Late Thursday updates in Bird World

Last year, the streaming cam viewers of Loch Arkaig Osprey nest went from its norm of 60,000 viewers to over 400,000. People from around the world watched Louis and Aila raise three – Dottie (male), Vera (female), and Captain (male)- Ospreys to fledge. As the pandemic moves into its second year, each one of those viewers and more are holding their breath, biting their finger nails off, pulling their hair out, or pacing back and forth for the arrival of Aila. Louis has now been home from his winter migration to Africa for five days. He is working hard to get the nest ready for Aila’s arrival. But where is she?

Loch Arkaig. Louis waits. 15 April 2021.

Late this afternoon, there was a spotting of an unringed Osprey passing over Arran heading due North. Could it be Aila? Depending on how the Osprey flies it is 80-100 miles and if it is Aila, she should arrive tomorrow! It is going to be one sleepless night with devotees getting up early to fix their eyes on the screen! One woman said it very well, ‘They saved my life last year during the pandemic. I want Aila home safe!’

The Osprey nest on The Landings Golf course on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia is expecting its second hatch soon. The first is getting around nicely after hatching on 13 April.

Just look at those beautiful baby blues. They will change to an orange-yellow and then when this little one is an adult, they will turn to that bright yellow distinctive iris of the Osprey.

Now are you going to be nice to your little sibling?

At the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Latvia, Andris is bringing nice presents of prey to Anna. They are both working hard on preparing the nest. Look at all that beautiful pine.

Also in Latvia, Milda took several breaks from incubation. She was looking around but I did not see Mr C trying to incubate eggs today (let me know if he did). She just might have given him the boot. There has sure been a lot of drama around and under this nest with White-tailed eagles fighting. Very disturbing for Milda who, sadly, is probably incubating unviable eggs.

At 7:14:44 pm Diane is calling to Jack to bring food to the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot is asleep. Fish was delivered at 3:21:46 am and again at 11:55:01. Tiny Tot had a good feed on the early fish and had a good crop. He did not get any of the 11:55 fish despite being up close. If the weather forecast is correct, this nest can expect thunderstorms beginning around 4am Friday morning. It says 40%. I hope they are wrong. The temperature is cooling to 23 or 24 right now.

7:16:00. Diane is calling Jack to bring fish. 15 April 2021

Tiny Tot is hungry and he is starting to call Jack, too. He’s there calling on the far left.

7:43:37. Hurry up with the fish dad! 15 April 2021

Now the two larger osplets are up and calling for dad, too. Unless this is a whopper – and I do mean a HUGE fish – Tiny Tot might not get any food tonight. He ate his fill this morning when the other two weren’t that interested – and yesterday, too.

7:58

And there it is. The third fish of the day, if you count the middle of the night delivery, lands at 7:59:14.

And who got the fish?

It looks like 2 mantled the fish and has it. You can see her in the middle. Tiny is to the far left keeping himself down. Dad quickly leaves. But thank goodness, Diane steps in and takes control of the food delivery! That is all Tiny Tot needs – the older stealing the fish! That fish is not that big.

Diane feeds 1. Tiny Tot is between Diane and 2 who is watching but not being aggressive.

At 8:05:09, 2 has walked around and behind 1. There was no attack on Tiny Tot. Meanwhile, Diane continues to feed 1. It is unclear if Tiny Tot is getting any bites of fish. There are no tell tale signs of his body moving slightly up and down but I cannot be certain, one way or the other.

And then 2 who is so aggressive to Tiny Tot just gets up and turns and goes the other way. By this time there is only half of the small fish left. Is it possible that Tiny Tot will get a little of this fish?

8:05 Diane is feeding 1. Cannot tell if Tiny Tot is getting any fish. 15 April 2021

A few minutes later, 2 turns around behind Diane. The behaviour is quite odd because if food is involved, 2 is always threatening to Tiny Tot. Yesterday 2 was not hungry. I thought it was trying to pass a pellet or it was just the heat. This is perplexing.

And then 2 flaps its wings and goes towards the rim of the nest looking back.

Then 2 walks behind Tiny and raises its neck like it is checking on the fish.

But nothing. 2 turns around and goes to the rim of the nest. Meanwhile, less than half the fish is left and 1 is still eating. At 8:11:49, 1 walks across the nest and, once again, comes up behind Diane settling under her tail. How odd.

