Ups and Downs in Bird World

The Scottish Osprey nests were almost blown off their platforms on Sunday. Laddie (LM12) had no more brought a fish to the nest for NC0 than the wind began to stir. You can see the choppy waves beginning on the Loch of the Lowes. Thank goodness there were no eggs in the nest! At the beginning of the migration season, Laddie arrived early in hopes that NC0 would return to his nest and be his mate. He worked daily making sure that everything was perfect for her arrival.

In the image below, NC0 has accepted Laddie’s gift of a fish. In the background you might not be able to tell the branches are blowing but you can begin to see that the water is getting choppy. Look at their fine nest and hold that image in your mind.

Now look at the image below. This is the same nest that Laddie and NC0 were standing on. There are huge waves on the loch. The trees are twisting and the winds simply picked up the part of the nest facing away from the loch and dumped it over the egg cup.

The running joke is that the situation is so dire it would make an Osprey sea sick.

Blue NC0 stands on the nest the morning after the winds, Monday 5 April. Laddie must have been disappointed after all his hard work. They are so close to needing the nest for NC0 to lay her eggs.

NC0 got busy cleaning up undaunted by the task!

Wow. NC0 worked hard and got everything back in order. And Laddie who was MIA most of the rebuilding rewarded her with a nice fish after!

Louis is expected on the Loch Arkaig Nest on 5 April to be followed by his mate, Aila. The snow and blowing winds could cause a delayed return. We will keep an eye out! Some snow remains on the nest.

In contrast Mrs G and Aran at the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Nest in Wales had a partially sunny day with no strong winds. And it wasn’t pitching down rain.

The new parent, Harry, on the Minnesota DNR Nest, stared at his eaglets for quite a long time today. Was he admiring them? was he wondering why they weren’t moving? did he think they were dead? Well, they weren’t dead. Just food comas!

The drama at the Durbes White Tailed Eagle Nest in Latvia continues. Milda and her mate, Raimis, had been together for six years when Raimis disappeared on 27 March. It is not known if he is severely injured and cannot return or if he is dead. It is a long time for him to be away from the nest. Milda is incubating three eggs and has been protecting it from a male intruder. She has gone without food to keep her precious eggs warm. The touching story of this female eagle protecting her eggs and not leaving the nest to hunt so she can eat has captured the attention of people in Latvia and around the world. She was the feature of a recent Latvian Panorama television programme. 4 April marks what would be her eighth day without food. Today, however, Milda left with the male intruder. It is not known but is assumed that she ate while she was away from the nest. She returned with a large crop. The unringed male could form a bond with Milda and feed her while she incubates her eggs. As we have learned from the nest of Spilve, a Golden Eagle, a single parent cannot forage, incubate, feed, and protect little ones alone. The next few days should clarify the situation at the nest in Kurzeme, Durbe County, in western Latvia. This is a short video of Milda flying in with the male intruder who has been named Mr. X.

Milda had her own bad weather with high winds and snow with clearing up in the late afternoon. Milda left the nest for a few minutes when the snow cleared. There is some indication that there is some fighting going on on the ground. Is it dogs? or is it Milda’s new potential mate and another male?

Some of you might be wondering what is happening at some of the other Bald Eagle nests. It is hard to keep up this time of year with Ospreys landing in the UK, eggs hatching all over the US, eggs being laid, birds coming and going and migration still on going in Manitoba. I will try and bring news of a few nests over the next few days that I have been following just to keep you up to speed.

One of those nests is The Trio over near Fulton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. There was a streaming cam on their old nest but the high winds last year destroyed it and they rebuilt. All images are from birders on the ground with their cameras. One of those is Dennis Becht. He caught this image today. If you squint you will see the head of a wee eaglet sticking up between the adults.

Solly, the Port Lincoln female Osprey, is 198 days old today. She spent Easter Sunday at Eba Anchorage and today she is back at her favourite haunts in Streaky Bay. It is wonderful to ‘see’ the satellite tracking on Solly and to know that she is well. Birders on the ground saw her with a salmon on Easter Sunday eating on a post. How grand.

