Wonder what will happen today on ‘As the Nest Turns’?


Before I begin today, I want to thank all of Daisy’s fans from Poland who come every day to check on her well-being. It is so nice to have you with us on her journey.

Zanim zacznę dzisiaj, chciałbym podziękować wszystkim fanom Daisy z Polski, którzy codziennie przyjeżdżają, aby sprawdzić jej samopoczucie. Miło jest mieć cię z nami w jej podróży.

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I have to admit that the time difference between the Canadian Prairies and Sydney, Australia often means that I am awake at 1:30 am waiting for Daisy to return to the nest from foraging. Last night it caught up with me and I turned out the light. Daisy is being smart. She waited til the sun was beginning to lower itself before returning to the Ironbark Tree. It was 17:07.

Daisy approaches her nest cautiously. Remember, she has, at the last minute, looked up and glanced the White Bellied Sea Eagles sitting stone cold still on the camera tree and had to leave quickly. I am impressed with her approach. She lands on the old creaking tree, stopping and looking, and slowly proceeding to her nest. Someone might think she is just a curious visitor. But we know better! So far this little Black Pacific Duck has outwitted the sea eagles!

Daisy continues to be cautious as she slides onto her nest.

The sun lowering on the horizon leaves a beautiful filtered light on our beautiful little duck. For those of you who have been following along every day on Daisy adventures, you will notice that she is really cleaning up the down that was tossed about and getting it back on the nest.

It is 4:40 am in Sydney and Daisy is enjoying the cool before the heat of the day arrives.

The Homebush Bay weather says it is now 21.9 degrees C at 5am. It is expected to climb to 33 degrees C at the height of the day. Oh, Daisy, it is going to get pretty toasty on that nest!

In an article for the Smithsonian Magazine, Brian Handwerk says in ‘Defying Stereotypes, Ducklings Are as Clever as They Are Cute’ that “a duckling’s ability to imprint confers a remarkable ability for abstract thought, often associated only with primates and other animals considered highly intelligent. Ducks even outperform supposedly “smarter” animal species in certain aspects of abstract reasoning. Just hours after birth, those yellow fuzzballs understand concepts like “same” and “different,” remember them, and apply them to never-before-seen objects with no social cues or training” (14 July 2016). In being able to distinguish likeness and difference, the ducklings are demonstrating that they are not ‘bird-brained’ but, rather, they have a high level of abstract thought.

I was so glad to see someone writing something positive about ducks. It isn’t that I have found negative statements about ducks but, rather, it is the absence, the invisibility of ducks in recent popular books on birds. For example, in Jennifer Ackerman’s, The Genius of Birds, there is not one mention of a duck! Magpies, yes. House Sparrows, yes. Even one little mallard, no. I would like to think, from observing Daisy, that ducks are as capable of complex behaviour as every other bird discussed in the book. I think that you might agree with me. She has, thus far, outwitted the boss of the forest, the largest seabird in Australia, the White Bellied Sea Eagle. Let us hope that this pattern continues!

I begin to look at my bookshelves and realize that I have been focused entirely on Red Tail Hawks and falcons. There must be as many beautiful books on ducks. Surely people have adopted ducks, made ponds for them and feed them in the same way that people in the English countryside have swans or wildlife rehabbers have Red Tail Hawks. Perhaps you know of some books on ducks that I should read. Lists are always appreciated. When I looked on line, there are pages and pages of children’s stories about ducks and geese. There are some about making duck decoys and how to line them up so that ducks can be shot. Sorry, I don’t wish to shoot them. I would like them to live happily in a pond or at the edge of the water like our Dabbling Duck, Daisy.

It is 5:57 and the forest is beginning to wake up. Daisy hears ravens cawing in the distance. Ravens normally follow the sea eagles in the forest. She stretches her neck to listen intently and then relaxes again.

There are enormous demands and dangers for Daisy while she is nesting. She has pulled off the down on her breast to line the nest. This also creates a bare spot which is the ‘brood patch’. The heat from Daisy’s body goes directly to the eggs. Periodically during the day and night, she will rotate the eggs. Daisy has, as mentioned before, lost a lot of her body weight creating the eggs and lining the nest. She also is not able to go and forage as frequently as she would when she is not nesting. We know that she goes out to replenish herself but that is on average about three hours a day. Otherwise, she is alert and on the nest tending to her eggs. Daisy is not like larger waterfowl, like geese and ducks. She does not have a fat reserve to draw on when she is incubating. So besides the danger of her own health, there are also other animals in the forest that are predators. We have met many of them in the days that Daisy has been incubating – Ravens, the White Bellied Sea Eagles, the Pied Currawong, and perhaps BooBook Owl, Magpies, and possums. Sadly, a lot of wild ducks have an even bigger danger created by humans – the loss of their habitat.

