You can always count on Arthur

Big Red, the grand dame of the Red Tail Hawks, whose nest is on the Fernow Light Stand on the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, New York lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March 2017. She had many suitors who were put through the rigours to find out if they were good providers and devoted so that their chicks would grow and thrive. Big Red chose Arthur. All of the humans thought that Big Red had ‘lost her mind’ in selecting such a young male to be her companion.

Big Red hatched somewhere near Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She received her leg band on 7 October 2003 in Brooktondale. I have yet to find out the name of the bander. In 2017, Big Red was fourteen years old. Arthur, who had been born in an adjacent territory and who was known by some as ‘Wink’, was born in 2016. When he arrived checking on the Fernow Nest, he was only a year old and did not have his red tail feathers. He caught Big Red’s attention and by the fall they had totally bonded and were fixing up the nest for the coming breeding season in 2018. Big Red could not have chosen a better mate!

In the image below, Arthur has delivered prey to the nest so that Big Red can go and eat and he can take over the incubation duties of their three eggs. This was last evening.

13 April 2021

While Ezra was known as the squirrelinator, Arthur is known for capturing more chipmunks. Hence, he is often called the chippyinator. However, Arthur is like a jet plane when it comes to hunting. Rumour has it that he has flown onto someone’s porch to get a squirrel! So maybe Arthur is both squirrelinator and chippyinator!

In the image below, Arthur is delivering a Robin to Big Red as she incubates the eggs in one of Ithaca’s snowstorms. It was the day she laid her third egg of the 2021 season.

1 April 2021

The images below are from last year. The Js have hatched. How can you tell? Look at all the prey around the nest. Arthur will bring in so much that Big Red can line the nest bowl with fur! I am serious. No one on this nest is going hungry.

6 May 2020

Arthur has found a nest of goslings and thought Big Red might like one for dinner.

6 May 2020

Unlike other raptors, hawks will only eat road kill if there is a food shortage. On occasion, Arthur has brought in live prey to the nest. Some believe this is a teaching lesson for the nestlings.

Of course, people that watch hawk nests have a strange habit of trying to identify prey or making up names such as ‘Dunkin’ Chipmunks’ or ‘Chocolate Chippie Cookies with a Squirrel Glaze’. All kidding aside, researchers watch what prey is brought into the nest and the amounts. A typical Red-Tail hawk diet consists of 68% mammal, 17.5% other birds, 7% reptiles/amphibians/snakes and 3.2% invertebrates. Those amounts come from research by Johnsgard in 1990 but those observing the Cornell nest say that they still apply, for the most part. In 2020 with the pandemic, there was a proliferation of chipmunks. It is believed that the lack of cars killing chipmunks on the road helped with this along with just not having people around.

In April of 2018, Ferris Akel caught Arthur eating a skunk:

The same researchers have tested prey for its caloric/protein/fat/cholestrol components. Did you know that 3.6 ounces of raw pigeon has 294 calories compared to the same amount of squirrel which has only 120 calories?

From the prey delivery reports, it was established that nearly .7 more prey was delivered in 2020 compared to 2016, 2018 and 2019. That is an enormous difference. None of it was wasted, everything was eaten. The factor that changed – the pandemic. Arthur was able to freely hunt all over the campus. There were hardly any people or cars to contend with. The more food the healthier the chicks are. Even feather growth can indicate when a bird was hungry. Also, the longer the eyasses stay on the nest the better their survival rates in the wild.

Big Red laid three eggs for the 2021 season. The first was on 26 March followed by 29 March and 1 April. Red-tail hawks generally incubate their eggs for 28-35 days. Big Red’s incubation periods have ranged from 38 to 41 days. Still, by the 28th of April all eyes will be on that nest! The Ks are coming. Yippeee.

Why do I mention all of this? There is no doubt that Arthur is a devoted mate. When it is time to fix up the nest, work on the nest bowl, incubate the eggs, provide prey for Big Red and then for her and the eyasses, Arthur is right there! You know the other ones that I wish were like Arthur if you read my blog. I will leave it at that. Can you hear me growling at them?

