Tool use by the graphic tuskfish Choerodon graphicus

A few months ago, we went on a family holiday to Noumea. While snorkelling, I noticed some fascinating fish behaviour. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera to capture the action. This is my report:

 

Several members of the wrasse family (Labridae) have been observed striking bivalves on rocks in order to break the shells and eat the flesh. These include the yellowhead wrasse Halichoeres garnoti in Florida, U.S.A. (Coyer, 1995), blackspot tuskfish Choerodon schoenleinii on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Jones et al., 2011) and orange-dotted tuskfish Choerodon anchorago in Palau (Bernardi, 2012).

Wrasses have also been observed striking other food items on rocks. Species include the sixbar wrasse Thalassoma hardwicke striking food pellets in an aquarium (Pasko, 2010), the California sheephead Semicossyphus pulcher striking purple urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus in California, U.S.A. (Dunn, 2016) and the blue tuskfish Choerodon cyanodus striking a juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Harborne, 2016). The behaviour has been described as tool use because the rock has been used as an anvil (Brown, 2012).

This report describes similar behaviour in another wrasse, the graphic tuskfish Choerodon graphicus (De Vis 1885) in a new location, New Caledonia. It extends the behaviour spatially, as well as taxonomically.

On 12th July 2017 at 1130 hours, on shallow reef flats, we heard a loud cracking sound. A C. graphicus approximately 35 cm in length was hovering above a single flat rock approximately 30 cm in diameter which was attached to the ocean floor and surrounded by sand and a collection of broken shells (midden). The fish was holding a bivalve approximately 4 cm in diameter in its mouth. It suddenly rotated its body to the left then struck the bivalve forcefully on the rock. The fish repeated this action three more times at intervals of 5-6 s. It adjusted the bivalve in its mouth after each strike. The strikes made a hole in the middle of one shell. The fish darted at several smaller fishes which were watching from 1-2 m away then swam away with the bivalve in its mouth.

The fish swam approximately 8 m to a space under a group of corals (0.6-0.8 m wide). It struck the bivalve three times on a dead coral head on the ocean floor. Pieces of shell fell off the bivalve. The fish and a smaller scrounger fish (12 cm in length) pulled the flesh from these pieces and ate it. A shell midden was observed at the site of the dead coral head.

Approximately 20 m farther on, we observed a second C. graphicus (we cannot rule out the possibility that it was the first fish) approximately 35 cm in length. This fish hovered above a single flat rock approximately 30 cm in diameter, suddenly rotated its body to the left then struck a bivalve on the rock. It repeated this action four times. One shell shattered into three pieces, each of which had flesh attached to it. The C. graphicus and two smaller scrounger fishes (10-15 cm in length) pulled the flesh from the pieces and ate it. A shell midden was located at the site of the rock.

The presence of this behaviour in C. graphicus supports the hypotheses that tool use may be particularly common in the Choerodon genus (Harborne, 2016) and may be a deep-seated behavioural trait in wrasses (Bernardi, 2012). The behaviour we observed mirrors behaviour described by other authors (Coyer, 1995, Jones et al., 2011), lending weight to the argument that it is a deep-seated behavioural trait in wrasses. The observation of this behaviour in a new location suggests that anvil use in wrasses is widespread and may even be universal.

References

Bernardi, G. (2012). The use of tools by wrasses (Labridae). Coral Reefs 31, 39. doi: 10.1007/ s00338-011-0823-6

Brown, C. (2012). Tool use in fishes. Fish and Fisheries 13(1), 105-115. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00451.x

Coyer, J. A. (1995). Use of a rock as an anvil for breaking scallops by the yellowhead wrasse Halichoeres garnoti (Labridae). Bulletin of Marine Science 57 (2), 548–549

Dunn, R. P. (2016). Tool use by a temperate wrasse, California sheephead Semicossyphus pulcher. Journal of Fish Biology 88 (2), 805-810. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12856

Harborne, A. R. (2016). Tool use by Choerodon cyanodus when handling vertebrate prey. Coral Reefs 35, 1069. doi: 10.1007/s00338-016-1448-6

Jones, A. M., Brown, C., & Gardner, S. (2011). Tool use in the tuskfish Choerodon schoenleinii? Coral Reefs 30, 865. doi: 10.1007/s00338-011-0790-y

Pasko, L. (2010). Tool-like behavior in the sixbar wrasse, Thalassoma hardwicke (Bennett, 1830). Zoo Biology 29, 767–773. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20307

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White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest 1 July-December 2017

1 July 2017

I visited the nest at 4:19 pm for 30 minutes, but did not see the sea-eagles.

