Fun with Bonnie and Clyde

Great Horned Owls (GHOW) are found all across North America – literally, they exist everywhere from the hot swampy areas of Florida to the deserts of the Southwest to the prairies and mountains of Canada. There is currently no concern for them in terms of declining populations. Just because there is no decline does not mean that the owls should not be monitored. Monitoring means that researchers can see when a decline does happen and they can ask why.

The setting sun on Bonnie.

In the 1970s many bird populations were wiped out due to the use of DDT. DDT was a pesticide and it was banned in 1972 after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962 exposing the issues. It took a decade for change to happen but it did happen.

So the question then is, why in 2014 were birds dying in Michigan with levels of DDT poison so high in their brains that no one could believe the readings? Songbirds such as Robins, European Starlings, and bluebirds were dropping dead in people’s yards. DDT was not only found in the brains of the dead birds in enormous concentrations but it was also found in the worms that the birds ate. A professor at the University of Michigan looking into the phenomena found that the concentrations ranged from 155 to 1043 parts per million with the average being 552. The threshold for death is 30 parts per million. DDT persists in the soil and in the rivers. It thins the eggs of birds so that they break and cannot be incubated. It makes the birds sick and it is not a quick death but a slow painful one. The authorities in Michigan found that the Velsicol Chemical Corporation was responsible. Under their old name, Michigan Chemical, they manufactured pesticides. It is the area around their old plant where the soil, in 2014, was still saturated with the poison.

Today, the raptors – not the seed eating birds – have issues with various types of designer poisons for mice and rats. They are commonly called Rodenticides. In the United States, the name of one of the biggest companies manufacturing this poison is deConn. And, like when we want a tissue for a runny nose, many will ask for a ‘Kleenex’. Owls eat a lot of mice and rats. In fact, they are the absolute best and cheapest way to rid an area of these rodents. Someone could start a company, ‘Hire an Owl’.

And speaking of owls and mice, I have some great shots of Bonnie and Clyde for you tonight. And I have the answer to two questions sent to me by e-mail. I will incorporate those in the text. Thank you to those who wrote and asked – always happy to answer if I can or to help find the answer.

First of all, owls are noctural but like all other raptors they actually do a lot of hunting right at dusk and dawn. Owls do not see colour very well because nature provided them with sensitive dark-light rod cells instead of ones for differentiating colour. During the day, Clyde will sleep just like Bonnie, if she can. Clyde will not bring food to Bonnie during the bright light of day. But you might expect him to come, if prey is plentiful, right after dusk. Let us hope that none of the mice or rats that Clyde brings Bonnie have eaten any pesticides.

Dusk was at 6:39 pm in Newton, Kansas where the Bald Eagle Nest that Bonnie and Clyde are using is located. Between 6:55 and 8:04 pm, Bonnie made three trips off the nest. The first was at 6:55. She raises her head. Did she hear Clyde? She leaves the nest and returns at 7:03. That was eight minutes. She might have needed a bathroom break and she might have had something to eat.

At 7:21, we can see Clyde’s eyes. Clyde lands on a branch. Bonnie hears him.

Bonnie gets up. Clyde has brought her a mouse!

They do a quick exchange.

And Bonnie is back on the nest. It took a whole two minutes.

Bonnie takes another very short break from 7:57 to 8:04. Just like the first time she left this evening, the camera is fixed on the next so we cannot see what happens outside the frame. The temperature has really warmed up from the frigid minus degrees. It is 29 degrees F. The hunting might be a lot better because the mice will not be hunkered down with the cold. They will also be out looking for food while Clyde is looking for them!

Those beautiful big owl eyes are the reason that Clyde will be his busiest hunting within two hours of dusk and two hours of dawn. It is quite possible then that all three of Bonnie’s departures after dusk had to do with food deliveries and bathroom breaks together.

It is dawn, 6:27 am at the nest and Clyde has brought in his last mouse for the night. He arrives on his ‘regular’ branch. You should be able to see the mouse hanging out of his beak.

The pair have this all worked out. Bonnie and Clyde do some hoots and she flies up to the upper branch on the left.

