I needed to check my glasses

It took me a few minutes to comprehend what I was looking at. For several weeks now the osplets on the Port Lincoln Barge nest have been looking more like dinosaurs than fish eagles. But, this morning with the rain, their plumage looked much different. There was a strange white over the water so my first response was – the camera has a problem. Then the water was blue and the chicks were having their meal and well——.

Here they are lined up for the 12:36:06 delivery. Gosh, they had to have been hungry despite all those feedings yesterday. The weather must have hampered Dad’s fishing.

Still, there was no fighting. The chicks are all lined up as normal with Tiny Little right up at Mum’s beak! Oh, this kid really does love its fish.

So let us remember what we know about osplets plumage. When they hatch, they are covered with a very light greyish coat of down. You can see this in the image below.

It is 21 September. That was 22 days ago. Little Bob is 5 days old; the other two are 7 days old. Note the prominent dark eye line and the light soft down. Gosh they were so little! The hatchlings will keep this light coat of down from hatch until they are 10-12 days old, according to Alan Poole.

Oh, just look at Little Bob. So cute with that great big crop. He is the one closest to the viewer.

It is 5 days later. A darker charcoal coloured woolier down replaces that soft light grey down.

This is a huge period of change in terms of plumage. As the dark wooly down comes so do the feathers. The feathers show up first on the head and back and then on the body, later on the wings and tail. The feathers on the head and neck are a coppery-gold colour. This phase is called the Reptilian phase because they look more like their ancestors of 65 million years ago than the juvenile ospreys they are becoming.

You can see those coppery-gold feathers in the image below. The osplets are also growing at a fantastic rate.

The image below of Little Bob was taken three days ago. He was definitely in the Clown Foot stage! You can also see the dark grey wooly down as well as a few of the copper feathers on the back of his neck.

The image below was taken yesterday. You can see that the juvenile plumage is really starting to come in. It appears as little round tufts growing out of the blood quills.

In the image below, Little Bob is eating the prize fish tail. He is in his usual spot near the beak of Mum!

The image below was taken just a few minutes ago. I realize that feathers, like hair and paint, can appear darker when wet so use your imagination. It is as if a huge amount of juvenile plumage came in since last evening. Those feathers are really pushing out of those quills!

That is Little Bob at the very back. He is facing to the left and looking down slightly. He still has that spot and the white on the cere with the white swipe under his eye. Right now I can still find him but I might not be able to tomorrow.

In a blink. We will begin to notice considerable changes in their size along with the continued growth of feathers. The very last feathers to emerge will be the primaries and secondaries also known as the flight feathers. Only when all of their feathers have emerged from the blood quills will the osplets be ready to fly. We will know that when they really begin to exercise those wings and attempt hovering.

To give you an idea of the ‘look’ of the plumage and the size of the feathers I have included an image of Tiny Little, the third hatch of the Foulshaw Moss Osprey nest in Cumbria. This was taken on 24 August just before she migrated. Blue 463. Look at the length of her tail and the beautiful symmetry of her feathers. This is how the trio on the Port Lincoln nest will look by the time they are 50-60 days old.

As a reminder, Little Bob hatched on 16 September so he is now 26 days old. They have a long way to go but their plumage and their size are going to change right before our eyes. We really do not need to get our glasses adjusted! It is them, not us.

Beautiful Tiny Little Blue 463 survived and became the dominant bird on the nest. She is on her way to Africa. We hope to see her again.

I couldn’t wait to show you those miraculous changes in the plumage of the three. It really is miraculous. Thank you so much for joining me. I hope to see you soon. Take care.

Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots.

Second Hatch for Savannah (in pictures) and Tiny Tot update

There was a wee bit of a pip overnight at The Landings Osprey Nest on Skidaway Island near Savannah. At 3:45am the second hatch pulled itself out of the egg. By breakfast time, the little one was dry and ready to go!

No training necessary. Stand up at the rim of the egg cup near mom and open your mouth. 2 caught on quickly.

There is one more egg to hatch on this Osprey nest. Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps these two will not feel the hungry that starts the food competition and they will go big and strong.

Back at the Achieva Osprey Nest, a fourth fish landed at 5:22:37. It is a big bony one. Of course, 1 and 2 are eating but surely there will be food for Tiny Tot if Dad doesn’t come and take this fish off the nest!

The fish arrives. Already 2 has Tiny Tot in the corner.

2 wants to make sure that Tiny Tot knows it is not welcome to eat. And look at that crop 2 has from the first three fish.

Never mind. Tiny Tot is watching and making its way around.

At 6:13:59, Diane, the mother, leaves Tiny crying for food by the rim and walks across the nest to pick up a fish tail to eat. She has to be as hungry as Tiny is! Tiny Tot has been chewing on the bones – self-feeding if you like – but not enough meat there to matter.

Tiny Tot blasted to Diane at 6:14:34 and Diane pulls on the end of the bone and tail. By 6:15:49 there was nothing there. Tiny Tot got on a little bit of food, but Diane is also hungry. The others are too full and sleeping. If Diane is that hungry can we count on another fish for her and Tiny? or would she eat off the nest?

Even when there is only a scrap left, 2 continues to try and keep Tiny Tot away from any food, however small. Diane was back pulling the flesh off of a piece of bone and Tiny thinks he might get a morsel. 2 wakes up to stop him.