There is no need to create any drama around Daisy. Right now she has out mustered all of the other birds and animals in the forest. As I said yesterday, an uneventful day is a good day for Daisy – just like it is for us!

The sun paints a rose-gold hue over the nest as it rises over the forest.

Our little duck uses this quiet time to do some aerating of the nest and some preening.

Look at that beautiful down nest lining! Wow.

The only visitors so far have been the Rainbow Lorikeets and they have spent their time on the bowl of the big nest.

Daisy heard them but she could not see them at first. They were climbing around on the bottom of the big sea eagle nest. When she realized that they were the beautiful rainbow coloured parrots and that they would not bother her or her eggs, she relaxed.

Daisy relaxes when she sees the Rainbow Lorikeets.
The beautiful parrots are all curious about Daisy.

I have this thought that always comes to mind when I see the Rainbow Lorikeets climbing over the nest tree. They are not frightened and that must mean that the White Bellied Sea Eagles are not close! That is a very good thing. The Lorikeets are still climbing around on the nest. They have been there for more than an hour. Daisy can relax and enjoy a nice morning.

I am so happy that you have joined me today to find out what has been happening in the world of little Daisy. I will bring updates as I try to do everyday in about six hours. Stay tuned to find out if your favourite Black Pacific Duck had any more adventures today!

Thanks to WBSE Sea Eagle Cam, Birdlife Australia, and the Discovery Center for the cameras so I can take my screen shots.

Quite a fright

Late yesterday afternoon Daisy arrived back at the nest right before 17:00. In a split second, she saw the two WBSE on the camera tree and was able, quickly, to abort her landing. They scared Daisy. She stayed away only returning at 19:43 as the sun was beginning to set on the old Ironbark forest.

And if that wasn’t enough of a fright, in the wee hours of the night she was literally scared off by sounds coming from the nest. Daisy was so frightened she quickly flew off after listening for a few minutes. And that scared off the Ringtail Possum that was climbing up the nest peeking in at Daisy sleeping in the sea eagle nest. It seems they both scared one another.

Common Ringtail Possums are small. They are about the size of a medium domestic cat. They are grey with some white behind the eyes with a white tip on their tail. They use this tail almost like a fourth leg wrapping it around branches to help them climb. They are forest dwellers and are very familiar with the sea eagles that raise young on this nest. Many people think they have their nest at the very bottom of the sea eagle nest. Like BooBook Owl and the more threatening Common Bushtail Possum, they hunt at night. They are vegetarians feeding on plants, fruit, and flora. The little Ringtail possum is the only species of possum in Australia where the male is actually involved in caring for the young possums. They are, again, not as much a danger to Daisy as the Common Ringtail Possum.

Common Ringtail Possum. Notice the thick tail that they use to help them climb. Photo courtesty of Wikimedia Commons.

The possum that Daisy should be very fearful of is the Bushtail.

Brushtail Possum at Grampians National Park, Australia courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Brushtail possums are the most widespread marsupial in Australia. (They are also in New Zealand). They are brown and have really bushy tails with a underneath furless patch that helps them to climb trees and hang on to the branches. They hunt at night and eat leaves, flowers, fruits, insects, small animals, and eggs. They are not related to the Opossum of the Americas and they are not the benign fruit eater portrayed by many books. They pose a real problem to Daisy as they are, as noted earlier, keen egg eaters. These possums are known to have eaten parrots, keas, robins, as well as larger kiwis. Researchers believe the decline of the North Island Kokako (endemic to New Zealand) to almost extinction was caused by the Brushtail Possum. The Kokako is a large grey-blue song bird. It has a black mask and long legs. New Zealanders are working hard to restore the populations of these lovely forest birds.

North Island Kokako perched on a Branch. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is now past dawn in Sydney, Australia. No sign of the White-Bellied Sea Eagles. Daisy is setting serenely on her nest. You will notice that she has been bringing in some of the down that was scattered. The nest is quite fluffy now!

Daisy, after dawn, January 22

There is absolutely no telling what comings and goings will happen today. It is Day 10 of brooding!

