Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I need to do some educating about what to do if you find an osprey chick on the ground. First of all let me dispell some myths. The parents will NOT feed it on the ground. That is true of some other birds, but not ospreys. Fledging time is a precarious time and some birds do end up either falling out of a nest or having some mishap during the process of fledging and they do need help. Young ospreys who land on the ground during one of their first flights are sometimes unable to get lift off from the ground. They may not have developed enough strength or skill to do that. We are so lucky here that we do have some wonderful sources for help. First of all you can contact me! I check emails many times most days, and if you live near a nest that you visit regularly, please send me an email so I can give you my phone number in case you ever need it in the future. I need to have a team of people on the alert so if you wish to be a part of such a team, let me know! I am experienced at handling ospreys, and always have a box in my car.
If you cannot get a hold of me, the next source of help is the Raptor Center. Their phone number is 612-624-4745. They will usually advise you about how to pick the bird up and how to transport it to their clinic. Do not feed the bird or give it water. They do not drink, they get fluid from their fish. Put it in a box and put a towel over the box, or a top on the box. It will need some air (holes) but keeping the box in a dark cool place will keep the bird calmer. Get the bird to TRC as soon as possible...time matters. If you do take an osprey to TRC, please send me an email about it. I know that if you are reading this page, you care about ospreys, so let's not let them die uneccessarily. We lost a chick yesterday, perhaps because it did not get rescued quickly enough. Sadly, this may not reach the people who need to know what to do. Thanks to David, Joren, and Raquel for finally rescueing the chick and thanks to Paul for letting me know about it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Update on one of the nests that is sharing a Dad...at least two of the chicks have fledged successfully! It's a milestone, but also means they will be even more hungry as they use energy flying. Those chicks really pack on the pounds before undertaking their first migration. The female is providing food there, so the male is probably not able to keep all six of his offspring fed adequately. But they are surviving and achieving all the developmental stages we watch for. His other family has not begun fledging.

Two fish in four minutes!

Watching a nest today with a female and two chicks...she was food begging vociferously. The male flew over the nest, out over the lake, hovered for a second and plunged into the water right in front of me, big splash, came up with a lovely sunny or crappie, delivered it to the female. He then turned around, went right back out over the water, plunged again, came up with another fish in less than four minutes! He delivered that one also...but the female was feeding the two chicks with the first fish. They ignored him...so he flew off with the fish to a tree. When the female finished feeding the chicks, she went to the tree and took the second fish from him and ate it herself. What a generous guy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I can finally confirm the first successful fledgings that I have seen this year! Both of the chicks that were missing from their nests in recent days, are flying well and have returned to the nest! Yeah! Many more will follow soon. They probably already have but I have yet to confirm it! It takes a lot of time and energy to locate chicks, or wait for them to return to the nest.
I also have updates on the two males who were attending two nests. As of today, one of these males still had six chicks that were doing well. I have seen the male hanging around at one of his nests more than the other and often found the other female absent. I have now confirmed that she is having to fish for her family also. On my most recent visit, I did not see the male at either nest.

The other male with two nests was very  inattentive to his nest with three chicks in it and that female was leaving the nest unattended for fairly long periods of time to fish for her threesome. It's a calculated risk to leave the chicks alone, but she had to in order to ensure their survival. Sadly, his other nest has failed. The remains of the lone chick were found on the ground today. I saw the male perched alone on the empty nest, preening today..while his other mate, on the other nest, was out fishing. He does not seem to be directing his attention and energy to where it is most needed now. He is a young male and this is his first year of breeding.  The other male is a little older, a little more experienced, having bred successfully two other times.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23...

Another long day in the field with one of my great nest monitors! We confirmed the number of chicks on all nests in her watch area, and sadly found one chick missing since last week. We remained concerned about the remaining chick since we did not see the resident male bringing fish. They seemed to be visited repeatedly by other males...flying by, trying to land on the nest, sometimes carrying a fish but leaving without offering it. The female was food begging and acting defensive, chasing males. We believe something may have happened to her mate and she may be a single parent now. We also visited another nest where, upon arrival we saw no adults. A lone chick looking in all directions. We searched, waited, started talking about rescue plans and then finally the female arrived with a fish. Is she alone now too? Not sure. A male was here last week. These nests will be checked again soon. On the second nest, the chick is quite large and will fledge soon. She will be able to successfully raise a single chick if she has to. We also found many nests with three big chicks and both parents close by, so we had much to celebrate. I received interesting emails from osprey watchers in Wisconsin...one had spotted one of our females, nesting there for three years! We also had some interesting discussions over the causes of mortality of chicks at a more advanced age...GHO's, black flies, raccoons, blow flies, being blown out of nests. It's always fun to share info and ideas with others who share this interest in ospreys.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Failed nests

