didn’t think it could get worse than Jack. Oh, but yes it can! Wattsworth. I only have to say his name and those that watch the nest know precisely what he does and doesn’t do. Wattsworth gets caught not bringing in fish but if Electra catches one he is right on the nest expecting her to give it to him! Meanwhile the two barely living chicks – those poor little things – have barely enough food to live. They certainly don’t get enough food to thrive. And Electra is worn out and ever so hungry, too.

Can a nest be an indication of the success the couple will have with their nestlings? I know it sounds like one of those really stupid questions. The day that Louis landed on the rim of the nest at Loch Arkaig, the nest he shares with his mate Aila, he began to do nestorations. He repaired the walls of the nest, brought in new seaweed from the loch to dry and got everything ready for Aila’s arrival. As the days passed and Aila didn’t show up, Louis continued to work on the nest in case she was really late. Have a look at this nest. There has been snow, lots of rain, and some pretty windy storms but the nest is more or less the way Louis left it when Aila did not return this year.

From the moment Iris arrived at her Hellgate Missoula Montana nest she began to repair it. Iris had a lot to do. Last year she went on a rampage when a squirrel climbed up and tried to get in the nest cup. This was after the raven had eaten her egg. There wasn’t much left of the walls. So in 2021 it was almost like starting from scratch. One of the people who belong to the FB page of the Montana Ospreys commented on how Iris was still doing her best even though Iris knows that the outcome in 2021 will not be any different than previous years. The key is that she is doing her best, regardless.

Even CJ7 and 022, who are currently bonding on the Poole Harbour Nest but will not have chicks this year, are working on their nest!

Just yesterday one of the two chicks on the Cowlitz Nest almost fell out of the nest. There is no wall on the far side! You can see it plainly in the photo below.

Is this because there are no sticks to bring to continue building? or there are so many intruders there is no time to secure the nest? or is it indifference? or is Jack just lazy? or does he have another family or two? If anyone knows the answer, write to me – I would sure like to know!

How can you tell if a raptor has food in their system? We all know by looking to see if they have a crop but is there any other way? I happened to catch Tiny Tot on the Achieva Nest tonight doing his ‘ps’. That white streak ends between the C and the H in the Achieva logo below. The PS left Tiny Tot’s body like a cork popping out of a champagne bottle. The point of all of this is that Electra had such a tiny ps yesterday that you knew her system was almost entirely void of food. The same for those babies. They fight now – they each want to live. It is sad because that clobbering one another uses up their precious energy.

Tiny Tot doing a PS. 15 June 2021

The Cowlitz kids had feedings from two fish today and Electra was eating too. We can hope that all of that small fish will go to Electra and the babies and not into the talons of Wattsworth who was waiting to claim it! Wattsworth certainly gets the Dead Beat Dad award for the past two weeks!

Speaking of Dead Beat Osprey Dads. I have to give Jack a gold star. He has really turned around. Every day he brings at least one fish to Tiny Tot on the Achieva Osprey Nest. One day – was it Sunday? – he even brought in four – FOUR – fish for Tiny. Jack has not forgotten his little one protecting the nest!

Here comes Jack with that fish for Tiny at 7:05:17.

White YW and Blue 35 on the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest have also been working on the nest. White YW is getting much better at bringing in fish to the nest for Blue 35 and the three chicks, too. My concern is really only Tiny Little Tot. Oh, he is starting to get clever like Tiny Tot did when he was starving and being picked on by the bigger siblings. One of the FB friends of the nest said it well today, “Little One saw the fish coming in and made sure he was in pole position!” Her observations were absolutely spot on. Tiny Tot got right in front of mama so that she could see him clearly and Tiny Little Tot didn’t move. Not only did he not move but he also took bites meant for one of the bigger siblings. Oh, I just adore this little sweetie. He could go on that list of third hatches that survive and thrive!

That was just brilliant! And the older ones didn’t even seem to mind. What a relief. Tiny Little Tot had a really good feed.

Speaking of crops, have a look at the crop of Little Bob on Loch of the Lowes. Looks like everything has straightened itself out on that nest as well. Both Bobs are really thriving.

Today’s winner of provider of the day goes to Idris, however. Sorry Laddie! Just look at that whale that he hauled in for Telyn and the Bobs. He didn’t even eat the head!

Oh, thanks so much for joining me. It is always a pleasure. I will be checking in on Big Red and Arthur and the Ks first thing tomorrow. Fledge watch is truly on for that Red tail Hawk Nest on the Cornell Campus.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cam where I grabbed my screen shots: Dyfi Osprey Nest, Achieva Credit Union, Cumbrian Wildlife Trust, Cowlitz PUD Osprey Nest, Scottish Wildlife Trust and People Postcode Lottery, Poole Harbour Ospreys, Cornell Bird Lab and Montana Osprey Project, Woodland Trust and Friends of Loch Arkaig.

