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.

‘Nest Stand Off?’

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck

The continuing saga of Daisy the Black Pacific Duck and Dad the White-Bellied Sea Eagle played out over the early morning and afternoon of 12 January. Dad stayed near the nest during the night keeping watch from a branch on the cam tree when he was not snoozing.

WBSE called ‘Dad’ slept on the branch of the cam tree
Dawn is Breaking and Dad is still guarding his nest

At 5:25, Dad was on guard trying to catch the bird that was using his nest. Daisy appears at 5:27. They must have just missed one another! She checks out the nest, does some quacking, and goes up what is known as the parent branch on the WBSE nest. At 5:40:17, Daisy flies from the branch into the forest. At the same moment, Dad returns to the nest. My goodness, this little duck is awfully lucky or she has the best intuition about the forest alerts!

Daisy arrives at the nest to check things out. She might be able to sense the WBSE was there.
Daisy was alerted to the arrival of the WBSE. She is quacking and has climbed to the fork in the branch where she will depart.

According to all the people who have observed this nest over the years, no other bird has ever made a nest within the wide WBSE nest and laid eggs. Plenty of small birds come to visit, including an owl, but none have ever attempted to use it.

Within a blink of Daisy departing, Dad arrives back on the scene!

Today, Dad is hungry and he works harder to grab one of the eggs with his beak and then his talon.

Dad rummages through the nest, tossing the fluffy down. He sets his eye on one of the eggs. Tapping it with his beak, he makes a tiny dent. Working with a talon, Dad is successful in removing the egg from the nest cup. After eating the contents, Dad is very careful to clean up the shells dumping them over the side. Does he not want the owner of the nest alerted to his tampering? Daisy now has 5 eggs left in her clutch.

Dad enjoying a Duck Egg Breakfast at 5:54

Dad departs the nest at 6:08. Meanwhile, Daisy is keeping close watch from the forest. She returns to the rim of the nest when she is absolutely sure that Dad is down at the Parramatta River and might not disturb her for awhile. She watches and listens from the rim of the nest over the forest. She is so alert. She raises her head many times just to check on the sounds. You can hear the Currawong in the background. Often they chase the WBSE. Then there are the Noisy Miners. Lorikeets can be heard in the distance. Daisy is alert to each and every sound! When she feels a little safer, she moves closer to the eggs. But, interestingly, she never goes near the nest. She remains ‘frozen’, not moving or making a sound for more than an hour.

Daisy moves towards the middle of the nest from the rim where she remains frozen, not making a sound.

Daisy is very quiet so as not to draw any attention to her movements. She has waited as long as she can to lay her seventh egg. At 9:07 she sits in the nest. At 9:32:28, Daisy lays her egg.

Daisy laying her egg

During her labour, Daisy rotates in the nest, enlarging it with her paddle feet. At the same time she is breathing a little heavier and her tail is moving up and down slightly as she gently arches her back, at times.

On all other previous days, Daisy had stayed on the nest for about an hour to an hour and a half after laying her egg, leaving to go and forage at the river. Today, Daisy does not leave. It appears that she is in hard incubation.

It is nearing 2:30 in the afternoon Sydney time. Daisy remains on her eggs. Only time will tell what Dad will do if and when he returns. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Daisy has been incubating the eggs for seven hours now. It is 26 degrees C in Sydney and hotter in the sun on the nest. Daisy is panting from the heat. So far, no sign of the WBSEs.

Daisy incubating her eggs, mid Tuesday afternoon, 12 January, Sydney time

At 4:30, Daisy covers the eggs and flies from the nest.

The suspense is killing me! Back tomorrow with the latest.

How can I help the birds and wildlife if I have little financial resources right now? I want to!

Yesterday for National Bird Day I wrote a blog about the many ways that we can help our feathered friends. This morning I had a wonderful letter from a former student just setting up her pottery studio and buying her first home. She wants to help but her finances, like many of you, are limited. So how can she help and how can you?

Here are some ideas that are either free or cost little:

