Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23... Empty nests.

Well, Dear readers... Now I think I must report that osprey season has ended here in the Twin Cities. My final sighting of the Dad of the rehabbed chick was last Friday. We had some northerly winds that day and I guess he took advantage of that easy ride south to depart. He hung around for a week after the last sighting of his dear chick before he decided he was no longer needed here. 
 I last saw the offspring of the oldest male on Sunday. She was still hollering her head off, which may have meant she knew her Dad was there, but I could not locate him. I visited that nest today and it was so very quiet. Peaceful, still. Her favorite perch in the cottonwood tree was empty. It was a little sad, to be honest. I went around the lake for another perspective and I sat for about 30 minutes, scanning all the trees with my binoculars. Listening. Watching some loons and gulls. No Ospreys. So I will stop my visits for this year unless someone reports a sighting to me. Thanks to all of the dear volunteers who have helped me  to watch over this population of Ospreys. I treasure each and every one of you! And thanks to all the people who have hit the "like" button here...each time you do that, it makes me feel that I am doing something valuable. It shows support and I need that. I treasure all my fellow osprey enthusiasts, around the world, who understand how special these birds are. I don't know what the future holds for this project. It's been a tough year financially for me. The number of nests continues to grow, the behaviors are changing and I still see great value in this research, but I need more help to keep it going. I will write a post about all that sometime down the road...but now I have to turn my attention to making some money, selling some pots. 
I will miss my winged friends who bring me so much joy and a very special kind of inner peace when I am watching them. I know you all understand...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September 16...

They are not all gone yet! I kept checking on the rehabbed chick last week and saw both chick and dad on Friday....but over the weekend, I saw neither. Lo and behold on Monday I did see Dad on his lofty perch. No chick seen or heard tho. 
Today I went in search of our oldest male, the 22 year old. I arrived to see and hear his one remaining chick on the nest hollering loudly for food. I could NOT find Dad for the life of me. After about an hour tho an adult came flying by, causing the chick to almost have a seizure! But the male went past the nest into a back marsh area to perch where the chick could not see him. After about 15 minutes back there he cruised past the nest again, causing another spasm of desperate food begging. He did not stop, but kept flying off over the trees. The chick waited patiently and quietly. After another 20 minutes, the chick became apoplectic again as dear old Dad came soaring in with a goldfish. He delivered it quickly...too quickly to read the band, but I could see that the color band was on the left leg, which indicated that he was a hacked bird from the reintroduction. He is the only one that is still alive. He scooted off very quickly as the chick dove into the goldfish, looking up occasionally with fish all over his beak, while still food begging. Made me laugh out loud. This old male is not perching in any of his usual perches, and is hard to find these days. I am not sure why,  since he has always been a very attentive male, perching near the nest and watching over his kids for most of his life. Maybe he has a new perch that I am just not able to see, or maybe age is affecting his behavior. But he is still providing for this lingering juvenile. At any rate, here we are, on the back side of September, and I was still able to enjoy a couple of hours watching my winged friends. It's not always easy to find them, but there are still some Ospreys around town. I savor these final days, wondering each time I drive away...will this be my last visit with them? 

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11...

I have been back to check on the rehabbed chick every day. For the past two days, she was not seen, tho her Dad was always sitting on his high perch, surveying his kingdom. Today again, I found only Dad, sitting up there and I watched him intently for almost an hour. He preened, looked around, scanning the horizon for his last chick, as if he had far away places in his mind. I am amazed that I can spend so much time staring at a perching osprey, noting all the details of his behavior and appearance...noticing how full or empty his crop is, the various shades of brown on his body and wing feathers, some slightly bleached out, the particular markings on the top of his head, his eye stripe and his breast markings...each osprey, so unique looking. I watch as he closes his eyes briefly for a slight snooze. Did you know they close one eye to rest the opposite side of his brain? Interesting to observe. I notice which direction he seems to look most often...probably where he last saw his chick heading. What is it about these particular birds that captivate me so deeply? I remember at the Raptor Center, when I was training their captive osprey, we called these birds, "heyoka". This is a Lakota term that refers to a special, holy person who does things backwards, a sacred clown, a contrary shaman. Ospreys are so different than other raptors, particularly in captivity...perhaps that is why I love them. They are like me. I find them completely mesmerizing. I do not like to anthropomorphize, but I can't help but be touched by this male as he balances his pull to head south and his devotion to caring for this offspring, to give her the very best chance at survival, watching over her until the last minute. It's all about survival and reproduction. 
As I peacefully watched him, I suddenly heard, far off in the distance, that familiar whine of a hungry juvenile. I clapped my hands...she is still here!!!! Weeeeee here she comes, hollering all the way. She landed and I was able to confirm her identity by the silver band that The Raptor Center placed on her left leg. She kept food begging non stop for about 15 minutes, and then Dad took off to get her some lunch. I have watched them enough to know when he goes THAT direction, he usually returns with a goldfish. Any other direction and he is more likely to return with a less exotic sort of lunch. I wanted to wait for his return, but another person scared the chick off the nest and after 15 minutes of no Ospreys,  I had to move on. Still, it was a happy day to see them both, knowing I will have so little time left to spend with them. One of my volunteers asked me earlier this season if I had a favorite Osprey. I often do, but it also changes every year, based upon events, circumstances and behaviors. I have to say, as the 2015 Osprey season winds down, I have fallen for this male and the rehabbed adult male that I released. Both of them have displayed such a powerful committment to caring for their offspring....that it has touched my heart deeply. Can't wait to see both of them next spring. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Still here...

