It’s 3 for Big Red and 4 for Dahlgren

The Guardian ran a story, ‘All my eaglets: pandemic audience spellbound by saga of nesting bald eagles’ in its Wildlife section this morning. While the story focused on the growing number of people watching bird streaming cams during the pandemic, it chose to use the example of two nests. The sadness of Jackie and Shadow at the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest in the San Bernadino Valley and the joy of Liberty and Guardian and their three chicks at the Redding Bald Eagle nest. Richard Luscombe really caught the moment – the joy celebration, the sadness and loss. Jackie (9 year old female) and Shadow (7 year old male) are two of the most popular Bald Eagles on streaming cams and yet, their story encapsulates great sadness. For two years they have tried to raise a chick. This year in their second clutch there was a hatch. Heartbreak came when that chick died trying to break out of the shell. Jackie and Shadow continue to care for the second egg which watchers know will never hatch. Last year they sat on two eggs for sixty days before giving up. In contrast, Guardian (7 year old male) and Liberty (22 year old female) are raising triplets and Liberty has, in her lifetime, successfully fledged 22 and outlived two mates. Like human families and stories, every bird nest is different.

Over the past year, I have received (or seen) letters, comments, and testimonies about the birds. It is clear that the ‘bird’ families streaming into our living rooms have become ‘intimate’ friends whose daily lives we share – their joys and their challenges. One woman wrote to tell me that she knows ‘her bird family’ better than her own human family! She is not alone. From the infertile eggs to the cheeping of the hatching chick, people have watched the birds and their loneliness and pain have been diminished. Many of you have written to me to tell me how the birds have saved your lives, including several with stage 4 cancer and partners who have died from COVID. Caring for the birds has lessened the impact of the isolation and has given us something to focus on besides ourselves. ‘A distraction from our lives’ a woman from The Netherlands said.

When the pandemic ends, I hope that all of you will continue to watch the lives of your favourite bird families unfold. And I would encourage you to talk to your children and your grandchildren or the neighbour’s children so they will become interested in wildlife. They need all of us to help them have better lives.

Jackie and Shadow continue to incubate an egg that will never hatch. Many wonder if there is not DDT still present in the soil or something causing this lovely and entering couple so many issues trying to have a little one. Clearly the thinness of the eggs that have broken could indicate that. 1 April 2021.
The triplets at the Redding nest being fed. There is plenty of food and all are lined up nicely.

I received a very touching letter from a woman from New Mexico who commented on the tragic events unfolding at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. She was reminded of a news story where a family went into a cafe for a meal -the parents, a young girl, and boy. The parents fed the young girl and themselves. The boy watched the others eat while he was offered nothing. The boy appeared to be bruised as if he had been physically harmed to the wait staff. The waitress wrote on her hand ‘Do you need help?’ to the child who, eventually, shook their head yes. The waitress phoned the authorities and the children were taken into care immediately. The boy had been abused and food had been withheld for a long time. The woman from New Mexico said, ‘Humans do it, too’. As sad and angry as I am at the Ospreys in St Petersburg, for them it is a matter of having at least one healthy fledgling. The biology books stress the survival of the fittest! Someone who has filmed birds said to me and I have reiterated it many times, ‘If they cannot survive on the nest being fed, they cannot survive in the wild – it is brutal out there’. This morning a huge fish came in but the middle Osprey made sure Tiny Tot did not get anything to eat. Tiny was too weak to fight. I had hoped that his suffering would be taken away in the night.

UPDATE: Tiny Tot was fed at 9:27 this morning. His crop was about a third full. The saga continues.

After my tirade on birds laying too many eggs to care for if they all hatched – and hence, having the situation of the St Petersburg nest – Jack and Harriet of the Dahlgren Osprey Nest in Machodoc Creek in King George County, Virginia laid a fourth egg! You might not immediately recognize the osprey nest that I am talking about but if I said to you that Jack is the one that brings in the most toys to the nest, often covering it while Harriet has to keep busy finding space for them, I think you might know the nest that I am talking about. There was a toy shark or dolphin the other day. As it happens, the first egg is either lost in the nest or broke – there are three eggs being incubated despite four being laid. Last year the couple successfully fledged three and all of us join in hoping that happens this year! Unless there is a problem in the river, this couple has their nest in a prime location for fish!

And to add to the jokes that go along with April Fool’s Day, Big Red and Arthur not only woke up to snow this morning but also to their third egg.

Big Red is eighteen years old. She was ringed at Brooktondale New York, about eight miles from Ithaca. She has known this weather all her life and can deal with it. Her and her mate, Arthur, do not migrate but stay in Ithaca all year long. They have a prey rich territory and both work like a well oiled machine. Unless there is some strange surprise, I expect we will see three eyases fledging in June.

All is well over at the Great Horned Owl Nest on the farm in Kansas. Both Tiger, the eldest, and Lily, the youngest, are growing. To the delight of viewers, Bonnie brought in a very large rabbit to the nest in the Cottonwood Tree. Everyone wondered how she managed. Great Horned Owls can actually carry prey three times their weight – an advantage over Bald Eagles who can carry only 66% of their weight. Besides rabbit, the owlets have had a diverse menu. One food item that might not have been expected in such quantities has been snake. Farmer Derek probably had no idea he had so many snakes on his property! Using March 7 as a date for hatching, we should be watching for Tiger to fledge around 42-56 days which would be 18 April to 24 April. Tiger’s extremely soft feathers – they look like mohair to me – mean that he will be a formidable predator being able to fly without being heard. With his short rounded wings he will also be able to make tight corners and quick turns around the trees in the woods.

And down in Orange Australia at the Charles Sturt University, Peregrine Falcon couple, Xavier and Diamond, are in the scrape box having a conversation and bonding. The conversation might be about their cute little Izzi who fledged three times from this box. The first time Izzi was napping on the ledge and fell out. He was returned by the researcher, Cilla Kinross. The second time he did fledge but then flew into a window and was taken into care and returned to the scrape box. The third time he fledged properly. While most of the falcons would have left the scrape box to find their own territory by January, Izzi appears determined to live out the rest of his life chasing Xavier and Diamond and sleeping with Diamond in the scrape box. It is an unfolding soap opera that is delightful.