17 July 2017

I arrived about 10 minutes before sunset (4:58 pm). I saw a single eagle fly from the swamp area straight to the nest. It may have had a stick or leaf in its talons.

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It seemed to crouch down but its back stayed in view. After 3 minutes it flew back to the swamp (5:01pm). I can’t discount that it was a changeover of parents on the nest, but I only saw one bird the whole time.

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21 July 2017

I visited the nest from 4:40 pm until sunset. I saw more house foundations being made, closer to the nest in between the 2 new roads. There was also a crane, water truck and excavator. I didn’t see the sea-eagles.

4 August 2017

I arrived at about 4:30 pm. I was shocked at how many new house foundations and fenced lots there were closer to the nest, in the middle section between the 2 new roads. Luckily, in the closest section they haven’t progressed the one house (which has plastic ribbons flapping nastily) or started any more.

A single sea-eagle arrived. It may have been holding something.

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It seemed to sit a while then leave after 4 minutes. I couldn’t tell if it was a changeover.

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Friday 18 August 2017

I arrived at 4:35 pm on a very windy day. At 4:45 pm an eagle flew to the nest. I think it was holding some smallish food in its right foot.

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The other eagle popped up out of the nest.

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At 4:48 pm the first eagle flew out of the nest, did a small circuit and landed back in the nest.

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It was being chased by a magpie-lark.

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The eagles appeared to be standing because I could see their backs. Their heads bobbed up as if they were eating. Every so often their wings came up as if they were being caught by the wind.

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The original one flew into a leafy tree to the right of the nest tree and stayed there for about 10 minutes. The one in the nest popped its head up every so often.

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The first one left at about 5 pm. It looked well fed. The other eagle settled back into the nest, out of sight.

Saturday 26 August 2017

I arrived at 4:32 pm and watched the nest from the car. Twice I heard one or both eagles but did not see them. Finally I saw them fly to a tree about 50 m from the nest tree at about 5:25 pm. They settled and appeared to bed down for the night. I  feel so sad for them. I don’t know what has happened but it was 15oC when I left at 5:45 pm  and getting colder. I don’t think eggs or chicks could survive for long without the parents.

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Thursday 14 September 2017

Time goes so quickly between visits. Today I visited for about an hour. At 5:38 pm I saw an eagle fly from the swamp in the direction of the nest. I think it landed in a tree about 50 m further into the private property from the nest tree.

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Soon after, I saw another fly in the same direction. I think they both went into one of the larger trees further in but it was almost dark and I couldn’t see them. They didn’t come over to the nest tree.

Friday 29 September 2017

Today I arrived at about 5:20 pm and at about 6:00 pm I saw one sea-eagle fly to the trees further in than the nest. At 6:05 pm I saw the other fly in with something in its talons. I don’t know if they are roosting in there or flying past. I stayed for another 10 minutes but didn’t see either one visit the nest.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest 2 2017

Monday 24 April 2017

I went to visit nest 2 for the first time in 2017. When I crossed onto the grassland adjacent to the nest tree, I was met with a most horrific sight. There were white markers all over the land, with lot numbers written on them. I paced the distance from the nearest one to the nest tree: it was a mere 30 m.

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I looked towards the grassy slope that was my other access to the nest tree. A smooth graded road is now there.

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I thought this nest was safe. What are people thinking? They will drive another pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles  – a Vulnerable species in NSW – away from their nest, right before/at nesting time. If this degree of development is being carried out all over the state, I can’t see the species lasting for very long. Needless to say, I didn’t see the sea-eagles.

Monday 17 July 2017

I drove around the development that overlooks the nesting area. I could not locate the actual nest tree or see the birds flying. I did see another pair of raptors but could not identify them. It looks as if more of the land has been turned to soil/mud.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

I went to the eagle tree and saw more widespread clearing of the land.

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There’s no doubt that the developers are planning to cover all the available land with houses, irrespective of the nest right there. This time I found lot markers in the trees that are around and behind the nest tree. At the right of the photo below is the base of the nest tree (nearly half the photo) and in the middle to the left is a white lot marker with a pink ribbon around it.