Tiny Tot’s crop has gone up and then down and back up again. He had two feedings today at the Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. Jack brought in a very large fish yesterday that came and went 3 times and today, a large fish arrived at 8:02. The two older ate and Tiny Tot had a private feeding from around 8:36-9:07. He was eating again around 10:27 with the others. The regular delivery of large fish and the energy that Tiny has derived from eating plus his being clever are helping this little one to start growing and get its confidence back. Tiny hangs back and let the others eat – it protects his head and neck from bonking. But he also keeps a sharp eye on what is going on and when he senses it is nearly his time to eat, he moves up carefully without causing attention. He is extremely clever and we are all hoping that the good feedings continue. His growth is a little slowed because of so many days without food. No doubt the very large fish that have come in are working to his advantage. There is always food left for him and Diane. Gold stars for Jack.

Tiny had dropped his crop (moving food from the holding area to the stomach) this morning. There had been some concern by chatters yesterday that he might not be able to do this after he was so dehydrated from not eating for three days but, luckily that was not the case. He ate for approximately 43 minutes and then ate again. Tiny is full! And the nest is peaceful.

I wonder if Jack has found a new place to fish? The fish brought in the last two days have been much larger than some of the deliveries a few days ago.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I don’t know about the rest of you but if Tiny has a full crop in the morning my day is much brighter! Stay safe. Wish for good weather for all the birds and large fish on the Achieva Osprey nest!

Thank you to all the streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, The LTV Juras erglis Durbe, the MN DNR, the FB Page and Dennis Becht for the Trio, The Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife and Friends of Loch of the Lowes, Port Lincoln Osprey FB page, and Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn.

Birds bring us so much joy

I want to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Welcome’ to all of you. I do not know how you found this site but I am very grateful that you did. You and I share a passion for birds. We are curious about their lives. People from around the world have joined with you and me to learn about the challenges these fascinating creatures face. We have experienced their triumphs and cried at their loss. Collectively we wept when the Ravens made off with Daisy the Duck’s eggs. Together we worried whether or not Harriet and M15 would accept their little eaglets once they were returned from the wildlife rehabilitation centre. And today we marvel at how these magnificent creatures manage when they are severely injured like our Warrior Eagle in the care of A Place Called Hope tonight. Each of us wonders how we can make their lives a little easier because as each of us knows – the birds bring so much joy into our lives.

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The Polar Vortex is causing extreme weather in Canada and the United States. Europe is also experiencing an extremely cold Arctic air mass that is causing temperatures to plunge. Seattle has had more snow today than they have had in fifty years. In Norman Oklahoma where I grew up, they have more snow than I have in Canada. It is hot and hotter in Florida. These extremes are unprecedented and there will be another system rolling through on Wednesday. That is what the meteorologist on CNN was saying a few minutes ago. Wonder what our birds would say if we could communicate with them?

I am not someone who sits and normally watches the weather as closely as I have for the past several days or a week. Sometimes the days just melt together and you look up and seriously, a week or more has passed as quickly as if you snapped your fingers. So why do I care? Because these severe weather challenges impact every aspect of our feathered friends lives.

This is what it looked like yesterday on the Mississippi River. The image is grainy but if you look carefully, you will see an elongated dark blob with a white head – those are your adult Bald Eagles! And this is near the nest of the Trio up near Fulton, Illinois. The eagles are there not just because of the magnificent old trees but also because there are fish in that river.

Speaking of The Trio, you have only been able to see them from a distance since their tree was destroyed during the heavy winds last year. They have been busy fitting up another one for this breeding season. In celebration of Valentine’s Day someone posted an image of the Trio from last May. Aren’t they just a gorgeous threesome? Starr and her two Valors. They aren’t all lined up proper but you can see how much larger Starr is compared to the two males. Just a beautiful family working it out so that their eaglets grow healthy and thrive.

One of the things I learned last year observing a Red Tail Hawk nest is that the more prey that is brought into the nest the better the offspring do. They grow bigger and healthier. Their feathers are stronger. Researchers have been comparing the amount and type of prey on that RTH nest on the Cornell Campus since 2012. Last spring with the pandemic and a four year old male that is a psychopathic hunter, Arthur brought in almost twice the amount of prey from any other previous year. It is assumed that the presence of humans on the campus impacts the chipmunk population negatively. (People run over them with their cars or scare them away.) These cold temperatures will also impact the intake of food negatively right now. It will add stressors to the birds (and all other animals as well as humans). The advantage for the Trio is that they have an additional eagle to hunt or protect the nest – both much needed.

