Sea Eagles arrive and almost catch Daisy!

Before I start with today’s update on Daisy, our beautiful little duck living in the forest, I want to thank Daisy’s friends from Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Canada, Australia, the US, and China for checking on her. The whole world cares about a little duck trying to brood her eggs in a huge nest that belongs to the Australia’s largest sea eagle. We are on day 15 of brooding. I am beginning to believe that some of the seven eggs will turn into ducklings leaping to the forest floor. Everyone please send Daisy positive energy. She has had to deal with the sea eagles and the ravens, twice each, in twenty-four hours and now it is 40 degrees C with 98% humidity. In other words, it might feel like a sauna.

Daisy in the hot noon time sun filtering through the tree.

Daisy, you are so beautiful!

Every once in awhile, Daisy tucks in the down and uses her bill like a broom to shift the leaves and plant material closer to the nest so that she can use them to conceal her eggs when she goes foraging.

Daisy stretches her neck to collect more leaves.
Daisy uses her bill to pull the leaves over close to the nest.

Daisy gets every more busy moving leaves. She even gets up off the eggs to bring in some old down and more leaves. Then she begins to cover up her nest so that she can depart for a break.

Daisy begins to conceal the eggs.
Daisy works to make it look like their is no nest.

Daisy was slow and methodical in getting many more leaves up toward the nest cup. Now she is beginning to take some of the down and folding it over.

There were no alarming sounds in the forest and Daisy made a slow walk over to the left hand side of the big nest to fly off. Two things are interesting to me. If she is caught on the eggs by the WBSE who are literally landing on the big nest, she can fly off from her nest through the twigs on the left. Second, today Daisy spent a lot of time getting leaves over. Look how many there are! But she left them scattered and she did not cover the eggs completely with down (or that is how it appears from this angle). I wonder if this is because of the heat – the 40 degrees C scorching heat on the nest?

After having a couple of frights from the sea eagles, Daisy has been very smart to return to her nest about ten to fifteen minutes before sunset. Tonight, she arrives on the big sea eagle nest at 19:55:48. She does not immediately head to where her egg cup is concealed. She stops and listens.

Listening.

Daisy raises her neck up as far as it will go to listen. She has returned a little before sunset and the sea eagles could still come and check on the nest to see if anyone is there.

No alarming sounds so Daisy settles down to incubate her eggs. It is a good time of day to really see her beautiful plumage and the distinctive markings on her head. Did you know that she has about 12,000 feathers?

It is now Day 16 of Daisy’s incubation, 27 January 2020 in Sydney, Australia. This means that there remains 10-14 days til hatch!

Daisy did very well in the 40 degree C heat. It is already 22.8 degrees C on the nest at 4:45. But, there could be a little rain today in the forest where Daisy’s nest is. It will certainly be cooler. The weather report says it should not get hotter than 26. That, of course, means that the sea eagles might want to check on their nest since it is cooler! Let’s hope they just stay at Goat Island. There will be gusts up to 29 kph which means the old Ironbark Tree will really be creaking and swaying.

All is well at 5:15:00

At 5:37:07 Daisy hears someone coming! She puts her head down and then realizes she has to get off the big nest. There is no time to cover the eggs!

Daisy on alert.

It is Lady! And she has seen Daisy. You cannot see her in the picture below but she just got off the nest the second the WBSE landed.

Lady lands.

This is the first time that Lady has seen that there is a real live bird sitting on his nest. This is the first time that one of the sea eagles has swooped in fast enough to catch a glimpse of Daisy as she flies out. Lady is not happy! Someone is trying to take over her nest she thinks. She is puffing out her chest.

Lady looking around for Daisy.

The most interesting thing to me is that the Sea Eagles have not disturbed the eggs as of late. Remember, before she finished laying all her eggs, Dad removed one and ate it. He did not like the taste or he would have eaten all the eggs. And both him and Lady have been curious but not destructive to Daisy’s nest.

Lady stands guard on the parent branch.