Izzi is adorable.

I will leave you with that adorable face. Peregrine falcons are the cutest. Thank you for joining me today. Take care. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I took my scaps: Charles Sturt University Peregrine Falcon Cam, Farmer Derek, Friends of Big Bear Bald Eagles, Friends of Redding Bald Eagles, Cornell Bird Lab, and the Dahlgren Osprey Cam.

UC Berkley Falcons and quick Friday updates

The University of California Campus at Berkeley is ‘falcon crazy.’ They even named their basketball team the Falcons. Indeed, the feathered pair nesting on top of this beautiful building are ‘stars’. Everyone knows about them and gets excited – how grand is that?!

“The Campanile of UC-berkeley” by ChanduBandi is marked with CC0 1.0

The Campanile was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1914. The tower, reminiscent of the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, is ninety-four metres or 308 feet hight and has four bells. It is the most recognized building on the University campus.

This is the view from the roof:

In 2016, a pair of Peregrine Falcons began to roost on the roof of the Campanile. Their scrape box is two floors up from the bells and to everyone’s amazement the bell concerts do not seem to bother the raptors. If it did, we can imagine that they would have left quickly. Most of the time it is a safe place to raise their young but they have had, like other nests, intruders checking out their prime real estate.

In 2017, the same pair returned to raise eyases. They were given the names Annie and Grinnell in honour of the founder and first director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Annie Grinnell. Annie is not banded and her history including how old she is remains unknown. However, Grinnell was banded in 2013 as a nestling near Martinez, California. All of their chicks are banded in the nest.

If you have read most of my blogs you will know that I am a great proponent of banding. The amount of information that can be discovered is significant. And for Birders on the Ground it is an opportunity to take part. It takes a village to chase after falcons and check their bands, photograph them, and then find the right person to contact to tell them of the sighting.

If you have never seen a nestling banded, here is your opportunity. This is a short video of Poppy, Sequoia, and Redwood being banded in the scrape box in 2020 along with a Q&A:

Annie and Grinnell made their first nest on a sand bag on the roof of the Campanile in March of 2017. Poor things! But they had nothing else. In the wild, Peregrine falcons make their nests on a the edges of cliffs with a sandy base or in gravel.

In the image below, Grinnell is incubating the eggs in the permanent scrape box. Notice that it is a simple enclosure, with a single opening at the front. Wooden rulers have been fixed to the frame of the door and the corners so researchers can check the height of the young. Simple pea gravel or small river stones line the bottom. This is the ‘nest’. No other materials will be brought in. The falcons will rub their breast into the gravel to make a hollow for the eggs.

When two of the eggs of Annie and Grinnell’s first clutch rolled off the sandbox and broke, the University decided to install a temporary scrape box. Annie and Grinnell accepted the box and fledged their first babies – two eyases- from the Campanile. They were a male named Fiat and a female named Lux. The names were derived from the University motto, Fiat lux, which means bringing knowledge to light. Fiat survived but Lux was killed by window strike.

The following year the University installed a permanent nest box for the pair hoping that they would return and lay their eggs again. In April of 2018, Annie and Grinnell had three eggs hatch. Named after three elements discovered at Berkeley the chicks were a male named Berkelium, another male named Californium, and a female named Lawrencium. All three fledged. Lawrencium is the only one of Annie and Grinnell’s chicks that has been spotted. She is nesting on the island of Alcatraz.

In 2019, the exploits of Annie and Grinnell were streamed to the world. That year two chicks hatched and were successful fledges. One was named Carson after Rachel Carson. Hers is a name that you should know. Carson is the author of the book Silent Spring that led to the banning of DDT. Cade was named after Tom Cade, an Ornithologist recognized for his efforts to both protect and reestablish Peregrine Falcon populations after they were wiped out by DDT. Cade was the founder of the Peregrine Fund. He died in 2019 at the age of 91.

In 2020, Annie and Grinnell fledged three – a female named Poppy, a male named Sequoia, and another male named Redwood.

It’s 2021 and Annie and Grinnell are incubating four eggs! The first was laid on 10 March, followed by the second on 12 March, the third on the 14th and the final egg on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the image below, Grinnell has arrived to partially incubate the first three eggs. The eggs can actually range from a cream colour to red but here you see that Annie has laid three lovely red eggs.

While it is known that falcons sometimes lay five eggs, it is rare. And this brings me to why I love falcons so much and it isn’t just their very ‘cute’ plumage. It is because of delayed incubation. Annie and Grinnell can hatch four eyases but I am not up worrying all night when one didn’t get fed or the eldest was aggressive – it would be rare for that to happen but I am aware that it does.

Grenville on hard incubation duty, 19 March 2021.

The embryos inside eggs only develop when they are warm. Peregrine falcons, Red Tail Hawks and other raptor species (other than Ospreys and various species of eagles) want their eggs to hatch at roughly the same time. That way there is not a significant difference in development. To achieve this synchronization, the early eggs are only partially incubated until all are laid. Then hard incubation begins. Annie and Grinnell will take turns incubating the eggs. After hard incubation starts the eggs will hatch in roughly 32-33 days after the last egg was laid. The eyases use their ‘egg tooth’ to help them get through the thick shell which can take from 24-48 hours. Pip watch should start about 19 April! I am so excited!

UPDATES: Speaking of pip watch, Jackie and Shadow can hear one of their little ones chirping in the shell. Big Bear Eagle fans are on hatch alert!

Maya and Blue 33 have both arrived at the Mantou Bay Nest at Rutland in the UK on 19 March. Blue 33 (11) came in at 12:29 and Maya was right behind him at 12:56.