  1. Put out bowls of water. Think of the depth of a bird bath. You don’t want the bowls to be too deep. I use my pottery seconds and have about nine or ten bowls lined up. I clean them and fill them often. Some are big enough for the birds to have a bath. It is wonderful to look out on a hot summer day and see them splashing about!
  2. You can speak up or volunteer to work with groups that try to stop cruelty to animals. You can also help educate your neighbours. Know someone who goes fishing and uses weights? Suggest they use rubber ones instead of lead. Educate them on how lead poisoning is killing birds.
  3. Adopt a block or a piece of highway. You don’t have to do it formally but help clean up. People still toss their food bags into the culverts and birds often go after these and are hit by moving vehicles and killed in the process.
  4. Make your windows safe from bird strike. You can do this by simply not washing them during the key periods of bird migration. Or you can use masking or painter’s tape to make a few lines. You do not need to purchase fancy decals.
  5. Go vegetarian. Not eating meat helps the environment. Cook your own beans instead of buying them in a tin. It is a whole lot cheaper (if you have the time). And you can ‘go vegetarian’ for a few days a week. It will help the planet and in turn help all the animals.
  6. Lead by example. If you are looking for a new pet, adopt an animal. Maybe you want to help by fostering.
  7. If you are going to plant a garden, why not include some sunflowers and let them dry? or other flowers that attract the bees, butterflies, and hummers.
  8. One site that I found suggested that we be careful with the language that we use. They said that language plays a very important part in shaping the view of animals. Do not use words like ‘chicken’ or ‘pig headed’.
  9. Do not go to entertainment that is cruel to animals such as the circus.
  10. Urge your city councillor to leave green spaces and plant trees.
  11. Find out the contact information for your nearest wildlife rehabbers. If you see an injured animal, learn what to do and phone them. You might also want to write down or put in your phone the number of the nearest veterinary clinic.

January 5 is National Bird Day!

Today is National Bird Day. Did you know? And, if not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is there a day to celebrate birds?

National Bird Day seeks to raise awareness about birds. It is that simple. It began fourteen years ago in the United States and spread. So today, Canadians, too, are shouting out the love for our feathered friends. Everyone is joining together to find ways to enrich the lives of these, the closest living relative to the dinosaurs, better. And why should we care? Well, there are lots of reasons but let me begin with the fact that we have over fished the oceans, made the waters toxic and decreased the amount of fish that was present at the end of the nineteenth century by 80%. We have populated the world and allowed cities to sprawl, taking away the normal territory of the birds to hunt prey and survive. We spray our lawns so they are green, use toxic pesticides, construct buildings with gorgeous winds that are not strike proof (they could easily be), while driving fast and well, quite honestly, some people go out of their way to do harm. The coffee we drink, for 94% of that grown, comes from crops grown in direct sunlight. Yes, drinking coffee causes deforestation! So part of today is to examine how we can deal with these issues and offer protection and survival to our feathered friends. Did you know that 12% of the 10,000 bird species are in danger of extinction? There is a doctor from Studio City, California traveling the world to try and photograph every species of hummingbird before they are gone. Her name is Carole and she runs Hummingbird Spot, a bird cam and chat on youtube to raise awareness.

Kakapo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So what can you do to help? You might think about bird adoption. I am particularly fond of the work that the Kakapo Recovery do to help the only remaining 208 kakapo. Have you ever heard of the kakapo?

The kakapo is also called the ‘owl parrot’. The forage around on the ground of the forests in specific areas of New Zealand. They do not fly! And they are extremely endangered. Every Christmas the Kakapo Recovery issues certificates for adoption. You get a photo of your kakapo and a plushie along with other swag. The purpose of the adoption is to help fund the Kakapo Recovery. Cost of adoption ranges from $100 to $500 NZD. The birds wear transmitters that require annual or semi-annual changing of batteries. Those transmitters allow the researchers on the islands to find the birds and check their health. Today, there are only 207 Kakapo. Their existence was compromised due to habitat destruction. Today, they are threatened by disease and intruders. Don’t want to adopt a kakapo? why not buy a great beanie that comes with a really beautiful Kakapo pin?

If you have been one of the millions enjoying watching wildlife make their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young, you can donate to the wildlife cams that make this happy. You can donate just as much as you can afford. Cornell University runs a multitude of bird cams partnering with others around the world. They monitor the lives of Osprey, Royal Albatross, Red Tail Hawks (my favourite), along with countless other species living in manmade cliffs in Bermuda to fruit eating birds of Panama. Check them out! The bird cams are free! In 2020, during the pandemic, millions watched and discovered great empathy with these beautiful feathered creatures. They also learned many things. Did you know that the parents of the Royal Albatross chicks being incubated talk to their young before they hatch? Did you know that a damp nest can cause disease killing the young? If you have ever watched any of these birds feeding their young, you will marvel at how those big beaks can get such tiny pieces of food into the nestlings mouth! You will marvel at how they grow and you will come to imagine that humans might want to be so focused at the dining table. One of my favourite falconers, Laura Cully, thinks that every human should have to watch hawks raise their eyases before the humans commit to having children. Bird cams are wonderful but along with the joy there is also sadness. The norm is that only 1 out of 3 juvenile birds will live to see its first birthday. Those watching the camera of the pair of Red Tail Hawks, Big Red and Arthur, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York were thrown in despair this past summer when the big beautiful female, who had recently delighted everyone with her baths in puddles, was killed when she flew into the window of a building. And those who watched the two White Bellied sea eaglets growing in the nest in Sydney Olympic Park, WBSE 25 and 26, learned what determination was. SE26 had its leg broken shortly after hatch. For over a month it could not stand. It would scoot on its ankles. But, the eaglet persevered and forced itself to walk despite the pain. It branched, learned to feet itself, and fledged. SE 26 returned to the nest six days later much to the delight of everyone who thought they would never see her again.

