Kakapo and more

Everyone is talking about the Kakapo today because two of the 208 died. These events are always full of sadness.

Have you heard of Kakapo?

They live in New Zealand and they are parrots that cannot fly. Wings are only for balance and support. Some people think they look like an owl. In fact, they are nocturnal and only move around at night. Their plumage is a beautiful moss green with some yellow and black. Their feathers are very soft because they do not need them for flight. Their bill, legs, and feet are grey. Using those grey feet they run all over the ground and climb trees. They blend in perfectly to the forests of the small islands where they now live. These islands are designated nature reserves and only authorized personnel can go on them.

Before humans arrived on the shores of new Zealand, the forests were full of these amazing creatures. Many of the early settlers kept them as pets saying that they were as friendly as dogs. They are still friendly towards humans today. In the 1990s, only fifty existed. The predators of the adults were cats and stoats while rats were known to eat the eggs and the chicks. The New Zealand Department of Conservation undertook an amazing intervention in order to try and save the Kakapo. They literally gathered up the fifty that were alive and moved them to islands where there were no predators. In June there were 210. Sadly, today there are now 206. Every Kakapo has a radio transmitter whose battery needs to be changed at least once a year. They are carefully monitored and health checks are undertaken on a regular basis. Birds may receive supplemental feeds and eggs and chicks can be rescued and raised by hand. Because there are so few, the genetic diversity is extremely low and there is also a very low fertility rate. The Kakapo are managed on three islands and there is now managed mating using artificial insemination to help manage genetic loss. They are currently sequencing the genomes of all living kakapo to aid in their conservation. The females start breeding around five years but the males are not able to fertilize the eggs until they are about ten years old. They are said to only breed when the fruit of the Rimu trees bloom which is every 2-4 years. The males get off pretty easy. The females have to incubate the 1-4 eggs, feed themselves and their chicks, and also protect their nest and young. That is the reason that so many fell victim to cats and stoats in the past. They are strict vegetarians. Kakapo generally live to be ninety years old if they do not come to harm by predators or viruses.

They are so very cute. They love to hide from the Rangers when they come to change their transmitters but they also love their almond treats after!

If you would like to learn more about the Kakapo, this is a seven minute video that is quite good:

And if you are a teacher or you know someone who is and who might like to show their students this amazing non-flying parrot – that is so utterly sweet – head over to this site sponsored by the NZ Government:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-education/resources/kakapo-recovery/

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It’s time for updates:

That Great Horned Owl on the Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City is still there. The Bald Eagles have not evicted her. Poor thing. That snow is really packed around her. The flakes stopped coming down and while it has warmed up, it is still a frigid -4 F. Our owl (I was tempted to say little but they really are not little) is trying to sleep and keep those eggs warm. Her mate, Clyde (gosh that was my dad’s name- who would name their little son Clyde???????) is very good at bringing her prey during the night. Last mouse deposit was right before dawn broke this morning.

Bonnie took a break – less than two minutes off those eggs. Gosh she was fast! That got me to wondering how quickly that -5 temperature would impact those eggs.

It doesn’t look like any of the snow fell in over the eggs. I wondered if the warmth of Bonnie’s body would have made a bit of a crust??? Just a silly thought but, maybe.

The Bald Eagle sitting on the nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey at Duke Farms is getting some relief. The snow has stopped falling and is actually melting there. We can finally see the nest. Let’s hope she catches a break and doesn’t get hit by the system moving through on Wednesday. This poor mother has had snow for twice as long as anyone else with eggs underneath them. She should get some kind of endurance prize!

And there is some really good news on the nest of Gaby and Samson over at NEFL. Little E24 was having problems with its right eye. This morning it was completely closed again but later in the day it opened up. I could not see any discharge. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it just got a poke from some of that nest material. And give a hand to Samson who brought in five big fish. I wonder if he is expecting bad weather to set in?

Oh, just look. There is the little one’s tiny little foot close by its mom. How precious.

Samson can be my weatherman any day. He brought in such a big pile of fish earlier. Now you can hardly make out his silhouette as the rain pelts down at the nest near St. Augustine, Florida. There are also thunderstorms in the area but no tornadoes. Smart dad. That little one will be under its mother staying dry while she continues to incubate an egg that will never hatch.

It has been a beautiful day out at Big Bear. That snow and chilly winds are gone! How nice for Jackie and Shadow.

I am also very happy to report that there was so much food on the SWFL Eagle nest of Harriet and M15 that the bopping of 17 towards 18 was next to nothing today. In fact, I hope they are growing out of that behaviour. There is lots and lots of food. Indeed, hold on. Harriet even brought in some road kill today in the form of a grey tabby cat. So again, if you ever find yourself near someone who is saying eagles only eat fish, well they sure don’t on Harriet and M15’s nest. They are great opportunistic eagles. At the same time it is extremely worrying when the hawks, falcons and eagles land on the streets and highways to get the carrion and get hit themselves. It is also, of course, tragic when someone’s pet gets hit by a car.

And last, let’s check up on Solly to see what she is up to. To date Solly has re-written a lot of aspects of Osprey behaviour in Australia. That is fabulous news and supports putting satellite transmitters on birds for additional research and learning. Of course, the streaming cameras that I watch, like you, are invaluable as are the BOGs (Birders on the Ground).

Solly is 149 days old and she is still enjoying Eba Anchorage and flying over to Kiffin Island to find her dinner. Look at that seabird go!

And speaking of Ospreys, one of the Scottish Kieldner Ospreys Blue Y6, White EB’s youngest daughter, that hatched in 2016 was seen at Tanji Marsh Bird Reserve in The Gambia by bird guide, Fansu Bojang. This is just excellent news. You might recall that Avian Flu went through the Pelican population in Senegal and there was some worry for the UK Ospreys. This is just wonderful news! Last year was Blue Y6’s first year to raise chicks. She had two with her mate at a nest in Perthshire. Let’s hope she does it again this year.

There is lots of good news all around in the bird world. Even the Kakapo Recovery said that they are grateful for the growth in the numbers and with that also comes higher numbers of those dying.

The Ospreys will be making their way back to their nests across the UK and Europe soon. We wish them all safe travels. The hawks and falcons will be finding twigs for their nests and in a few weeks we will begin to welcome another group of baby eagles.

I am keeping a particularly close eye on that nest of Big Red and Arthur.

Stay safe and stay warm! Thank you for joining me today. See you tomorrow!

Thank you to the Kakapo Recovery, the AEF for the streaming cams at Big Bear and NEFL, the SWFL streaming cam and the D. Pritchett family, Derek the Farmer’s streaming cam, Port Lincoln Osprey for the tracking information on Solly, Duke Farms streaming cam, and Kielder Ospreys.

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.