Saturday, February 14, 2015

Feb 14, 2015

Well folks, I got a lovely card today from an unidentified osprey, somewhere in South America...who said it is nice and warm, but his heart is in Minnesota, he misses me and will see us all soon! I am not kidding! Some wonderful person must have helped him send it! 
Happy Valentines Day to you all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Return migration

I just received a question about the return migration of our Ospreys. We often get unconfirmed reports starting in early to mid March, but I think personally I have not seen an osprey before the end of the third week or the fourth week of March. Last year my first sighting was on April 6. But as you know, we had a loooooong cold winter. It depends on whether or not we still have frozen lakes. Ospreys usually make the return trip quicker than their fall migration. It is the urge to breed that brings them back and they know that returning early, defending their territory from other Ospreys and laying the eggs early will be a more successful breeding strategy. They can make it back from South and Central America in about two weeks, but if they run into snow and frozen lakes, they seem to slow down and hang out where fish are available. Sometimes, if lakes are frozen here, we will see the resident birds show up at their nest sites, but since they have to travel to open water for food, they may only be seen sporadically in the early days of the breeding season. 
I am working hard on the annual report now...gathering, organizing and analyzing the data collected last year. A lot of work! Fun tho!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ooops...belated posts

 I forgot to transfer the final posts from the FB page...
We got several very kind cards during the holidays...and some donations received, from as far away as Wales!!! . So deeply appreciated. We also stumbled upon a new nest in the fall while scouting a spot for a new nestpole! 
We are currently working on the laborious task of writing reports, tabulating results, pulling data together. Will post more on that later...

October 9, 2014:
I can now declare that Osprey breeding season is over...our final juvenile was last seen last Sunday. I wrote about that in the last post. After four hours she went winging off to the south and we have not seen her since. I visited again today and all the usual perches were empty. As I sat there waiting to see if she might return to the nest, the police came. Of course, this happens to me every year! Someone reported my activity as suspicious. The police laughed when I told her what I was doing, and how sad it is that bird watching is seen as suspicious!
So now, the big letdown from a crazy summer of monitoring all the known nests in eight counties. Still learning so much. I will do some charts and begin pulling some data together now, but the bulk of the analysis and report writing will begin in January. Now I have to focus on making some money! I will still post occasionally when something pops into my head to talk about. Thanks again to all who have helped me watch over all these nests. I love all the conversations about behaviors, the questions, the time in the field together, the shared observations. I love sharing my passion with all the like minded folks I have found, here in the Twin Cities and all over the world. How lucky that the ospreys have brought us together to learn from each other.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Still here...

Here it is, October 5... And I spent four hours watching what is probably our last osprey here in the Twin Cities.  Our family of late fledgers has lingered much later than most other ospreys and it's been educational to observe them. Last Sunday I was watching the two chicks, one male and one female and their Dad. That turned out to be the last time I saw the male chick. All week we have been watching the female chick being fed by her Dad, food begging, never venturing far from the nest. The last two days she has been quieter and we cannot confirm that the adult male is still around.  We have not seen him. But today the female was still on the nest or in a nearby tree, food begging occasionally , tho I am not sure who she saw that elicited that vocalization.  She disappeared for a while and came back all wet. Was she trying to catch a fish for herself?  Perhaps, or maybe just bathing.
Her crop was fairly empty, and she only pooped a small amount once in those four hours. She did not appear to be dehydrated. One can't help but ponder what this experience is like for these youngsters , to feel the urge to fly off to parts unknown, without a parent, having rather undeveloped fishing skills. This is why it is estimated that half of them will not survive the first year. It's difficult for those of us who have become attached to these birds we have watched for so many months. After four hours of observing her, she took off to the south...going fishing? Or is she off on the big adventure this time...time will tell. Barb and I will keep checking. I hoped that Dad would stay, but it is late and I guess the switch finally flipped in his head and the urge to head south won out over the instinct to care for his offspring. We hope she will follow soon, while she still has reserves built up from all the fish he has delivered so faithfully. We hate to see her go, but she must. 
Here is a touching excerpt from a lovely email I recieved from Karen, who watched over a family of ospreys all summer. I think it expresses what many of us feel this time of year..."Today is quiet, almost eerie... Last night my little lady was on her favorite perch off my front porch/deck. All week long she has been staying close to home and begging for food like she was starving...As evening comes I still don't see her. By now she is usually hanging around close to home. I think that day...the day I knew would come..all too soon. Is my girl gone? I have grown very attached to this little lady. I know her call, I can spot her a half mile away. I have mixed feelings....she is grown, ready to explore her world, I am proud of her. Sad that I will most likely never see her again. This summer went all too fast. I cherish the photos we have taken. I look forward to next year and what it will bring. Thank you for sharing your passion with us, teaching us." 
Once again, I have to say thank you to all the amazing people who have helped watch over these birds all summer, sharing your observations with me, investing your time and your hearts in our Ospreys. A million thanks. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 28, they are still here!