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There was a lone bulldozer working. I didn’t see either sea-eagle.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

I walked down from the top entrance and there were no vehicles working on the site. The land was flat, smooth and dry.

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I saw 2 black kites, so I went over to the tree where they had attempted to nest last year. There was a small nest still there.

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They didn’t fly over to it but one was eating something red while on the wing.

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I saw a nankeen kestrel as well. After I had been there for an hour, I saw a white-bellied sea-eagle! It seemed to have something on its belly. I wonder if it is a brood patch. It flew over the area in general, including the nest tree, but didn’t land.

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Wednesday 30 August 2017

I arrived at about 4:55 pm and left at sunset at about 5:25 pm. I saw a whistling kite flying but no sea-eagles. I saw two lot markers about 27 m from the base of the nest tree on the cleared land.

A sea-eagle may have been in the nest, but the pair last year saw or heard me even if I was as quiet as I could possibly be, creeping through the bushes in full camo and more than 100 m away. They always flew straight over to me.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

I arrived at about 4:15 pm and left at about 5:10 pm. I didn’t see any sea-eagles but saw a pair of black kites around the tree they attempted to nest in last year. The site is quiet: no activity and all the heavy machinery is gone. Sulphur-crested cockatoos are nesting in the eagle tree.

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Tuesday 19 September 2017

I arrived around 4:00 pm and left at about 5:30 pm. I didn’t see any sea-eagles. There weren’t any vehicles or people on the site.

I saw the black kites in the tree in which they built the nest last year.

I also saw a pair of nankeen kestrels and I think they could be nesting in a tree not far from the black kite tree.

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Wednesday 22 November 2017

I went back a few weeks ago and was shocked to find I couldn’t get onto the site anymore at all. I went to my lower entry and the land was all dug up and trucks were working on it, right beside where the black kite nest was. I think I saw a black kite flying over the devastation. There was new built up soil from one end to the other.

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Today I went to the other side and looked across. I couldn’t see the nest tree so I don’t know if the developers have taken it out or if it is hidden from sight. There was no sign of the black kites and the soil goes right past their nest.

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The beautiful little nankeen kestrels that I thought were nesting in one of two trees in the middle of the site have had their trees – and maybe their eggs or chicks – removed.

I feel real pain and incredible sadness when I look at the site. If this is happening all over the country it won’t be long before many birds are finding it hard to breed at all.

 

White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest 1 January-June 2017

Tuesday 10 January 2017

I haven’t been to Nest 1 for a long time but decided today to see how the development is progressing. The sloping land now has kerbed bitumen roads that I can drive along. It even has street lights and trees on the nature strips. There are two roads approximately evenly spaced between the dirt track 60 m from the nest and the road that I used to park on 330 m from the nest. I drove up to the place I used to walk to and hide.

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There are numbered lots all over the land. I think my hiding places will be people’s backyards. From what I can see, the back fences will be almost at the dirt track, only 60 m from the nest. I don’t see how Sea-Eagles could ever nest there again.

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12 March 2017

The developers have been working right beside the fence, only 30 m from the nest tree (top left).

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Friday 28 April 2017

I went for a walk near sunset to see if the eagles were roosting. I didn’t see any sign of them. A new fence has been put up. More houses are being constructed in the same street – at the same distance from the nest – as last year. There are none closer yet. The roads are complete and the heavy machinery has all been moved to a site a few hundred metres away. I hope the lull in the noise and disturbance doesn’t cause the eagles to try to nest again, because they will be driven out when the house building  starts. I’m worried because it’s almost May and I saw them mating in June last year. I just hope they have another nest somewhere.

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Saturday 13 May 2017

On a whim, I drove to the nest after the sun had set today. I felt sad to see the nest and started to walk down the hill. I looked back and got a huge shock: in the dim light I was almost certain I could see the two Sea-Eagles roosting beside the nest! I didn’t have my camera, so used my phone, which makes things appear smaller than in real life. The photo is dismal, but I’m sure at least one was there.

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The developers have now completely fenced off my access from two streets at the top. The ground is being prepared for more damn houses.

I was so happy to see the Sea-Eagles, but I hope they don’t put their effort into nesting there, because they’ll only be driven away again when the house building gets going.