Daisy’s beautiful layered plumage on her wings.

Dawn casts a beautiful rose-gold over all the forest.

Dawn

And just about the time Daisy settled into a quiet early morning, she heard something land on the camera tree. It is 7:18:48. Too late to get off the nest or cover the eggs, she decided the right thing to do was to freeze flat.

Daisy lays ‘frozen’ hoping that the large bird on the camera tree does not see her.

Whatever it was, it was, its shadow indicated that it was a large bird but not as large as a sea eagle. Spotters said it was white so it is likely not then the Raven who continues to come, hoping to find Daisy gone and eggs for dinner. The bird left in about ten minutes but Daisy stayed frozen like she is in the photo above. Gradually, she began to relax.

Daisy relaxing slowly.

The first threat of the morning has come and gone after the excitement of the possum who came during the early night.

Stay tuned. An updated post will come in about six hours. Stay safe. Thanks for dropping in to check on Daisy.

Thank you to Sea Eagle Cam, BirdLife and the Discovery Center for the cameras from which I took my scaps.

Galah and more Rainbow Lorikeets come to visit Daisy!

Yesterday afternoon Daisy the Duck, the current ‘illegal tenant’, if you like, of the WBSE nest in the Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park forest, went for her usual break to forage in the canal and the Parramatta River nearby. Right before she left a couple of Galah decided to come for a visit. Daisy has had a lot of curious visitors!

Galah in Kensington Park, Sydney, Australia. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Galah are also called the ‘Pink and Grey Parrot’ or the Rose-Brested Cockatoo in Australia. Galah is the Yuwaalaraay name for them, a native language, where the word means ‘fool’ or ‘clown’. They are highly intelligent and are said to make very good pets. That said, anyone who has spoken to me about them in relation to the Peregrine Falcons and Sea Eagles of Australia, thinks they are not very smart. I was told that if you visit Australia and someone calls you a ‘Galah’, it means they are saying you are stupid. Remember that if you travel ‘down under’. Galah eat plants and insects and would not harm Daisy or her eggs. They are, like the Rainbow Lorikeets that also visited yesterday, curious about this new bird in the forest who is brooding eggs in an active sea eagle nest (off season for them now).

She returned to her nest to brood her seven eggs and then, she took another break, returning around dusk. Save for the arrival of a host of Rainbow Lorikeets and the sound of ravens nearby that caused Daisy to lay flat and still for over half an hour, her day brooding her eggs was relatively uneventful. The WBSE did not show up and none of the animals or birds living in the forest bothered her eggs. Even BooBook Owl did not show up in the middle of the night to go ‘bump’.

But something very odd happened the morning of January 21. Daisy covered her eggs, as best she could, pulling down and leaves and even small sticks over it, and left the nest around 4:25 am. Sunrise is at 6:05. That is when the WBSE come, if they do, in the mornings. Why so early?

Daisy leaves her nest at 4:23. She returns in about an hour, before dawn arrives.

The leaving of the nest at 4:20 and returning an hour later leads me to wonder about the eyesight of the Black Pacific Duck. The sea eagles fly right at or after dawn when they are about. They come back to the nest or their roost at dusk. But Daisy is able to come and go when it is dark. Plan to do some research on the eyesight of ducks. Daisy is similar to a Mallard and that might help me. If you know about the difference in night vision, please leave me a note. It would be much appreciated!

So far, it has been a pretty uneventful morning for Daisy and that means it is a great day for a little determined duck brooding her eggs.

Around 9 am the visitors begin to show up. First are the curious Rainbow Lorikeets and then you can hear but, not see, the Ravens. The Lorikeets or Loris are chattery and loud and very curious but they will not hurt Daisy, her eggs, or her ducklings. But the Ravens will. Daisy always places her body really low on the ground when the Ravens are about.

One of the Rainbow Lorikeets peaking at Daisy (on the right).
The old Ironbark Tree is full of Lorikeets this morning wanting to see Daisy!
Daisy can hear the Ravens. When she does she begins to lower her head to be flat with the base of the big WBSE nest.

Daisy gets low and really still, just as if she is frozen. Soon, the Ravens disappear. Not only would they eat the eggs but, the Ravens also chase after the White Bellied Sea Eagles. They are, often, a warning of their approach.

Daisy is frozen waiting for the Ravens to leave.
Daisy is relaxed, brooding her eggs.

It is even quiet enough for this busy duck to catch a few zzzzzs.

