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 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 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 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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Still here!

A strong cold front came thru with gusty north winds on Tuesday night and Wednesday. I thought this might carry away a lot of our friends...reports have come in of empty nests. I went out to check some nests myself and was surprised to find chicks on 8 out of the 11 nests I visited! All chicks appeared to be females and were hollering for food. I saw three males bring fish and a few more perching nearby while the youngster ate on the nest. It's always interesting to see which chicks are still around, counting heads, reading bands on the few that are banded. I try to confirm successful fledging and my last bit of data collection involves seeing which chicks have survived and remain in their territories just prior to migration. Also fun to observe the males behaviors as they wrap things up...flying around with a fish to see if there are any hungry chicks still around. I was also noticing how much the juveniles eye color has changed since they had that intense, rusty color of very young ospreys. Now I am seeing gold eyes...not quite the bright yellow of most adults, and some chicks eyes could be described now as rose gold....just that hint of rosiness left. Pretty. I also notice how the buffy colored tips of the dark feathers are becoming less obvious as the feather edges wear a bit. Many of the chicks seem larger than the adult makes who are feeding them! They have definitely been packing on the pounds! I enjoy watching them in these late season days...drinking in the details, filling the last few pages of my 200 page field journal. Lots of data to sift thru duriing the long cold days of winter. I will go check on our youngest chicks this weekend!

September 9...

The leaves are starting to turn...fall is upon us. I feel the urge to migrate too. I got the big "Fall into the Arts festival" behind me last weekend and I finally had time to return to checking nests again today. I visited 18 nests...and much to my surprise, I found 11 nests had young birds on them! Many nests have been empty on recent visits, but the kids came home to roost today. I have noticed over the years that it seems as if the juveniles, who have been out exploring their worlds since fledging, return to their home base just prior to beginning their migration. I suspect that is what I encountered today. That is certainly not the case with all chicks tho. There are two nests in particular that I have visited over and over, hoping to find a missing chick...but they were not there today either. But I do keep finding some attentive adult males still hanging around. (no adult females seen today). I was watching one male today doing the one eye snooze. Did you know that when they have one eye closed and the other open, they are resting the opposite side of their brain. ie: if the right eye is closed, they are resting the left hemisphere of the brain. This of course allows them to rest while still being on the alert for predators. Some say they can even do this while flying! But I digress... I also spent some time watching our youngest chicks to fledge...still both returning to the nest and I was lucky enough to find their secret hangout! Hard to see from the road, but now I know where they are zooming off to! A fun day in the field...I treasure these final days.


Another funny little vignette from the life of an osprey...I was watching a juvenile in a tree eating a fish leisurely today. Nibbling, looking around. I was hoping to locate his sibling too, so I was just hanging around scanning all the other trees, listening...then suddenly this chick began food begging desperately as he hung onto the remains if the fish he had. comes Dad! He lands on the branch right next to the chick with another small fish. The chick starts inhaling the fish he has, trying to quickly make room for more. If any of you have watched ospreys eat you know how they sometimes struggle with the tail piece...a little too big to swallow, but difficult to get a good hold so they can rip and tear Into smaller bites. This guy was struggling...trying to swallow this huge tail piece, but having to spit it back out, repeatedly, all while whining the way chicks do...looking at Dads fish, trying to swallow his tail piece, food, once again, I started laughing out loud. He finally ripped his fish into smaller bits, as Dad began eating the other fish. Then he managed to finally swallow the end of the tail. He sat there and watched his Dad finish off the other fish. Too late. He whined as the adult male flew off. Ha ha. They are eating machines this time of year.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Establishing a territory...

Just a short note today...I go out to check on chicks but always end up getting sidetracked by something interesting. Today I came across three ospreys hanging out on an abandoned nest. Two males chasing and one banded female sitting there. It was fun to observe. So when you think osprey season is winding down, all sorts of stuff is still going on. Clearly these are young birds, female only three years old, males unbanded...still trying to establish a territory and choose a mate for next year. So many interesting interactions still going on. I have noticed this past week that on many nests, I can no longer locate the adult female...but today I saw quite a few of them still hanging around their nests.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Too many chicks!!!