Friday 2 June 2017

I arrived at 4:30 pm and saw one adult Sea-Eagle roosting to the left of the nest. Although houses haven’t been built any closer to the nest than last year, the foundations for one are being made, and it’s as close to the nest as it’s possible to be (about 30 m).

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Diggers were working just uphill of this site.

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The Sea-Eagle flew away at 5:13 pm – 18 mins after sunset – and landed in a guard tree closer to the water. Either it or the other adult flew back at 5:15 pm and went right into the nest, out of sight.

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A car drove past me and the eagle flew out again, so I left. I only saw one adult at a time, so I don’t know if the pair is there.

Monday 12 June 2017

I accidentally deleted some photos I took about a week ago. I saw the pair at the nest, then flying to the guard tree, honking and mating in the late afternoon.

Today I arrived about 4:00 pm and couldn’t see the eagles. At 4:26 pm the pair flew in together and it looked as if the first one had something in its talons. I got a couple of photos of the second one landing.

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They both sat in the nest and appeared to be eating.

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One of the eagles flew up onto a higher branch and wiped its beak on the branch.

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Some people walked past my car, looked at the nest then walked towards it. One of the eagles flew out with the prey, which looks like a fish (tail towards me).

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The other sea-eagle stayed on the branch for 15 minutes, flew down into the nest – disappearing from sight for a minute – then perched on a lower branch on the other side of the nest.

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24 June 2017

I arrived at 4:37 pm and saw one eagle on a branch to the left of the nest. After a while it flew into a tree to the right of the nest.

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A little more had been done on the house site.

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I heard alarm calls and saw the other eagle flying towards the nest. It had plant material in its talons.

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The first eagle flew into the nest. They sat there looking out for a while then both disappeared into it entirely out of sight.

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One flew up to the high branch on the right and after it had been there for a while, I drove off. I glanced back and thought I saw the other pop its head up. Such big birds are surprisingly difficult to see without the camera.

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WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE NEST 2 NOVEMBER DECEMBER 2016

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Today I entered the nest area the bottom way at about 4:30 pm AEDT. One adult flushed from the nest or nest tree. It flew around me but did not cluck. It went, so I briefly went close to the nest tree to take some photos. I thought there may have been something in the top right of the nest, but I think it was just a wide strip of bark because it did not move.

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Thursday 10 November 2016

Today I arrived at the nest area at 5:00 pm AEDT. I was tired, so I decided just to walk towards the nest in full view and have a quick look for a juvenile. I was shocked that no sea-eagle saw me and flew over to me. This is the first time since I found the nest that I haven’t seen them or they haven’t seen me. I’m afraid they’ve gone and their nest has failed like nest 1. I could not see anything in the nest.

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Friday 11 November 2016

Today I entered the nest area the top way at 1:00 pm AEDT, walking in the open as I expected to confirm that the sea-eagles were no longer there. I was looking down for snakes when I saw a shadow. I looked up and saw a beautiful sea-eagle!

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I walked towards the nest tree. The adult circled me a couple of times fairly low but without clucking then left. I photographed the nest from about 100 m, then suddenly realised that there was a bump that may not have been a bough. I zoomed in and was ecstatic to see a juvenile white-bellied sea-eagle!

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I got several photos from behind a bush so as not to scare it, then moved further away to behind the trunk of a large gum tree. It stood up!

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It stayed so still I’m not sure that people looking at the nest would even notice it, even though it was so big. Its colour blended in with the branches and nest.

I walked over to check out the black kite nest and whistling kite nest, keeping a tree between me and the nest tree. Just as I decided to go home, I saw one of the parents up very high. It came over towards where I was and slowly got lower. It was carrying something long, but I couldn’t identify it – it may have been an eel or a stick.

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It landed on a bare branch and I think it pulled the thing up to eat it. Look at the talons!

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As I left, I saw the juvenile again (there appears to be one only). One parent flew around me fairly low and the other stayed very high.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

I visited at about 4:00 pm AEDT. The juvenile was standing on the nest. I took a quick look and left.

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Thursday 17 November 2016

I visited at about 3:30 pm AEDT. The juvenile was standing still on the nest. I took some photos and left. I saw one adult on a guard roost.

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Monday 21 November 2016

I crept down through the bushes (it’s so hard when the fallen leaves crackle so loudly) and saw an awesome sight: an adult on the nest with the juvenile!