September 28, one month after our last chicks fledged, and they are still here! This is what I was hoping for...that they would have at least one month to grow up, polish  their osprey skills, with their Dad still providing for them. I was surprised when the adults laid eggs so late, and we began doing the math then, and worrying about whether or not they would have enough time to grow up before migration. I enjoyed my time with them again today on yet another spectacular day. Leaves are becoming brilliant, temps in the low 80's, and again, those popcorn clouds in a sapphire sky. When I arrived I found the female chick, in one of her usual perches.  She was just sitting quietly, a fairly empty crop. I could not locate any other ospreys. Suddenly she burst into that distinctive desperate, whining food begging which tells me that she can see her Dad with a fish! She flew to the nest and nearly attacked the adult male as he landed with a fish. Settle down! Off he went immediately , and she continued to whine as he circled above. He seemed to be looking for the other chick. When Dad finally disappeared from sight, the young female became quiet and went to one of her favorite low perches further away from the road to eat. She is barely visible there. I waited, hoping to see the other chick. No sign of him, so I went for an iced latte, searched for her brother unsuccessfully, and came back. She had moved to a  higher perch...One of her parents favorite eating spots. She was still working on her fish. All was calm.  Did he leave? Hmmmm.  Then I turned around and was surprised to see another osprey sitting silently behind me. It was her brother.  Then, again, she burst into raucous food begging as I saw another osprey approaching, carrying a fish. She took flight and so did her brother.  Now there were three of them flying around, hollering....two of them had fish and one did not.  Dad went to the nest, followed by the juvenile male and the young female, with her fish. (still thinking she needed another one!) A big skirmish errupted  with Dad escaping first , followed by the young male, with the fish in his beak. He had to get out of there before she grabbed the fish! He had to struggle a bit in the air to rebalance and get the fish in his talons, and he disappeared...leaving our girl alone again. Would she have dropped her partially eaten fish to grab the new one? I think those instincts to eat as much as possible at this time of year completely take over and their behavior can be quite amusing! So she returned to her perch and finished her fish. Another long calm stretch. And then AGAIN, she burst into loud cries for food as Dad approached again! She flew to the nest, no competition this time, and got another fish! Pop flew off to the east and she returned to her perch and devoured that fish in less then ten minutes. This is serious. Pack on the pounds. Dad just keeps delivering food. What a guy! I am sure he feels the pull of two competing instincts...to care for his offspring, and to head south.  A cold front is expected to come through tonight. Was that my last visit with this family of Ospreys? I lingered too long, just watching her in the golden  light, the yellow cottonwood leaves behind her. I didn't want to leave. Barb will check on them tomorrow. Every year there is some osprey, some family, that captivates me more than the others...and this year it's been this nest. Every last moment with them has been a treasure. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Still here!