Maya and Blue 33 (10) arrive at the nest in Rutland on 19 March 2021.

So far it appears that Blue 25 (10) is still waiting for her mate at Rutland.

The three on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida have now been fed to the relief of everyone. The storm caused Jack to bring in only a small fish last evening. Brutus, the eldest, was very aggressive towards the smaller two and they went to sleep without any fish. (Brutus is the name given to the eldest by the chat group). First fish this morning was also small and caused aggressive behaviour. However, Jack went and brought in a nice sized second fish right away and everyone ate and were congenial.

Both were fed at the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey so all is well on that nest.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, is 181 days old today. She spent the night at the Streaky Bay Hospital and has been out and about looking for fish. She loves this area. I hope it keeps her safe and is her forever home.

It’s nearly 4pm on a beautiful sunny day on the Canadian prairies. Let’s hope it stays that way so that everyone can get out for a walk and check on the local wildlife in their area.

Thanks to UC Berkeley Falcons, Duke Farms, Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Big Bear for their steaming cams and Rutland Wildlife where I took my scaps and to Port Lincoln Ospreys and the PLO researchers for the satellite tracking for Solly.

Peregrine Season has officially begun in Manitoba (and mini-updates)

It is the middle of March and it smells like spring outside – the air is fresh and crisp and the sky is blue. In fact, it has been so nice that everyone is beginning to shed their heavy winter boots and coats just like a snake does its skin! Still, there is reason not to get overly excited. You see there is snow falling on a Great Horned Owl in a Bald Eagle nest in Kansas -at this very moment – in March. How crazy is that? We have been tricked before only to have a blizzard on 1 May.

“Crocus in Snow” by oschene is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Many people wait til the crocus push their beautiful buds up through the snow to even think about spring but, we don’t have any snow. So I am going to put my faith in the birds. The Canada geese and Bald Eagles are returning, there are amorous swans strutting about on some of the remaining ice on the river, and the number of photographs of song birds on the Manitoba Birding FB site is growing daily.

“Canada-Geese-3” by Chris Sorge is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As it happens, I love raptors — you might have noticed. And that is what is keeping me awake late on St Patrick’s Day. The first two Peregrine Falcons have returned to Manitoba from their winter vacation!

Dennis Swayze caught Ella on the ledge of the scrape box at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg today. Welcome home, Ella. Ella is six years old. She hatched in Brandon in 2015 and is the daughter of Brooklyn and Hurricane.

Below is the picture from this morning’s streaming cam of Ella sitting on the ledge of the scrape box.

Ella. 17 March 2021. Radisson Hotel, Winnipeg. @PFRP Streaming Cam

And, speaking of Hurricane (Ella’s mother), her current mate was spotted on the McKenzie Seeds Building this morning. His name is Wingo-Starr and the spotter got real curious as to why there were no pigeons on the building when they are always there – unless there is working being done on the roof or unauthorized visitors. The spotter was patient and got a full look at the leg band. Wingo-Starr was hatched in Moorhead and this is his third year in Brandon. Migrating is treacherous and there is a really bad storm system moving through the US right now. Let’s hope any migrating birds are hunkered down and safe.

Wingo-Starr. 17 March 2021. McKenzie Seed Building, Brandon, Manitoba. @PFRP Streaming Cam

The Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project began in Winnipeg in 1981. at that time four captive-bred falcons were obtained from the Canadian Wildlife Service’s breeding facility in Wainright, Alberta. It was not, however, until 1989 when everyone got really excited. The mated pair using the scrape box on top of the then Delta Hotel (now the Radisson) fledged four eyases. Four! These were the first documented fledglings in Manitoba in fifty years. Can you imagine the excitement and the tears?! Between 1981 and 2012 more than 200 peregrine eyases fledged from four different locations in Manitoba – Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and Gimli. (I have not found an official count covering the last eight years but it is easy to imagine that the number would be more than 250). The birds are banded, thankfully. The Peregrine Recovery Project traces the birds and they know that those born in Manitoba now have territory of their own in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba as well as in the United States in Topeka, Kansas, Red Wing Minnesota, Grand Forks and Fargo North Dakota and Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. They have thrived!

“Peregrine Falcon” by Sai Adikarla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Peregrine falcons are known as the stealth bombers of the sky. They are a specific ‘aerial’ predator. That means that they hunt their prey and capture them when in flight. They are the fastest raptor in the world being clocked at more than 390 kilometres per hour or 242 mph. They are about the size of a crow with very distinctive marking. You will never mistake one of these beautiful falcons for a Red Tailed Hawk. They have gorgeous steel blue-grey back plumage. They have a barred belly – very distinctive stripes with a black head. The adults have distinctive bright yellow around their eyes, talons, and beaks. Adults weight between 1-1.5 kg or 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. They have reverse sex dimorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.

Females lay their eggs in a scrape box or on the side of a cliff or cave. There is no nest material like you might think of with a Bald Eagle or even songbirds. There is gravel or sand. The courting ritual consists of a circular dance in the scrape box between the male and female. The male does a kind of dance while scraping his feet on the box. Falcons are also known for fantastic aerial displays, as well as some acrobatics on ledges. There will be 2-4 eggs laid at intervals of forty-eight hours. Many sites say that it is 32 days from first egg to first hatch but several researchers are reporting 39 days from first egg to first hatch. Falcons tend to do hard incubation only after the second or third egg has been born. A good example of this was the 2020 season of the Collins Street Peregrines in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Because the delayed hard incubation, all three eyases were born within six hours. There was no sibling rivalry and the triplets fledged successfully. It was simply beautiful to watch.

And a quick update for 18 March 2021. Bad storms are in the United States and all of the nests could be impacted. The snow has stopped on the GHOW in Kansas but Clyde has brought Bonnie food for her and the owlets. It is raining at Duke Farms and unless the female has food hidden, that pantry is bare. I am beginning to think something has happened with the male there. Has anyone seen him? So far Legacy in Jacksonville has a great day but Jacksonville is set to get hit by the storms around 5pm today – that bad weather will hit Fort Myers (E17 and 18, Harriet and M15) and St Petersburg (Achieva Ospreys) earlier. Plus all of the nests – keep them all in your thoughts today.

