From calm to the Unkindness of the Unkindness.

There has been, so far, not a speck of drama on Daisy’s nest on a cool, wet Sydney Saturday. From the last posting, you will know that Daisy’s vision allowed her to get off the eggs and have a week break in the middle of the night, from 2:45-3:30.

She anticipated the sea eagles might arrive for dawn but, no one came. Maybe it is too wet and soggy for them to go into the forest to try and catch the stranger using their nest? Or maybe it is Saturday and Dad is taking a day off. That would be splendid.

When I asked my friends who normally watch the sea eagles using this nest if they thought that Daisy would still be on this nest incubating her eggs for the 18th day, everyone said no way. They believed that Daisy would be evicted early on. If you have kept up, you will know that the Sea Eagles behaviour has been one of confusion and, increasingly, perplexity. But they don’t appear hostile. I worry more about the Ravens who would love to eat those eggs that Daisy keeps rolling or, better still, grab a duckling right at hatch. The Ravens have been around today but left just as quickly as they came and made a ruckus.

It was so quiet in fact that Daisy took a short break from 9:11:27 to 10:03:59. Just as she has done over the last few days, she cautiously approached her nest while doing some preening.

And it would seem that she is rolling her eggs much more today than she has previously. This morning alone, between the first roll at 7:22 and the last one at 11:34, she did one more big roll after she returned to the nest at 10:03. Does the frequency of rolling the eggs increase as hatch approaches? or does Daisy roll the eggs more often so none of them will get soaked with the rain?

Wild duck eggs are said to have a thicker membrane than domestic birds. One of the reasons that care is needed is so the pores in the eggs do not get clogged. Apparently sitting in a lot of water can do that. If in water for too long, the pores that help regulate the air can be blocked. It is interesting, however, that ducks naturally get wet. In fact, people that raise ducks and artificially hatch their eggs, note that duck eggs require at least 55% humidity. Some actually spray the eggs in their incubators. So it would seem that Daisy does that when she returns from dabbling. The moisture remaining on her feathers coats the eggs. Well done, Mother Nature. You think of everything. Certainly the humidity in the forest is 55% or higher. Today it is 100% again! Not a surprise. Still showers and it is cool, around 21.6.

Daisy is taking more frequent shorter breaks. She is off again at 12:32. She tries very hard to completely cover up her eggs but the down is wet. The little duck tried to pull everything over so that nothing would see her precious eggs.

About thirty minutes after Daisy left to go and eat, the Unkindness showed up at the nest. The first raven looked around and then went over to the nest of eggs. One egg was removed.

That egg was broken and eaten. It was a viable egg with the growing form of a duckling that could be seen as the raven consummed it. We now know that Daisy was sitting on a nest with at least one duckling that would have hatched had this tragedy not happened.

More Ravens came.

Eggs were carried away til all of the eggs were gone.

Daisy returned to the nest. She stopped and ate the egg shell. Remember egg shells give the birds their calcium and Daisy would have depleted much of hers forming the eggs and brooding.

Daisy went to the nest and for the past hour she has been looking for her eggs. She is making the nest larger and larger as she tries to find them.

Daisy has been looking for her eggs for more than an hour and a half since she returned to the nest. While other birds, such as eagles, have mates to protect the nest, Daisy had to do this all alone.

I feel a huge sadness for this little duck who made her nest in the big sea eagle’s nest. I have always thought that she might have already lost a clutch of eggs with a nest on the ground so that was why she chose this unusual spot in the forest.

There is some information about Pacific Black Ducks that says the male helps protect the nest while the female is away. The male was only seen on this nest back in December when it was with Daisy on the first visit. Perhaps he has died. The life expectancy of Pacific Black Ducks is very short, two years.

Daisy remains on the nest. She continues to look for her eggs and to dig the nest a little deeper and wider in her search. She continues to talk to the missing eggs in the same way she talked to them when she was rolling them around today.

It is a sad ending for a little Pacific Black Duck who confused the sea eagles and defied the odds of lasting a single day. Daisy has been on the nest now for nearly a month and in about 8 days her ducklings would have hatched had all gone well.

I do not know how long Daisy will stay on the nest looking for her eggs or how she will process her grief. But I know that we all are glad she is alive and that she will live to lay more eggs. She has proven what a good little mom she is!

Thank you to all of you who believed in Daisy. Thousands of people from all around the world joined together to wish this little duck well. She was very brave and outsmarted the sea eagles many times.