It is 10 am in the forest and all is quiet. The WBSE were seen at Goat Island last night. Maybe they will stay there. It is a nice vacation time for them with no eaglets to raise and both are moulting which causes some distress. That would be good for Daisy. She can rest all day like she is now incubating her little ones.

Stay tuned for updates later in the day. Have a good one.

Day 6 of incubation, updated

Daisy returned to her nest at 17:50 after spending most of the day away. If you are following the sage of this little Pacific Black Duck, you will know that yesterday, ‘Dad’ the White Bellied Sea Eagle owner of the nest arrived at dawn and stayed for some six hours before departing. During that time he did mess up a little of the down but, for the majority of the time, he stood sentry duty. Dad would, of course, really like to catch the bird that has violated his territory! Because Daisy had to leave so quickly, she was unable to cover her nest. A couple of hours after Dad departed, a Pied Currawong arrived at the nest and tried to eat an egg. Unable to do so, that bird threw a bit of a fit tearing the down from around Daisy’s carefully created nest and throwing it over the rim of the sea eagle nest. It was warm in Sydney yesterday and the sun shone on the nest for extended periods. Someone also told me that because of the way the sea eagle nests are constructed they hold the heat much better than ordinary nests. Let us hope so and also that the sun’s heat did not do any damage. Daisy is brooding seven eggs. They should be ready to hatch in about three weeks.

After all of the hassles yesterday, it was nice when Dad Sea Eagle did not show up at dawn! As a result, despite the wild gusts of wind exceeding 26 km an hour on the nest, Daisy was able to relax and nap.

Daisy rests but keeps alert to anyone approaching her nest.
Daisy resting with her bill tucked in behind her wing.

Daisy has had a quiet day on the nest so far. It is day six of her brooding. She has lost approximately half her weight laying her eggs and I understand that she has pulled half her down out to line the nest. Raising little ones takes its toll on mothers. Some bulk themselves up before laying their eggs. Again, I was told recently that the birds use up a lot of their calcium stores for the egg shells.

This reminds me about bird seed at your feeders for winter. You should be feeding the birds the black oil sunflower seeds. It helps give them fat to burn during the winter. It wouldn’t hurt to get a bird seed with added calcium and put it in your feeders several months prior to breeding in your area. This will help the female build up her calcium stores and help with the thickness of the eggs. That protects them from being broken easily. Some people crush the shells of the eggs they have eaten. But know that if you want to do that you need to wash the shells thoroughly to get rid of any bacteria from the chickens who laid them. Then you place them in a shallow pan and bake them at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes. You could save up a bunch and bake them the next time you used your oven.

A close up of the beautiful nest made of Daisy’s down and plant material from the sea eagle nest.

Daisy started moving plant material and leaves toward her nest around 1pm. She left the nest at 13:22 to go and forage near the Parramatta River that runs through Hornbush Bay, Australia. It is unclear whether or not she will return in a couple of hours or if she will wait as dusk begins to arrive. The last time she left volunatarily to forage at mid-afternoon, she returned and twenty minutes later, Dad Sea Eagle showed up and she has to fly away and wait until dusk to return.

Daisy carefully covered her nest with down before leaving to forage.
Daisy voluntarily left the nest to forage and carefully concealed her nest.

One thing that is worrisome is that there are ravens about today. They love eggs and are very smart. Daisy did a good job of covering her nest today. Hopefully they will not find it!

I also want to thank the individual who wrote to tell me about a nest in Poland. A Mallard laid its eggs in an eagle nest. They successfully hatched! Isn’t that wonderful? I wonder if it was an unoccupied nest? The individual told me that the Mallard did not have any of the hassles that our Daisy is having trying to brood her eggs. The story from Poland gave me hope!

QUICK UPDATE: Daisy returned to her nest at 15:51 without incident. She was cautious, listening for anyone who might be around or who might have followed her. A very wise woman said today that all of the creatures in the forest would be curious about Daisy because she normally doesn’t live there. She lives on the water. Of course. Let’s just hope that curiosity is all that is going on!

Daisy returns to the her nest after foraging.
Daisy listens carefully for sounds in the forest before starting to brood.
After checking that no one is around, Daisy finally lays on her nest cup.

Is it eviction day for Daisy?

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck didn’t have any problems during the night. She had foraged at dusk and returned and all was well.