Thank you for checking in. As always I am grateful to those providing the streaming cams and in Manitoba it is Shaw Cable linked up with the Peregrine Recovery Project. Stay safe everyone.

Owls, Eaglets, and Ospreys

Farmer Derek lives on the Klingenberg Farm near Newton, Kansas with his wife and daughters. His father and his three brothers are also working at the farm – it is a wonderful family endeavour. It is on this farm where the now famous hijacking of a Bald Eagle nest by a pair of Great Horned owls took place on 1 February. This family loved the eagles that lived on their land and were disappointed when the owls ousted them from their tree but now the entire family has embraced Bonnie and Clyde and their owlets. Farmer Derek’s father is going to build Great Horned Owls boxes for them this summer and we will see what happens. It is called Value Added Agriculture and Farmer Derek just gave an interview on a PBS Nova show called Market to Market. The interview begins with some chat about other things but most of it is focused on the owls. You can move the time forward or listen to it all, here:

Lots of the birds have been growing beyond belief and it is time to check in on some old friends. First off, Harriet and M15’s little ones (did I really say little?), E17 and E18. You might remember this image of little 18 in the striped donut towel and 17 having to have time out because she was so aggressive towards her sibling especially during feeding times.

E17 and E18 getting treated for AC at CROW, Fort Myers, Florida. @CROW FB

The image above shows the two little eagles at CROW. Aren’t they precious? Their eyes have been cleaned. They were crusty and covered over and permission was given by the USFWS to remove them for treatment. That was the first week in February. Their test results came back today and confirmed they had Avian Chlamydophilia psittaci or AC, for short. That is what CROW suspected based on their symptoms. It is a disease caused by a bacteria, Chlamydia psittacia. Birds catch it from other infected birds – dust, feather, droppings. The symptoms range from a cough, to the crusty eyes, or to sudden death. So glad that a system known to be so slow worked fast for these eaglets and that E17 and E18 were treated! The pair were at the clinic for five days, returned to the nest only when the bacterial infection was gone.

This is E17 and E18 being fed this morning, 16 March, some five weeks later. They now have juvenile plumage. The only way you can tell the two apart is that E18 has a white strip of feathers at the base of the tail. In the image below, E18 is in the middle and E17 is the farthest away.

Breakfast for E17 (left) and E18 (middle). 16 March 2021. @D Pritchett Eagle Cam

For a long time, E18 was the underdog but she quickly became the ‘Queen’ (or King) of the snatch and grab and grew big. When food is brought on the nest for self feeding, the majority of the time E18 mantles it and eats! Very capable and no longer intimidated. As is so often the case, if the little one survives they figure out ingenious ways to eat and they thrive. Lady Hawk (Sharon Dunne) did a video of a squirrel arriving three days ago and E18 mantling it and feeding. Here it is:

They have turned into such beautiful birds. Here they are looking out at the big world that will be theirs. They are now more than halfway to fledging.

16 March 2021. E17 (left) and E18 (right) looking out at the world of possibilities. @D Pritchett Eagle Cam

Little Legacy isn’t so little anymore either. She has overcome, on her own, Avian Pox which is fantastic. She will be immune for the rest of her life. The image below is from a week ago. Legacy still had soft down on her head but her feet were getting large and she had quite the full crop. There were jokes about her on the Internet as being a big ‘pudgy’. Oh, the benefits of being the only eaglet in the nest!

This is Legacy this morning on the nest with her mother, Gabby, waiting for a food delivery. The fluffy dandelions on the top of her head are almost all gone and now instead of grey down she is almost 3/4 covered with her juvenile plumage. They grow sooooooo fast and she is very beautiful. She copies her mother working on the nest, incubating and rolling ‘Eggie’ and will, one day add to the legacy of her grandparents, Romeo and Juliet.

16 March 2021. Legacy (left) and her mother Gabby. NEFL Eagle Nest, Jacksonville, FL. @AEF and NEFL Eagle Cam

You might remember the female Bald Eagle encrusted in snow for most of the incubation period – that was the mom over at Duke Farms. Two of the three eggs hatched and those two are growing and growing. These kids have some very different meals than Legacy who eats mostly fish (a few mammals) and many times people are left guessing what the two had for dinner. Despite a lot of prey available, there is some concern for the second eaglet who is consistently pecked down by the older at feeding time. It is the reason that I cringe when I see three eggs. Sometimes two is more than enough – and there are definite advantages to being an ‘only’ eaglet or Osprey. Fingers crossed for this little one.

It is unclear to me what precipitates the feeling of food insecurity that results in siblicide. I have printed and read all of the academic material – it is sitting in front of me – and I am still baffled by which nests experience siblicide and which do not. Are there real predictors?

The little one at Duke Farms wanted to eat and the older one kept blocking it this morning.

Older one at Duke Farms pecking and deliberately keeping little one from eating. 16 March 2021. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

So, the little one waited til the older one’s crop was ready to pop and finally got around to eat. Smart. Let us hope that this keeps up.

Yippee. Older going into a food coma. Little one eating. Well done. @Duke Farms Eagle Cam

Yesterday I gave the dad, Jack, a ‘beef’. He is the mate to Diane at the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg. Those osplets hatched on the 7 and 9 of March. I fully expected when the fish did arrive that there could have been mayhem because it was so late in the day and it had been so hot but – it didn’t happen. And hats off to Jack (did he hear me screaming at him), he brought in another fish later. It is entirely understandable that it was so hot that the fish went deep in the water and Jack had to wait til it cooled off to fish. Everyone was full heading to sleep and this morning at 9:35 he brought in an early morning fish. Those Osplets lined up nicely for the meals and did not bother one another at all. They ate. So maybe I will take that beef back, Jack! These are the most well behaved siblings to one another.

