Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New nests!

Believe it or not, we are STILL finding new nests! I recieved an email last night from a volunteer who is monitoring another nest, that she kept hearing faint food begging near her home. It was too far away from the nest she watches to be hearing those birds. So she and her husband went exploring, and she found a nest on a cell tower nearby. I went out there at 6:30 this morning to check it out. Easily found the nest, with no birds. I waited. Eventually I heard a juvenile food begging and he came to the nest, whining. It didn’t take too long for the male to bring a fish and drop it. I could see that he was banded, but he took off quickly so I could not read it. As the chick was eating, I still heard some food begging and eventually the adult female arrived. She is unbanded. Although most females have begun their migration at this time, she was still here and based upon the chicks behavior and eye color, it looks like this nest was a late one. I watched the chick and Mom and finally the male returned and perched where I could read his band. No other chicks were seen or heard. How lucky that we found this nest and I was able to get all the required data to add to our annual report! Thanks to Jean and Rod for listening and following their ears! This is often how we find new nests. Pay attention to flying birds, vocalizations, and searching for cell towers, ballfield lights, and other man made structures. We hope that the birding public will share such observations with us, as we are making a noble effort to monitor all nests in the eight county metro area, and I find many, but not all of them. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at osprey.mn@gmail.com. We really need the public’s help with this effort. I have found so many new nests in recent weeks, that it makes me wonder how many I don’t know about!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The price we pay for caring....

We are very busy confirming successful fledging of the chicks on all nests. In the process I have stumbled upon several new nests, or nests I  didn’t know about! It still remains interesting at this stage of the breeding season. I came upon a new nest being built in the past few weeks and the banded male is from Iowa. It’s a little unusual for a male to travel that far from his fledging site, tho we have had an occasional male from a different state in the past.
I can also share with my long term readers that the male who successfully raised three chicks on his own last year, after his mate died /disappeared , has successfully fledged one chick with his new mate this year. It was a joyful experience to watch this young chick, whose parents are both so attentive, survive to fledging age. Last years test of his parental skills has turned him into a very devoted, reliable parent. Almost every time I visited the nest, he was there. 
I can also share that the two remaining chicks on the Arboretum cam nest have both fledged successfully. We are still sad about the tragic collision that caused such severe injuries to the third chick that he had to be euthanized. I believe that these sorts of accidents happen more frequently that we realize. Once a chick fledges, they can get into so many different kinds of trouble away from the nest. We were lucky that the chick was found quickly, but the outcome was still a sad one. 

That came on the heels of another tragic situation that we could not fully understand. I found a chick on a nest with no adults attending to it. It was a nest where we thought we had a monitor watching, but sometimes a volunteer loses interest and does not inform us that they will no longer be visiting the nest. I watched for 3.5 hours and saw no adult. I sent another monitor, Trusty Barb,  the next day and she found an adult female perched nearby and the chick flapping its wings, preparing for fledge. So I thought perhaps something had happened to the male and the female was caring for the chick alone. That might explain her absence when I was there. We also met a lovely gentleman, Bob,  who walked his dog near this nest and he became quite interested in this chick. The three of us were there over a period of days and saw several adults, male and female, near or on the nest. The chick was seen eating once. But my own observations and questions to the other monitors determined that the adults there were not providing any parental care, not reliably feeding the chick. There were behavioral clues that they were not the parents of the chick but were just Ospreys looking for a territory. The chick seemed distressed by the presence of the male. By the time we realized all this, the chick seemed to be quite weak, and then it disappeared. It was probably predated. We were heartbroken to watch this little guy waiting for food that didnt come. We have no idea what may have happened to the parents, since they do not just abandon their offspring. I wish we had figured it out sooner so we could have rescued him, but the nest itself was problematic since it is on a transmission line in the water. It would have required both state and federal permits to “take” the chick and Xcel energy would have had to climb the structure to rescue the chick. We simply were not able to coordinate all this in time. That little one won our human hearts and moved us to tears. Sometimes we just cant save  a chick, and that brought the three of us a great deal of sadness. But, as I have said before, I am glad that I still care enough about each and every bird to shed a tear over the losses. And I am glad I have some people working with me whose hearts are so big that they also care enough to weep and to lose sleep over these precious birds that bring so much meaning into our lives. Thanks to Barb Ankrum and Bob Holly. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

we lost one at the Arb....

We have been going thru some sad losses these last few weeks, and sometimes it’s hard to write about it. I must share that we have lost one of the chicks from the Arboretum nest. Last Thursday August 9, I was there to check the nest in person for you guys since we can’t see much on the cam. I found another chick flying, one in the nest and the first to fledge was missing. Someone from the Arboretum came to tell me that the chick was found on the ground that morning and taken to The Raptor Center. I checked with them that day and was Informed that the chick was too unstable to examine. The same was still true the next day. When they tried to examine him, the least bit of stress caused labored breathing. They observed two droopy wings and today they discovered a broken coracoid and internal injuries. Both wing tips were cold. So unfortunately they had to euthanize him. Clearly these injuries were the result of some kind of impact. He was found beneath a power line and not too far from a tall fence. We are so deeply saddened by this accident. A very special thanks to Rhonda Andreen from the Arboretum for rescuing this young bird and taking him to TRC. There  is a photo of him on our Facebook page that she took that day, as disturbing as it is. We have had some other losses too and numerous tears have been shed. But we must focus on the chicks who have made it. I am sure the last chick at the Arboretum has probably fledged now and I will get out there to confirm that soon. Even after 25 years, I never get use to this, and it still brings me grief. May every other osprey chick be safe and successful in their flying adventures.