Well well bad news today. Just some fun behaviors observed. I visited one nest with three fat chicks. I have been here many times and tho these chicks must have fledged some time ago...they are ALWAYS on the nest. I watched the three of them food begging endlessly. Then I noticed that there was an adult on a power pole closer to me. I zeroed in on her with my scope...Mama. Then another osprey comes flying over the nest, tried to land but the three fat ones shook their wings and the flying one headed for Mama...she did not chirp or act defensive at all, so I thought it must be Dad. As this bird approached her she flew off, but did not chase. That one landed where Mama had been and first I noticed  it was a female ...then I noticed it was a juvenile!  I zoomed my scope back towards the nest, but there were still three fat chicks there! A visiting unbanded juvenile. Hmmmm there are several other nests a few miles away in several directions. Could be a chick from one of those . It's so interesting that the adult female knew it was a young one and showed no defensive behavior. Then I finally saw two of these osprey - blimps fly! So they have fledged, just prefer to sit around and eat.  Then I visited another nest where we had two younger chicks who have just fledged in the past day or so. (extremely late).  I located one chick in a tree, the other on the nest eating. Then the adult male showed up. One chick was flying from tree to tree and back to the nest. Weeeeeeeeee! The littler one did fly a few short loops and back to the nest. In the midst of this I looked up from my field notes and there were suddenly THREE chicks on the nest! All were sitting calmly. Dad was nearby in the tree. I was able to see that the visitor was banded and clearly older than these two resident chicks. No aggressive behavior as they sat there, tho the littlest chick hung her head a bit and acted submissive. Looking up at this big confident juvenile female,  I am pretty sure I heard her say "WTF?". Then after about five quiet minutes of this visitor looking around and assessing the situation, she hopped into the center of the nest and stole an old crusty piece of fish and took off! One of the chicks followed her! I yelled "thief!" She disappeared  behind some trees. After a short time the visitor returned to the nest again, and started food begging. Of course dear old dad would not comply, but he did not chase her off. She kept flying loops and returning to the nest, asking for food. The little chick layed down, confused? I was laughing out loud. Finally the visitor headed off towards home...and only then did the male deliver a fish to the little one.  So much fun watching these behaviors. The literature describes these common behaviors among juveniles, but I think the population has to be dense enough, with nests in close proximity, to observe these visits. And when chicks are banded it can be documented where they are from. It was a fun day in the field. I am still chuckling...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another mortality...

Another sad mortality to report. There was a chick who had not fledged in spite of its advanced age, and it was found on the ground last weekend and taken to The Raptor Center. They discovered it had a dislocated elbow, which was an old injury. These kinds of injuries can occur accidentally on a nest full of chicks and we have seen it before. The chick had food in its stomach but was very thin and had to be euthanized due to the non functioning wing. Two other chicks fledged successfully from this nest. Thanks to Ron for sharing the info that the chick had been taken to TRC so I could follow up on it. Thanks to all involved with the rescue and transport of the chick also.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Steamy day...

Jeeeez it is aaawwwwwful out there today. So muggy. But I ventured forth to check some nests. Still looking for  a few missing chicks which I did not find...checking on a few chicks that have not fledged! They are  nearly giving one of my great new volunteer monitors a stroke....jumping and flying from one side of the nest to the other, hovering...but not quite flying yet! When I visited the nest, there were additional adults flying around and chirping so the chicks were obeying Moms orders...pancaking in the nest, playing dead during the commotion...So I did not get to see their pre-flight skills being honed. Amazingly tho, I am still finding new birds...a two year old female trying to butt in at another nest. It was so damn miserable out there but I sat for a loooonnnng time trying to read her band.  I can't stand an unread band!!!!  By the time I had accomplished my task I could not see straight...squinting with one eye thru the heat waves, constantly refocusing the scope, waiting for her to turn just a bit.
I also revisited a couple of nests with really big chicks who I am sure must have fledged, but everytime I visit, they are laying or standing in the nest! I have never seen them fly! I will keep checking on them. When I saw the dark clouds in the west, I thought it was time to give up and seek coolness.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Late August...

