A hurricane, two nests, and falcons

Elsa was a category 1 hurricane when she bore down on the Southwest Florida coast last evening. The two chicks on the Sarasota Bay Osprey Nest had their talons anchored, riding out the gusts and the rain. This was the pair of them at 23:08 Tuesday, 6 July.

Whew! No chicks blown off the nest just a good soaking.

As the gusts calmed some in Sarasota, they were picking up at the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. It is nearly midnight. What is surprising are the number of cars on the streets and even people walking. The nest perch weaves back and forth. Oh, I am ever so glad that Tiny Tot is not on this nest! Indeed, I can see why the birds might choose to migrate north for the summer to get away from hurricane season.

All of this made all of the aunties and uncles relatively nervous. We can’t do anything but watch which is precisely the problem! And none of us knows what kind of damage the storm will do.

Instead of drinking coffee and eating way too much chocolate, I turned my mind to Peregrine Falcons.

“Peregrine Falcon” by Bill Gracey 26 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Peregrine Falcons. The fastest animal on the planet. Speeds up to 390 kph or 243 mph. They are flying killing machines attacking their prey in the air instead of on land. They are magnificent creatures who appear in art, literature, culture, and sport.

“Peregrine Falcon” by DaveInman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Falcons appear on the shoulders of the terracotta figures, the haniwa, on the Kofun (mound tombs) in Japan from 300-555 CE. These were royal tombs. The haniwa were not placed on the inside of the tomb but, rather, on the top of the mound as if in a ceremonial parade. They served many functions. One of those was utilitarian – they kept the soil from eroding as they would have their bottom portion pushed into the the ground.

Using Google Earth, satellite images show you the distinctive ‘keyhole’ design of these ancient burial sites. Forests now cover the sites but originally, they would have been cleared. These hollow clay figures covered the surface. Were they there to protect the deceased? did they tell about the status of their life on earth? No written records exist but we know that over time simple clay cylinders developed into very elaborate human and animal shapes like the falconer, above.

Falconry was known to be practised by the aristocracy in Japan. Taka is the Japanese word for falcon. Taka means strength and bravery. It is no wonder that the art of falconry, takagari, was adopted by the warrior class, the samurai.

The military class ruled Japan during the Edo era. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, 1603-1858, local war lords (daimyo) and the Shogun hired painters to depict the falcons on crests, screens, textiles such as boy’s kimono, in hangings as well as in single sheets or albums.

The image below is one of many woodblock prints depicting falcons. This one is Falcons with nestlings in a pine tree at sunrise by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Falconry is still practiced in Japan today. Here is a lovely short video about a woman who desired to take up the sport.

As it happens, I have just finished reading Queen of the Sky. That is probably why falcons are on my mind. In fact, this beautiful little book is sitting next to me. The illustrations are gorgeous.

What a marvellous little book written and illustrated by Jackie Morris. It is the story of Ffion Rees’s rescue of a Peregrine Falcon off the coast of Ramsay Island. It might be easy for someone to think, on the surface, that it is a condensed version of H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. If so, they would be missing the book’s heart. It is about love. “Come and see what is in my kitchen” Ffion urges Jackie. It is a story that weaves the lives of the women and the bird – love, loss, and friendship – together in a book that you will not wish to set down. Morris draws you in – you can smell the sea and the land, you can hear the gulls and you want to escape into the wild that is Ramsay Island. Required with the book are at least half a dozen tissues.

Morris tells us that the Peregrine Falcons hatched on Ramsay’s Islands are believed to be the fastest and most fierce in all of the United Kingdom. The kings of England kept many birds from Ramsay.

As a child do you recall the nursery rhyme about the Four and Twenty Blackbirds baked in a pie? Can you conjure that image? Like the one in the old coloured drawing below?

“King William IV sits with knife and fork at the ready before a pie containing blackbirds served to him by Lord Melbourne. Coloured lithograph by H.B. (John Doyle), 1836.” is licensed under CC BY 4.0

But did you know that King Henry II (1133-1189), known as Henry the Falconer, allowed his noblemen to bring their falcons with them whenever there was a feast? And adding to that, did you know that Henry’s chefs made special pies full of live songbirds (they could not have baked them!) and when they were opened the birds flew out as fast as they could while the owners took the hoods off the falcons?