Bonnie then flies up to grab the mouse from Clyde and within a blink that mouse becomes owl and she is back on her nest in two minutes. This couple is extremely efficient!

Besides hunting, Clyde’s other duty is to protect the territory of the nest and Bonnie. He will not be far away!

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Just a couple of quick observations for today and then something special at the end.

The little eaglets on the Southwest Florida nest at Fort Myers, E17 and E18 are itchy. E18 was preening 17 and then they both wake up in the night and start preening. You will see that their flight feathers are just starting to come in. (Note: The dark object is a piece of an armoured fish). Here are a few images of these two itchy characters:

E17 is preening E18
Flight and pin feathers make eagles itchy.

Over at the other eagle nest in NE Florida at St Augustine, little NE24 is getting its pin feathers, too. Sometimes these are called ‘blood’ feathers because they are filled with blood while they are growing. Some of you might remember that Hope, the oldest eaglet on Connie and Joe’s nest at Captiva, Florida died because she broke a blood feather and bled out. That was because of the rodenticide in the prey she had been fed. So blood feathers. Our new words for the day!

I am absolutely in love with this little eaglet. Maybe because it is all alone on that big nest without any siblings. But, at the same time, that is such a plus. There is no anxiety watching this nest. Gabby and Samson do a fine job taking care of this little one. And its eyes cleared up all on its own.

The soft glow of dusk is filtering through the trees in the swamp. NE24 has a nice crop before bed. You can see that the feathers are changing colour from white to grey. You can also see the pin feathers just starting to come in. Poor thing. It will not only have to deal with all those mosquitoes but now these things coming in!

Now for something just a little special. Most Bald Eagles do not start breeding until they are much older than five years even though they can at four to five years. In a nest in Minnesota supervised by the Department of Natural Resources, a four year old Bald Eagle male (called a sub adult) is going to get to see his first egg for the very first time. His beak is still a brown or amber colour instead of the bright yellow and he still retains some of the brown feathers mixed with the white on his head. It is thirteen minutes long – and no, he is not dirty. He is just a youngster. His eyes have not gotten light yet either. Enjoy!

Thank you again for joining with me to learn about the birds we all love so much. It is my pleasure to share them with you. Tomorrow we best check in on some Royal Albatross and what their satellite trackers are showing and we will also try and find Solly ——- and, of course, see what Bonnie and Clyde are up to. The weather patterns are shifting again and I am sad to say that the Bald Eagle Nest in New Jersey is once again covered with snow. This mom with three eggs under her never seems to catch a break.

Thank you to the streaming cams of Derek the Farmer, Duke Farms, SWFL Eagle Cam and D Pritchett Real Estate, NEFL Eagle Cam, and to Lady Hawk for making that great video of our young eagle dad.

Hatching

It is nearly -40 now and will be in the -50s with the wind chill in parts of Canada for a few more days but, when I looked at the map the deep blue desperately cold area dips way, way south. It includes the Bald Eagle nests on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois, the Bald Eagle Nest in New Jersey, and it will touch on the nest of my favourite Red Tail Hawk family in Ithaca, New York. Thankfully, Big Red has not laid any eggs yet. Six more weeks to go! There is barely a spot that is not going to be well below normal. Perhaps the eagle nests in Florida have escaped this. Oh, I feel so sorry for all of the birds and the animals and despite the fact that I know they are extremely smart, I still worry about them. And, also, of course all the people including the many homeless in all of our communities.

In the past couple of days we have talked and seen those eggs cracking and new little fluff balls appearing. Instead of talking about it again, I am going to post a short little video by Dr. Christian Sasse. He lives in British Columbia. You might know of his magnificent photographs of the Bald Eagles around Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Oh, you can tell just looking at them that he loves those raptors. He made a very short video of the last moments of hatching. It is something that most of us will not ever be close enough to see. I do hope you enjoy it!

You already know that the first little eaglet has burst out of its shell at the Northeast Florida nest of Samson and Gabrielle. That other egg was really split but by 5pm 8 February (Monday), the eaglet had not hatched. You can see the crack in the egg and the grey fluff of the little one in the aerie. Gabrielle is working on the nest. You will see them venting and airing the nest. The adults may bring in greenery to help minimize insect issues. Nothing like having some rotting fish in a nest open to the sun and it is 30 degrees C. Can you imagine what that smells like? Whew.