I am sorry for the long gap...been very busy with nest checks and pottery. Believe it or not we still have chicks that have not fledged, tho they will soon! I am still searching for missing youngsters. It's been fun searching for the birds...since they are no longer sitting on the nest all the time, it's a challenge to locate them sometimes. While I am out and about I stumble upon other interesting things...ospreys dropping sticks in new places, ospreys whose nests failed long ago are suddenly seen back on the nest, moving some sticks...probably making some final visits to the home territory before beginning their migration. Different ospreys have been seen on abandoned nests.  It's really quite an active time, tho many nests are also empty much of the time as the family spends time at places other than the home base. Interesting to see which females are still around. 
I received new photos today of the little runt in Montana that we learned about in earlier posts. She (I think) is actually looking better now! Feathers filling in and I am hopeful that she may fledge successfully. She is self feeding now, which is a positive developmental stage that indicates that she is approaching fledging age.
 I try to take the time to savor my time in the field with the will be over soon. Listening to the whining food begging of the chicks, scanning the trees for a hidden osprey, watching ospreys circling above, or chasing eagles...taking in the sights and sounds of late summer.  I know some people tire of checking nests this time of year, but I am energized by these visits...wishing I had more time to devote to the birds and the research. But I also have to turn my attention to my other work...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday August 10...

Another funny story for you...I was watching a nest with a large female chick with a full crop standing next to her Mom, with an empty crop. They were both food begging. The male arrived with a fish and all hell broke loose with the adult female and her chick both grabbing the fish. A ferocious tug o war began that continued for several minutes, neither one willing to let go...finally the adult let go and the chick fell backwards with the fish in her talons. She regained her balance and stood there with the fish, continuing to food beg. She did not eat, just kept hollering and looking at mom, looking around. The adult kept eyeing the fish and when the chick was looking the other way the Mom finally tried to sneak in, head down, to get that fish. The chick snapped and lunged at her. Alright, allright, allright. Mom backed off. I waited for a good 20 minutes and the chick did not eat the fish. Apparently ownership beats eating. Her instincts are clearly telling her that it's important to bulk up now, so it's always good to have an extra fish waiting! Some of these young ones are bigger than their parents now, as they prepare for that first migration. Many of them will still be here for another month, when the decreasing amount of daylight will trigger the mysterious urge to fly south. 
I visited 23 nests today trying to determine who has fledged successfully. I love to see them flying and returning to the nest to eat. I did confirm that many have fledged, but we still have quite a few that are still building strength and preparing for the right moment to take flight. I saw a lot of awkward landings and some still loafing in the nest. A few chicks are missing and I will try to find them if I can. Some females are very hard to find now. I think many of them are still around, but they do begin to spend time away from the nest, fishing on their own, and building back some of the muscle mass lost during the nesting season. If the chicks  have fledged, I don't worry too much about missing females. Some will head south very soon. They have earned a little time off. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Black flies?????

I have some interesting things to may recall that I wrote about discovering a chick at banding time that was crawling with black flies...a few days later that nest was minus one chick so we assumed that the chick had jumped prematurely to escape the black flies. Now that the chicks on that nest are flying I was able to read bands and lo and behold, the chick that had black flies all over it, is fine and has fledged successfully! So, once again the lesson is that you cannot jump to conclusions in scientific have to seek the facts and refrain from putting together a story in your head. Figuring out the puzzle sometimes takes time and requires effort to be sure we have the facts right. Another chick that had black flies and many bites at banding time, is also fine and has fledged successfully. So I don't think we can attribute the increased mortality rate this year to black flies. However, I do believe it was a factor in the arboretum cam chicks fatal jump from its nest.
I have been busy trying to determine if chicks have fledged successfully...visiting nests and searching for chicks that have fledged, trying to account for as many as I can. This too, is time consuming...but known outcomes are important. It's a great feeling when I can see all chicks flying and returning to the nest to eat. Of course they can still get into trouble away from the keep watching and listening!

Beatles and Ospreys...