Hoods protect the eyes of the falcon and help to keep it calm. They can very elaborate. This one is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England. It dates from the early 17th century and is made of leather which has been incised and gilded. There is silk velvet embroidery with silver thread along with silver breads and a tuft. It is typical of the type of hoods used in Europe at the time. Isn’t it gorgeous?

@Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Can you see it in those cold stone castles with their long wooden tables, pies full of birds flying and thrashing about being chased by stealth fliers? Plucked feathers flying all about and landing in the food?

Falcons raise their eyases in scrape boxes or on the sides of cliffs or in caves. The scrape are shallow and contain gravel. It is believed that the falcons developed this method of raising their chicks to keep away the pests and diseases associated with twig nests.

There are several falcon scrapes that have streaming cams. One of the most famous couples in the United States is Annie and Grinnell who have their scrape box in the Campanile of the University of California at Berkeley. They have just fledged three boys – Fauci, Kaknu, and Wek-Wek. At this time of year, if you want to watch falcons hatch and fledge, you have to go to the falcon streaming cams in the Southern Hemisphere. Two are the CBD Peregrine Falcons otherwise known as the Collins Street Falcons in Melbourne, Australia and the scrape box of Xavier and Diamond on top of the water tower on the campus of Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia. The CBD Peregrine Falcon Cam is not up and running yet. I will let you know when it is.

Here is the link to the live streaming cam with Diamond, Xavier, and their nine-month old son, Izzi, who refuses to leave home!

I am very happy to say that the two chicks on the Sarasota Bay Osprey Nest survived their very first hurricane. Here they are at 10 am, Wednesday, 7 July.

Tiny Tot’s nest held up perfectly well, too. No one was on it but one of the adult visitors this morning for a bit. We all assume that the impact of the storm had no harmful effects on our beloved Osprey family in St. Petersburg.

The question of who this bird is has driven me a little nuts. The bird has the white ‘V’ and the rounded white heart shape that Tiny Tot has. It has the black patch on the rear of the head that Tiny has. It has Tiny’s short thick legs. But, this is an adult!

Thank you for joining me today. Many of us are quite tired having stayed up to ride the hurricane out. It is such a relief that it has passed. If today’s blog is a little disconnected – that was the state of my mind last night. It will all pass (we hope). Take care all!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen images: The Bay Sarasota Osprey Cam and the Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Florida.

Tiny Tot scraps again – and other nest news, late Tuesday edition

So far Tiny Tot, the youngest juvenile on the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg, Florida, has not had any fish but he has battled an adult intruder and later this afternoon, there was another juvenile on the nest. Tiny Tot did not like that. It definitely wasn’t sibling #2 but it could have been sibling #1 – now that would be a surprise with her gone for so long after fledging. If it was sibling #1 she might have been shocked by her little brother. Tiny didn’t cower in the corner like she might remember – nope. He went full frontal attack mode. Being really hungry helps and it is 31 degrees in St Petersburg and it is hard to fight if you are thirsty and hungry.

At 5:00:18 the other juvenile lands on the nest.

Tiny appears not recognize the bird that landed. Tiny goes into attack mode.

Then, Jack flies in with a fish at 5:47:51 which should have been for Tiny Tot since sibling #2 took the previous fish. That seems to be Tiny’s thinking, too.

The other bird holds its head down in submission.

Jack flies in and delivers a fish at 5:47:51.

The minute Jack lands on the nest there is a scramble for that fish. The stranger juvenile (or sibling #1) gets its talons in it first. Tiny Tot is hungry and he has been battling an adult intruder all morning, he wants that fish.

Tiny opens his wings and covers up the other bird that has the fish and they begin this kind of 360 dance around the nest.

Tiny forces the other bird lower onto the nest. Tiny looks like he is biting the other bird but he actually has his beak in the fish. They will do a series of tug of wars.

Then Tiny pins the other bird down. He goes for its head!

Tiny Tot is doing everything he can to get that fish. He is surely not afraid and if this is sibling #1, I don’t think she ever would have thought Tiny Tot would come after her with this level of aggression. Remember. Tiny Tot is hot, tired, fed up, and most of all hungry!

Tiny is standing over the other bird trying to get the fish. The stranger juvenile is flat down on the nest covering that food.

More tugging at the fish.