Another interesting day with the ospreys! Yes we still have some! Most nests are empty now but our youngest chicks are both still here and Dear old Dad is still dutifully providing for them. He amazes me! It took me a while to locate these guys today...initially locating the female chick perched very low on a branch...barely visible to me. Suddenly she started food begging loudly, wings down and out. I realized Dad was near, and he flew into the nest with a fish and the female chick flew hell bent to grab it. He immediately flew off and she returned to her perch with the fish. Surprisingly, after all that noise, she did not eat! I noticed that her crop was pretty full already, so this was her second breakfast. She just sat there, pushing food down in her crop,  happy to have another fish. Thirty minutes later she broke into the hysterical food begging again, as Dad came back with another fish. He displayed it, and then sat in a high perch so the other chick might see him. Nope. The female kept begging for another fish as she held a whole one in her talons. Funny.  Finally Dad gave up and left with the fish. He swooped so low that I had to go search for him...as I did that I saw another osprey flying without a fish...must be the other chick. He lands  in a tree...yup, that's him. Then he heads to the nest, food begging loudly. Of course, Dad came with the fish for his other chick. So now everyone is fed and Dad heads out again. It's so interesting  how long they are sticking around! I have to express a special thanks to  a first year volunteer who has visited this nest, almost daily all summer!  Barb has been reliable, very curious, asking many questions, and learning so much in her first year of osprey watching. I have enjoyed our many emails, our time together in the field. This nest has been an interesting one, and I could not visit as often as she has, so together we have been able to keep good track of these late fledgers.
I am so grateful to all the wonderful volunteers I have worked with...some checking over ten nests weekly, some checking one or two nests several times a week, it truely takes a village to do what we are doing! THANKS THANKS THANKS!  Each and everyone of you is so important!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17...still some ospreys around

What a stunning day...70, popcorn clouds, low humidity. I would say perfect. What a pleasure to be out there searching for ospreys. I managed to find four young ones and two adult males watching over them. I had hoped to check more nests but became mesmerized at two nests. I stopped at one nest where a chick has been missing since right after banding. I continue to see only one chick there. She is actually the young lady who I caught stealing fish at another nest! She was not on her nest when I arrived but I could hear her! I quickly located her Dad, sitting where he always is...in a tree across the lake from the nest. She finally came screaming back to the nest...that desperate, whining food begging that some of you are familiar with. Wow. She had as full a crop as I have seen, and was still asking for more! I have to pull out that blimp imagery again. She is rotund. Think basketball with a head and tail and wings attached. I was enjoying watching her, taking in the turning leaves, shimmering in the fall light. A kingfisher was chattering away and fishing nearby.  I also checked the nest where our youngest chicks are. In the early morning I saw one chick, eating in a dead snag. I came back after stopping for my second cup of coffee. I could not find any ospreys. Every perch was searched to no avail. Checked a few other nests that were empty and quiet. Returned and still spotted no ospreys. I made some notes in my almost full field journal and when I looked up...Dad was in his favorite perch right above me, in a  tree near the nest. He had a huge fish! But no chicks were seen or heard. He remained there with the fish in his talons, not eating. He scanned the skies in all directions. He waited. I was taken aback by how handsome this osprey was with his almost completely white breast,  his bright yellow eyes with a spot in the 8 o'clock  position of his right eye (helpful for identifying birds). The leaves behind him were turning yellow, and the bright blue sky peeking thru the tree. I remind myself to be present in this moment and take it all in. He waits. I wait. No chicks came screaming. They were both seen last night, and one this morning. Was today the day they departed? Finally he started eating the fish...ripping and tearing a few bits and then searching the area again. I watched him eat sporadically for  two hours, stopping occasionally to scan the area for his offspring.  It was actually fascinating to watch his eating method...those fish eyeballs appear to be quite juicy! Three turkey vultures visited, circling above.  I was hoping to see both chicks but none showed up...and then suddenly our peaceful scene was disturbed when he jumped up, giving a unique alarm call which announced that there was a Bald Eagle in the vicinity. Off he goes. All ospreys gone. We will continue to check on these birds, knowing that our days with them are numbered.