Instead of destroying Daisy’s nest, Lady flies to the parent tree. She can hear Daisy quacking in the distance.

Lady watching.

At 6:00:28 Lady is joined by Dad. Since Daisy began laying her eggs, I have never worried about Dad, the WBSE. For some reason, he was very curious when he ate the first egg but he is ‘hard wired’ not to step on eggs in his nest because they might be his eaglets! Lady knows better. And she is fierce and would not want another female bird using her nest. It is hers.

In the image below, Lady is getting ready to jump off the parent branch and join Dad on the main nest.

Lady preparing to return to the nest area.
Lady is not happy.

Dad, sea eagle, just doesn’t seem to care as much as Lady. She is starting to look at that nest with eggs again.

What’s in this nest?

Dad goes up on the parent branch to keep watch. Daisy is quacking and flying around the forest. Daisy knows that this is the last half of her brooding and the eggs cannot get cold! Daisy must be afraid that the big sea eagles will tear up her nest.

In fact, Lady tries to do just that. She pulls out down and tries to grab an egg with her beak but the egg is too big. Relief for Daisy. For some reason, Lady does not try to destroy the eggs which she could do with her talons. But she starts to pull apart the down. She doesn’t like it. It feels funny and sticks to her beak. And she stops.

Lady does not like down in her beak.

Lady jumps up to the other parent branch and watches out for Daisy in the forest as she flies about. And then, she gives up. First Lady flies out of the forest and then Dad. They are both gone by 6:15:15. This terrifying event for Daisy has unfolded over a period of fifty-two minutes!

In the image below you can see the huge sea eagle flying into the forest from the nest tree. In a few minutes, Dad will join lady down on the Parramatta River for breakfast.

Wonder if Daisy will be scared and stay away for five or six hours? She must be quite shaken.

Lady flies into the forest.

Remember that Daisy didn’t have time to cover her eggs for protection. Well, when Lady was trying to demolish the nest, she tossed the down about covering up the eggs. How lucky for Daisy. Now the Ravens will not see them.

The sea eagles left the nest covered.

But wait! I cannot believe it. This is one brave little duck. I think she needs a big round of applause. Daisy only waits in the forest for twelve minutes. The sea eagles leave at 6:15 and she gets back on her eggs at 6:37. Tears of joy are pouring down my cheeks. The eggs will not get cold!

Daisy, you are the bravest little bird I have ever seen to stand up to the big sea eagles.

No doubt Daisy will be on her guard today. The sea eagles are not far away. Instead of being at Goat Island today, they will stay at their roost on the Parramatta River since it is cool.

Oh, my. I hope this is the last excitement Daisy has until sunset. That is when the sea eagles might return to check on their nest. Sometimes, you will remember that they come earlier in the afternoon. Each time Daisy has been away foraging.

Daisy returns to her nest.
Daisy listens.

Daisy has some nestorations to do but her eggs are safe and so is she. That is the important thing. Daisy looks so happy to be back on her nest. She has in a few minutes gathered up some of the down. Thank goodness Lady just really doesn’t like it. She didn’t make a big mess. Daisy can easily get her cozy nest repaired!

I will bring you an update tonight, in about nine hours. Thank you for checking in on Daisy, perhaps the bravest little duck in Sydney, Australia.

Thank you to the Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discover Centre for providing the camera for the scaps.


White Bellied Sea Eaglet 26

Has anyone’s life not been changed by something happening in 2020? Have you had to work at home? did you have a friend or a family member get Sars-COVID 19 and die? Did your business have to close? Did you wonder how you would pay your rent or mortgage? Did you long just to visit with family or friends? Or take that vacation you had been planning for years only to have it cancelled? It clearly has not been an easy year for everyone.

