Rainbow Lorikeets miss Miss Daisy

The Rainbow Lorikeets came to check on Miss Daisy Duck almost every day that she was incubating her eggs in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park. Yesterday was no exception. The beautiful coloured parrots showed up in droves yesterday wondering where Daisy had gone. You could almost hear them saying , ‘Where is Daisy?’ to one another.

Despite the fact that Daisy isn’t there incubating her eggs anymore, it really does put a smile on your face to see these beautiful parrots coming early in the morning to check on their friend. Daisy had not even been away from the nest for twelve hours when they arrived. I wonder if they will come and check again? They were chattering so much to one another. Maybe they thought that Daisy had covered her nest and gone out dabbling? It is possible. Will keep everyone posted if they return.

For the Rainbow Lorikeets it must have been a shock to see the gentle duck on the nest of the big sea eagles. These parrots, too, would be at the mercy of some of the bigger birds such as the Ravens and no doubt the Ravens have raided their nests as well. Thinking about the Ravens got me to wondering about the White-Bellied Sea Eagles. The behaviour of the Ravens was the same as normal, what you would expect from a Raven. They wanted Daisy out of there so they could eat her eggs! No doubt about it. They came several times when she was incubating and knew that there were eggs. They just waited when she was no longer on the nest.

Daisy happily incubating her eggs.

But it makes me wonder. The WBSE were perplexed and curious. At first, they were upset about ‘something’ trespassing on their nest and their territory. Lady tore more duck down off the nest than Dad who has mellowed over the years. He is now 19 and I believe that Lady is about 6 or 7 years old. I expected the sea eagles to eat all of the duck eggs but they could not manage them with their bills in the same way the Ravens could with their sharp pointed beaks. But the sea eagles kept coming to check. Were they trying to catch Daisy? what were they thinking? and why were they not very aggressive? And then it occurred to me last night and you know what? I was glad that the Ravens got the eggs before the sea eagles came and killed the ducklings when they were born. If all of the eggs had hatched and we certainly know that the one was fertilized with a growing duckling inside, then imagine the peeps and peeps in the forest and Daisy trying to keep the ducklings quiet til they were 24 hours old, old enough to take that leap of faith to the forest floor and follow their mom to water. The sea eagles and the Ravens and other predators would hear those same peeps.

A very sad day when the ravens arrive and eat Daisy’s eggs.
WBSE Lady is very curious about those eggs.

In a way, the Rainbow Lorikeets and Daisy, the Pacific Black Duck, had a lot in common. Kindred spirits I would like to think of them. They both enjoy eating plants, pollen, the nectar from flowers. Like the ducks, the Rainbow Loris do not hunt prey like the sea eagles and the ravens. In fact, Rainbow Lorikeets are known to be terribly territorial and are parrots that do not like other birds. I am sure that they were very curious by the gentle duck in the big sea eagle nest. Indeed, both would be a meal for the sea eagles if the eagles decided that was what they wanted. And both of their hatchlings would also warrant attention by birds of prey. I wonder if that was what drew the lorikeets back to the nest, a kind of kinship?

Hi. Just dropping in to say hello, Daisy.

Daisy understood which of the birds coming to the nest were friendly and which were predators. She seems to always have welcomed the Rainbow Lorikeets!

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for the streaming cameras where I captured these images.

Daisy’s great night vision helped her to slip out in the middle of the night!

Daisy left to go foraging at 15:31:45 on a soggy Sydney Friday afternoon. She returned to her eggs at 17:49:49. Two hours and eighteen minutes. Not bad! There was some concern over the wet nest and the cool temperatures but, Daisy knows best!

Like all of her returns recently, Daisy is hyper cautious. She lands on the nest and looks around. Then she listens. We have all seen how the WBSE can arrive in a split second!

Overly cautious when returning from her dabbling.

Daisy even stops to do some preening.

Preening

Then, all of a sudden, Daisy rushes over to get on her eggs. She is a bit of a blur in the image below. Gosh that nest is wet and soggy.

