Daisy remains, triumphant – so far!

Just to recap what happened on January 13 at the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the old Ironbark Tree, Sydney Olympic Park. Yesterday, Daisy the Duck arrives at the nest at 5:19 am. At 10:33, Daisy laid egg number 8. It was a very hot day in Sydney, rising above 26 degrees C. It was very hot on Daisy, a water fowl, when the sun was shining directly on her as she incubated her eggs. At 16:49 Dad returns from his sojourn to Goat Island unexpectedly. Daisy leaves the nest in a hurry and does not cover up her eggs. Dad poked around the eggs in the nest bowl but he did not eat another egg nor does it appear that he damaged any eggs. In fact, Dad was pretty careful around the eggs. Dad leaves at 19:16. Daisy returns to her nest at 20:24 and incubates her eggs all night without any problems from Dad. This is the first time that the Black Pacific Duck has stayed all night incubating her eggs.

As the sun begins to rise over Sydney, Australia, WBSE ‘Dad’ returns to the branch of the cam tree and sits there observing the nest.

Daisy does not immediately notice Dad’s arrival at 5:54. When she does, she scurries off the nest leaving the eggs uncovered!

Daisy has been busy removing down from her breast to further line the egg cup.

With everyone holding their breath afraid that Dad would go and disturb the eggs or chase after Daisy, we waited and watched. But Dad only observed. He flew off the cam tree branch at 6:13.

There are, of course, many questions and no one has an answer. No other bird has ever made a nest, to anyone’s knowledge, in the WBSE nest tree. There appears to be no literature. Black Pacific Ducks are opportunists and did, at one time, make their nest in a bear enclosure at the Sydney Zoo. As their numbers dwindled, the ducks moved to another location. In fact, often their nests are in marshy areas near water. Why this duck picked this sea eagle nest seventy-five feet off the ground is anyone’s guess. Now, though, people are wondering if the sea eagle will leave Daisy alone to raise her ducklings. She is no threat to him or his territory. Only time will tell. And no one has any idea what the WBSE ‘Lady’ would do if she found some other bird’s eggs in her nest!

She returns, somewhat cautiously, at 6:37. She slowly walks down from the branch and begins incubating the eggs again. Wet grasses on her bill show that she did, in fact, have some breakfast while she was away.

It is nearing 9 in the morning, 14 January in Sydney, Australia. So far, all is well on the nest. Updates later tonight.

Daisy lays another egg!

Daisy, the very brave Black Pacific Duck, returned to the nest of the White Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) at 5:19 am. Everyone believed that she had laid the last of her eggs yesterday and had returned today to incubate them. Not so! Despite being concerned and ever watchful for Dad to return, Daisy did, at 10:33:34 Australian time, lay egg number nine. This means that she has a nest of seven eggs. Remember, Dad ate one and it is presumed, but no one knows for positive, that Daisy laid an egg elsewhere in the forest the day she was frightened from the nest before she could lay her egg.

Daisy pushing out her breast and pushing.

One of the things that I noticed today was that, in addition to turning in the nest often and breathing deeper, Daisy also stood up, lowered her neck, stuck out her breast and pushed down diagonally during her labour. You can see a still image of this action above. You can, if you look carefully, see the growing number of eggs in the nest cup, too. Once the egg was out, Daisy relaxed.

Daisy bearing down to get the egg out
Once the egg is out, Daisy begins placing more down and enlarging and lowering the nest.

Notice the small amount of down that Daisy has pulled from her breast to line the nest cup. Over the course of the morning, she has increased the size of and deepened the nest cup by moving around and pushing with her paddle feet.

The amount of down and the depth of the nest have increased gradually during the day.

What has afforded Daisy all this time today? Remember that Dad WBSE ate one of Daisy’s eggs yesterday and then covered the eggs. I have been actually hoping that the egg gave him indigestion (do eagles get indigestion even?) and is off duck eggs! Observers on the ground say that he has joined Lady, his mate, at Goat Island. Goat Island is 12.2 km from the nest. Hopefully the sea eagles will stay there until mid-February away from the heat of the City. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Normally, Dad will come and check on the nest and the rest of his territory during off-season. It is like he is on vacation! It is currently over 26 degrees C on the ground and, presumably, a little hotter in the nest.

However, Daisy has very good camouflage and if she continues to lower her nest, just imagine. She could cover herself with fluffy down and leaves and just maybe the WBSE wouldn’t see her at all.

Stay tuned for further developments tomorrow in the adventures of Dad and Daisy.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

January 5 is National Bird Day!

Today is National Bird Day. Did you know? And, if not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is there a day to celebrate birds?

National Bird Day seeks to raise awareness about birds. It is that simple. It began fourteen years ago in the United States and spread. So today, Canadians, too, are shouting out the love for our feathered friends. Everyone is joining together to find ways to enrich the lives of these, the closest living relative to the dinosaurs, better. And why should we care? Well, there are lots of reasons but let me begin with the fact that we have over fished the oceans, made the waters toxic and decreased the amount of fish that was present at the end of the nineteenth century by 80%. We have populated the world and allowed cities to sprawl, taking away the normal territory of the birds to hunt prey and survive. We spray our lawns so they are green, use toxic pesticides, construct buildings with gorgeous winds that are not strike proof (they could easily be), while driving fast and well, quite honestly, some people go out of their way to do harm. The coffee we drink, for 94% of that grown, comes from crops grown in direct sunlight. Yes, drinking coffee causes deforestation! So part of today is to examine how we can deal with these issues and offer protection and survival to our feathered friends. Did you know that 12% of the 10,000 bird species are in danger of extinction? There is a doctor from Studio City, California traveling the world to try and photograph every species of hummingbird before they are gone. Her name is Carole and she runs Hummingbird Spot, a bird cam and chat on youtube to raise awareness.