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It flew away quite soon after this, but didn’t acknowledge me, so I don’t think it saw me.

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Thursday 24 November 2016

I arrived via the bottom way and noticed a thickened part of the tree. I suddenly had a feeling the juvenile had branched … and it had!! It was a couple of metres to the left of the nest.

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Friday 25 November 2016

I went back again to check that the juvenile was still okay. It was in the tree, but lower; about 3-4 m below the nest.

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The parents weren’t there, so I managed to get under a small tree and lie belly down. After about 10 minutes an adult flew in and landed near the top of the nest tree.

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Although I knew where the adult and juvenile were, I still thought they were incredibly hard to see. A person could easily miss seeing them although they are such big birds.

The juvenile did a poo, although it can’t be seen in the photo.

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It also had a stretch.

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I took some photos while the sulphur-crested cockatoos were screeching. I must have tilted the camera up and it reflected the sun or something because the adult suddenly flew over to me (after more than an hour of not noticing me). I left immediately.

Monday 28 November 2016

I didn’t visit in the weekend, although I thought that the juvenile may leave and I wouldn’t know where he was (I’m going to say he, although I don’t know the gender). I couldn’t see him on the nest or in the nest tree, but saw him on a tree that was about 50 m from the nest tree, about 10 m up.

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I hid behind a tree and watched a while. I saw him do a poo, then fly!!!!!!

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He flew in a slow semi circle behind the nest tree then landed in a taller eucalypt in denser bush.

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He was swooped by a couple of magpies.

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He flew again, down behind the bush behind the nest tree. I don’t know where he landed.

I drove around to the development on that side. I couldn’t see the nest tree and there looked like there was enough bush for an eagle to hide in. I don’t think people would walk from that side over to the nest tree. I saw one adult flying over the trees. I hope the juvenile is okay. He looked like a strong flyer, for a beginner.

Thursday 1 December 2016

I didn’t dare go for a walk because storms were threatening. Instead, I drove to the new development on the other side and saw an adult sea-eagle fly over the trees, maybe towards a place I used to go to see sea-eagles. I realised people can see the nest from there.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

I walked in the bottom way in full view. I didn’t see any sea-eagles so turned to leave. I thought I may have seen a glimpse of a sea-eagle (the juvenile?) flying from a tree about 30 m from the nest tree into the trees behind. I couldn’t be sure. About 5 mins later an adult sea-eagle flew straight towards the nest tree without acknowledging me.

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It landed in the top of the nest tree and was still there when I left.

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Friday 9 December 2016

I walked in the top way in full view, at about 3:20 pm AEDT. I saw one adult sea-eagle straight away. There may have been 2 but I only saw one at any given time. I didn’t see the juvenile. I thought I saw it, then realised I was looking at  a wedge-tailed eagle! I thought I saw it again, then realised I was looking at a second wedge-tailed eagle. The adult sea-eagle was not impressed, and dived at them, defending the nest tree area.

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I also saw the carapace of an eastern long-necked turtle under the tree the juvenile was in when I first saw it out of the nest tree.

 

WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE NEST 1 NOVEMBER 2016

Saturday 12 November 2016

Today at about 6:40 pm AEDT, I visited the nest, even though I have not seen the adults visit it for many weeks. There were diggings for roads/houses right up to the fence, about 60 m from the nest tree.

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I wandered down towards the swamp, and as I turned back I saw one sea-eagle in a tall gum tree (top right just after it forks on the bottom fork). I had not seen it fly in and did not see the other. However, for such a big bird it was hard to see in the foliage, so the other may have been in another tree.

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As I left, I looked back and saw this gorgeous sight.

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Sunday 13 November 2016

I had a brief look at about 1:00 pm AEDT but there were no birds in the nest or surrounds.

Thursday 24 November 2016

I stopped in at about 6:30 pm but there were no birds. A whistling kite was flying near the nest.

 

Comment

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle has recently been listed as a vulnerable species in NSW. This is why, this is why …

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/threatenedspecies/determinations/PDWhitebelliSeaeagleVS.pdf

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=20322

Galah nest box 2016

Friday 29 April 2016.

Mr and Mrs Galah were at the box for several hours. They entered the box and made loud scratching sounds. One rubbed its face on the baffle facing north.

Monday 15 August 2016

Mr and Mrs Galah slept at the box.

