Thursday, September 11, 2014

Still here!

A strong cold front came thru with gusty north winds on Tuesday night and Wednesday. I thought this might carry away a lot of our friends...reports have come in of empty nests. I went out to check some nests myself and was surprised to find chicks on 8 out of the 11 nests I visited! All chicks appeared to be females and were hollering for food. I saw three males bring fish and a few more perching nearby while the youngster ate on the nest. It's always interesting to see which chicks are still around, counting heads, reading bands on the few that are banded. I try to confirm successful fledging and my last bit of data collection involves seeing which chicks have survived and remain in their territories just prior to migration. Also fun to observe the males behaviors as they wrap things up...flying around with a fish to see if there are any hungry chicks still around. I was also noticing how much the juveniles eye color has changed since they had that intense, rusty color of very young ospreys. Now I am seeing gold eyes...not quite the bright yellow of most adults, and some chicks eyes could be described now as rose gold....just that hint of rosiness left. Pretty. I also notice how the buffy colored tips of the dark feathers are becoming less obvious as the feather edges wear a bit. Many of the chicks seem larger than the adult makes who are feeding them! They have definitely been packing on the pounds! I enjoy watching them in these late season days...drinking in the details, filling the last few pages of my 200 page field journal. Lots of data to sift thru duriing the long cold days of winter. I will go check on our youngest chicks this weekend!

September 9...

The leaves are starting to turn...fall is upon us. I feel the urge to migrate too. I got the big "Fall into the Arts festival" behind me last weekend and I finally had time to return to checking nests again today. I visited 18 nests...and much to my surprise, I found 11 nests had young birds on them! Many nests have been empty on recent visits, but the kids came home to roost today. I have noticed over the years that it seems as if the juveniles, who have been out exploring their worlds since fledging, return to their home base just prior to beginning their migration. I suspect that is what I encountered today. That is certainly not the case with all chicks tho. There are two nests in particular that I have visited over and over, hoping to find a missing chick...but they were not there today either. But I do keep finding some attentive adult males still hanging around. (no adult females seen today). I was watching one male today doing the one eye snooze. Did you know that when they have one eye closed and the other open, they are resting the opposite side of their brain. ie: if the right eye is closed, they are resting the left hemisphere of the brain. This of course allows them to rest while still being on the alert for predators. Some say they can even do this while flying! But I digress... I also spent some time watching our youngest chicks to fledge...still both returning to the nest and I was lucky enough to find their secret hangout! Hard to see from the road, but now I know where they are zooming off to! A fun day in the field...I treasure these final days.

Hungry...

Another funny little vignette from the life of an osprey...I was watching a juvenile in a tree eating a fish leisurely today. Nibbling, looking around. I was hoping to locate his sibling too, so I was just hanging around scanning all the other trees, listening...then suddenly this chick began food begging desperately as he hung onto the remains if the fish he had. Ah...here comes Dad! He lands on the branch right next to the chick with another small fish. The chick starts inhaling the fish he has, trying to quickly make room for more. If any of you have watched ospreys eat you know how they sometimes struggle with the tail piece...a little too big to swallow, but difficult to get a good hold so they can rip and tear Into smaller bites. This guy was struggling...trying to swallow this huge tail piece, but having to spit it back out, repeatedly, all while whining the way chicks do...looking at Dads fish, trying to swallow his tail piece, food begging...as, once again, I started laughing out loud. He finally ripped his fish into smaller bits, as Dad began eating the other fish. Then he managed to finally swallow the end of the tail. He sat there and watched his Dad finish off the other fish. Too late. He whined as the adult male flew off. Ha ha. They are eating machines this time of year.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Establishing a territory...

Just a short note today...I go out to check on chicks but always end up getting sidetracked by something interesting. Today I came across three ospreys hanging out on an abandoned nest. Two males chasing and one banded female sitting there. It was fun to observe. So when you think osprey season is winding down, all sorts of stuff is still going on. Clearly these are young birds, female only three years old, males unbanded...still trying to establish a territory and choose a mate for next year. So many interesting interactions still going on. I have noticed this past week that on many nests, I can no longer locate the adult female...but today I saw quite a few of them still hanging around their nests.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Too many chicks!!!