This is the time of the breeding season when I sadly discover nests that had a happy family a week or two ago, are now empty. Sometimes I find no trace of any ospreys, sometimes I find an adult perched in a tree near the nest. I search for bodies when I can. I have found several nests like this in the past few days. It's frustrating to have no certain explanation for the failures. The most likely causes are that a chick got blown out of the nest in a storm or the nest was predated. The likely suspect is a Great Horned Owl. If I get to the nest soon enough I may find bodies, often with the head missing...the calling card of an owl. But other ground predators may have carried away the bodies by the time I discover the nest empty. I search for the adults in the surrounding area. We are also approaching one of the dangerous passages for chicks...fledging. Not all first flights go well. If they fly away and are never seen again, it must be assumed that the chick got into some kind of trouble. Most chicks first flights are a short loop and back to the nest, or to a safe, but often awkward landing on some nearby perch. From what I have observed, flying is easy, landing is hard! I search for chicks missing from the nest...and usually can find them. When the male brings a fish, most chicks come screaming. To call a nest successful, it must be determined that at least one chick fledged successfully.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Me and one of my little friends

more polygyny

It has been discovered that there is another male engaging in polygyny here this year. He has one chick and a mate on one nest, and three chicks and another mate on the other. Unfortunately one of the nests is on very private property and I do not have permission to view the nest from a close enough distance to read bands. I can see from a distance how many chicks and if the male is present. Only... one person has close access so I have to rely on the reports I receive. I can watch one of the nests however and the male is rarely there...the nest with three chicks. I do wonder why this has occurred considering the number of extra males I have seen visiting other nests. There is no shortage of males! In this case the male on one of these nests did not return, and the other case also involves a female whose mate did not return AND her nest was removed from its former site so she had to move also. Perhaps these behaviors are also related to the very odd, delayed beginning of breeding season this year. With so many lakes frozen when the birds first returned, many birds did not stay on their territories until a food source was available nearby. Many returns were delayed also...so perhaps the confluence of unusual circumstances led to this massive game of musical nests, where some males managed to end up with two mates and two territories. I am hoping for happy endings. It will be interesting to see what happens next year also. Sometimes when a male claims a territory and has bred successfully there, it's hard to get him to give it up. I have seen several males defend multiple territories ...a former nest site and the current nest site. I know this all sounds like a soap opera with its twists and turns. Hope you followed the storyline! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Polygyous male...an update

I could not stand to stay home another day so I went to check a few nests. Of course high on my list were the two nests being attended by one male. There are so many aspects of the behaviors observed that I could go on tangents about...first let me report that all six chicks are alive and doing fairly well. Chicks on one nest looked better today than on the other. Both nests have one chick which is lagging behind developmentally. Chicks on one nest had salt around their nares, which is an indication of dehydration. The other three did not. I saw the resident male three times at one nest and not at all at the other. He brought two fish to one nest and came flying in with a third fish but went to a tree to eat it himself. During his lunch, another male arrived and flew over and the resident male took off after him, carrying the fish. I did not see him return or deliver it to the nest.
I saw this visiting male three times. He is banded but I was not able to read his band. I am sure others have. I was a bit worried about the youngest chick at one nest...the other two larger chicks were dominant during the feeding, and the little guy seemed cut off on the far side of the nest. It was interesting to see the female trying to reach the small one and finally she backed up from the other two chicks, walked around them to get to the little guy and began to feed him. Sometimes females feed whoever lines up...but she intentionally moved to feed the little guy. The female was totally off the nest at the other site. She was gone for at least 55 minutes and I could not spot her anywhere. She finally returned to chicks with empty crops, as was hers, with no fish. Oddly enough at this nest also...the smallest chick with no feathers yet on its breast, was the only one with food in its crop! This may be related to the timing of my visits...if the little one gets fed last, he may appear to have the fullest crop later. But, clearly, the little ones are getting fed at both nests. I saw no serious aggression between the chicks, tho during a feeding at one nest, they were trying to grab bites of fish out of the beaks of the other chicks. At the other nest I did not see this...they waited patiently to be fed. So things are going surprisingly well, after a stretch of hot, humid weather. I still think the male is favoring one nest, but clearly attending to both. It is possible that one of the females is fishing also as she was wet this morning as she fed the chicks and she was gone a long time this afternoon. Wish I could sit there all day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Arboretum nest has failed

It looks like the Arb nest has officially failed. The incubating pair are gone, the egg is off to the side, and other ospreys are being seen on the nest...other banded and unbanded birds. I am sure the behaviors seen around the nest, and not visible on the cam, may be quite interesting. I wish I could get out there today, but I can't. Still recovering from surgery.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July 2

I checked in on the Arb cam this morning...male still on the nest. Their 39th day of incubation, the usual length in this area, was June 23. They are now way overdue and it is clear that the egg is not viable. It was either infertile or died along the way for any number of reasons. Now we are observing how ospreys behave when their egg does not hatch. This, too, is interesting. Usually the male is the last one to give up, and some males are more determined to make an egg hatch than others, as is 79. Sometimes they give up slowly, taking longer and longer breaks off the egg. Sometimes they even work on the nest by bringing sticks to cover the egg. All osprey behaviors are interesting to me, even nest failures and the reasons for them.

Sunday June 30

Another day of checking nests...found two more failed nests. They incubated too long and are giving up...both adults seen on both nests but no incubating, just perching and preening. Some of these birds may fill their time by building a "frustration" nest. I also found another nest attempt that blew down in the big storm...and they are rebuilding, tho it looked a little half hearted. Watched some tiny chicks being fed at other nests...too small to see, but the parents were leaning into the nest cup with tiny bits of fish and coming up with an empty beak, so someone's eating it! This is how we determine that a nest has hatched. We cannot see the chicks until they are about ten days old usually, but we can see the feeding behavior of the adults. I also observed some older chicks, with feathered breasts, a little down left, as they toddled around the edge of the nest, taking in the world around them. Noticing all the landmarks of "home".