There is plenty of time for the sea eagles or the ravens to return to the nest before the sun sets but, they don’t. Sometimes boring quiet days are the best – even for humans, too!

Daisy settles into incubating.

Not everyone believes that ducks have good night vision. Some people think that birds can only see during the daylight hours – any kind of bird. And if you have bird feeders you will have seen the songbirds arrive at dawn and depart at dusk. Falcons and hawks do that and so do sea eagles. But we have seen Daisy return after dark when the sea eagles have arrived before dusk. And we have watched her leave around 4:00 one morning and return before day break.

Last night Daisy left her nest at 2:45. She tried to cover it up as good as she could but the down is so soggy! She returns forty-five minutes later. Daisy probably took a bathroom break. But again, this solidifies our knowledge that ducks can see when it is very dark. Daisy has been able to freely move around in the forest.

I began to think that she should move any ducklings that do hatch under the cover of darkness while all of their predators are sleeping! Except, of course, BooBook Owl.

Daisy covers her eggs.
Down is wet, some eggs exposed.

You can see in the image above that some of the eggs are exposed. Daisy has done the best ever with that old wet down. Surely the Ravens are asleep and I think that the little owl will not bother them, hopefully. Daisy returns and all is well at her nest.

It is Saturday in Australia. At dawn, the temperature is 21.8 degrees C and they are predicting more showers. However, it should get fairly hot on Sunday rising to 26. This really could be a help in drying out all that down and making it fluffy again.

In the image below, it is 5:30. Daisy is waking up and waiting to see if the sea eagles will fly through the forest trying to catch her. They certainly have done this a few times lately.

Daisy is alert at dawn.

But no one comes. By 7:00 the glow of the morning is spreading across the forest. Daisy is trying to catch some rest. She has her beak tucked under her wing.

Daisy resting.

Wow! Look at the beautiful markings on Daisy’s head and those gorgeous brown eyes.

In the image below, Daisy is rolling her eggs. Remember that Daisy plucked down from her own breast to line the nest and help keep the eggs war. Removing the down creates a bald spot known as the brood patch. This touches the eggs and transfers the heat from Daisy to the eggs so that the duckling can grow. But the eggs cannot simply sit there. They must receive even heat. Daisy uses her bill and her feet to roll the eggs and move them about so that they each receive the same amount of heat. Rolling helps ensure that each of the developing ducklings will hatch at roughly the same time.

Daisy has her beak in the nest turning the eggs and her feet are also gently paddling them. Daisy is such a good mother!

Rolling eggs

It is only 7:30 in Sydney. Wet and cool. So far the WBSE have not ventured into the forest and even the Ravens are not moving about. Let us hope that it is simply a boring day for Daisy!

I will post an update on Daisy’s Day about 11pm CDT. Stay tuned for any happenings during the day. Still, I hope that there is nothing to report.

A big welcome to Daisy’s new fans from Belgium. Our girl is so happy that people around the world care about her plight.

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discover Centre for providing the camera so that I could capture the screen shots.

Oh, what a day!

I wanted to check in with all of Daisy’s fans to let you know that she is such a brave little mother. From the last posting, you will know that Lady, the White-Bellied Sea Eagle who lays her eggs on this nest and who raises her little sea eagles, showed up this morning at 5:37:11. Previous to now, it was mostly ‘Dad’ that came to check on the nest. Once in awhile, Lady would join him. I was always worried about Lady. Dad is, well, older. Someone familiar with the nest told me that he is nineteen years old. And he is laid back. As long as the bird laying their eggs on his nest is not a threat to him, I don’t think he cares. But Lady is different. She takes on the mantel of really being the person in charge of the nest. And maybe she hasn’t been happy with the way that Dad has been unable to evict “the bird” whose eggs are on her nest! It also seems that until today, the sea eagles had not actually caught sight of the the culprit, the owner of the eggs. But this morning Lady saw Daisy. Lady’s arrival and Daisy’s urgent departure meant that they almost crossed feathers! It really was that close. And Lady was mad. She had her whole chest puffed up. Lady became frustrated because she could not pick up the eggs in her beak. And then she began to tear the down from the top of the nest. But, sea eagles do not like duck down! There is no way around it. It is a foreign material to them. They are used to sticks. Down has no weight and it sticks to the beaks. That simple fact stopped Lady from doing any more damage. She tossed the down and, in doing so, covered up the eggs so the Ravens and Currawongs wouldn’t see them. What a nice thing to do for our little duck!