I got a late start to checking nests on Sunday after being at the Paul McCartney concert Saturday night and not being able to get to sleep afterwards! But I made some rounds, with Beatles music blaring in between nests. I have found some chicks successfully fledged...yeah! Also found some chicks missing, but perhaps fledged and just out and about doing what young ospreys do. And some chicks are frantically preparing to fledge by flapping furiously, helicoptering (getting loft and hovering a few feet above the nest) and self feeding. A bunch of them will go this week.
I also watched some interesting adult behaviors...of course many females are staying away from the nest, probably to escape the chaos, and to begin to regain their lost muscle mass from all that sitting and standing they have done for the past few months. I can usually find them somewhere in sight of the nest. Males can be scarce...providing fish for a full brood of chicks close to fledging age is a full time job. I watched one nest that had quite a lot of commotion with extra adults flying around...eventually I spotted a tree where four adults were perched! That is unusual! I tried to identify them, and at least one banded male was from a nearby failed nest (approx 2 miles away), and I presume the unbanded female near him was his mate. The other pair were both unbanded...also probably from a failed nest that is closer. They were all chirping loudly and seemed to be focusing their attention on another unidentified adult flying around. So there was some big time socializing going on that I found interesting to observe. No aggression between those four adults. Could the other bird have been the parent of the two chicks on the nest nearby who were very busy flapping, jumping and hovering? Was he/she nervous about these other adults hanging out so close to her nest of chicks? To add some intrigue, there are two banded adult males missing from nests in this area...seen in the pre laying phase and then gone by the time incubation was observed. It's frustrating to not be able to get to all nests often enough to know what happened. I suspect some interesting stuff was missed. I am so curious about outcomes, behaviors, that I have to keep checking nests...the more I know, the more questions I have and the more driven I am to figure out what's going on with this population of ospreys. I am a stickler for accuracy so gotta keep collecting data. Known outcomes are what's important in this kind of a study.

July 30...

I know you all enjoy stories about ospreys...this one would be better if I had a video. I pulled up to a nest where I had seen two chicks on recent visits. There was only one on the nest, a female chick with an empty crop, patiently waiting for a fish to be delivered. I spotted the adult female in a nearby tree but could not see the other chick or the adult male. Suddenly the female came flying into the nest, food begging, indicating that she must have seen the adult male. She was followed by the other chick, a male, who came from behind some trees. They landed on the nest just as the Dad landed with a large fish and chaos errupted. The chick who had been waiting, and apparently positioning herself to get the next fish, chest butted the other chick aggressively, trying to push him off the nest. It didn't work and she stood very tall, neck extended, wings part way out and glared so intensely at the other chick, with her rusty colored eyes that looked like they were on fire, I burst out laughing. If looks could kill....Then the female chick jumped up and footed the other chick, landing on him with talons extended. Quite the squabble. Of course during all that, mom got the fish...and started feeding the male chick! The poor female chick who had been waiting for that fish, got nothing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fledging drama...