What Daisy didn’t know is that both WBSE Dad and Lady spent the night at their Parramatta River roost. It is not farm from the Ironbark Tree nest. Some are thinking that they will try to arrive early and catch the bird that is using their nest and evict them.

Daisy begins to sense something is happening and by 6:42 she is quacking and has moved off the nest, still quacking, to a branch of the old Ironbark Tree.

She continues to quack loudly, protesting and defending her eggs, until 5:43:46 when she flies away. One second later, ‘Dad’ the WBSE arrives at the nest! ‘Lady’ arrives after Dad. Can you believe this? She flew away at the blink of an eye when Dad landed on the tree. I wonder if she went to forage or if she hid in the forest watching and waiting til it was safe for her to return.

Lady flings the down around the nest and pokes at the eggs several times. Unlike Dad who seemed more confused for the past four days, Lady appears to be quite upset. Dad sits on the ‘left parent branch’ of the tree observing Lady who seems not to like the down sticking to her talons. It doesn’t appear that any eggs were harmed but that might not be the case. Lady moves up to the tree with Dad occupying the one of the right parent branches.

At 5:57:28 the WBSE sing their ‘duet’ or morning song together on the nest. Not only is this a way to wake up the forest and greet the sun but it is also a territorial call. ‘This is our territory!’ The White Bellied Sea Eagles are the largest birds in the old forest and, as such, are the ‘King Pins’. Little birds tease them during the night but they are not to be messed with, not their nest. Remember: no other bird has laid their eggs in this nest, ever!

Lady leaves the Ironbark Tree first and then Dad follows. A second duet can be heard near by at 6:04. Then all is quiet. Off in the distance, the WBSE do a third ‘duet’ at 6:12. The WBSE are telling the birds in the forest that they are upset and something has violated their territory! Will Daisy return? Did Lady break any of the eggs? Will the eggs be viable with so many interruptions and the down removed?

At 6:45 a cautious Daisy the Duck returns to the nest undaunted by all of the scattered down. She is accompanied by two Noisy Miners who, at first glance, appear to be her defensive escort. Noisy Miners are members of the honeyeater family. They are a grey bird with a black head and white tips on their feathers. I would not call their song ‘a’ song. It is more like a screech. They are more like an irritant than anything that can harm Daisy. They often come to the Ironbark Tree when there are eaglets on the nest.

This is such a brave little duck! She has to have the very best hearing as she makes her successful escapes the second that one of the WBSEs come to the nest.

Gusts and a creaking Ironbark Tree kept the curious away

Daisy might have been awake all night with the loud creaks and swaying of the Ironbark Tree in the frequent gusts of high winds last night but not a single intruder was spotted. BooBook Owl stayed home. WBSE Dad didn’t venture out to check on the nest in the evening or this morning. It has been more than twenty-four hours since he has been about. Spotters on the ground say that he is off at Goat Island, some 12.2 km away, with Lady. And, so far, Raven has not made an appearance. It is nearly 7am, the tree is creaking gently and Daisy is quietly doing nest maintenance. If you squint your eye, the white in the down lining of the nest looks like little twinkle lights.

Notice how Daisy turns clockwise in the nest as she continues maintenance and rolling the eggs.
Daisy continues to take down from her breast adding it to the nest and turning clockwise.

Sometimes Daisy will quickly get off the eggs to go and fetch more plant material somewhere else on the big WBSE nest that she can’t reach by extending her neck as far as it can.

Daisy quickly leaves nest to gather up more plant material from the WBSE nest.

When Daisy prepares to leave to forage for food, which she did last evening for about an hour, she tucks the down into the nest cup folding it over on the inside. She also uses her beak and stretching her neck she pulls leaves up close. This way she can cover the eggs while she is away. Of course, we have now seen times when Daisy is frightened off the nest by both the WBSE Dad and BooBook Owl but, normally, she takes the time to gently and quickly conceal those precious eggs.

Daisy Stretches her Neck to bring in plant material near to the nest cup
Daisy continues to use her bill to bring in leaves and plant material close to the neck cup. She might be preparing to cover the eggs and leave for a quick morning foraging.

I wonder if you have ever thought about the amount of energy it takes a duck to lay an egg? I certainly hadn’t until this year when I watched Bald Eagles have hard labours when laying an egg and then Daisy. Those eggs don’t just pop out easy!