Ever wonder what it is like to be a first time bird mom?

One of the wonderful things to come out of the pandemic is the number of people who started watching streaming bird cams. Testimony after testimony speaks to the transformative power of the birds. They have brought joy to so many of us. The birds have taken away the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic. Together we have marvelled at how a Bald Eagle can shake the snow off her wings but never get a flake on the eggs she is incubating. We have held our collective breathes when Big Red, the Red Tail Hawk at Cornell, was blown off her nest.

We cried with joy when Ms Pippa Atawhai literally ran with her webbed feet to get to her dad, OGK, when he returned after being at sea. We smiled when they fledged wishing we could just hold on to them for a few more days. They touched our hearts.

Pippa (left) with OGK (right). @Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC

Since the end of January there have been many Bald Eagle hatches. There are many pip watches on the horizon and eggs are being laid around North America. In fact, the Bald Eagles in Canada’s most western province, British Columbia, have recently laid eggs, the earliest in the history of the nest at Surrey. Some of the parents are older and very experienced and for others, this is their first time to lay an egg, have it hatch, and have a tiny little eaglet to care for. It cannot be easy. They have no manuals. Their mothers or grandmothers are not there to help the young mothers understand how to feed their baby and care for it. And, yet, they do. The term ‘bird brain’ is misdirected. Study after study speaks to the genius of birds in terms of their communication, navigation, and their use of tools. An excellent book on this topic for the lay person is Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds.

Along with using tools, communicating, and the migrating birds navigational system to get them to their favourite feeders in the summer, birds instinctively know that they must cover their babies in the snow and pouring rain when they have only natal down. The chicks, eaglets, eyases, or ‘babies’ as I often call them know to raise their little bottoms and shoot their ps out of the nest. They learn so fast! But wonder what it is like to be a first time ‘bird’ mother?

RTH hatchling J1, 2020. @Cornell Labs RTH Streaming Cam

At 11pm on the 23rd of February, the single eaglet on the Kisatchie National Forest nest hatched. Its parents are, as far as anyone knows, first timers. The nest is located in Central Louisiana. From the food deliveries, it appears that the area is relatively rich in prey, especially fish, which, of course, Bald Eagles love. The father understands his role as providing food to the nest, sometimes incubating the eggs, brooding the eaglet, and defense. The other evening when he took over brooding duties, out of habit he rolled the eaglet thinking that it was still an egg! The eaglet is fine but having rolled eggs for more than a month – it seems it might have become a habit, at least for the dads. The mother, in her enthusiasm, tried first to shove large bites of food in the eaglets mouth. It wasn’t working. It also was not working that she was holding her beak straight and vertical. Oh, when that poor baby got only one or two bites and the mother was ready to get back to brooding, I became the ‘auntie’ trying to explain to the young mother what to do through the screen. It didn’t work! Somehow the little thing managed grab enough of the big pieces that it survived. I admit to having my doubts for a couple of days. But then magic happened! On 1 March, the whole feeding process changed. Let me show you in a few images. I am so proud of both of them. Gold stars all around.

The chick is peeping and the mother responds by getting up from brooding. She moves to the pantry. The little eaglet is looking out of the nest bowl in the opposite direction from under its mother’s tail. This isn’t looking very hopeful.

Then the mother repositions herself.

OK. Mom is ready but, seriously. The little one is now in a different spot but still not aligned for a feeding.

The mother steps into the nest bowl, leans her head and tempts the little eaglet with a small piece of fish. She is teaching it to stand nearer to the pantry.

The little eaglet turns its head! And its beak aligns perfectly with its mothers. A nice bite of fish!

The mother continues offering bites, sometimes trying to hold her head differently. The little one continues to grab the fish. This is the longest and best feeding I have seen at this nest for this six day old eaglet. It is also getting stronger and can stabilize its head. I cannot even imagine what it is like trying to feed a bobble head.

It was almost a four minute feeding. The little one had a nice crop and it is now time to sleep and grow! For now the frequent feedings and smaller amounts are perfect. In a week we will see some longer feedings with larger bites. It is so wonderful to see these two figuring this most essential part of parenting and survival out. Fantastic!

Did you wait for a little one to be fed and then you said to yourself that it was alright for you to do something else or go to sleep? Everything just felt alright with the world. Well, today I smiled in relief. These two are going to be alright. If you would like to watch the little chick as it grows up at the KNF nest, please go here to watch the streaming cam:

Thank you for joining me today. It is almost spring…less than three weeks. Yippee.