16 March 2021. Breakfast for the trio. @Achieva Osprey Nest

I have included the image below because you now see the beautiful reddish-brown feathers coming in on the head of the osplet closest to the front.

And he isn’t an Owl, an eaglet, or an Osprey but Izzi, the juvenile Peregrine Falcon is the cutest thing on the planet. He is inside the scrape box of his parents, Diamond and Xavier (talk about beautiful parents) and many are wondering if Izzi will ever leave. Last fall, Izzi went to sleep on the ledge of the scrape box and fludged. He was returned to the box on top of a water town on the campus of Sturt University Orange Campus, Australia. The second fledge and he hit a window and was rescued by Cilla Kinross, the researcher, and taken for care. Five days later Cilla Kinross climbed the 170 stairs to return him to the scrape box where he successfully fledged for a third time some days later. Maybe he thinks this box is his? I guess we wait to find out. Izzi loves to look at himself in the camera!

Look at those eyes. Besides their stealth speed at aerial hunting, these little falcons are adorable. Seriously I could take him home!

So glad you could join me as we check in with some of our bird friends who have been a little ignored lately. Take care of yourself. See you soon!

Thank you to Derek the Farmer, SWFL, NEFL, Achieva, Duke Farms, and Cilla Kinross and Sturt University Orange Campus Australia for their streaming cams where I grabbed my scaps.

All the little bird babies

Tonight Gabby and Samson have both been on the nest looking at their little one.

Samson and Gabby looking adoringly at N24. @NEFL and AEF

Observers over the last few days have mentioned how attentive the two parents have been since it was discovered that N24 has Avian Pox. Lesions were first noticed by AEF monitors on 20 February. The lesions became more noticeable and by 27 February many citizen-birders were reporting them in FaceBook posts and videos.

I wanna be pretty like you. @NEFL and AEF

Gabby and Samson look at their baby who was born on 8 February. It is 23 days old. Little N24 is full and sleeping with ‘its egg’.

Thinking about their baby. @NEFL and AEF

Little N24 has a very good appetite. And that is such a positive thing. Yesterday, despite a late delivery of food, he ate really, really well. And today, he has another fantastic crop. The crop stores food. The eagle can do a crop drop when its stomach is empty. The crop is like a holding area for additional food.

Oh, yum. I like it when my dad feeds me. @NEFL and AEF
My mom is going to send an order for more fish! @NEFL and AEF
Fish dreamin’. @NEFL and AEF

The lesion that was on the left side of the mouth appears smaller today than it was yesterday.

Avian Pox lesions. 2 March 2021 @NEFL and AEF

I tried and tried to get a proper close up and just kept missing the opportunities. The nest has several cameras and the best one to get the left side of N24’s face has had some condensation on it. So, it is not easy to compare because of the angle, the distance, and the lighting but it does seem like the right side of N24’s mouth has made some improvement in healing. It takes 1-4 weeks for the lesions to dissipate.

Why is my head still fuzzy? @NEFL and AEF

You can still see N24’s crop at 6:48pm when he is watching some interior decorating happening in the nest. N24 is alert, moving around the nest, eating well, and growing. Let us all continue to send warm wishes to the little cutie pie with ‘its egg’ for a complete recovery.

My parents think the rails need to be a little higher on my crib. @NEFL and AEF
Oh, that fish was good! @NEFL and AEF

Flight feathers are starting to grow on N24’s wing tips. The itchy stage is coming.

Gonna get itchy soon! @NEFL and AEF

In the image below, the little cutie pie is sleeping, sitting up like Gabby, its mom, with its head tucked under its wing. They are both incubating ‘the egg’.

I Wanna Be like my beautiful mom, Gabby! @NEFL and AEF

It is impossible to keep track of everything going on in all of the nests. As Bald Eagles around North America lay eggs or eggs start to hatch, there is a lot of activity. The hawks and falcons are renovating nests and the Ospreys are migrating home. One thing for sure – there are going to be a lot of bobble heads within the next 4 to 6 weeks.

At the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey, chick 2 hatched at 1:03 am on 2 March. Both of the little ones are doing fantastic. Aren’t they cute? Eaglet #1 got a chance to have eel for dinner the other day. Looks like it is fish in the pantry today. All of these fathers are great providers.

Two perfect little bobbleheads. @Duke Farms.

If you would like to keep up with these two (and maybe a future three), here is the link to the Duke Farm’s streaming cam:

The Great Horned Owl that borrowed the Bald Eagle nest near Newton, Kansas is still incubating eggs. Some are expecting there to be a pip watch in the coming days.

Bonnie in the warm late afternoon sun. @Derek the Farmer

Bonnie’s mate, Clyde, often stays on the branch above the nest to protect her and is busy at night furnishing her with ‘Mouse Take Away’. Bonnie and Clyde are fierce predators especially during nesting season. Remember that they stood their ground with the Bald Eagle and did not relinquish the nest once Bonnie had laid her egg. We still do not know how many eggs Bonnie is incubating. There could be any where from 1-5. Bonnie has not given any secrets up! Her owlets will be born with whitish-grey down with a little bit of brown. As they mature, they will become more brown.

Did you know that the tufts (they are not really horns) of hair on the Great Horned Owls are thought to break up the profile of the head to improve their camouflage abilities? Their short curved feathers mean that they are silent night fliers. Indeed, these large owls are notorious, as of late, for knocking Bald Eagles off their branches in the night. Just the other evening, a GHOW knocked Harriet off her branch at the SWFL Eagle Nest and into the nest bowl! GHOWs will hunt large raptors such as Ospreys, other owls, and Peregrine falcons for food. They are equally happy to have reptiles for dinner as well as mice, fish, insects, worms, and rats.

And so happy to report that the mother and eaglet at the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest are also doing fantastic. It has been raining alot and this mother is a really good ‘mumbrella’. Both of them have figured out the feeding and the little eaglet is growing.