Sunday 4 September 2016 – Chick(s) first calling

I heard our baby galahs for the first time! This is only two weeks and 6 days after I noticed Mr and Mrs Galah sleeping at the box, so they must have laid eggs a lot earlier (at least a week).

Wednesday 19 October 2016 – Norbert looked out

After work today, we saw Norbert, our first baby galah for 2016 (at about 4:30 pm). It is 6 weeks 3 days since I first heard them. He looked big and strong, so I think he may have climbed up a day or more ago, and we didn’t see him.

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Thursday 20 October 2016 – Saphira looked out!

This morning, while we were looking at Norbert, we saw Saphira, our second baby galah (at about 7:00 am).  It is 6 weeks 4 days since I first heard them.

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On Thursday evening, Norbert called to his parents and looked like he was thinking of flying.

Friday 21 October 2016

On Friday morning, and Friday evening, Norbert was definitely calling, and Mr and Mrs Galah were calling him and doing demonstration flights. He decided to stay, and looked beautiful in the evening light.

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Saturday 22 October 2016 – Norbert left the box! Puff looked out!

At 6:45 am AEDT (05:45 AEST), after only two minutes of calling and demonstration flights by his parents, Norbert flew out of the box. He had a little round tummy and trailing legs with curled claws. He flew to the south east, in a straight line without dipping down. Both parent swooped down and escorted him, one on either side. Good luck little one, I hope you have found a safe place out of the rain today.

Sunrise was at 6:04 am AEDT (05:04 AEST) today, so Norbert flew 41 minutes after sunrise.

10 minutes later, Saphira looked out, then 15 minutes after that we saw a third baby, Puff, for the first time!  It is 6 weeks 6 days since I first heard them.

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7:15 am Mr Galah came back alone, stayed for 5 mins then left.

7:30 am Mr Galah came back alone, stayed for a few seconds then left.

7:45 am Mr Galah came back and gave Saphira a feed from the perch.

The Common Mynas are a serious problem. They are harassing the babies and the parents. They sit on branches only 1 metre above the box, land on the lid and even stand on the perches and look in. I saw one land on the lid with a feather in its beak, as if it wanted to put nesting material right on top of the babies (and they have done that to our baby rosellas in the past). The brand new rosella box they got into was taken down last Sunday, and here they still are, 6 days later, harassing the galahs.

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It started raining heavily around 8:00 am. I’m worried about Norbert. Saphira decided to stretch out of the box and investigate the rain.

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Mrs Galah came back sometime after 8:00 am. I saw her feed Saphira while standing on the perches at 11:10 am. Puff was up there asking for food, but Mrs Galah only fed Saphira.

The night is very cold (80C). I’m worried about Norbert out by himself in the open without the box and his siblings to keep him warm. Mr and Mrs Galah slept here.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Saphira looks good and strong. Tonight was 70C.

Monday 24 October 2016

Saphira can lean right our but doesn’t seem as if she’s in a hurry to leave. Tonight was 70C.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Saphira is calling but didn’t leave morning or afternoon. Tonight it’s warmer – 13oC.

Wednesday 26 October 2016 – Saphira flew

Saphira continued to call this morning but didn’t leave.

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Puff popped up every so often.

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Saphira got a pre-flight grooming from Mr Galah.

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Our 2nd galah baby for 2016, Saphira, flew away with her parents at 6:35 pm AEDT (17:35 AEST) tonight. Sunset was at 7:14 pm AEDT (18:14 AEST), so she flew 39 mins before sunset. We could see her for quite a while, as she headed east south-east,  flew a big sweeping curve around to the south then due west. She probably flew at least 1 km on her first flight. All the best my little one; I hope you’re cuddled up to Norbert in the creche while your mum and dad are sleeping here with Puff.

Tonight was a good choice – the minimum temperaure is 18oC

Mr and Mrs Galah came back at 7:15 pm. they fed Puff inside the box and 7:20 pm and 7:47 pm then slept at the box.

Thursday 27 October 2016 – Puff flew

I didn’t expect Puff to fly for several days. I had only seen her face and little white cap in the hole, even this morning. But when I came home from work at about 6 pm, she was sitting right up in the hole.