Friday, August 10, 2018

help for some Ospreys

A few quick updates....for those concerned about the chicks in the tilted box that our friend Ken stabilized two weeks ago.....they have all fledged!!!!!! Woo hoo! They are still returning to the nest but are no longer in danger of ending up on the ground. We will replace the box this fall.
And for those concerned about the leaning tower of Ospreys.....Our friend Ken said he has access to some used 40 foot poles and will save us a few! Another Woo Hoo! We will investigate the situation, after the birds are more independent, to see if that ground is a suitable spot to set a pole. He also said he has a friend who can save us some lumber for new Nestboxes. So we are pooling our efforts to make some safer homes for our osprey friends. It restores my faith in humanity when people come together to help these birds. For some reason I cannot access my photos of these nests on this page but photos are available on our Facebook page! You may be able to go there and look, even if you are not a member of Facebook.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

flying at the Arb!

Since our current view of the Arboretum Osprey Cam nest is obscured by osprey body waste, ahem, I have been visiting in person to see how the family is doing. Yesterday I found all three chicks still in the nest, which surprised me a bit since they are now two months old. But today I found two in the nest and one perched nearby on a power pole across the field from the nest. I was hoping to see him fly, but when Dad delivered a fish to the rest of the family, it was not enough of a motivating factor for him to return to the nest. He seemed to be enjoying his space! He had one foot tucked up and his eyes closed lazily, as he basked in the late afternoon sun. I stayed and watched them for quite a while, but he was making me sleepy watching him, so I left him there and will check again soon. I am sure the others will follow him within a few days!
I enjoyed watching several newly fledged chicks today. On one nest I found a young male out on the very end of the nest perch. I wondered if he walked out there or flew out there. His siblings remained in the nest with Mom. After a while Mom came out and perched next to him, and he began to act a bit nervous. He kept looking at the nest, looking around, he got closer to mom as if he was suggesting that she move. She was oblivious. He put his wings out, and then decided, no. He turned around several times, looking at his nest mates lounging. Watching him began to make me nervous....what was he going to do? Finally he took the leap and flew several loops before he landed safely back in the nest! Whew! I’ll drink to that!

Saturday, July 28, 2018


That time has arrived, and I have confirmed fledgling on a couple of our earliest nests! Seems like they just hatched but now they are adult size and taking their first flights. So what is it that happens physiologically that prepares them for flight? As their feathers are growing in they are called blood feathers, as the shaft is full of blood. They do a lot of eating and sleeping as their bodies are putting energy into growing these feathers. Breaking a blood feather can cause a serious loss of blood. As they approach fledging, the blood in the  shaft of the feather begins to dry up and the feathers stiffen enough to be able to sustain flight. In those 10-15 days prior to fledging they will also be building their muscles by flapping their wings. On a nest full of three chicks, it can become chaotic so quite often the parents begin to perch nearby, rather than in the nest. The chicks can begin to hover up above the nest or even “fly” from one side of the nest to the other. And then one day, a gust of wind will carry the chick off the nest on its first voyage away from the nest. I watch closely to be sure they land safely somewhere nearby. After 25 years of watching this, I have come to believe that flying is the easy part, but landing is difficult. Sometimes the return to the nest ends in a face plant!  Technically I call a nest “successful” when at least one chick is known to have fledged successfully. That does not mean it flew away, and was never seen again. Ospreys remain dependent upon their parents for 10-30 days post fledge. So a successful first flight will end up with a chick back on the nest to be fed. While this stage of their development can be very exciting, it’s also a little sad and worrisome. They are on their way to independence , but they can get into a million kinds of trouble away from the nest and rescues may be necessary. We will keep searching for them on each visit, which I find to be a fun adventure. But for some of us, an empty nest is a sad sight. But let’s not go there yet! So much data still to collect. I found a new nest last week that still has a young chick in it, but I have not determined who the male is! So I still have a lot of work to do. One band number has evaded me, and I keep doing as much as I can to gather all the important facts. Our fledging dates this year are a little later than in last years, due to the late start to the breeding season, so we will be able to enjoy our friends a little longer this year! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

another rescue...

Another eventful day in the osprey world. Last sunday when I visited this nest it was clearly tilting and looked as if it might dump three chicks any day. I could see that the bottom of the box was deteriorating.  I fretted about what to do.  I called a wonderful guy I met last year named Ken Conrad and he came out today, with his friend Dave Faulk, and he climbed the pole, attached some supporting arms so the box is temporarily stabilized and those chicks are out of immediate danger. We will replace the whole nestbox in the fall after the Ospreys leave. There were a few breath holding moments as the oldest  of the three chicks kept standing up and putting his wings out. I hoped he would not jump prematurely, and thank goodness he didn’t. Whew. The female was flying and giving alarm calls and these chicks appeared to be around five week old, when they are still usually obeying her calls to lay down. The youngest of the three remained hidden thru the whole operation, and in fact I was worried that we had lost one since Sunday, but when Ken had returned to the ground and we observed from a distance, three heads popped up. And dear old dad arrived carrying a fish. In fact, this is the same male I rescued last week. I noticed the tilt of the box when I rescued him, and a week later it seemed worse, so I spent a sleepless night trying to formulate a plan to alleviate the potential disaster. I am sure the fix will hold until they fledge in a few weeks and we will complete a more permanent fix in a few months. I cant express enough gratitude to Ken and Dave for coming to the rescue without hesitation. I cant do this alone and I am so deeply appreciative of the wonderful people who pitch in to assist with the care of the Ospreys and the support of the ongoing research. A million thanks to Ken for being a lifesaver. And I also want to thank Steven Koski at Xcel for hooking me up with Ken last year. It takes a village! You can view photos on our Facebook page.