You can watch the life streaming of this nest here:

In other news, the three chicks on the Achieva Osprey nest are waiting for food. Yesterday Diane, the female, delivered many fish and Tiny Tot finally got a good feed very late in the day. As I write this it is 3pm and no food has come to the nest. The mother is not calling for food and the male touched down for only a few minutes around noon. There is something wrong at this nest today. It is extremely hot there, over 30 near the nest. Hopefully if it is the heat food will come in. Tiny was well fed but he needs to eat less more often still. The fish also provides the hydration. I wish the wildlife laws allowed for the care in these situations.

Louis is still waiting for Aila to arrive at the Loch Arkaig nest and Iris continues to bring in twigs and branches for her nest at Hellsgate. One of the members of the FB group had a really good take on Iris. Instead of bemoaning the fact that she will not be able to raise chicks if Louis repeats his behaviour, we should be happy that she can enjoy her summer vacation without the burden of care for little ones and the toll it takes on one’s body. What a positive way of looking at this. Maybe I should be thanking you Louis for just being Louis. Iris has fledged at least 30-40 chicks or more – she does deserve a break to stay healthy.

You can watch Iris at the Hellsgate Osprey Nest cam:

And you can watch Louis wait for the arrival of Aila here:

Thank you so much for joining me today. I wish the news was better on the Achieva Nest. We can hope that it is only the heat. Still the little one needs to eat more often. Take care and keep watching the nests!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I take my screen shots: Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Cornell Bird Lab – Hellsgate Osprey and Red-Tail Hawk, Ferris Akel, and Achieva Credit Union.

Dire situations unfolding in Latvia and Florida today

There are two situations unfolding as I write this in Bird World. The first is at the White Tail Eagle Nest in Latvia. The nest is in Durbe Municipality. The White Tail Eagle couple have three eggs on the nest. The male disappeared on 27 March. It is believed that he might have been killed by a rival male wanting to claim the female and the nest but, all that is known for certain is that the male has not brought food to the nest for four days and is presumed dead. The female has not left incubating her eggs. She will have to leave at some point or she will starve to death. Will she accept the intruding male? Will he care for her? and the eggs? Or is there a rival couple trying to take over the entire nest?

As many have noticed, the female is getting weaker and the intruder is able to get closer to the nest. You can see it at the top left just flying in to land and the female on the nest calling to it. Soon she will be too weak to protect herself and the nest. This reminds me of the situation with Klints last year where the father also disappeared. It was later in the year and Klints was almost ready to fledge but his mother would not leave him and, as a result, she could only find small mice for his food and he starved. Unfortunately, it takes two adults working full time to raise a family on one of these nests. And it is also reminiscent of the NE Florida Nest when Juliet was injured and presumed killed by a female intruder when her eggs were about to hatch. Romeo tried to take care but could not do all the jobs of both the male and the female. The intruding female took the hatched chick when he had to go and hunt for food for it and him. Romeo left the nest despondent and never returned.

You can watch as this event unfolds here:

At the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida, the male brought in two very small fish yesterday and another small one this morning. The three chicks are at a critical point. The two biggest require more food daily to thrive. The little one requires food just to live. The next couple of days are critical. It is now believed that he has another family that he is also providing for. The female on that nest is Diane and she has not had much to eat. The third chick, the very small one, Tiny Tot, has not had food for 2.5 days now going on three. It is 28 degrees C and he is dehydrating. Storms are moving into the area. Sadly, this is a scenario that has played out many times in the Osprey world. I am thinking of Iris, the oldest known living female Osprey, at 28 whose mate, Louis, had another family and her nest suffered. Even with two parents, it is often difficult to maintain the level of food for four – the three little ones and the mother. The smallest in the Port Lincoln Osprey nest in Australia died at eighteen days of age from siblicide. He was called Tapps. It was not a case of the father having two nests that I am aware of but, rather, issues getting fish or the father simply not going out fishing.

If you feel so inclined, you can watch the Achieva Osprey nest here:

We need some good news to balance all this out.

So briefly, the female, Bella, at the NCTC Bald Eagle Nest noticed that one of her small chicks, E5 had ingested fishing line. She acted quickly and pulled it out!

E5 ingests the fishing line. 30 March 2021
Bella is removing the fishing line. 30 March 2021

This is a great Bald Eagle nest to watch. These are very attentive parents and there is lots of prey. Below is the link:

I would like to leave today on another positive note. Big Red and Arthur. What can I say? This couple is dynamite when it comes to raising Red Tail Hawks. Arthur has been trained well and rises to the occasion every time. When the eggs hatch and the Ks are with us, Arthur will have that nest lined with prey – like a fur lined bed.