Daisy, we wish you good health and many ducklings in the future! Your presence has enriched all of our lives. We just hoped the ending of this story would have been different.

Daisy, happily brooding her nest of seven eggs.

Catching up with Miss Daisy

You will remember from my earlier posting today that our favourite little duck, Daisy, got home to her nest at 19:03. A couple of hours later and not having any evening contact with the mated pair of White Bellied Sea Eagles, Daisy was relaxing. And then BooBook Owl came and scared the wits out of her. She did not leave her nest but she got in defensive posture ready to protect her nest. At first Boo flew low right over Daisy on the nest. It is 20:51:40.

In the image below, Boo is nothing more than a blur as she flies directly over the centre of the big sea eagle nest. She is so close that she almost touches Daisy when she does the fly through.

The blur of BooBook Owl.

Daisy immediately gets into defensive posture. Boo circles the nest flying around the branches, going round and round. It keeps Daisy attentive and moving with the small owl. She always wants to know where the owl is. At 21:06:35 Boo lands on one of the small branches up near the top right corner of the image below. You can see the legs on the branch but not clearly. Look carefully. The left leg appears lighter than the right.

Defensive posture.
Boo moves closer down the branch to have a good look at Daisy.

BooBook Owl finally decides to sit closer to Daisy. Now you can see the eyes, the beak and the left leg along with the little owl’s body.

Boo is a nuisance to our Daisy, right now. She is also curious about this little duck in the sea eagle nest. Boo is used to bumping into the eagles in the night often injuring Lady’s eye. Boo is especially aggressive when she has her own nest of babies, November-December, and would love it if she could harass the sea eagles enough to get them to leave the forest. Fat chance on that happening!

BooBook Owl courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Boobook is the smallest owl in Australia. Owls are nocturnal so that is why Boo only pesters Daisy after dark. Boo will hunt all kinds of insects and very small mammals such as mice, small bats, and moths. Boo is about 27-36 cm tall or 10-14.5 inches, and weighs only 140-360 grams or 5 ounces to 12.6 ounces. The wings span ranges from 188-261 mm, or 7-10 inches. In comparison, remember that the White-Bellied sea eagle is the largest bird in Australia with a wing span of 2-2.3 metres, standing 80-90 cm tall and weighing 2.5 to 4 kg. Pacific Black Ducks are approximately 54-61 cm or 21 to 24 inches in length and they weigh 1025-1114 grams or 2.25 to 2.4 pounds. Daisy is bigger than Boo but the most important thing for her right now are her precious eggs and their protection. Boo could make a terrible mess and while the little owl does eat insects and bats along with mice, it might also be interested in Daisy’s eggs.

The sea eagles did not show up this morning. They were at Goat Island and it was raining and windy. Daisy’s morning was, as posted earlier, rather uneventful til she starting listening and raising her neck listening to the vocalizations from the other birds in the forest.

At 9:29 the ravens arrive. You cannot see them but Daisy heard them coming and knows they are about on the nest tree. The little duck immediately goes into a defensive posture. Notice, in the image below, how she has fanned out her tail and she has her feathers puffed up. This makes her look larger.

The Unkindness stay for approximately twenty minutes. Daisy moved as they did, just like she did when Boo was on the nest tree. She always kept her head tucked, her tail fanned, and her other feathers puffed.

As the day wore on, there were periodic showers on the nest. Daisy did some housekeeping, moving leaves closer to the nest in case she needed them for cover.

By noon, Daisy was relaxed and ready to take a wee bit of a rest. She tucks her bill in under her wing for warmth. Instead of being 40 degrees C like it was two days ago, today it is only in the low 20s with showers. What a change in temperature!

Daisy begins sweeping the leaves toward the nest and tucking the now dry down inside. She is preparing to go foraging. It is 13:58:14. This is quite a bit earlier than the last several days.

Daisy has camouflaged her nest well. In with the fluffy down are some leaves and twigs.

Leaves and twigs help hide the nest.

It is now 16:04 and Daisy has not returned to the nest. She often returns around 19:00 or 20:00 right before dusk but when she has left this early she has come back around 16:45. One day Dad had arrived and she had to abort her landing on the nest to avoid him seeing her. I wonder when she will come home today?

Thank you so much for joining Daisy and her adventures in the big sea eagles nest!

Thank you to Sea Eagle cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Centre for providing the cameras where I did my screen captures.