NE Florida Eagle Cam, 5:02:24 pm 8 February 2021

Gabby’s little one, whose fluffy head you can see next to the egg of its sib, is very strong. It is standing up and eating great big bites of fish.

Oh, fish is good! NEFL Eagle cam, 9 February 2021.

Awwwwwww. Cuteness! I am so happy for Gabby and Samson. This is their second try this season. They, too, were the victim of a raven grab when Gabby needed to leave the nest and Samson wasn’t around. He is being super diligent this time!

The second egg is not showing any big changes to me. It is possible that it is not viable. There is a huge problem coming for the eagles. After 1970 when they were all but wiped out, there are now so many that there are not enough trees for them to nest in. That is the biggest reason we are seeing intruders in nests. I wonder if they will adapt to sharing like the Trio?

Gabby and Samson’s cutie pie. NEFL Eagle Cam, 9 February 2021.

Are you familiar with the word ‘carion’. No, I am not talking about a video game or a wood wind quartet, carion as in ‘road kill’. I joked with you yesterday but, in fact, I guess it isn’t a joke. People who love raptors talk about dead animals. And that brings me to the picture below. That is M15, the father of E17 (the little terror) and E18 (the sweet cutie) of the Southwest Florida Eagle nest on the property of the Pritchett Family.

I recall, not that long ago, having a discussion with someone about prey. They told me in no uncertain terms that eagles only eat fish. Now, let’s think about that. Didn’t we just see a bunny on the SWFL nest? and a possum up at Gabby and Samson’s place? The White-Bellied Sea Eagles even brought in a fox cub so that they could have a family feast with 25 and 26! That fox cub was carion, road kill. Oh, and Dad even brought in a turtle last year. The sea eaglets had no idea what to do with it but Lady did. Must have been very tasty. She did not offer Dad a single bite. The live streaming cams are certainly changing what we know about all of the birds. Things that everyone believed are being tested. Remember Solly from yesterday’s posting? Remember she flew inland and was 200 kilometres away from her nest. She is breaking records and we are learning something every day. Just like we do on the eagle nests.

Today, M15 has found ‘something’. The image is too grainy and he was way too far away for the cam operator to focus. But he fought with ‘it’ for awhile. At one time I really thought it was another large dark bird. It is definitely too big to get up to the nest whole. Maybe tomorrow M15 or Harriet will be able to rip off a piece of it so that we can see what they have found. One year Harriet brought an Anhinga into the nest. They are large birds with long sharp beaks that stab fish underwater. They are sometimes called the devil bird. I don’t think that is what M15 has but, who knows?

M15 around 5pm in West Pasture with carion. 8 February 2021. Thanks to SWFL Eagle cam and D. Pritchett.

Harriet caught a fish in the morning. Between her and the eaglets, it didn’t last long. Not a flake left! It was a really not day and that fish gave the little ones much needed hydration.

Harriet went fishing in pond and brought home a nice one.

But look where E18 got himself. At first I just held my breath thinking he would get his leg caught and would not be able to get out. Or he was going to fall out of that nest. But this was a great move. 18 has the perfect location to be fed without any bother from 17. There is even a pokey stick between them.

I would just as soon they didn’t try to get up on the rim of the nest though. It is pretty nerve wrecking watching.

When Harriet finished, they both passed out in food comas. Keep them full and happy.

A great close up. Looks like their eyes are all healed without any relapses. Fantastic! And the egg tooth seems to be gone now.

Is it possible for a raptor’s talons to be cute?

Ah, and they are so sweet when they are sleeping. Best buddies. Makes my heart melt.

What a great way to close the blog today with this cuddle puddle!

Cuddle Puddle

Stay inside if you are in the area of the Polar Vortex. Call for help if you need it. Which reminds me. Keep your phone charged! I will check in on the nests in the area of the cold later today and give you a short update.

Thank you for dropping by. It is so wonderful to know there are so many people who love birds.

And thank you to the NEFL Eagle Cam and the SWFL Eagle Cam and D. Pritchett family for the streaming cameras where I took my scaps.