Sibley says that a single egg can weigh as much as 12% of the bird’s body weight. For Daisy, remember that she layed an egg every day for nine days. That has to be exhausting! Specials with precocial young often lay more eggs because the mother does not have to feed them. Precocial young are more fully developed when they hatch. Their eyes are open and they are fully feathered. In the case of the Black Pacific Ducks they can walk and find their own food. Remember that the ducklings will jump off the nest and follow the parent to the water to forage for food. They will actually jump off the nest before they are fully capable of flying like their mother. Daisy will keep them warm at night for approximately two to three weeks. Altricial young require much more care. They are born without feathers and require their parents to feed them until they are capable of self-feeding. A good example of an Altricial young is a Tree Swallow.

It is now after 10 am and Daisy has had only one intruder. The Raven showed up about 8am. Daisy quickly reached over and clacked, like she did yesterday, and off it went! Hopefully Daisy will have a non-eventful day on the nest. Fingers crossed!

Oh, what a ‘BOO’ tiful night or…not. BooBook Owl comes to check on Daisy’s nest and then Daisy is ‘RAVEN’

The feature image shows an Australian BooBook Owl sitting on the rim of the sea eagle nest where Daisy has her eggs. She flew off the nest as soon as Boo arrived.

Boobook Owls are the smallest owls in Australia measuring from 10.5 to 14 cm (27 to 36 inches) in length. Those of us watching the White-Bellied Sea Eagle (WBSE) nest in the old Ironbark Tree in the Sydney Olympic Park are very familiar with ‘Boo’. The BooBook eats insects and small vertebrates. They breed in late winter and early summer and have their nests in tree hollows. Little Boo is infamous for striking the adult WBSE when they perch on their nest at night and for flying at and hitting the juveniles in the nest. Once or twice this past nesting season, Boo inflicted injury on the eye of WBSE mom, Lady. Boo is a nuisance but not thought a tremendous threat to Daisy. The problem is when she is frightened and flies off of the nest leaving her eggs exposed. For all purposes, it appears that Daisy is like a single mom having to do the incubating and the defence. She is one tough little duck.

Daisy returns to her nest around 4:43 am, some three hours after Boo lands on the nest. She waddled slowly over to the nest, looking this way and that, making sure that there were no more intruders. She settled and began incubation as she could not feel any threats still around.

Daisy returning to her nest after BooBook Owl leaves.

Daisy remained on the nest incubating her eggs until WBSE Dad comes to check on the nest at 5:39:25. This has to be one confused adult male sea eagle! There are eggs in HIS nest and he is trained not to step on eggs in case they might be his!

Daisy meanwhile made her quick escape just 25 seconds prior to the sea eagle landing.

WBSE arrives at dawn to his nest in the Ironbark Tree.
WBSE Dad lands at dawn to see if that strange thing in the middle of his nest is still there. Everyone holds their breath. What will he do?
WBSE Dad staring at the duck nest on the morning of January 15.
WBSE Dad arriving back at his nest and checking out Daisy’s nest. Yes, Dad, it is still there! You have not been imagining anything.
WBSE Dad poking his beak into the duck’s nest. Hopefully he did not break any eggs. He did this twice.
WBSE Dad grabbing a piece of duck down off Daisy’s nest.

Daisy could have been watching from a short distance because she returned to the nest as soon as Dad flew away at 6:30:29. This is one lucky duck!

After all the excitement of Boo and Dad, Daisy settles in to hopefully a quiet morning on the nest.

Two visits. It is a wonder that Daisy settled back on her eggs at all. Everything is quiet until 8:44. A raven lands on a branch of the nest and then jumps down to the rim! An egg eating raven!

An Australian Raven arrives on the nest rim.

The Australian Raven grows to 46–53 centimetres long or 18-21 inches. They appear an iridescent purplish blue-green and black in their plumage. They are part of the passerine family that includes crows. And they love eggs! Indeed, they are a great robber of nests. They are opportunistic feeders living on both plant and animals as well as food waste.

Daisy’s first reaction to the raven was to press her body flat in the nest. She appeared very frightened at first. And then she stood her ground. She leaned forward off of the eggs slightly and clacked at the raven. And, guess what? It flew away!

In the image below you can see Daisy stretching her neck and laying flat on the nest, just off the eggs, clacking. The tail of the raven can be see just slightly above the bottom right hand corner as the bird departs!

Daisy clacking at the raven to protect her eggs

Daisy has settled back on her eggs in hopes of a much more quiet day. Stay tuned! It is not even noon in Australia and no telling what is going to happen next in The Chronicles of Daisy the Duck.