My blog is normally about contemporary Canadian ceramics but this year has been different. In between writing book chapters on ceramics and the environment, I have, like millions of others, taken the time to watch live bird cams. I became very attached to Big Red and Arthur, the Red-Tail Hawks whose territory includes the Cornell University campus in Ithaca. Like so many others, I would wake up in the middle of the night and check on Big Red. Often she was encased in ice (yes, that is true) incubating her eggs or protecting her eyases. The Js fledged about six weeks before the time that the White-Bellied Sea Eagles were hatching in their nest. That nest is in an old Ironwood and Turpentine forest near the Sydney Olympic Park. Two eggs with both hatching. This years numbers are 25 and 26.

WBSE 26 was inspirational. Sometime, shortly after hatching, her leg was broken.  When 26 would cheep when the parents would leave the nest, 25 would comfort 26. This is something very special. Normally sea eaglets are very competitive because that is their instinct, to survive. Even when they were getting ready to be fed, 25 would help 26. What an amazing sibling 25 was.

For more than a month, 26 scooted on its ankles always getting to the prey first but losing it because she could not hold on tight. It didn’t matter. Both thrived under the good care of Lady and Dad.

In the image above, 26 is on the left and 25 is on the right. If they were sleeping in the nest, you could hardly tell them apart. 25 had a little more colour, a little more rust or peach around its head. It was only when they stood up or when 25 was jumping up and down and walking easily that you knew which was which.

26 worked hard to do all the things that her older sibling could do and in turn, she provided inspiration for the elderly and physically challenged on the chat line.  She practiced her wingersizing. She climbed higher and higher on the branches til she got as high as where her parents roosted at night. She figured out how to feed herself and hold on to the prey. Everyone hoped that she would be able to hunt and live like a normal sea eagle in the wild. She had worked so hard to attain every milestone.

26 fledged but returned to the nest after six days.  She rested and the parents fed her.  On the fifth day, she fledged again.  She was harassed by a bunch of currawongs and to help fend them off, a Magpie joined 26.  This is not normal, like everything else in 2020. Normally the Magpies and the eaglets are sworn enemies.

Later that day the currawongs chased 26 out of the forest.  A day later she was discovered on the 22nd floor of a high-rise apartment building a mile away from the nest in the Sydney Olympic Park.  What a surprise that must have been for the owners finding a nearly 75 cm high eaglet with a wingspan of 2.5 metres on your balcony before you have even had breakfast? 26 could not, however, fly out of the balcony because it was partially covered and there was lots of furniture. The owner called the wild life rescue and 26 was taken into care, first by WIRES who provides care and vet services. Later 26 was taken to the team at the Taronga Zoo.

All of her on line fan club hoped that 26 would go through rehabilitation and become an educational bird. She had, however, a broken right leg that had not healed properly. She could not put any weight on it and because of that the left leg had suffered major cuts and lesions for overcompensating. Even the right leg was injured. The veterinary team determined after observing and feeding 26 for several days that she could not survive in the wild if they amputated her leg. They were also concerned about the high level of pain she was experiencing. To try surgery to mend the broken leg meant even more pain and no guarantee of success. However, it was determined that she was in such pain that the kind thing to do would be to euthanize her.  This turned out to be a bit of a controversial decision because of the physically challenged/people with disabilities who saw themselves in her struggle. It will be awhile before all of the tears dry up. Every day someone tells me how much 26 meant to them. Many wrote poems and tributes and I am including the one that I wrote for 26. I hope that it might also be inspiring to you. She was special. No one can quite put their finger on the ‘why’ of it all but there is no doubt in my mind that 26 gave hundreds of people a great gift and that gift was her time with us.

My greatest glory is not my falling but in rising up when I did.

Many believed I would never stand but, I did.

Many believed I would never branch.

Many believed I would never stand to sleep.

Many believed I would never self-feed.

But, I did all of those things.

Many believed I would never fly.

But I flew, high and fast, with strong wind in my wings.

Believe in yourself as I believed in me.

Soar above everyone’s expectations.

Don’t count how many days you soar but how well and high.

Never give up.  I didn’t.

Images Courtesy of Sea-EagleCAM@BirdLife Australia Discovery Centre, Sydney Olympic