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At about 6:10 she gave her first ‘I want to fly calls’ (quack quack), and Mr and Mrs Galah answered and did a few short flights in front of her. It only lasted  couple of minutes and then they flew off. But when they came back at about 6:45 pm it was full on. Puff called so loudly and excitedly, and the parents did heaps of demo flights,; short ones in the tree and long slow horizontal circles even behind the box where Puff could not see them, but could hear them. One landed in a gum tree visible to the west and Mrs Galah landed on our roof.

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Our 3rd galah baby for 2016, Puff, flew away with her parents at 6:59 pm AEDT (17:59 AEST) tonight. Sunset was at 7:15 pm AEDT (18:15 AEST), so she flew 16 mins before sunset. She flew south-east, then flew a big sweeping curve around to the south then due west (almost the same path as Saphira took). We lost sight of her at the same big gum trees south of us where we lost sight of the others. She flew very strongly for a 3rd baby. Goodbye little Puff; the yard will be very empty without you all.

Mr and Mrs Galah came back at 7:20 pm, Mr Galah had a bite to eat then they slept on the perches of the box! I saw them there at 10 pm. They were gone on Friday morning, but they are mostly gone before sunrise.

Friday 28 October 2016

Mr and Mrs Galah came in for food and Mrs Galah slept alone at the box.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Mr and Mrs Galah came in for food and water. We took the box down after checking there were no more babies.

 

White-bellied Sea-Eagle Nest 2 July 2016

5 July 2016

Today, acting on a tip from a bird friend, I found a large nest. It is not as large as the one I found last month, but impressive nonetheless.

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I wondered if it was in use, and by whom. Before long, a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew overhead. I crouched in the bushes, hoping that I was not visible from the air.

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I stayed until the sun set, hoping to see the bird visit the nest, but did not see it again.

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19 July 2016

After work, I went to visit the nest for a second time. Soon after I arrived, I saw a single adult Sea-Eagle circling high in the sky.

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It disappeared for half an hour, then suddenly appeared. It appeared to circle the nest tree but did not land. I could not see a partner, either in the nest or in the air.

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I stayed until the sun set. All the while, I could hear the continuous drone of construction vehicles ripping up land for housing. The new roads and house lots are very close, but I don’t think they will get any closer. If this Sea-Eagle does have a partner, maybe they won’t be rudely pushed out of their home by human disturbance.

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As  I left, I saw the Sea-Eagle perched in the bare branches at the top of a tall eucalypt. I couldn’t help wondering if it was watching the construction vehicles eat into its habitat, and feeling as devastated as I was.

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26 July 2016

After work, I headed to the nest, equipped with full camo gear (I picked up a great pair of polar fleece camo pyjama pants last weekend). While still a reasonable distance away, I saw one, then two, Sea-Eagles! I also saw at least 4 black kites. They were all circling fairly high. I snuck over to the nest after they moved out of sight. I did not see them for nearly an hour, then one started flying in large circles around the area of the nest tree. While hidden in camo gear and under heavy foliage, I took a few photos in the late afternoon light.

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I thought it had gone then suddenly realised one of them was perched on a branch of the nest tree!

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I waited until I thought it had gone then left by walking under trees as far as I could from the nest tree before appearing in the open. The Sea-Eagle did see me and cruised around me, moving forwards very slowly. It is so much easier to photograph them without sun on the white feathers. This photo was taken after the sun had set.

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White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest 1 June 2016

Monday 13 June 2016

Today I found a spectacular White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest. It is very large, and conspicuously situated in a tall eucalypt.

I found the nest totally by accident. As I was driving through a new development, I saw a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circling. Although they were quite high, I stopped to take a few photos.

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As I was watching them, I heard the unmistakable honking of White-bellied Sea-Eagles. I walked towards the sound and saw the huge nest. Then I saw the Sea-Eagles in a nearby tree.
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I will never forget my shock and delight at finding a nest. I have seen many Sea-Eagles over the years, including juveniles, but never a nest. I couldn’t believe my luck!

After spending some time in the nest, the Sea-Eagles flew to a nearby tree and started honking again.

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Then they mated. It was brief but I was stunned to have such luck.

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Thursday 16 June 2016

I went to visit the nest late this afternoon. No birds, but nice light!

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Friday 24 June 2016

Another visit and no birds. I’m wondering if they have another nest.

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Saturday 25 June 2016

No birds in the nest, but I did see one flying over a nearby swamp. I heard them calling from the other side of it a bit later.

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