Daisy often turns clockwise in her nest enlarging it and also you will see her go in with her head. She is aerating the nest.
Daisy continues to add down from her breast working to make it softer and softer.

Thanks to BirdLife Australia and the WBSE Sea Eagle cam for the scaps.

Daisy remains, triumphant – so far!

Just to recap what happened on January 13 at the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in the old Ironbark Tree, Sydney Olympic Park. Yesterday, Daisy the Duck arrives at the nest at 5:19 am. At 10:33, Daisy laid egg number 8. It was a very hot day in Sydney, rising above 26 degrees C. It was very hot on Daisy, a water fowl, when the sun was shining directly on her as she incubated her eggs. At 16:49 Dad returns from his sojourn to Goat Island unexpectedly. Daisy leaves the nest in a hurry and does not cover up her eggs. Dad poked around the eggs in the nest bowl but he did not eat another egg nor does it appear that he damaged any eggs. In fact, Dad was pretty careful around the eggs. Dad leaves at 19:16. Daisy returns to her nest at 20:24 and incubates her eggs all night without any problems from Dad. This is the first time that the Black Pacific Duck has stayed all night incubating her eggs.

As the sun begins to rise over Sydney, Australia, WBSE ‘Dad’ returns to the branch of the cam tree and sits there observing the nest.

Daisy does not immediately notice Dad’s arrival at 5:54. When she does, she scurries off the nest leaving the eggs uncovered!

Daisy has been busy removing down from her breast to further line the egg cup.

With everyone holding their breath afraid that Dad would go and disturb the eggs or chase after Daisy, we waited and watched. But Dad only observed. He flew off the cam tree branch at 6:13.

There are, of course, many questions and no one has an answer. No other bird has ever made a nest, to anyone’s knowledge, in the WBSE nest tree. There appears to be no literature. Black Pacific Ducks are opportunists and did, at one time, make their nest in a bear enclosure at the Sydney Zoo. As their numbers dwindled, the ducks moved to another location. In fact, often their nests are in marshy areas near water. Why this duck picked this sea eagle nest seventy-five feet off the ground is anyone’s guess. Now, though, people are wondering if the sea eagle will leave Daisy alone to raise her ducklings. She is no threat to him or his territory. Only time will tell. And no one has any idea what the WBSE ‘Lady’ would do if she found some other bird’s eggs in her nest!

She returns, somewhat cautiously, at 6:37. She slowly walks down from the branch and begins incubating the eggs again. Wet grasses on her bill show that she did, in fact, have some breakfast while she was away.

It is nearing 9 in the morning, 14 January in Sydney, Australia. So far, all is well on the nest. Updates later tonight.

Daisy lays another egg!

Daisy, the very brave Black Pacific Duck, returned to the nest of the White Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) at 5:19 am. Everyone believed that she had laid the last of her eggs yesterday and had returned today to incubate them. Not so! Despite being concerned and ever watchful for Dad to return, Daisy did, at 10:33:34 Australian time, lay egg number nine. This means that she has a nest of seven eggs. Remember, Dad ate one and it is presumed, but no one knows for positive, that Daisy laid an egg elsewhere in the forest the day she was frightened from the nest before she could lay her egg.

Daisy pushing out her breast and pushing.

One of the things that I noticed today was that, in addition to turning in the nest often and breathing deeper, Daisy also stood up, lowered her neck, stuck out her breast and pushed down diagonally during her labour. You can see a still image of this action above. You can, if you look carefully, see the growing number of eggs in the nest cup, too. Once the egg was out, Daisy relaxed.

Daisy bearing down to get the egg out
Once the egg is out, Daisy begins placing more down and enlarging and lowering the nest.

Notice the small amount of down that Daisy has pulled from her breast to line the nest cup. Over the course of the morning, she has increased the size of and deepened the nest cup by moving around and pushing with her paddle feet.

The amount of down and the depth of the nest have increased gradually during the day.

What has afforded Daisy all this time today? Remember that Dad WBSE ate one of Daisy’s eggs yesterday and then covered the eggs. I have been actually hoping that the egg gave him indigestion (do eagles get indigestion even?) and is off duck eggs! Observers on the ground say that he has joined Lady, his mate, at Goat Island. Goat Island is 12.2 km from the nest. Hopefully the sea eagles will stay there until mid-February away from the heat of the City. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Normally, Dad will come and check on the nest and the rest of his territory during off-season. It is like he is on vacation! It is currently over 26 degrees C on the ground and, presumably, a little hotter in the nest.