Oh, I love my fish dinners! @KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Central Louisiana.

And another really good news story. The ‘Old Warrior Eagle’ that had broken its leg and had its beak injured early last fall was down, emaciated, and full of lead toxins. If you are any raptor and have that many problems, the best place to be found is near A Place for Hope in Connecticut. The Old Warrior has been on Clemation Therapy to get the lead out of his system. When he came in, the levels were over 48. Look at the levels today:

This is a huge drop in the lead. This eagle is lucky. Most die. A Place Called Hope FB Page.
Old Warrior and his injuries. A Place Called Hope FB Page.

He is going to be so excited to be outside in the aviary!

Look at that face. And those beautiful big eyes of this Peregrine Falcon. He was attacked by a cat. And, lucky for him, he is there in the same clinic with the Old Warrior. Get well soon! You are adorable. I could just scoop you up and take you home. Would you like to live in Canada?

Please keep your cats inside! A Place Called Hope

Take care everyone. Thanks for dropping by and for caring about all of the wildlife.

Thank you to A Place Called Hope for the images on their FB Page. Thank you to the KNF Eagle Nest, Duke Farms, NEFL and the AEF and Derek the Farmer for their streaming Cam. Those streams provided the screen captures.

Milestones

Birds have developmental ‘milestones’ just like humans. Right now there are so many Bald Eagle nests where eaglets are already two or four weeks old. In others, the parents are incubating eggs. And there are others where the parents are only beginning to start working on the nests. You can see every stage of a Bald Eagles growth from the female laying the egg to their fledging from the nest on the many streaming eagle cameras. Every eaglet is different, just like people and their development will not happen on a single specific date.

Within the overall umbrella of bird development, you might remember Daisy the Duck (see previous blogs for more information on this remarkable little duck). This Black Pacific Duck laid her eggs in the Sea Eagles nest. We knew that the ducklings would jump from the nest 24 hours after hatching if we actually got to hatch – which, sadly, we did not. Those ducklings could see, forage, swim, and take care of themselves without help from the parent. Daisy would, still, gather them up and protect them during the night. Fully independent of their mother, those ducklings would have been ‘precocial’. In contrast, the eaglets are not fully developed, nor are they able to feed themselves, or fly down from their nest. Indeed, they are covered with fluffy down but are unable to regulate their temperature.

It takes from ten to thirteen weeks for eaglets to fledge whereas the ducklings do this at twenty-four hours. Eagles as well as all other hawks or raptors are ‘semi-altricial’. This means that they will be dependent on their parents for everything they need until fledge. Even after fledging, the parents will teach them to hunt and will provide prey supplements for them.

Until the onset of streaming cams, there was very little quantitative information on the development of Bald Eagle Nestlings. Today, there are cameras, often more than one, on nests around the world. You can, at any time of the day, watch Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles etc. at your leisure. The growing community of citizen birders has impacted the knowledge of avian development and behaviour considerably. We are, indeed, continuing to learn every day. Advances in satellite transmitters means that birds can now be studied after leaving the nest providing much information about foraging, distance from natal nest to establishing their own territory, etc. This blog today is general and non-scientific in its terminology.

Many look at the development of Bald Eagles through three stages: structural growth, feather growth; and behavioural growth. Others attempt to combine feather growth with behaviour and structural development into weekly goals. In fact, I have pondered over this blog and how to approach it for several days because there are different factors that impact development. One of those is gender. There are also studies that have shown that the levels of salt in the diet impact growth while others have examined the amount and quality of prey. We know from studying Red Tail Hawks that if you double the amount of prey and the eyases remain in the nest for several days beyond the average, they are better equipped to fly and hunt. Their overall condition is much stronger. For the purposes of our discussion, I have used evidence from the NEFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and the SWFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and 2017 (E9). There is one eaglet on the NE nest and two on the SW nest in 2021. The parents on the NE Florida nest are Samson and Gabrielle. Samson was born on this nest on 23 December 2013. He is a little over seven years old. We do not know the age of Gabrielle. At the SW nest, Harriet is in her mid-twenties and M15 is 11 years old. Both nests are located within close proximity to a city – Fort Myers and St Augustine. The Fort Myers nest is unique in that the D Pritchett family has a working farm on the land where the nest is located. They also stock a pond in close proximity to the nest specifically for the eagles. This means that there is always food available. Still, the parents bring in road kill as well as fish from the pond. The NE nest does not have this advantage but nest observations reveal that there is an abundance of food although the variety might not be the same as the SW nest.

Both E17 and E18 were born on 23 January 2021. N24 was born on 8 February.

The first week of their lives, eaglets are covered with fuzzy down. The proper term is natal down. They can sit up but it is difficult to support their heads and focus. You can see the white dot indicating the egg tooth. This will disappear later. They use the egg tooth to break through the thick shell. This is often called the ‘bobble head’ phase. Their heads are big and they do not yet have the neck strength to keep them upright at all times. Their eyes are adjusting to focus. Sibling rivalry might already have started. As the days progress, the eaglets will get the strength to hold up their head and balance it. They will also be able to focus with their eyes so they do not look like they are using their beak like a dart but with a moving target (often their sibling). While the bobble head stage is very cute, it is often a relief when the eaglets are more stable.

SWFL nest 2021. Sibling rivalry began immediately. E17 is on the right and is only two hours older than the twin, E18. This rivalry persists but has dissipated to being only occasional and directly related to feeding.
The egg tooth is clearly present on the eaglet to the left.

By week two, the eaglets will be observed crawling out of the nest bowl. They are not walking. They are crawling. N24 is using its feet and wings to help it get out of the nest cup and up to the pantry. It is five days old! Food is a great motivator! Samson has the little one ‘working’ for its dinner. This helps to strengthen its wings and legs. In the Captiva Florida Eagle nest, Peace climbed out of the nest bowl towards the food on day 2. The inclines of both nests are different. The parents present the eaglets with challenges to help them develop their strength such as stretching their necks, grabbing and holding food, working their legs and wings. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

N24 crawling out of the nest cup on 13 February 2021, 5 days old

The beak will begin to grow and the little ones should begin shooting the ‘ps’ out of the nest bowl by the end of week one or beginning of week two.