The story for today...I checked nests all day and planned to end at a nest where I was told that the first chick has fledged this morning. When I arrived at about 4 pm, the gentleman who is watching that nest told me that the chick had tried to land on the top of the antenna on a cell tower and then slid down into the cell tower itself. The chick was down amongst the cables and well below the top of the tower, with many panels around her. Our first concern was whether her feet were caught in the cables or wires. After looking from every angle we determined she was free and appeared to be uninjured. But she was just perched there looking around, as if she was trapped in a cage. I watched or over two hours...chick did not seem to be making any effort to extricate herself. Dinner was served on the nest to the other chick. That did not seem to motivate this one. Finally at 6 pm I went home for some dinner and tried to figure out what to do. No cell tower employee would come out on a Saturday. I went back at 7pm and the chick had not moved. But her interest in getting back to the nest was increasing. She finally started turning around and trying to stretch her wings...but they hit on the mechanics of the cell tower. She turned around several times, looking up, looking down. She finally hopped a little closer to the edge of the tower. Stood there nervously for quite a while, trying to flap her wings in tight quarters. Then she went back to the center of the tower. Argh! Then Dad flew past with a fish. Now this chick had been stuck here for at least 4.5 hours and she was she went back to the edge of the tower and looked down, put her wings out, retreated a bit, then finally, with me whispering "just do it", she took the leap and was out of there and flying loops which eventually led her back to her nest at 8:30. She began hollering loudly for food, and when Dad came quickly she grabbed that fish before the other chick had a chance and began inhaling it. Whew. Suddenly I was exhausted...probably from holding my breath. So there you go...that's what I go thru at fledging time! Thanks to Perry for his observations and concern over this young bird. All is well that ends well. I found several other chicks that had fledged also at other nests and one that could not be located tho I searched for quite a while. I will keep looking to confirm successful fledging.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I was able to eeek out a little time to visit a few nests today. I am happy to report the first chicks have begun fledging in recent days. Now our monitoring work can be a real challenge...Locating young birds, and trying to confirm that they get back to the nest successfully. A chick disappearing from a nest cannot be considered a successful fledge! This is the time when I listen for food begging coming from the ground. A chick that flies a little too soon can wind up on the ground and adults will not usually feed them there. If left there overnight they may be predated. They are very vulnerable. I also search nearby trees, lights, power poles, looking for chicks near the nest. I am happiest when I observe them flying and they make it back to the nest safely. If you watch enough ospreys you will recognize a newly fledged chick...they work much harder at flying than the adults...flapping faster, making very awkward landings...sometimes ending with a face plant. They also can circle endlessly trying to figure out how to stop! I have concluded that flying is easy, landing is hard.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learning to rip and tear, and more losses...

Another nest visited today has lost two chicks, one nest had lost one chick and one had failed. The losses continue. I observed five extra ospreys circling, calling, chasing above one nest. I was amused to watch one little guy on his nest alone, trying to figure out how to rip and tear a fish on his own. He was barely five weeks old and did not really have strong enough feet to hold the fish as he tried to take a every time he pulled up the whole piece of fish came up. He kept toddling around the nest carrying this fish piece in his beak, like if he found the right spot on the nest, this would be easier. It was charming, but why was he alone? His Dad was in a tree, tho he eventually took off to chase a turkey vulture who got too close to the nest. I did notice a lot of flies at this nest and a chick was missing there may have been a dead chick up there. The female arrived with a fish and fed the chick and then left again. I searched for the adults and could not spot them anywhere. I will recheck this nest this weekend. I am more puzzled this year than usual. I am finding a lot of chicks alone, a lot of females fishing...perhaps fishing is harder due to high water and males are being less successful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Highs and lows of field work...

It was a day full of highs and lows. I visited one nest this morning where I had noted one chick missing about ten days ago, and today I saw something I had not noticed  then. The decayed remains of a chick hanging from the nest. How could  I not notice it last time? Hard to believe. Or did the chick die on the nest and the parents just pushed it over the edge? I am not sure, but it was a very sad sight. I was also deeply concerned that the single remaining chick was alone on the nest. No adults anywhere in sight. I waited for a long 35 minutes, my anxiety rising, thinking about how we could rescue this chick...when the male arrived with a fish. Whew! But what happened to the female? Another five minutes and the female arrived with a fish! The male dropped his fish and left and the chick and Mom had a feast. I proceeded on to check about 15 nests and I found extra ospreys flying around at six of them, including intruders trying to land on nests and being chased away. A lot of chaos. I stopped at the nest where two chicks disappeared/died as a result of a probable Great Horned Owl attack. Not an osprey in quiet.  I visited another nest that had three chicks last week but only one today. This chick was also alone when I arrived, because the female had gone fishing. The male was never seen, but the female returned with a big fish and they also feasted. I do not know what happened to the other two chicks.  If the male is gone, the female may have had too much difficulty feeding three chicks on her own. I also confirmed another chick missing from a nest that had two big healthy chicks last Thursday, but only one could be located today. Both adults present. Last week they were hopping and flapping...preparing to fledge, and now one of them is gone. I did not want to look for a body as the remaining chick is close to fledging and I did not want to frighten the chick into  jumping too soon. I can only guess about what happened at this nest. I also took a peek at a nest that had three lovelies a few days ago, but one of them died suddenly when they went to band them. I was not present but there may be a necropsy done to determine the cause of death. The remaining two chicks looked healthy today. The  last three nests I visited all had the right number of chicks present and accounted for. It was a relief.  And I did observe one nest that actually had one more chick than I originally thought! Celebrate! More nests tomorrow...