Tiny Tot must have learned a lot with that adult Osprey fighting him. Here Tiny Tot is climbing onto the back of the other bird who remains flat down on the nest. You might recall that the adult intruder did that to Tiny the first time they had a confrontation. Today, Tiny Tot sent that adult packing. He has confidence and that confidence is growing.

He continues grabbing at the bird and/or the fish.

Tiny lets up and the other bird moves to the rim of the nest.

Tiny Tot is on its back!

After two minutes of fighting – yes, that is all this was – Tiny Tot is tired. He grabs at the other bird and it flies off the nest.

The other bird has the fish and flies around to land on the perch to eat it. Gosh, I wonder if this is sibling #1. Despite Tiny Tot not getting the fish, he has demonstrated that he can defend himself. He is growing more confident every day – something that will help him trying to survive off the nest.

If it was sibling #1 that is good – it means that it has survived and that would be simply grand.

I am still hoping Tiny Tot will get a fish as a reward for all his effort today! And if he doesn’t, I sure wouldn’t want to be another bird on that nest tomorrow when Jack delivers the morning fish drop.

Big Red and Arthur’s Ks are growing. K1 is getting interested in pecking at the prey that is now being left on the nest. Of course, that is the purpose. Get the Ks to start self feeding!

Aren’t they cute? Even K3 is getting its feathers but those ears are still not covered!

Laddie made several deliveries today. In fact, every time I stopped to check in on the Loch of the Lowes nest the Bobs were almost always eating. Here they are under NC0 waiting for a delivery.

Laddies brings in some perch and some trout today. I doubt if the Bobs care – they just want to eat. Big Bob is on the left – see the peach. Little Bob is on the right. They are both growing fast with all this eating.

After that feeding, Little Bob had a nice big crop. He’s looking up to say hi to everyone and show them.

Laddie has perfect timing. He arrives with a fish for NC0 right at dusk so she can have full babies sleeping soundly all night. Fantastic.

And every day they get better at eating and her at feeding.

Everyone’s tummies are full – the Two Bobs and NC0. Sleep well everyone!

Idris brings in a huge flounder to the Dyfi Nest in Wales. Telyn is delighted! Idris is one of those great fishers but he also likes to feed his Bobs, too. Great guy!

I wonder if the Two Bobs are going to wake up for their fish?

Ah, Little Bob did. Feed me, Dad!

Telyn decides that she is going to take charge of this feeding. Little Bob moves away from asking Idris over to Mom!

Later on, Idris catches a whale of a Flounder. He is eating his portion on the perch. Telyn is fish calling. I think she likes flounder! Idris promptly acknowledges and heads to the nest with the fish.

Here he comes flounder in tow.

Idris loves any chance to check on his babies. He is quite the dad.

Ah, they are both awake and up there. The oldest is starting to get that pink sheen on its head and neck meaning feathers are coming in. Little Bob still has his soft grey down.

Tummies are all full and there is lots of flounder left for tomorrow. Telyn looks down lovingly at her babies as they fall asleep.

Dylan was busy delivering fish, too, to Seren and the Little Bob. Right at dusk, just like he should, he shows up with a nice perch for the last meal of the day. That little one on the Clywedog Nest is going to be pampered and spoiled. It looks like the other two eggs are duds – and that is just fine. Best one healthy chick.

Dylan stays awhile so he can see his little chick.

That little one is growing fast. Look at it standing up so straight reading for some of that lovely Perch. Good Night Llyn Clywedog!

Other nest news: Wek-Wek fledged so all three of Annie and Grinnell’s chicks have fledged now. Fauci came in to be fed by Annie today, too. Nice. At the Cowlitz Nest of Electra and Wadsworth, it seems that Wadsworth delivered at least two fish. Maybe I will start watching that nest after all! This would surely be a nice turn around. Everything on all the other nests seems to be just fine. The two on the Savannah Osprey Nest at The Landings on Skidaway Island are beautiful and growing like crazy. The Pittsburg Hayes eaglets are jumping up and down and really wanting to take off. And, I haven’t mentioned them lately but the three eaglets at The Trio Love Nest of Starr, Valor I and II are now leaping high in the air. How lovely.

Thanks for joining me. Stay cool. Stay safe.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my screen shots: Achieva Credit Union, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Loch of the Lowes, Dyfi Osprey Project, Clywedog and Carnyx Wild, and the Cornell Lab RTH.