N24 doing a great pose to get that PS clear of the nest. Watch out mom!

The eaglets are more observant of their world. They will have doubled in size from the day they hatched and their eyes and beak continue to develop. You will begin to notice that pin feathers are growing in at their wing tips. They will start to stand keeping their balance with these wing tips.

N24 12 days old. Notice the feathers coming in on the wing tip (left side)

More feathers begin to appear on the shoulders and the back and the wing feathers are getting longer as the days progress. They are starting to wing flap and they will try picking up food.

N24 wing flapping, 12 days old

N24 is twelve days old in the picture above and the one below. In the one below, you can also see the pin feathers right at the tip of the wing starting to come in. N24 is also standing for several seconds, getting its balance, and flapping those wings.

N24, 12 days old. Wing flapping.

During the third and fourth week, a pattern of accelerated feedings and growth begins. Head and chest are still showing signs of some fluffy down but more dark feathers are starting to emerge.

E17, SWFL Nest, Age 31 days

The eaglets are actively preening those feathers to help condition them as well as to help stop what some say is an itching as the feathers grow in. There is more wing flapping and the eaglets stand with confidence and stability. During this time you will see attempts at standing and walking. They begin to make some effort at self feeding. They are eating much more at each feeding often lunging at the parent to take the food out of their beak. Many observers say that their crops appear like they could burst! These big feedings often result in the eaglets sleeping immediately after a feeding. This is a ‘food coma’. The enlarged crops are extra storage spaces where food is held before being ‘dropped’ to the stomach. Sometimes people call this accelerated growth period the ‘clown feet’ era because the feet seem to grow way out of proportion to the rest of their body. They will also cast pellets. Pellets are food that is undigested such as fur and bones. Pellets are compressed into a hard shape and regurgitated. This often involves coughing and sometimes the eaglets appear not to want to eat the day the pellet is cast. This level of peak energy demands appears to begin to wane after about five to six weeks.

E18 has its wings dropped while sitting (eaglet on left). Crop is full. 23 February 2021.

Beginning around week five to eight, the eaglets often sit with their wings drooping (getting heavy). Hopping and flapping wings occurs more often. They are very interested in what is happening outside the nest. By the end of this period, they will begin to have more of their juvenile plumage colouration. They will be able to hold food and tear bits. They will begin to mantle food. Mantling is the covering of food with the wings in order to have the prey item to themselves. They will stand for longer periods of time and are able to walk easily by the end of the period.

From week nine to fledging. The feathers will become more defined over their entire body and they will stand for longer periods of time upright. They can stand easily on one leg. The hopping, jumping, and flapping of wings accelerates. They are self-feeding but the parents will also continue to feed them. They will now spend their nights sleeping upright like their parents with their head tucked under their wing. They can easily perch on the edge or rim of the nest and will be branching, hopping up to a branch and back down into the nest. Branching tends to occur from seven to ten days before fledging, generally.

Juvenile feathers are not all in. E9, 2017.
E9 Branching, 2017.
E9 trying out a thinner branch, 2017.

It is always exciting to see the eaglet hatch and sad when they fledge. Unless there is a transmitter or bands, they fledge and there whereabouts often goes unknown. Once they are wholly independent of their parents, the juveniles need to find their own territory and source of prey. Sadly, fifty percent of all first year eaglets perish while ninety percent of all year two eaglets tend to survive. The average age of maturity for Bald Eagles is five to six years although there is a young sub-adult male who is incubating his first eggs with his mate in Minnesota right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe. Be well.

Thank you to the Eagle streaming cams at NEFL and SWFL as well as the D Pritchett family. The scaps came from their streams.

Books, bird count, bunnies, and beak bites (yes, a shark bit an eagle)!

The pandemic and the onset of winter and, now, the Polar Vortex, mean that more often than not, my friends are tucked up under an old quilt or duvet, sipping hot tea, and reading. It is a favourite pastime of Canadians in the winter! And a lovely one at that. It is so nice to find articles in the strangest of places remarking on how we have all come to love books in the past year and have supported small book sellers. Many of my friends order an armful of books each week. Sadly, our libraries have been closed. It has encouraged me to seek out small publishers and second hand shops.

A nice surprise arrived in the post today. It is a book I ordered several weeks ago from an on line shop that specializes in used book. The book is called On the Wing. To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon by Alan Tennant. I haven’t finished my last book but I was tempted to peek inside. Gosh. That first page got me really excited. Let me quote some of the lines: “With no companion, guided only by the ancestral memory she carried within, our little hawk was staking her life. Nothing like the abstract idea of migration that I’d imagined, it was humbling even to be a spectator to the mortal intensity of what the tiny, determined speck below was doing”. “No one would ever know what she thought, but it was clear as we watched, something had swirled to life within this falcon, becoming the driving force of her entire being”. Tennant was in a Cessna Skyhawk, 2000 ft in the air, following a female peregrine falcon, with a tracker glued to her tail feathers, from Padre Island to the Arctic. Oh, I can’t wait to join him on this journey!

And, speaking of migration, before it happens, there is the Great Bird Count from 12-15 of February. And everyone can take part from toddlers to seniors, experts to backyard birders. It is fun and it is free. You just need your eyes (OK, mine aren’t so good because of glaucoma but I can still spot those feathered creatures luring around), a good memory or a note pad and pencil, and a computer to submit your findings.

Just imagine everyone around the world looking out their windows from Friday to Monday counting the birds that they see. You can spend from fifteen minutes each day to as long as you wish. Everyone goes to birdcount.org and reports their counts. Then researchers at places like the Audubon Society, the Cornell Ornithology Lab, etc will create a giant map of where all the birds are. Bird counts happen several times a year. All those counts reveal how recent weather patterns impact the birds and their movements. I hope you will join in the fun!