But just as quickly, 2 backs up and sort of looks off the rim of the nest, again.

At 8:16:05, 2 is back up by Diane and she feeds it a bite of food.

At 8:17 Diane is still feeding 1. 2 is behind under between her legs and Tiny Tot is at the rim at the far edge of the nest watching. He will move up closer to Diane and the feeding. But as the light dims it is very unclear whether or not there was any fish left for him. It looks like 1 might have eaten the entire delivery. Still, around 8:30 it appears a slight shift in angle and height and perhaps, just perhaps, Tiny got the last bites by the tail. Tiny had a crop at 12:04 from the big meal earlier and while it is preferable that he eat more food more often, he will be alright. What is strange about this entire feeding is the behaviour of 2. And that is why I have detailed it so closely. Is 2 struggling to cast a pellet? Or is something else wrong?

The Great Horned Owls have amazing plumage and they are starting to get the distinctive tufts of feathers for their ears. Here they are, Tiger and Lily, looking like they are standing and having a chat. Some will think that they are ‘so cute’ but these owls are deadly. In Europe, there are more incidents of GHOWs killing entire raptor families than I want to think about. We have seen them hurling Harriet and M15 off their Bald Eagle nest in Fort Myers, Florida or the much smaller Boo Book Owl in Australia knocking WBSE Lady and injuring her eye. They travel at night while the other birds are sleeping and they fly silently with the help of their soft rounded feathers. The increase in their numbers, the loss of habitat and stated another way, the loss of large trees for nests is causing problems. These two should be branching and fledgling shortly.

15 April 2021

Over at the UC Berkeley campus, Grinnell is having a very difficult time trying to get Annie to get off the eggs. Hatch watch starts on Saturday and Annie is always reluctant not to be right there when it starts!

While the Peregrine Falcons are on the verge of hatching, fledge watches are also going on around the globe. In Taiwan, the Black Kites ‘Pudding’ and ‘Brulee’ were born on 3 and 5 March, respectively. They were banded on 2 April – Orange K2 and K3. The average amount of time for Black Kites from hatch to fledge is 42-50 days. Pudding is 44 days old and Brulee is 42 days old.

Both are getting their wings stronger by flapping and flapping. And look at that magnificent tail. The fledglings generally stay in the nest perfecting their flying and hunting skills for another 42-56 days until they are self-reliant. The parents supplement their food.

Once the nestlings are older, they will sleep with their head tucked on their back. It is not under their wing although their beak might be. Did you know that sleeping this way allows the bird to relax its neck?

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe everyone!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Taiwan Black Kite Cam, Achieva Credit Union, Farmer Derek, UC Berkeley Cal Falcons, Latvijas Dabas, Latvian Fund for Nature, Cornell Bird Lab, and Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery.

Osprey Lessons and Sharpie pays a visit

A couple of weeks ago, a really good book landed on my desk. It is The Rutland Water Ospreys. It is beautiful, full of colour photographs, drawings, and brimming with all the information that Roy Dennis, Tim Appleton, Tim Mackrill, and Helen McIntryre learned when Rutland Water set about to increase the number of Ospreys in the United Kingdom. What they and other researchers learned through direct observation, banding, and using satellite monitored trackers has changed many commonly held beliefs about Osprey. I hope, over the course of the next weeks to introduce you to some of the things they learned, along with others.

Translocating. When Roy Dennis set about to take young osprey from their nests in Scotland and introduce them to Rutland, the team learned one big important aspect that increased their success. I mention this first because I am once again hoping there would be a break at the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot has not had anything to eat since 11 am on April 11. Despite fish deliveries including a whopper by Diane, Tiny did not get that much food. How could Tiny thrive too? I wished that the rangers in Florida that work with USFWS would remove Tiny from the nest and hand feed him til he was strong enough to be introduced. And this is precisely what they did at Rutland in the beginning. What they learned is you do not remove the runt from the nest. Instead you take one of the larger, older chicks leaving the little one with its parents and possibly another sibling. By removing the bigger older chick that required more food and was being the most aggressive, the little one grew and thrived. At the same time the bigger old chick did better being translocated. It did not have to be fed by hand but could eat on its own and did not have difficulties being removed from the nest.

