Arrivals

My day started off really well with the arrival of the much anticipated first egg of Big Red and Arthur at the Fernow light tower in Ithaca, NY. It was really windy this morning reminding us of the terrible weather this gorgeous eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk endures annually.

Arthur arrives at 14:47 and gets to see their first egg. He had to climb over Big Red to do it though!

Arthur looked at the egg for a bit and was promptly off to find some prey for Big Red.

Big Red does most of the incubating. Every year – this is now their fourth – she seems to allow him to incubate a little more. He is a great provider and she is never hungry.

Arthur has brought Big Red a vole for her dinner as the lights go out in Ithaca. You can see it at the front right of the egg cup. How sweet. But wait, it could be a chippie. What do you think with those ears? Arthur is a champ at catching chippies and if you watch this nest you will become an expert at identifying dead prey. Even if you don’t want to. I promise.

Last year I would stay awake in the night or get up to make sure Big Red was OK. There was more than one night when she was encased in snow and ice. Laura Culley used to say to me, ‘Don’t worry. Big Red has this all under control.’ And, of course, Laura was always right. But it didn’t matter – hundreds of us still worried. She looks so contented and happy. It is the middle of the night and it is quiet. The buses that drive down the road in front of the nest aren’t running and there are few, if any, people about.

Look for another egg on the 28th! Big Red can lay three eggs by the 30th. One every other day. This couple have no trouble raising three eyases. If you wanted a perfect hawk family with a territory with lots of prey, their eyases have both.

Nancy and Harry at the MN DNR nest have a chick. The hatch began with a pip at 6:27pm on the 25th. We got a little peek at their new addition today! It is a little cutie and Harry already has food up on the nest for his first. Congratulations Nancy and Harry!

Ah, two older birds – Big Red and Nancy – both choose much younger mates. I hope Harry is as good a provider as Arthur is. So far he has been amazing.

Isn’t Nancy beautiful?

They aren’t eggs or chicks but the Osprey began arriving in the UK so fast today, the very last day of World Osprey Week, that people had trouble filling in their charts. Here are some of the arrivals at the monitored nests if you are keeping track.

Blue 33 or Telyn (female) arrived at the Dyfi Osprey nest in Wales at 17:28 on the 26th. Telyn will now wait for her mate Idris to arrive! This couple is one of the most popular in Wales.

Blue 35 and White YW both landed on the Foulshaw Moss nest today. What fantastic timing.

White YW arrives at the nest accompanied by a crow. 26 March 2021
Blue 35 arrives. I wonder if they know each other are home?

And instead of Louis or Alia, snow arrived at Loch Arkaig in Scotland.

Everything is starting to get exciting. Laddie and his new lady NC0 of the Loch Lowes Osprey Nest were caught mating on the nest. Let’s hope they have a good bond.

Sadly, the fish arrivals at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St. Petersburg did not materialize in the quantity for Tiny Tot to get a food feeding. He tried hard even walking along the nest rail to get fed, begging all the time. The older ones fed for two hours but Tiny only got 7 bites. There was hope for a late fish arrival but it did not materialize. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I have suffered over this Osprey nest. And that is directly related to wanting to know ‘the why’ of the behaviour. Jack and Diane have raised three before to fledge. Is it the heat? the winds? a lack of fish? Studies have shown that the smallest can be excluded by the bigger chicks even if there is enough food. I would argue that when there was enough, this nest was civil. But a bad storm, then high temperatures (fish go to the bottom normally then), and winds caused an erratic delivery. That set about a perception of a lack of fish for all. For two days, the 23rd and 24th there was plenty and all was well. The past two have seen insufficient food even for Harriet. It is all about survival. And nature, contrary to what many believe, is not cute nor is it nice. That all birds would have parents like Big Red and Arthur and a territory for prey like Big Red and Arthur – well, that would be wonderful.

Thank you for joining me today. I would love to say hello to each of you individually. Thank you for your letters and your comments. I am so glad that you are finding joy in the birds. It is magical, isn’t it? We get a glimpse into a world that we would not have otherwise.

I want to thank the following sponsors of streaming cams: Cornell Bird Lab, MN DNR, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Dyfi in Wales.

We have lift off – Big Red laid her first egg

For the past month, Arthur and Big Red have been arriving early to restore their nest on the Fernow Light Tower on the grounds of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By yesterday, that nest was looking rather amazing. The egg cup was nicely lined with strips of bark and there were even some berries and pine needles. The question remaining in everyone’s mind was: when will Big Red lay her first egg?

Big Red and Arthur are Red Tail Hawks. The scientific names is Buteo jamaicensis. You will find these hawks across North America. Those that breed and lay their eggs where I live – in Manitoba, Canada – only reside with us during the late spring, summer, and early fall. They will migrate to warmer climates for the winter just like the Ospreys in the United Kingdom. Big Red and Arthur do not migrate. They remain in Ithaca throughout the year. They have a territory that is normally rich in prey.

Big Red is 18 years old this spring. She was tagged at Brooktondale, New York in 2003. Arthur will be five years old this spring. Birders on the ground knew him as a nestling in 2016; a chick from an adjacent territory near to the cemetery in Ithaca. He is often called the nickname he was given then, ‘Wink’. His real name is, however, Arthur. Arthur and Big Red have been a bonded pair since the death of Big Red’s long time mate, Ezra, in 2017. Big Red chose Arthur to be her mate in the fall of 2017 before he even had his red tails! Many thought that she was making a huge mistake but Big Red has proven over and over again that she knew precisely what she was doing. So far the streaming cam on her nest has helped to re-write our understanding of Red-Tail Hawk behaviour. As we go through the season, I will point out all the things that Big Red is teaching us. For today, however, let it suffice to say that an eighteen year old Red Tail Hawk can still lay eggs!

The image below is from the nest tower cam over the track at Cornell.

The nest cup – where the eggs are laid – is lined with tree park and pine. You can see this in the image below. Pine is traditionally an insecticide to keep the flies away. You will see the couple bringing in a lot of pine branches til the eyases fledge. Eyas is the singular and eyases is the plural form of falcons or hawks in the nest.

It was 21 degrees and the wind was blowing at 31 kph or 19.26 mph. All eyes were on the Fernow Tower nest. Big Red arrived at 11:46 alone.

She was acting peculiar. And we all held our breath. Might this be the day?

It is unclear precisely when Big Red laid her first egg or how long her labour was but by 12:51 everyone watching knew there was an egg!

The wind was blowing so strong that many were reminded of when Big Red was blown off her nest during the 2020 season. And we all wished that the sun would come out and it would be calm. Big Red has been through so much.

Red tail hawks typically lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs. Last year, Big Red and Arthur fledged three healthy chicks, the Js. This year it will be the Ks. If all goes to schedule, Big Red will lay an egg every other day. She can lay three eggs in four days. Traditionally she does not begin hard incubation until all eggs are in the nest.

For many, watching this nest will be the joy of their days. If you would like to join thousands watching Big Red and Arthur, here is the link to the Cornell Streaming Cam:

Big Red has already been busy rolling that egg and tweaking the egg cup. We are waiting for Arthur to arrive so she can tell him the good news!

Thank you for joining me today. My passion for these beautiful hawks will be coming through from now until August. Updates on other nests later today.

Thank you, as always, to the Cornell Bird Lab for the streaming cameras (there are two) on the Fernow Tower.