However, Daisy has very good camouflage and if she continues to lower her nest, just imagine. She could cover herself with fluffy down and leaves and just maybe the WBSE wouldn’t see her at all.

Stay tuned for further developments tomorrow in the adventures of Dad and Daisy.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

The Continuing Saga of Dad and the Duck or ‘As the Nest Turns’

Just to bring those of you up to speed in case you haven’t read my earlier blog. In early December, a pair of Pacific Black Ducks investigated the nest of a pair of White-Bellied Sea Eagles (WBSE) in an old Ironwood Tree in the forest of the Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia. On 14 December, a nest cup was excavated in the centre of the sea eagle nest by the ducks. (Note: This is off-season for the sea eagles.). Six days later, ‘Dad’, the male partner of ‘Lady’, to whom the nest belongs, came to the nest for one of his periodic territory checks. The female aptly named ‘Daisy’ by Phyllis Robbins of the WBSE chat group laid her first egg in the nest cup on 5 January 2021.

Female Black Pacific Duck

On the morning of 11 January, Daisy arrives at the nest just after dawn. Before she could lay her egg, vocalizations from other birds in the forest alert her that the sea eagle is about. Indeed, Daisy might have been listening for the male sea eagle because he had come to the nest the previous day. That day she quickly covered the eggs and flew off the nest but stayed in proximity. Dad stayed for about half an hour before leaving and within a few minutes, Daisy returned to lay her sixth egg without interruption. This morning, however, Daisy had not laid her egg when the large sea bird appeared. She stood on the rim of the nest and quacked as Dad flew to the camera tree. She left so abruptly that she did not have time to cover her eggs but, it seems that Dad did not notice her physical presence on the nest or her quacking.

Dad surveyed his territory remaining on the tree that supports the camera for the live stream for about an hour. He might have thought that the bird laying the eggs would return without noticing him and he would find out who this mysterious bird is.

White-Bellied Sea Eagle Male known as ‘Dad’ scanning his territory for intruders.

After about an hour and a half, Dad flew to the nest tree to see first hand what was happening. He had noticed the eggs the previous day by rummaging around in the leaves. He even tried to pick one up with his bill but to no avail.

Three of the six Black Pacific Duck Eggs

Today the eggs were clearly visible. Look carefully. Daisy has started removing down from her breast to line the nest. This physiological process is called zugunruhe.

Under normal circumstances, Daisy would arrive at dawn to lay her egg. She would do this every day until she finished laying all of the eggs for her clutch. This can vary between 8-13 eggs. After laying her egg, Daisy often remains on the nest for a period of about an hour before departing for the river to forage for the rest of the day. Once all of the eggs are laid, Daisy will begin full incubation, being relieved periodically by her mate. After twenty-eight days, the ducklings will hatch. Then, the following day (after 24 hours), they will take a giant leap of faith and jump off the rim of the nest, a distance of approximately fourteen metres, to the forest floor. Here they will follow their mother to the Parramatta River where they will immediately begin foraging for themselves.

Dad inspecting the Black Pacific Duck’s eggs

Today, Dad began to curiously inspect the nest with the eggs. For what seemed like an eternity, he would look at the eggs and then look around the immediate environment of the tree. It was actually like he was confused. At one point he tried to pick up one of the eggs but he couldn’t do it. It isn’t that they are heavy; the shape is just awkward for him to handle with his beak. He did not try to move the eggs with his giant talons nor did he attempt to break them. He did toss some of the down around. At one point, it even looked like he might start brooding the eggs. It was a very strange exchange because Dad’s hormones are not thinking about breeding or brooding. He is in the midst of moulting.

Dad trying to move one of the eggs

The entire morning was very suspenseful. Currawongs and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were screeching in the background and at one point, it was thought that Daisy even did a fly by.

And then the oddest thing happened. Very delicately, Dad covered up the eggs at 9:01 am.

Dad covered up the duck eggs so that no one could see them

If that wasn’t peculiar enough, Dad went up to one of the ‘parent branches’ on the nest tree and stood vigil. More than once, Dad flapped his wings to keep the Currawongs away! Take altogether, these three actions scream out that his intuition is to protect the eggs.

Dad standing guard over the nest

Dad stayed for more than an hour before departing. At the time of this writing, he has returned once again to the nest tree where he is keeping watch over his territory.

Stay tuned!