Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The rehabbed chick....

I was back out there yesterday, looking for the chick we released last week. After many hours of searching, I did find him. Maybe he has a daily routine because I found him in the same place and the same time as Barb saw him the day before. Earlier in the day, he was not there. Anyway, he looked better than he did when I saw him briefly last Saturday. His crop was not as sunken and hollow, he had no salt around his nares. He did not have a full crop by any means.....but it appeared that he probably had something to eat that day. He was near a nest, food begging, but he did not go to the nest where another chick was food begging. I then saw him swoop down towards a small creek. I did not see him come up with a fish, but it appears that he is trying to feed himself. Must be finding enough food to stay alive. And of course, as time goes on, he will get better at fishing as he practices those skills. He has been given a crash course in growing up. He is a pretty cute little fellow, fighting the odds. Another tough cookie! And we will continue to do our job of observing, taking good notes, so we can learn more about what happens when a young bird ends up in rehab and has no family to return to. It will make us better at what we do, so we can help these birds when necessary.

I also had a little thrill when I learned that cumulatively the papers I have coauthored about Ospreys have now been cited by other scientists over 100 times! Nice to know that my efforts have contributed something to the general knowledge about Ospreys! Don't mean to toot my own horn, but it kind of amazes me! Makes me feel like all the sacrifice, effort and hard work is worth it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Update on Mr Mom and the released chick...

I have a quick little update for you regarding our single male. I did not see him when I was there for over 90 minutes yesterday. On the surface, that may be no cause for concern after chicks have fledged. But nothing is normal on that nest so I worried about him as I tossed and turned last night. So this afternoon on my way home from work my car took a detour and I went to check on him. At first all I could find was the female juvenile, flying around whining all the way. She is a very vocal chick! I searched for the Dad and finally spotted him perched quite far away, very high up watching over his offspring. Again my hand went to my heart. Of course, he is near, he is watching, he is a rock for this family. I am amazed that I noticed him, and he was probably there yesterday also. He looked like a king observing his domain. He is staying out of the way, as the crazy kids come and go. He no longer perches on the nest edge. He avoids the chaos but he is there if they need food. I did not see the male chick today, but he was fine yesterday.
AND! My trusty volunteer Barb just called and she has spotted the chick we released! He is on a snag near the nest where we released him and he is "food begging like crazy". The other Ospreys are not chasing him. We hope he will go to the nest and food beg so the adult may deliver a fish to him. I will go visit him tomorrow. I cant wait to see him! So, some happy news for you all tonight.....

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mr Mom.....

Another busy day in the field which began with a few hours of searching again for the newly released chick. I could not locate him. I hope to try again later this week. I moved onto a few nests I haven't visited in quite some time. I ended the day back at our single dads nest. Sadly, I have some bad news to report. I also stopped here yesterday and found two fledged chicks but could not locate the third one. Mr Mom was present and eating a fish himself as the female chick waited quietly next to him for some food. Then he moved over and began to feed her. Sweet. I returned today to try to find that third chick. Two of them were zooming all over the place, fledged successfully! As I searched for number three, my heart sank when I found him hanging dead from a power pole. He must have been electrocuted. It is a disturbing sight that made me nauseous. As I said earlier, when the chicks fledge, they are safer in one way as they can fly away from a predator, but they are also open to a whole new world of trouble. We have  to remember that over 50% of them do not survive the first year. I still view this male as being a remarkable, devoted osprey that did successfully fledge three chicks all on his own. He cared for those chicks heroically since they were about three weeks old. Newly fledged chicks often land in bad places and make bad decisions and some of this is just bad luck. This one is hard to accept because we so wanted this story to finish with a fairy tale ending. As I watched the two beautiful remaining chicks, a male and a female, I saw no sign of Dad in 90 minutes. I am not too worried tho because I think he knows they can fly and they may not need to be guarded quite as much now. He may have been watching from someplace where I couldn't see him. Just the same, I will return to look for him in the next day or two. It's been a tiring week, and I hope I will have some better news this week so we can celebrate the successes! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Releasing a chick....