This morning Daisy did not go into hiding. She is getting near to hatch and she has much more invested in the eggs. She did flybys around the nest quacking all the time. The sea eagles left and within twelve minutes, Daisy was back on the nest brooding her eggs. Within a few hours, she had moved all of the down back to the nest and positioned it to warm the eggs. Other than really strong gusts of wind and a few song birds come to visit, the day, until now, has been uneventful. It is nearly 2pm in Sydney.

If the sea eagles are at their roost on the Parramatta River, one or both of them will probably come again today to check on the nest. But the high gusts of wind might discourage them. We can only hope. Right now they are more of a nuisance that keeps Daisy for incubating her eggs but they do not appear to be destructive. Daisy is not a threat to them. If, however, they stayed for five or six hours and the eggs cooled off, this would be disaster. Or if they moved the covering, the other birds might come and try to break or eat the eggs. So, once again, it is much better for Daisy if the day is simply boring and uneventful.

The image below was in the earlier post. It is a picture of Daisy arriving back at her nest with her lovely down scattered all over the twigs and leaves.

Daisy arrives after the sea eagles leave.

This little duck is so marvellous. She goes about what needs to be done. It doesn’t take her long, using her bill, to rake the down that Lady has tossed all about, back on to her nest. In the image below Daisy is tucking it around the edges so none of the cold air gets in to chill the eggs.

Daisy uses her bill to tuck in the down.

Daisy is being tossed about and rocked in the wind and the old Ironbark tree is creaking.

Did you know that Daisy talks to her ducklings? She is constantly rolling the eggs and tucking in and the down and all the while she is clacking away at her little ducklings. She does not know if any of these eggs are viable but she carries on talking to them. Hers will be the first voice that they hear and the first face that they see. They will imprint on their mother, a Black Pacific Duck.

Pacific Black Duck and her ducklings

If all goes well, Daisy will jump from the seventy-five foot nest in the Sydney Olympic Park and her ducklings will follow. They will jump out, spreading their wings to slow their landing, and bounce like a puff ball on impact. They will straighten themselves and get behind their mom and follow her to water where they will forage for food.

I have mentioned the many obstacles that Daisy could face getting the ducklings to water. I understand that is about a kilometre to the nearest water. A very knowledgable friend of mine told me that she had seen ducks take their ducklings through parking lots and schools if need be to get them safely to a river where they will immediately be able to paddle about. Isn’t it marvellous? One day old and they can do everything for themselves. Daisy keeps them warm and safe at night. Amazing.

It is nearing 14:00 at the nest and there is a gentle rain. Daisy’s feathers are waterproof and the drops collect on the surface of the feathers. When Daisy preens she uses oil from an oil gland to coat and restore her feathers. In fact, you might have seen birds spending most of their time preening. Their feathers protect them from cold and heat but also allow them to fly and swim.

The rain forms droplets on the feathers but doesn’t penetrate them.

The rain stays on the surface. And, besides, Daisy is used to being wet – she’s a duck!

Besides the oil that helps to condition the feathers, the feathers overlap. Look at the image below. In addition, ducks have angled barbs on each side of the central shaft of the feather. Each barb has tiny, tiny little hooks help hold the feathers together. Someone told me that it is like velcro on each side. This means that Daisy is covered with a lightweight shell of feathers that protect her and also allow her to float in the water.

The beautiful overlapping feathers on Daisy.

It is now approaching 14:45 on the nest and Daisy is showing no signs of leaving for a break. It is extremely gusty with occasional rain. While the rain does not hurt Daisy and it would roll off of eggs, I imagine that Daisy would much prefer to keep her eggs warm and dry. The wings might blow the feathery down clear from the nest and the nest cup might also get soaked if the showers increased in their intensity.

