Today in Bird World

After watching the Port Lincoln Osprey Nest last year and Iris at Hellsgate in Montana, I vowed ‘never again’. The death of the third hatch, little Tapps, was simply too much. I vowed to stick with watching Big Red and Arthur at the Fernow Nest in Ithaca, New York, two or three Peregrine Falcon nests, and I would check in occasionally on the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head. But then something happened and the Achieva Osprey nest became a constant while I waited for Big Red and Arthur to start their nest renovations and the eggs to arrive and watched others periodically. I remember before the notion of competition set in that it was so lovely to see the three politely standing and being fed. It gave me hope. I watched the 2020 highlights of the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest and fell in love with Louis, Aila, Doddie, Vera, and of course, JJ7 – Captain. Tiny Tot reminds me, in a way, of the challenges that JJ7 could have had but, didn’t. Louis fished day and night to feed his family and he was on the nest helping Aila tandem feed. One took JJ7, the tiny little male, third born – the ‘tercel’. The other parent fed the two bigger ones. Everyone thrived! Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

27 June 2020 Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest
5 July 2020. Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest

It was a very good thing that Tiny Tot, the youngest on the Achieva Osprey nest had its own private feeding yesterday from 4:27-4:48. Tiny was so full that even with Diane insisting, he could not hold another bite. Today, he had only about five small morsels of fish. The two early fish deliveries were too small to fill Tiny up never mind 1 and 2. But Tiny did bide his time and got up when there was some fish left to have 2 step in and decide it was not full enough. Having waited long enough for Jack to deliver food, Diane brought in a nice sized fish to feed all at 7:22. Then Jack showed up, with a crop, and took it before she could even feed a bite to the chicks. It was dark when Jack returned the fish but, I bet he ate the nice head. Normally, I would agree he should. It is hard work fishing – they say that they have a 20% success rate. But Jack had a crop. Neither Diane or Tiny got more than a couple of bites. Of course, the question remains ‘why’. The pattern is roughly three good days and three relatively poor ones. I hope that tomorrow Jack proves me wrong.

Just as I hope Jack surprises me tomorrow, an article on Ospreys surprised me today. It wasn’t actually the article – the world needs more stories about these magnificent birds. Rather, it was the glossy weekly magazine that is known more for politics and its reviews of art, restaurants, books, and the theatre-The New Yorker. ‘The Joy of Watching the Ospreys Return.’ is by Alexander Aciman. Aciman shares his love of one particular Osprey nest that he has watched for many, many years. The article describes the incredible abilities of the Osprey including the fact that the mated pair leave separately, winter in different locations yet return to ‘their’ nest in the spring. The author is amazed by the ability of these fish eating birds to travel from the United States to Mexico, Central or South America and return to a spot no bigger than a sofa cushion, annually. There was sadness at the nest in 2020 – all three chicks died. Park rangers determined that the cause was parasites living in the nest and to avoid the same catastrophic event again, they tore down the old nest after the couple had migrated. Aciman wonders if the mated pair will return after such sadness. To date, the female has arrived and is rebuilding the nest.

In my post were two books. Population Ecology of Raptors by Ian Newton is ex-library. Published in 1979, the book covers dispersion, breeding density and everything else to do with breeding, mortality rates at the time and causes, as well as conservation ecology. It came highly recommended but with a word of caution – we have learned much because of streaming cams, tagging, and satellite transmitters and facts about raptors have changed since 1979. You might want to have a peek. Maybe your library still has a copy or can order it for you.

UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Nest. Hatch watch beings on 17 April!

The second book is Becoming Wild. How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina. As one of the reviewers states, ‘Safina has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.’ I like Safina for his directness. The book examines the lives of three non-human species: Sperm Whales, Scarlet Macaws, and Chimpanzees.

Safina tells us how they live, how they teach one another, and how they learn. And then he hits his readers with the question: ‘Will we let them continue to exist or will we finalize their annihilation?’ I am looking forward to writing a full review of this book for you when I have finished reading it and digested its contents. My speed reading of the Introduction and part of chapter 1 tells me this book is going to be more than interesting.

Just checking in on some of the Osprey nests in the United Kingdom today. They sure were having nasty weather for April the past couple of days with snow and gale force winds.

Laddie (LM12) and Blue NC0 have had to deal with the high winds tearing up their nest and then snow.

There was wet snow over at the Clywedog Nest in Wales. This is Dylan bringing a gift of a pinecone for Seren (Blue F5).

A soaked Dylan comes in with a beautiful pinecone as a gift for Seren. 6 April 2021

The Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest has been experiencing blizzard like conditions. Everyone is hoping that Louis and Aila will arrive anytime but the bad weather might have slowed them down. Even so, Osprey are perfectly capable of being covered in snow and incubating their eggs with no dire results.

Over at the Rutland Mantou Bay nest, Blue 33 (11) has been bringing in more nesting materials for Maya who is incubating the couples three eggs. Today, she has also had to defend her nest against another intruder. Maya is formidable and I wouldn’t want to land on her nest by mistake!

Blue 33 (11) brings in nesting materials.

I love how Blue 33 (11) loves to spend time with Maya on the nest cuddled together. He is a great catch! Maya, you are sooooooo lucky!

Thank you for joining me today and for sharing your lives with these wonderful birds. More news tomorrow on any more arrivals of UK Osprey and a look at satellite tracking and its benefits. Take care!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I obtained my screen shots: Rutland Mantou Bay Ospreys, Woodland Trust and Peoples Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Carnyx Wild Wales YouTube channel, and UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Cam.

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.