Kakapo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So what can you do to help? You might think about bird adoption. I am particularly fond of the work that the Kakapo Recovery do to help the only remaining 208 kakapo. Have you ever heard of the kakapo?

The kakapo is also called the ‘owl parrot’. The forage around on the ground of the forests in specific areas of New Zealand. They do not fly! And they are extremely endangered. Every Christmas the Kakapo Recovery issues certificates for adoption. You get a photo of your kakapo and a plushie along with other swag. The purpose of the adoption is to help fund the Kakapo Recovery. Cost of adoption ranges from $100 to $500 NZD. The birds wear transmitters that require annual or semi-annual changing of batteries. Those transmitters allow the researchers on the islands to find the birds and check their health. Today, there are only 207 Kakapo. Their existence was compromised due to habitat destruction. Today, they are threatened by disease and intruders. Don’t want to adopt a kakapo? why not buy a great beanie that comes with a really beautiful Kakapo pin?

If you have been one of the millions enjoying watching wildlife make their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young, you can donate to the wildlife cams that make this happy. You can donate just as much as you can afford. Cornell University runs a multitude of bird cams partnering with others around the world. They monitor the lives of Osprey, Royal Albatross, Red Tail Hawks (my favourite), along with countless other species living in manmade cliffs in Bermuda to fruit eating birds of Panama. Check them out! The bird cams are free! In 2020, during the pandemic, millions watched and discovered great empathy with these beautiful feathered creatures. They also learned many things. Did you know that the parents of the Royal Albatross chicks being incubated talk to their young before they hatch? Did you know that a damp nest can cause disease killing the young? If you have ever watched any of these birds feeding their young, you will marvel at how those big beaks can get such tiny pieces of food into the nestlings mouth! You will marvel at how they grow and you will come to imagine that humans might want to be so focused at the dining table. One of my favourite falconers, Laura Cully, thinks that every human should have to watch hawks raise their eyases before the humans commit to having children. Bird cams are wonderful but along with the joy there is also sadness. The norm is that only 1 out of 3 juvenile birds will live to see its first birthday. Those watching the camera of the pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red and Arthur, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were thrown in despair this past summer when the big beautiful female, who had recently delighted everyone with her baths in puddles, was killed when she flew into the window of a building. And those who watched the two White Bellied sea eaglets growing in the nest in Sydney Olympic Park, WBSE 25 and 26, learned what determination was. SE26 had its leg broken shortly after hatch. For over a month it could not stand. It would scoot on its ankles. But, the eaglet persevered and forced itself to walk despite the pain. It branched, learned to feet itself, and fledged. SE 26 returned to the nest six days later much to the delight of everyone who thought they would never see her again.

Last photo of WBSE 26 I took off the screen.

Many who watch the bird cams contend with their own physical issues and it was very easy to identify with SE26. Everyone hoped that when she had overcome everything to fly that she would be able to be a real sea eagle living in the wild. The day after this photograph, WBSE 26 was found on the balcony of a condo, 22 stories up. She was taken into care. It was determined that she was in a lot of pain, there was scar tissue on her feet, injuries to both from overcompensating only using the left leg, and the break had not healed properly. She was euthanized. It broke everyone’s heart. If anyone were to suggest that the life of a bird is one of fun and freedom, I would have them watch a bird cam for awhile.

What else can you do in your own area? You can donate money or items to your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. The one near Winnipeg is Wildlife Haven. Check their website for what they need. Take a drive out and see their resident Bald Eagle who was found in NW Ontario and who now is one of their ambassador birds. You can attract birds to your back garden. You can add feeders and bowls of water. They will thank you immensely. Crows and Blue Jays love grapes, dog kibble, hard-boiled eggs which are good for them. Avoid feeding birds bread. It is like Junk food to them. They love it and will fill up on it but will ultimately die of starvation. If you see plastic mesh bags or the plastic tops that hold cans, cut them and put them in the garbage. Avoid the use of balloons at all cost. Birds die from getting tangled in them. And last, three ideas. Coffee. Do you drink it? Do you know where those coffee beans come from? 94% of the world’s coffee is grown in the sun with only 6% grown in the shade. Coffee grown in the shade does not destroy the habitat of birds and animals. In Canada, you can order ‘bird safe’ coffee from birdsandbeans.ca It is not any more expensive than some of the other leading brands and if you order $45 worth, the shipping is free. It is also delicious, organic, and fair trade.

Only one of the signature blends at BirdsandBeans.

If you live in the United States, you can order directly from the Smithsonian who certifies the coffees that are grown in the shade.

And if you really want to get into the politics of wildlife, then go and read the website of the Albatross Task Force. You might never eat factory fish again! Lobby your government to make these fishing trawlers comply with standards so that there is no bycatch. What do I mean by bycatch? Sea birds are attracted to the fish used as bait and they get caught on the industrial hooks if they are not protected. A Wandering Albatross is decapitated every five minutes. The goal of the Albatross Task Force is to get every industrial trawler to use bird scaring lines, fish at night, and add weight to the long lines. These are inexpensive remedies meant to save 80% of the bycatch and protect the growing number of endangered sea birds.

Get a friend to join you! Have your children enter many of the bird contests. Join in on Bird counting days. Read about birds and nature. We need to protect the birds and their habitat so that they can help protect us.