For now, our little duck seems just contented to let the nest rock and roll in the wind.

I want to thank Daisy’s increasing number of friends from around the world in joining us. It is wonderful to know that so many people who speak many different languages and live in varying different cultures, come together to watch the brooding of a little Pacific Black Duck who dared to make her nest in the tree belonging to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles.

We will look forward to having you with us tomorrow. It will be Day 17 of incubation! And so far, the little duck remains on the nest.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the cameras from which I took my screen images.

Quite a fright

Late yesterday afternoon Daisy arrived back at the nest right before 17:00. In a split second, she saw the two WBSE on the camera tree and was able, quickly, to abort her landing. They scared Daisy. She stayed away only returning at 19:43 as the sun was beginning to set on the old Ironbark forest.

And if that wasn’t enough of a fright, in the wee hours of the night she was literally scared off by sounds coming from the nest. Daisy was so frightened she quickly flew off after listening for a few minutes. And that scared off the Ringtail Possum that was climbing up the nest peeking in at Daisy sleeping in the sea eagle nest. It seems they both scared one another.

Common Ringtail Possums are small. They are about the size of a medium domestic cat. They are grey with some white behind the eyes with a white tip on their tail. They use this tail almost like a fourth leg wrapping it around branches to help them climb. They are forest dwellers and are very familiar with the sea eagles that raise young on this nest. Many people think they have their nest at the very bottom of the sea eagle nest. Like BooBook Owl and the more threatening Common Bushtail Possum, they hunt at night. They are vegetarians feeding on plants, fruit, and flora. The little Ringtail possum is the only species of possum in Australia where the male is actually involved in caring for the young possums. They are, again, not as much a danger to Daisy as the Common Ringtail Possum.

Common Ringtail Possum. Notice the thick tail that they use to help them climb. Photo courtesty of Wikimedia Commons.

The possum that Daisy should be very fearful of is the Bushtail.

Brushtail Possum at Grampians National Park, Australia courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Brushtail possums are the most widespread marsupial in Australia. (They are also in New Zealand). They are brown and have really bushy tails with a underneath furless patch that helps them to climb trees and hang on to the branches. They hunt at night and eat leaves, flowers, fruits, insects, small animals, and eggs. They are not related to the Opossum of the Americas and they are not the benign fruit eater portrayed by many books. They pose a real problem to Daisy as they are, as noted earlier, keen egg eaters. These possums are known to have eaten parrots, keas, robins, as well as larger kiwis. Researchers believe the decline of the North Island Kokako (endemic to New Zealand) to almost extinction was caused by the Brushtail Possum. The Kokako is a large grey-blue song bird. It has a black mask and long legs. New Zealanders are working hard to restore the populations of these lovely forest birds.

North Island Kokako perched on a Branch. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is now past dawn in Sydney, Australia. No sign of the White-Bellied Sea Eagles. Daisy is setting serenely on her nest. You will notice that she has been bringing in some of the down that was scattered. The nest is quite fluffy now!

Daisy, after dawn, January 22

There is absolutely no telling what comings and goings will happen today. It is Day 10 of brooding!

Daisy’s beautiful layered plumage on her wings.

Dawn casts a beautiful rose-gold over all the forest.

Dawn

And just about the time Daisy settled into a quiet early morning, she heard something land on the camera tree. It is 7:18:48. Too late to get off the nest or cover the eggs, she decided the right thing to do was to freeze flat.

Daisy lays ‘frozen’ hoping that the large bird on the camera tree does not see her.

Whatever it was, it was, its shadow indicated that it was a large bird but not as large as a sea eagle. Spotters said it was white so it is likely not then the Raven who continues to come, hoping to find Daisy gone and eggs for dinner. The bird left in about ten minutes but Daisy stayed frozen like she is in the photo above. Gradually, she began to relax.

Daisy relaxing slowly.

The first threat of the morning has come and gone after the excitement of the possum who came during the early night.

Stay tuned. An updated post will come in about six hours. Stay safe. Thanks for dropping in to check on Daisy.