Today I stopped to check on the chick that was released from rehab several weeks ago. She has not left the nest much since she returned to the nest weeks ago...but the past two days she was not there. I was not sure whether to worry or not. She certainly needs to be flying, exploring, practicing her water starts etc. The male has been perched very high above the nest on an antenna on a water tower...watching for her almost all the time. Every now and then he would fly off and be gone for a short time, seemingly trying to scare her up. The juveniles will often follow an adult back to the nest, hollering for food. Yesterday his efforts failed when I was watching. Today he flew off and then, back to the nest came my little rehabbed chick, whining desperately for food. Dear old Dad was right behind her, but he returned to his lofty perch, with no fish. It seemed quite clear that he had gone looking for her. He is trying to figure out what he needs to do as well. I am sure he feels the pull to head south, but also feels the strong instinct to care for his offspring. Ah, chick is still here, he needs to stay and feed her. I am pleased that she is still here, but is venturing forth a bit more, practicing some of her osprey skills while Dad is still there to feed her when necessary. It won't be long until these nests are empty and silent. I relish every minute  I get to spend watching these last few Ospreys. I will check her again tomorrow. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Today I am hanging out at the nest with the rehabbed adult male.
I am so happy to say that finally, the female is not around to chase him away, so he is perched near the nest, relaxing, preening. A female chick remains on the nest food begging. After about 20 minutes of hollering, the male heads out to get some lunch. I have not seen the other two chicks. How long will it take this male to return with food for a chick that does not exactly have an empty crop?  They are eating machines this time of year...never enough!  The male looks good...really somewhat plump for a male! Good to know that he will embark upon migration with plenty of reserves.
It looks as if the nest needs some maintenance. Usually the adults bring sticks throughout the nesting season, but this year the unusual circumstances seem to have moved housekeeping to the bottom of the priority list. Many sticks are falling and the nest looks thin on top, but this can be repaired in the spring.
After a little over an hour, the male returns with a fish for his youngster. He drops it on the nest and perches nearby...preening calmly. The chick ate, and whined, and then came and landed next to Dad, which made him fly off, and the chick followed. Not sure the chick ate the whole fish...I think she may have dropped it. But they are sticking together, these two. After a short time, the chick returned, alone, to the nest. Dad will get another fish. He is definitely watching over this chick and providing for her very well. The scientist in me just observes and takes notes, documenting the behaviors....but my human heart has fallen in love with this male.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The rehabbed adult male...

I am visiting the nest where the rehabbed adult male belongs. No one was here when I arrived. I waited....answered emails on the iPad. Patience is a necessary quality to have for this work. Finally I hear the distant sound of a juvenile food begging...far off...but getting closer. Finally I see two Ospreys circling high above the nest. The juvenile lands, followed quickly by the rehabbed male who dropped a fish and zoomed off. Yeah! He is still secretly supplying fish to his kids when the female is not around. I have not seen the female today so perhaps she has begun her migration. What a great male...and how lucky that The Raptor Center got him all fixed up. I know you all like happy endings, and this surely is one of those stories. And so very interesting from a behavioral point of view. Still watching, still learning, still accumulating a rich data base in my mind.

Oooops...not missing after all!

Apparently I wrote too I returned to visit the nest where the  22 year old male was  missing. I have been to this nest 8 times since Aug 1, usually watching for about an hour or more. I have never seen him, but have seen the female delivering fish at least five times...but today he is here! One chick was alone on the nest when I arrived, quietly finishing the tail of a fish. I waited. Suddenly the young one errupted into hysterical food begging. I checked the old males favorite perch and sure enough, it was him. He ate part of the fish and then delivered it to the youngster in the nest who was almost apoplectic. The other chick did not show up, so must be out of earshot...or on its way south. So I breath a sigh of relief. He may be slowing down in his  old age, but he is still here. I am crossing all my fingers and toes that he will survive another migration and set a new longevity record next year by breeding successfully in his 23rd year.