Well well well...no bad news today. Just some fun behaviors observed. I visited one nest with three fat chicks. I have been here many times and tho these chicks must have fledged some time ago...they are ALWAYS on the nest. I watched the three of them food begging endlessly. Then I noticed that there was an adult on a power pole closer to me. I zeroed in on her with my scope...Mama. Then another osprey comes flying over the nest, tried to land but the three fat ones shook their wings and the flying one headed for Mama...she did not chirp or act defensive at all, so I thought it must be Dad. As this bird approached her she flew off, but did not chase. That one landed where Mama had been and first I noticed  it was a female ...then I noticed it was a juvenile!  I zoomed my scope back towards the nest, but there were still three fat chicks there! A visiting unbanded juvenile. Hmmmm there are several other nests a few miles away in several directions. Could be a chick from one of those . It's so interesting that the adult female knew it was a young one and showed no defensive behavior. Then I finally saw two of these osprey - blimps fly! So they have fledged, just prefer to sit around and eat.  Then I visited another nest where we had two younger chicks who have just fledged in the past day or so. (extremely late).  I located one chick in a tree, the other on the nest eating. Then the adult male showed up. One chick was flying from tree to tree and back to the nest. Weeeeeeeeee! The littler one did fly a few short loops and back to the nest. In the midst of this I looked up from my field notes and there were suddenly THREE chicks on the nest! All were sitting calmly. Dad was nearby in the tree. I was able to see that the visitor was banded and clearly older than these two resident chicks. No aggressive behavior as they sat there, tho the littlest chick hung her head a bit and acted submissive. Looking up at this big confident juvenile female,  I am pretty sure I heard her say "WTF?". Then after about five quiet minutes of this visitor looking around and assessing the situation, she hopped into the center of the nest and stole an old crusty piece of fish and took off! One of the chicks followed her! I yelled "thief!" She disappeared  behind some trees. After a short time the visitor returned to the nest again, and started food begging. Of course dear old dad would not comply, but he did not chase her off. She kept flying loops and returning to the nest, asking for food. The little chick layed down, confused? I was laughing out loud. Finally the visitor headed off towards home...and only then did the male deliver a fish to the little one.  So much fun watching these behaviors. The literature describes these common behaviors among juveniles, but I think the population has to be dense enough, with nests in close proximity, to observe these visits. And when chicks are banded it can be documented where they are from. It was a fun day in the field. I am still chuckling...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another mortality...

Another sad mortality to report. There was a chick who had not fledged in spite of its advanced age, and it was found on the ground last weekend and taken to The Raptor Center. They discovered it had a dislocated elbow, which was an old injury. These kinds of injuries can occur accidentally on a nest full of chicks and we have seen it before. The chick had food in its stomach but was very thin and had to be euthanized due to the non functioning wing. Two other chicks fledged successfully from this nest. Thanks to Ron for sharing the info that the chick had been taken to TRC so I could follow up on it. Thanks to all involved with the rescue and transport of the chick also.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Steamy day...

Jeeeez it is aaawwwwwful out there today. So muggy. But I ventured forth to check some nests. Still looking for  a few missing chicks which I did not find...checking on a few chicks that have not fledged! They are  nearly giving one of my great new volunteer monitors a stroke....jumping and flying from one side of the nest to the other, hovering...but not quite flying yet! When I visited the nest, there were additional adults flying around and chirping so the chicks were obeying Moms orders...pancaking in the nest, playing dead during the commotion...So I did not get to see their pre-flight skills being honed. Amazingly tho, I am still finding new birds...a two year old female trying to butt in at another nest. It was so damn miserable out there but I sat for a loooonnnng time trying to read her band.  I can't stand an unread band!!!!  By the time I had accomplished my task I could not see straight...squinting with one eye thru the heat waves, constantly refocusing the scope, waiting for her to turn just a bit.
I also revisited a couple of nests with really big chicks who I am sure must have fledged, but everytime I visit, they are laying or standing in the nest! I have never seen them fly! I will keep checking on them. When I saw the dark clouds in the west, I thought it was time to give up and seek coolness.