The image below is of the 2011 chicks of Monty and Nora from the Cors Dyfi Nest in Wales. There they are: Einion Blue DH, Dulas Blue 99, and Leri Blue DJ. They have just received their trackers. Look how the trackers fit in a little pack on their backs. [Note: 3 healthy Osprey chicks raised in the same nest. No problems with rivalry].

The satellite trackers do not harm the birds. There are various models, some are battery powered while some are solar. Many weight only 0.15 grams. They get very sophisticated and expensive depending on what data the researchers want. Some fit directly on the feathers while others are inside a kind of backpack. Using super glue, some plastic tubing, and some dental floss the tracker is fitted onto the central shaft of the tail feather if it was a tail mounted device or on the back.

Researchers check to make sure that the feathers of the young Osprey are hard-penned. When feathers begin to grow, there is blood flowing through the shaft. As the birds ready to fledge, the blood supply to the feather stops flowing and the shaft turns white. At that stage, the feather is hard penned. Some of you might remember that Joe and Connie’s oldest chick, Hope, in the Captiva Florida Bald Eagle Nest on Santibel Island died from a broken blood feather. The real cause was rodenticide but the young bird, having ingested the poison from prey she was fed, broke off one of her feathers jumping about the nest. Because the poison was an anti-coagulant, she literally bled to death. Blood feather versus hard penned.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey is wearing a tracker positioned on her back that is expected to last for seven years. Others are only intended to last a year – for short term research projects. They will come off during the moult. That is the kind that the two Royal Albatross, LGL and LGK, have on their back.

Solly is 205 days old. From her backpack satellite transmitter, we know that she spent last night at Eba Anchorage. We have also learned from Solly that juvenile Eastern Osprey travel as much as 200 kilometres from their natal nest. The assumption had always been that juvenile osprey stayed closer to home. Not true!

Another common held belief was that male Ospreys always return to the area of their natal nest after their first migration to breed. The evidence this time came from banding, the coloured Darvic rings. The sighting of a male Osprey, orange/black 11 (98), a Rutland bird, in a Scots pine in north Wales, some 200 miles west of Rutland, proved that belief to be wrong. In fact, the sighting of orange/black 11 (98) in Wales did something else – it confirmed that the bird had survived. When it did not return to Rutland, it was wrongly assumed to be dead. Another sighting on that trip enroute home was of another Rutland male. This time 07 (97) was not dead either but had a female and a chick in a nest in mid-Wales.

These are only a few of the common beliefs that have been debunked through the use of logic, banding, or satellite transmitters. Every day researchers are learning something new and exciting. It is a great time to be learning about birds.

———————————————————————————-Some fun images to close off. Louis at the Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest. Instead of pacing and waiting for Aila to arrive, Louis (pronounced Lou-ee) is using his talons to dig up the nest and refurbish it. His digging is quite efficient. Everyone is holding their breath waiting for Aila to arrive.

12 April 2021. Louis is doing nestorations.

Louis continues to wait for Aila on the 13th. Oh that she would arrive. The migration is so difficult. A healthy Kielder Osprey, Blue Y6 (18) female was spotted in Santander, Spain a couple of days ago. She was healthy. Then she was found a couple of days later dehydrated and with a broken leg. All of Louis and Aila’s fans are hoping that she is in the last group of ospreys moving north from Africa into the United Kingdom.

And a glimpse at the cutes little baby osprey – the first hatch of the year in the Savannah, Georgia Osprey nest on 13 April. The pip started at 10:58 on the 12th. There are three eggs on this nest. If you want to follow this new little one and its siblings, I have posted the information below.

Sharpie must have known that I am feeling a ‘little blue’ over Tiny Tot and he decided to pay me an early morning visit. He caused quite the commotion on his arrival. There had been a glut of European Starlings at the feeders. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were no less than 35. And then we got the most beautiful murmurations – two of them – thanks to Sharpie! It is always a treat to see that Sharpie is surviving. He stays with us in the cold Canadian winter, never migrates and made a bit of history on Cornell birds because of that. Here he is today another snowy day – in April!

Thank you for joining me today – as I wait, impatiently, for Tiny Tot to be fed enough to survive. It is lovely hearing from you, too. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds!

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery and Rutland Water, Cornell Lab & Skidaway Audubon. Thanks also to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project and the telemetry they post on their FB Page.