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And now for some updates on some of our favourite birds.

First up is the NorthEast Florida Eagle cam nest near St. Augustine. E24 is filling itself up with nice big bites of fish for such a little one. Samson brought in several nice big fish today and stocked up the pantry. No worries for Gabby if she is hungry or E24. Not a worry in the world. One of the things I love is seeing the dad fill that fridge up good. It looks like armadillo could be on the menu tomorrow. If only Gabby had a fridge and some non-harmful insecticide spray. There are so many mosquitoes there.

Look at that little one, so fluffy and round.

Well, the second wee one has a problem. A half of the shell from the first hatch did not get out of the nest fast enough and it slipped itself right over the other egg. So, it is making it much more difficult for E25 to hatch. That is why it looked like the chick had pecked all the way around the middle. It was an illusion. Gabby is looking down at a new hole the one inside is making as she tucks E24 in for a nap.

This happens often. Sometimes it takes so long for the little one to hatch that the first born is just so much older and bigger and the second born doesn’t survive. The older one totally dominates everything.

You can see how the shell got slipped over. It looks like the little one inside cracked this egg all around but it didn’t. Look carefully. There is a pip on the left end toward the bottom corner of the picture. Let’s hope it works and gets out of there soon.

I wonder if it is hotter in Fort Myers where E17 and E18 are growing up. The eagles in NEFL just don’t seem to be panting as much today as Harriet, M15 and the twins are.

Just look. You would think they are the best of buddies sharing a joke. Born within two hours of one another, they are twins. But that doesn’t mean, as we all know, that there isn’t fierce competition when it comes to food.

They both had a great big breakfast this morning. Just look at that crop. E17, the oldest, can’t even see its feet.

And here’s E18, just as stuffed. Sometimes I just want to poke one of those crops to see how they feel.

As the day progressed and the temperature rose, the little eaglets searched for any shade they could find around the nest.

It wasn’t long until Mom Harriet flew in and rescued her babies from the scorching Florida sun. She is like a ‘mumbrella’.

Right around tea time, Dad comes in with a snack for the youngsters.

In the book I am reading, Late Migrations. A Natural History of Love and Loss, the author Margaret Renkl says: “The cycle of life might as well be called the cycle of death: everything that lives will die, and everything that dies will be eaten. Bluebirds eat insects; snakes eat bluebirds; hawks eat snakes; owls eat hawks. That’s how wilderness works, and I know it. I was heartbroken anyway”. Renkl was referring to the wrens eating the bluebird eggs in the nest box on her porch. But today, for a snack, M15 found a fluffy little bunny. My friend, Michelle, always tells me that the bunny will become an eagle. It still makes me sad. The hawk that comes to our garden and I have an agreement. He can’t touch the rabbit that lives there or the little Downy Woodpecker. Sparrows are fair game.

M15 has once again made sure that the eaglets are too full for E17 to cause any mischief to her little brother, E18.

But the day is not over. It is 6pm on the nest and the twins are getting fed the rest of the rabbit. E18 has watched and learned well. He is now the master of what we call ‘snatch and grab’. I have seen him do this several times today. Pretends he is not interested, parent offers, he rushes and grabs. It turns out the eat far faster but, hey, whatever works. It is hard to see but both have huge crops and will sleep like babies the rest of the night. Great work Harriet and M15. Gotta’ love this family. If only every eaglet were as lucky (or every child) to have such great parents.

I have not checked into the Captiva Nest on Sanibel Island for several days. The last time there was an intruder and after reading about Romeo and Juliet or the Trio, I just couldn’t stand another heart break. I call the Captiva nest “the sadness”. It has not always been this way, just this year. This is where Peace and Hope, the beautiful eaglets of Connie and Joe died from rodenticide poisoning. You will remember how remorseful the parents were. And then there was an intruder. But, things happen in an instant on these nests and to my shock, when I clicked on the camera for the Captiva Nest today, there was Connie wrestling with a small shark! Seriously, a shark. It actually bit her beak. You can see the blood. (Just a note, it wasn’t blood from the shark). She fought with that thing and didn’t let it get the best of her. And for all the bother, she had a massive lunch. That shark is now an eagle – a fish with feathers. The bleeding was reported to CROW and the vets watched the footage and noted that the blood had stopped. No need for an intervention. Yeah. A quiet little yeah. I honestly don’t know how you would try and help a full grown eagle if it didn’t want to be helped.

Connie must have been very proud of herself. You can see the water in the distance and that shark was alive when she landed on the nest with it. These female eagles really do impress me!

Joe came in to check and see if everything was alright. And Connie allowed him to share her fish when she was finished – but not before!!!!!!!!!!

You can see the blood on her beak form when the shark bit Connie.

This is an image from the other camera monitoring this nest. Looks like a small shark to me.

Over in Hillsborough, New Jersey, the Eagles at Duke Farm are experiencing very different weather from Florida. It is currently 1 degree C. or 34 degrees F. at the nest. Over the next couple of days the temperature will rise to 2 or 3 C and that snow should melt. And then, wham. Just about the time you think it is over for this nest, the snow comes back heavy on Saturday and Sunday.

I promised an update. It is nearing 9:30 pm on 9 February. Across North America the birds are trying to sleep. In Australia, they have been awake for a few hours.

Tomorrow we will check on the Royal Albatross and see if Gabby has one eaglet or two.

Sleep well everyone. Take care of yourselves and don’t get out in this extreme weather unless it is absolutely essential. Check out the site to put in the birds you count in a few days – just so you know where to go. It is such a joy to share my love of these beautiful creatures with you.

Thank you to the NEFL eagle cam, the SWFL cam and D. Pritchett Farms and Real Estate, Captiva eagle cam, and Duke Farms eagle cam for their streaming cameras. This is where I get my screen shots for you.