It is clear that neither 1 or 2 need any more food. If Diane and Tiny can eat tonight it will be very good for both of them. If another fish does not come until tomorrow morning then the cycle begins again with 1 and 2 hungry. We wait and we hope.

Thank you for checking in today. You get to see the full range of Osprey growth today – the just hatched and those getting ready to fledge. You can sure see the change from the tan wooly coat to the beautiful juvenile plumage.

Thanks to Cornell Labs for the cam at the Savannah Osprey Nest and to the Achieva Credit Union for their cam. Those are the sites where I grabbed my screen shots.

Day 11 of incubation

It is noon on Daisy’s nest in the Sydney Olympic Park forest. She has started to pant as the sun shines directly on her. Like other birds, panting is a way for Daisy to regulate her temperature; she does not sweat like humans. It is, as summer days go, hot. The weather at Homebush Bay indicates that it is 34.1 degrees C. I wonder if it is actually hotter on the nest?? It is normally understood that heat rises. And, as you can see from the image below, Daisy is in direct sunlight right now. Some parts of Australia are bracing themselves for very hot weather in a few days, up to 39 degrees C.

The hot sun at high noon is shining directly on Daisy.

Many have thought that Daisy would need to take more breaks during the day as the heat builds. However, since it is 12:30 and she remains, I am thinking that she will follow her regular pattern of going off in the afternoon to forage. She has now gathered up more down to cover up the eggs from predators.

At 13:18 Daisy begins to take the down of the nest cup and fold it over inwards. Sometimes she just does this and then will turn and do her cute tail wiggle. Occasionally, she does this when she is rolling her eggs but, most often, it is a sign that she is thinking about leaving to eat. Remember, Daisy does, if all things go serenely, have a pattern of leaving the nest between 1300 and 1400 to forage. Yesterday it was 14:02. And yesterday, she returned at 16:49 but noticed both WBSE on the camera tree and aborted her landing on the nest. So, on average, if voluntarily, it appears that she takes about a two and a half to a three hour break.

In the images below, Daisy begins to tuck the down in around the egg cup. Once the down is folded onto the top of the eggs, she then goes about placing leaves and plant material, and small twigs to further disguise the location. It took her eight minutes to get everything right so that she can leave. She departed at 13:26.

Daisy is busy folding the down that lines the nest cup inward.
Very methodically she continues folding the down in a clockwise direction.
After folding the down, Daisy begins to use her bill to bring in plant material.
It is not always easy to move the leaves and twigs with her bill but Daisy is tenacious.
Once she is satisfied that the eggs are covered as best she can, she leaves to forage to keep up her strength. It is very hot in Hornbush Bay and she needs food and water.
Daisy’s nest is nicely concealed.

All birds have predators and Daisy is particularly vulnerable as she is an outsider to the forest. Her presence and her seven eggs have caught the attention of some, like the Raven and Pied Currawong, that would eat her eggs. Like Daisy’s plumage that serves as camouflage, the manner in which she has concealed her nest is meant to distract any potential threats. She has used the leaves and plant material on top. They blend in perfectly, there is absolutely nothing that would call attention. Daisy is also very discreet and alert in her comings and goings from the nest. Every move is slow and calculated unless she is frightened off by the approaching sea eagles or if she notices their arrival in another tree. Then she leaves quickly!

This is day 11 of Daisy’s brooding or incubation. Even though the eggs were laid on different days, Daisy did not start hard incubation until the last egg was in the nest. Imagine that one minute there are eggs, and within a few minutes the nest will be brimming full of peeping and clacking ducklings. This is precisely what will happen. This is known as synchronized hatching. The number of incubation days to hatching varies but is normally 28-30.

Daisy’s little ducklings – should the nest survive and they make it through the forest to the water – will be covered with fuzzy yellow down. They will have a characteristic dark chocolate brown-black line running from their bill through their eye. There are some white patches on their wings. They will be ever so cute!

Black Pacific Ducklings

Daisy’s ducklings are precocial at hatch. This means that they do not need Daisy to feed them. Daisy’s role will be to lead them to the water where they can forage themselves. Daisy will also help them to learn about predators and she will keep them warm in the evening. In a couple of months their new plumage will be that of an adult Black Pacific Duck, like Daisy.

They are known as ‘dabbling or puddle ducks’. They feed by tipping rather than diving to the bottom of the shallow water. They often forage at the edge of the river and lake like they are doing in the images below. They do not, however, hunt for food on land.

Black Pacific Ducks foraging on the shore. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Dabbling along the muddy shoreline. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A great image of a Black Pacific Duck foraging in shallow water. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is due to be another hot day in the forest tomorrow. The prediction is that it will be 37 degrees Celsius. This might turn out quite well for Daisy as the White Bellied Sea Eagles could be at Goat Island enjoying the cooler weather near the water. It is 16:42 and Daisy has not returned to her nest. She will be enjoying the cool waters of the canal and the river and, since it is so hot, might decide til near dusk when it is safe for her to return to her nest. The sea eagles are normally roosting then.

An uneventful day is a good day for Daisy the Duck.

Thanks for dropping by to check on the little duck who is occupying the large sea eagle’s nest in Sydney Olympic Park forest. Stay safe everyone. See you tomorrow!

I am grateful for the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery centre for the cameras they support. This is where I get my scaps.