Thank you to Sea Eagle Cam, BirdLife and the Discovery Center for the cameras from which I took my scaps.

The Continuing Saga of Dad and the Duck or ‘As the Nest Turns’

Just to bring those of you up to speed in case you haven’t read my earlier blog. In early December, a pair of Pacific Black Ducks investigated the nest of a pair of White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) in an old Ironwood Tree in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia. On 14 December, a nest cup was excavated in the centre of the sea eagle nest by the ducks. (Note: This is off-season for the sea eagles.). Six days later, ‘Dad’, the male partner of ‘Lady’, to whom the nest belongs, came to the nest for one of his periodic territory checks. The female aptly named ‘Daisy’ by Phyllis Robbins of the WBSE chat group laid her first egg in the nest cup on 5 January 2021.

Female Black Pacific Duck

On the morning of 11 January, Daisy arrives at the nest just after dawn. Before she could lay her egg, vocalizations from other birds in the forest alert her that the sea eagle is about. Indeed, Daisy might have been listening for the male sea eagle because he had come to the nest the previous day. That day she quickly covered the eggs and flew off the nest but stayed in proximity. Dad stayed for about half an hour before leaving and within a few minutes, Daisy returned to lay her sixth egg without interruption. This morning, however, Daisy had not laid her egg when the large sea bird appeared. She stood on the rim of the nest and quacked as Dad flew to the camera tree. She left so abruptly that she did not have time to cover her eggs but, it seems that Dad did not notice her physical presence on the nest or her quacking.

Dad surveyed his territory remaining on the tree that supports the camera for the live stream for about an hour. He might have thought that the bird laying the eggs would return without noticing him and he would find out who this mysterious bird is.

White-Bellied Sea Eagle Male known as ‘Dad’ scanning his territory for intruders.

After about an hour and a half, Dad flew to the nest tree to see first hand what was happening. He had noticed the eggs the previous day by rummaging around in the leaves. He even tried to pick one up with his bill but to no avail.

Three of the six Black Pacific Duck Eggs

Today the eggs were clearly visible. Look carefully. Daisy has started removing down from her breast to line the nest. This physiological process is called zugunruhe.

Under normal circumstances, Daisy would arrive at dawn to lay her egg. She would do this every day until she finished laying all of the eggs for her clutch. This can vary between 8-13 eggs. After laying her egg, Daisy often remains on the nest for a period of about an hour before departing for the river to forage for the rest of the day. Once all of the eggs are laid, Daisy will begin full incubation, being relieved periodically by her mate. After twenty-eight days, the ducklings will hatch. Then, the following day (after 24 hours), they will take a giant leap of faith and jump off the rim of the nest, a distance of approximately fourteen metres, to the forest floor. Here they will follow their mother to the Parramatta River where they will immediately begin foraging for themselves.

Dad inspecting the Black Pacific Duck’s eggs

Today, Dad began to curiously inspect the nest with the eggs. For what seemed like an eternity, he would look at the eggs and then look around the immediate environment of the tree. It was actually like he was confused. At one point he tried to pick up one of the eggs but he couldn’t do it. It isn’t that they are heavy; the shape is just awkward for him to handle with his beak. He did not try to move the eggs with his giant talons nor did he attempt to break them. He did toss some of the down around. At one point, it even looked like he might start brooding the eggs. It was a very strange exchange because Dad’s hormones are not thinking about breeding or brooding. He is in the midst of moulting.

Dad trying to move one of the eggs

The entire morning was very suspenseful. Currawongs and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were screeching in the background and at one point, it was thought that Daisy even did a fly by.

And then the oddest thing happened. Very delicately, Dad covered up the eggs at 9:01 am.

Dad covered up the duck eggs so that no one could see them

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, Dad went up to one of the ‘parent branches’ on the nest tree and stood vigil. More than once, Dad flapped his wings to keep the Currawongs away! Take altogether, these three actions scream out that his intuition is to protect the eggs.

Dad standing guard over the nest

Dad stayed for more than an hour before departing. At the time of this writing, he has returned once again to the nest tree where he is keeping watch over his territory.

Stay tuned!