Last photo of WBSE 26 I took off the screen.

Many who watch the bird cams contend with their own physical issues and it was very easy to identify with SE26. Everyone hoped that when she had overcome everything to fly that she would be able to be a real sea eagle living in the wild. The day after this photograph, WBSE 26 was found on the balcony of a condo, 22 stories up. She was taken into care. It was determined that she was in a lot of pain, there was scar tissue on her feet, injuries to both from overcompensating only using the left leg, and the break had not healed properly. She was euthanized. It broke everyone’s heart. If anyone were to suggest that the life of a bird is one of fun and freedom, I would have them watch a bird cam for awhile.

What else can you do in your own area? You can donate money or items to your local wildlife rehabilitation centre. The one near Winnipeg is Wildlife Haven. Check their website for what they need. Take a drive out and see their resident Bald Eagle who was found in NW Ontario and who now is one of their ambassador birds. You can attract birds to your back garden. You can add feeders and bowls of water. They will thank you immensely. Crows and Blue Jays love grapes, dog kibble, hard-boiled eggs which are good for them. Avoid feeding birds bread. It is like Junk food to them. They love it and will fill up on it but will ultimately die of starvation. If you see plastic mesh bags or the plastic tops that hold cans, cut them and put them in the garbage. Avoid the use of balloons at all cost. Birds die from getting tangled in them. And last, three ideas. Coffee. Do you drink it? Do you know where those coffee beans come from? 94% of the world’s coffee is grown in the sun with only 6% grown in the shade. Coffee grown in the shade does not destroy the habitat of birds and animals. In Canada, you can order ‘bird safe’ coffee from birdsandbeans.ca It is not any more expensive than some of the other leading brands and if you order $45 worth, the shipping is free. It is also delicious, organic, and fair trade.

Only one of the signature blends at BirdsandBeans.

If you live in the United States, you can order directly from the Smithsonian who certifies the coffees that are grown in the shade.

And if you really want to get into the politics of wildlife, then go and read the website of the Albatross Task Force. You might never eat factory fish again! Lobby your government to make these fishing trawlers comply with standards so that there is no bycatch. What do I mean by bycatch? Sea birds are attracted to the fish used as bait and they get caught on the industrial hooks if they are not protected. A Wandering Albatross is decapitated every five minutes. The goal of the Albatross Task Force is to get every industrial trawler to use bird scaring lines, fish at night, and add weight to the long lines. These are inexpensive remedies meant to save 80% of the bycatch and protect the growing number of endangered sea birds.

Get a friend to join you! Have your children enter many of the bird contests. Join in on Bird counting days. Read about birds and nature. We need to protect the birds and their habitat so that they can help protect us.

New Year’s Resolutions, Sustainability, and the Birds

There was an article, “It’s Not That Hard to Buy Nothing” in the New York Times today about Elizabeth Chai who, at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, made a resolution “she would not buy anything in 2020, with the exception of food, coffee, toiletries (if she ran out of something essential) and the occasional service like a haircut. She would resist the urge to add to her wardrobe or to buy anything material for her home.” At the same time, she also vowed to sell 2,020 items. These actions were inspired by Chai wanting to live a more sustainable life.

Chai, of course, would not have known that the pandemic would happen and that everyone’s lives would be turned upside down. Even so, she continued with her plan to donate or sell things that she no longer needed or wanted. She came up with a plan. If there was something she wanted, she would put that item on a list and if, at the end of the year, she still wanted it, she would treat herself. She said she learned, “…temptations fade surprisingly fast.”

2020 was an exceptional year for many of us. Like Ms Chai, I spent my time at home. I was teaching my very last university class while researching and writing about the environmental impact of ceramics. At the same time I began to understand more fully the human impact on non-humans and it upset me. Greta Thunberg says that we can each have a profound difference – I hope so.

So for 2021 I will use Ms Chai’s example. Like her, I have lived within the walls of my home and over time have noticed what I need and how many things I have accumulated over time. I will not purchase any new clothes or shoes, no material objects for my home, and no new toiletries until I completely run out of items. At the same time, I plan to begin selling off my ceramics collection and my books. Monies raised from the sale of books will be donated to help wildlife in need.

Stay tuned and wish me luck! Ms Chai said that she felt so good about living in a scaled down environment and donating things. She also realized how much money she saved by simply not buying. She had a fantastic idea. Maybe you would like to join me in my pledge to now buy anything new in 2021.

NOTE: The Shino fluted bowl is by Warren Mackenzie and it might be the first vessel to be sold. I am looking at two commercial galleries to manage the pieces that I have.