Arthur is on incubation duty right now!

Here is the link to the streaming cam set up on the Cornell University campus to watch Big Red and Arthur. Once the eggs hatch there will be a live chat as well.

There is lots of news on Osprey arrivals in the UK and I will bring those to you this evening with an update on the two nests I am watching – the White Tailed Eagle nest in Latvia and the Osprey nest in St. Petersburg.

Thank you for joining me today. I wish all of the news was joyful but, sadly Mother Nature is not a warm fuzzy mother. She can be very cruel.

Thank you to the following streaming cams: Achieva Credit Union, Cornell Bird Labs, NCTC, and LDF tiesraide.

Nestorations

So many people began watching streaming bird cams last year as the pandemic set in around the world. It is hard to believe sometimes that a year or more has passed. It feels like a blink. The ‘time’ has simply melted between our fingers. The very first streaming cam that I watched was after my encounter with the Sharp-shinned Hawk in my garden in January 2018. It was a camera focused on the ledge of a building that belonged to City University in New York and it was a pair of Red-Tail Hawks. There was tragedy on that nest with the male dying and the female having to raise the three eyases alone. Then there was a new male and three eggs last year and the female was killed by rat poison. The nest was abandoned. Besides having my own cat, Duncan, killed by rodenticide it was that death that stirred a desire to end the use of designer anti-coagulating poisons. Shortly after someone suggested that I check out the streaming cam for the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. And so, I began just as the resident female hawk was laying her first egg. March 2020. If you read my post regularly, you will have heard about Big Red and Arthur. Still many of you might know be aware of this amazing couple and so, I will give you a very brief introduction.

The nest on the light stand at the Cornell University campus stadium is getting readied for the 2021 season of the Big Red and Arthur show. Big Red is the eighteen year old resident Red Tail Hawk matriarch. Arthur is her five year old mate. Big Red has been raising chicks in this territory for eons. She was hatched in Brooktondale, New York in 2003 and was banded that first fall. The distance between Ithaca and Brooktondale is 7.4 miles. Her mate, before Arthur, was Ezra. Ezra was born at Judd Falls just outside of Ithaca. It is known that Ezra and Big Red raising eyases from 2012, the year that the streaming camera was installed and 2016. He was killed defending Big Red in March 2017. It is believed that Ezra and Big Red had raised eyases for several seasons before the camera was installed. Precisely how many no one knows. Arthur was born in 2016 in an adjacent territory of a family of RTHs to that of Big Red. There is camera footage of him visiting an empty light stand nest in April 2017. By the fall, just as Arthur is getting his red tail, him and Big Red become a couple. They visit the light stand nest in November. They have successfully fledged all of their eyases for three years. This season will be their fourth.

It is approximately three to four weeks til the first egg will be laid and today there were five visits to the nest to make nestorations. Arthur started bringing twigs in at 9:13 and again at 9:34.

After bringing in some more greenery and twigs, Arthur checks out the nest bowl to see if he thinks Big Red will approve.

At 16:26, Big Red arrives for her inspection.

Arthur immediately joins her to get further instructions!

Big Red does a lot of shimmies and twists and seems to approve of the work that has been done on the nest cup.

Looking adoringly at Big Red, Arthur listens intently to all of her instructions.

She has Arthur try the nest bowl so he can understand what else needs to be done. ‘Arthurrrrrrrrrr….you have to get these rails higher or those kids will fall out and land on the cars!’

Big Red departs and leaves him to it.

Arthur came back twice – at 16:46 and again at 16:58 delivering large twigs.

Arthur continues to bring in sticks and break them with his feet and with his very sharp beak. No doubt he will be back at it Saturday morning. There will be no weekends off! Big Red will be laying her eggs and incubating them through rain, snow, sleet, and hail if this season is anything like last year. And while she is doing that, Arthur will be delivering prey. So much prey, in fact, that you will not believe there could be another chipmunk left in Ithaca! Arthur knows and Big Red will remember that there is nothing nicer than having a fur lined nest, too. Helps keep those babies warm in Upstate New York!

I highly recommend this nest to all of you. It is a fabulous way to see the behaviour and the life stages of the Red Tail Hawk. After fledging, there are several people on the ground that take photos and post videos, often live, of the juveniles. Last year we saw many teaching moments when Big Red and Arthur joined together, for example, for a family hunting day. These are two fabulous hawk parents that work together so well. They are always in tune with one another and their eyases thrive because of it.