It's been a busy week in ospreyland. I was out checking nests all day on Wednesday, trying to confirm final fledging numbers and getting those last bands read. When I got home I had a call from The Raptor Center about a chick that was ready for release after two weeks of rehab. (We believe he blew out of his nest in a storm.) After just battling thru rush hour traffic I needed to turn around and head right back to where I came from! Ahhhhhh. But after some discussion it was decided that this guy really needed to be released that evening. I always try to do what's best for the birds regardless of the inconvenience to me. This was a tricky one tho because his sibling had died, and with no chicks to care for, the parents had left the area. So we would have to release him near a nest that still had chicks and parents actively feeding them in hopes that they might adopt this juvenile. My field work that day had gathered the info we needed to decide where to release this chick, so off I went again. He flew off fine, but did not go to the nest. He landed in a nearby tree, in a somewhat awkward spot with a lot of small branches. I stayed and watched him until 8pm. The next  day it was raining and my concern for this guy sent me right back there to look for him. He was not in the tree. I walked and drove all around for 5 hours, got soaked to the bone. I kept finding the resident chicks from the nest but not the newly released chick. I finally went home defeated. I had to work the next day, but one of my faithful volunteers, Barb, spent some time looking for him. She too was skunked. Today I went back again. I drove around and hiked for 4.5 hours, finding various chicks from other nests, also found a new nest being built!  But my concern just kept increasing. Suddenly I saw an osprey perched on a pole and I slowly approached and was finally able to read his band and confirm that it was him!! Alive! His crop was very empty tho. He had moved away from the nest that we hoped would adopt him and was hanging around near another nest, but when he flew to the nest, he was chased off. These kinds of situations are difficult.  I have seen a juvenile move to a new nest on its own and be fully adopted, cared for and fed. I recently received an email from a scientist in the U.K. asking me about this behavior. I have also been rereading some emails from my mentor Sergej about these movements of young birds between nests. Do adults recognize their own offspring? It is instinctive to chase off an intruder, but why do they allow some juveniles to take up residence? Sergej believed if the chick arrives when the parents are gone, they accept them.....but if they see the chick approaching, they will instinctively chase it. (I once observed an adult female attack her own offspring who was just learning to fly!) In this post fledging conundrum, this chick was chased off even tho one of the resident family's chicks seemed to have disappeared after fledge so how did they know this was not a missing part of their family? Ironically, the real parents of this chick were building a frustration nest nearby! But it is known that after several weeks of not caring for chicks, their parental instincts seem to turn off. Will they find each other and resume their relationship? I doubt it, but this is why we keep watching, and always taking good notes! 
At any rate, after many hours of searching, I am happy that our released chick is alive. After he was chased off, I lost him again. But we will keep watching for him, to see if he is being fed somehow, since most newly fledged chicks are not able to feed themselves consistently. I always remain curious and every situation like this is different. All my time observing them just adds to my understanding of these birds. My mentor, Sergej Postupalsky, who died last year has left me a treasure trove of emails that I still refer to often. He studied these birds for over 50 years and he had the kind of knowledge that only comes from doing intensive fieldwork for many, many years. So tonight I am tired, but a bit relieved. 
There are photos on my Facebook page.....for some reason this blog can't seem to access my photos


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Updates...July 29.

A long, hot day of playing "where's Waldo" ...searching for chicks to confirm successful fledging. Just flying away from the nest does not indicate a successful fledge. We must see them land safely somewhere and return to the nest to eat. They can get into a million different kinds of trouble post fledge, but we can monitor carefully to determine that they have fledged successfully. And honestly, it's kind of fun searching for them. I always am learning more about them, the more time I spend observing at different stages of development. I got to finally meet up with one of my new monitors today. It's always so hard to connect....and we were finally in the right place at the right time. I love watching with the volunteers so I can explain some behaviors, point out the clues that I am observing, what the vocalizations and behaviors may indicate.
Right now I am sitting here watching the nest of Mr Mom. Wow. When I arrived our single dad was perched nearby, watching over his youngsters. I don't mean to anthropomorphize , but he did look proud, confident, and quite comfortable with this situation and his role. He is now quite used to caring for these chicks. They are very big, beginning to flap furiously and are clearly preparing for fledge. Now I know I am very biased, but I am sitting here thinking these are the most beautiful chicks I have ever seen in my 24 years. I wish they were banded so we could follow their lives. It looks like it might be two males and one female. Dad took off for some dinner. The chicks were not food begging but crops were looking a little empty. They must be eating a lot now at this stage of development...and it will only get worse. But I am certain that this male is up to the task of fishing constantly. They are always well behaved, with no fighting for fish, which means the food supply is sufficient. Dad returns with a large goldfish. Oh how funny.....I laughed out loud! As I was just saying, they are well behaved, so all three lined up around Dear old Dad, expecting him to feed them. But Dad said, ya gotta grow up and feed yourselves...and he left the fish and moved to a perch nearby to watch. They all stared at the fish...no one lunged for the fish. They looked at each other. SO FUNNY! Finally one decided to grab the fish, politely, and begin eating. The others watched and food begged quietly. Believe it or not, they took turns at the fish....each one eating some and then walking away so another could take a turn. I love these guys....each and everyone of this osprey family has touched my heart. I sit here with my hand over my heart. Pop better go get a couple more fish! Sweet! The theme song from the old Mary Tyler Moore show went thru my head...."you're gonna make it afterall!"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mr Mom.....

First of all, Paul McCartney was great.....and you know who else is great? Our single dad...Mr Mom!!!!! He has successfully gotten those chicks thru another week and all are big, beautiful, with food in crops. He was not there when we arrived, but I could quickly count all three chicks lounging in the nest. Perhaps 15 minutes later Dad arrived with a fish and fed the chicks. Every week, they are closer to fledging....as so many other chicks are around town...so I celebrate each week.
As I check nests now, it's more of a challenge....when chicks have fledged we need to try to find them. Today I found an empty nest, but as I talked to a woman who was out walking she told me she saw the dad hunting over the field. But I realized Ospreys don't hunt over fields and she described short loops and I knew it must be a fledgling she was seeing. I easily found the youngster perched on a fence. And then heard another young one whining for food and flying with his legs dangling down, one of those funny behaviors of chicks who don't quite get the skill of pulling up the landing gear. So all accounted for at that nest. Mom was also flying and dad brought a fish and then retreated to his perch in a tree. The chicks are self feeding now. I love it when I find them all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A whole lot of flapping going on.....

I saw a couple more chicks that have fledged successfully today....boy, monitoring gets tougher when ya gotta search for them! But that was one of the fun things about the reintroduction project...having to find all the chicks every day, post fledge. I was pretty good at it. But now we must walk around, look, listen, pay attention to what the adults are looking at...a successful visit is accounting for each family member...sometimes a challenge, but I love it. Sometimes we do find a chick on the ground and must rescue the youngster and get it back to the nest.
And after a tough week, I am signing off for a few days....heading off to see Sir Paul McCartney!!!!!! Fourth row seat! And there is a chance I will never come back....just follow Paul.