And that is going to be very helpful now. What you are seeing is an early morning exchange. Yes, Starr laid an egg in that nest for the Valors on Valentine’s Day! How special is that. And, apparently, she laid her first egg of the 2020 season on Valentine’s Day, too.

I don’t know if you have ever thought about it but the ‘normal’ (what is normal anymore????) laying eggs and hatch is normally linked to the onset of spring when all the babies hatch. The prey is waking up from their winter hibernation and there is lots of food. The problem right now is first the bitterly cold winds, the snow that is gathering on nests, and the availability of food.

As you can see in the image below the snowing is getting deeper on that Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City. And as you know, that nest is currently being occupied by a Great Horned Owl who is incubating eggs. She has been on the nest a little over a week. At 3pm today, it was snowing and as you can see it was 0 degrees F. I just checked the temperature there and it is now -7. These are simply temperatures that are unknown. No one is prepared for them. The mice and squirrels that these owls eat hunker down just like everyone else trying to stay warm.

When I posted the picture above it was snowing and 0. It is currently -9 and the snow is actually getting deeper on this nest. These poor animals are not used to this kind of weather but I am told that is what feathers are for. Those eggs are comfy and toasty. That is the benefit of being in the centre of that great big eagle nest. It will hold in some of the heat. I wonder if the owls knew this big storm was coming when they decided to occupy this eagle nest? Owls are smart!

Three other updates for you this morning. Despite the snow on the ground, Big Red, my most favourite Red Tail Hawk in the world is 18 years old this spring. She was banded at Brooktondale, New York, in 2003. She has been at her nest on the light tower on the Cornell Campus in Ithaca, New York this morning bringing in twigs to do some nestorations. You will hear a lot about her and Arthur. I adore this family.

Big Red has some of the most beautiful rich red plumage. You can see her beautiful red tail that indicates she is an adult Red Tail Hawk. The juveniles do not get these until after their first moult.

Big Red lost her long time mate, Ezra, in March of 2017. He was killed protecting her from intruders. She did not raise any eyases that year. But she met Arthur in April of 2017. Apparently Big Red had a lot of suitors. She is a fantastic mother and has an amazing territory. Instead of selecting an older male, she picked Arthur. Everyone thought that the bird was crazy! Arthur was born in 2016. But, by the fall when he had his beautiful red tail they were a couple. He won her over with his flying, hunting, and protecting abilities. Arthur is simply one amazing hunter. A hawk with a jetpack on his wings. And he is one of the best providers I have seen in the bird world. Big Red trained him right.

Have some fun watching this video. Each year the chicks are given a letter of the alphabet for their name. Last year was J. So there were three of them: J1, J2, and J3. They all fledged. J1, the oldest and largest and for sure a female who loved to play with her twigs and work on the nest was reluctant to fledge. She left right after her little buddy J3. Oh, the three of them stayed together and played with pinecones and learned how to hunt. Sadly, J1 was killed when she flew into a building window on the Cornell Campus. I am still not sure that I am over that. It was so avoidable. Because of that you will hear me often talk about window strike and what big businesses and you can do to help stop the birds from flying into your windows.

This year we will welcome the Ks. Eggs normally laid in March with hatch around the end of April.

The Bald Eagle fighting for its life because of high levels of lead and two old injuries – the Warrior Eagle – is eating well this morning. A friend asked if they will be able to return him to the wild. If he survives, that is a good question. I am sure he will be observed closely to see how he can eat with his injured beak. It is an old injury but that may, in part, have lead to an inability to hunt well enough to thrive. Here he is this morning. He is finishing up his breakfast. He is doing so well. Keep sending your good wishes his way. It’s working!

Thank you for joining me today. It is cold in Canada but the sun is out and it is bringing me joy just as the good news on our birds is today. Everyone of our birds is OK. They are monitoring little E24s eyes to make sure he gets to the vet if needed. — And it is definitely a good day when they are all fine or fine and improving.

Stay warm and well. See you tomorrow.

Thanks to A Place for Hope for their images of the Warrior Eagle, to the Cornell Lab’s streaming Red Hawk camera for the images and video of Big Red and Arthur’s highlights of last year. Derek the Farmer provides the streaming camera for the owl in the eagle’s nest and for those individuals who posted the updates on the Trio, thank you.