Here is the link to that streaming cam:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/red-tailed-hawks/

Thanks so very much for joining me. It is hard to curtail my excitement. This RTH family has really enriched my life and my understanding of avian behaviour.

Thank you to Cornell Labs for their streaming camera of the Red Tail Hawks at Ithaca. That is where I took my scaps.

Wait just a minute…this is OUR nest!

There have certainly been a number of nest hijacks this season as well as a number of unwelcome intruders. The threats by the Great Horned Owls continue across the United States on well established Bald Eagle nests. Ravens have been attacking the Bald Eagle at the Channel Islands nest and, of course, we are more than aware of the danger the GHOW in Fort Myers is posing to the nest of M15 and Harriet. At the Pittsburg Hays Bald Eagle nest, on the night of 23-24 February, a GHOW launched an attack on the nest. It was the first ever recorded in that nest’s history. Daisy the Duck was not a threat to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles when she borrowed their nest to lay her eggs but the GHOW sure was to the Bald Eagles near Newton, Kansas who backed off and surrendered the nest to the GHOW. It is, of course, not just the ‘top of the food chain’ raptors that are being bothered, injured, or killed, it is also the smaller raptors such as the Red-Tailed Hawks.

For the past few days, Big Red and Arthur, the resident Red-tail Hawks who ‘own’ the territory within the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, have been renovating their nest on the light stand at the Cornell stadium. The pair have been together since the death of Big Red’s long term mate, Ezra, in 2017. Ezra was killed defending Big Red. It was shortly after Ezra’s death in March, that a very young Red Tail Hawk arrived on the nest. He didn’t even have his red tail! By the fall, when Arthur had shed his juvenile plumage, Big Red had decided that he was the one. She had put several potential mates through what could only be called an exercise to see if they were worthy of her and her territory and also to see if they would be good defenders and providers for her and the eyases. Arthur won the contest. The pair successfully raised eyases in 2018 (when Arthur was two), 2019, and in 2020, the Js. This year will be the Ks.

It is now less than a month til the first egg will be laid and the two are working hard to get what is left of the nest after the fledging of the Js. They began when there was still snow on the nest a few days ago.

‘Look at the mess those kids made when they kept trying to fledge from between the light boxes! Arthurrrrrrrr. There is a lot of work to do. You had better get busy.’

These two hawks are the funniest birds I have ever seen. Big Red is VERY loud and gives Arthur distinct instructions about everything. It is quite clear who wears the pantaloons in this nest. Year after year, they have sent observers into hysterical states of laughter, this eighteen year old RTH and her five year old mate.

The pair made several visits calculating the amount of nesting material that they are going to need to get the platform readied. Arthur brings in massive amounts of twigs building up the front and the sides of the nest over the following days as the snow melts.

And then, on the morning of 25 February at 6:56 a group of European Starlings come to check out the nest! Are they thinking that this might be a really good place for them to raise their young? Oh, I don’t think so.

Twenty-three minutes later, Arthur arrives at the nest with a piece of greenery. While raptors will use evergreen to keep away insects, laying a piece of pine in the nest bowl is a signal to all other birds that this nest is occupied.

After placing the pine needles in the nest bowl, Arthur looks around. ‘Where are they!? I hope they are watching!’.

Arthur decides to work on the nest bowl rubbing his chest against the twigs and nesting material to make an indent for Big Red’s eggs.

And before he leaves he takes a very good look around. Arthur knows that Big Red might like a nice squirrel for dinner but she would also love to eat any European Starling that tries to mess with HER nest.

I want to leave you with a smile on your face. It’s the end of February and we can all use one.

Big Red and Arthur do many things to teach their eyases. Sometimes it is about nest building and at other times it is imprinting the different prey items in their mind so they know what they should and should not eat in the future. And, sometimes, Arthur plays tricks. Have a laugh. The video is three minutes long:

Aren’t those little eyases just the cutest?!

Thanks for checking in with me and the birds. Updates tomorrow on the progress of the new mom at the KNF nest and some recent happenings in the Bald Eagle nest – first eggs happening everywhere including Canada. It is going to be busy in a month!

Thank you to the Cornell Ornithology Lab for its streaming cam on the nest of Big Red and Arthur.