July 15...

Well, it is turning into a catastrophic year for the ospreys. More chicks are dead or missing, nests are empty, the head count diminishes. I will be checking as many nests as I can in the coming days. Volunteers, please check nests and count heads more frequently if you are able. And we have not yet gotten to the usual mortalities which occur around fledging time. As I have said in the past, Ospreys are an indicator species so when their productivity decreases, we need to pay attention. We need to look at this carefully...there are always ups and downs from year to year, but this feels different. We will see what the final outcomes are...and we will compare our data to other states, other researchers.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I have attended a few bandings in the past few days and most chicks are looking very good and healthy. However we have come upon two chicks at different nests that had a large number of black flies swarming and crawling on them. Vanilla was applied to one of them as this is believed to help keep the flies away, and the other had both vanilla and some essential oil bug repellant applied. It is not known if this will really help. I will try to keep my eye on these nests to see if those chicks survive to fledging. I also found another chick missing from a nest today. We may never know for sure what occurred there. It is easy to blame black flies this year, but there are many causes for mortalities. 
PS...july 13: another long day in the field. Sad to report that one of the chicks who had black flies on him last Thursday is now missing from the nest and presumed dead. Another nest that had just one chick is now empty. It's a challenging year for the ospreys.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pre-fledging behaviors...

I am starting to see pre-fledging behaviors now on some nests. Older chicks are flapping their wings and hopping with exuberance. For some reason when I see them flapping, I count the getting up over 30 flaps in a row as they build strength in those beautiful long wings. Chicks fledge at about 55 days...males tend to fly sooner than females and there is some difference bird to bird. Nothing hard and set about exactly when they take that leap. It sometimes seems as if a gust of wind takes away a young bird who was only intending to do some flapping...but, like it or not, is suddenly airborne. After 21 years of watching these first flights I have concluded that flying is not that hard, landing is! Sometimes they fly around in loops, as if trying to figure out how the heck to get back to the nest and stop! It often ends with a face plant on the nest. Haven't figured out the brakes. By this time the young birds are almost as large as the you how to tell them apart?

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I am sitting here on this PERFECT day...mid 70s, low humidity, popcorn clouds, happy to be out here checking nests. I am watching a nest that is high on a cell tower. I keep hearing a little peeping sound that sounds like an osprey who is happily eating, but I can't see him. I peek around some trees and see the male right on a power pole next to the road, eating a fish. A car stops and a woman gets out, walks right below him to get her mail, never looking up, gets back in her car and leaves. People miss so much. I laughed...but I knew he was there! The bad news is that there is one less chick than the last time I visited. Darn it. Black flies?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Black Flies...

Here is a link to an article on today's paper about black he says, I believe that we have lost ospreys to black flies in the past, we just didn't see it so clearly as we did with a cam on the Arboretum nest.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Saving habitats...

Check out this link...about a place in California, much like the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant which has been sold for development. They turned it into a park! What so many of us were hoping for...I wish Ramsey county were as forward thinking as they are in CA. With 8 osprey nests on the old Army property in Arden Hills, it would have preserved a beautiful natural habitat for the future...  Turns out many CA army properties have been turned into parks. In that state it was the will of the people that the open spaces be preserved rather than developed.  Guess its too late here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A sad loss...

So sad to learn about the death of the Arboretum chick who appears to have pre-fledged as a result of being bothered by bugs. Thank you all for watching so closely. There was nothing anyone could have done. Unfortunately I did not get the emails until this morning...and I do not live close to that nest. After many days in the field, I took a day for family.
Sometimes nature is hard to watch and outcomes are not what we want, but life for an osprey has many challenges. May the little guy rest in peace. We lose some of them every year and it is heart breaking. Thank you to Carol Fischenich for finding the body and covering it. Thank you to all who have given your hearts to these birds. I am running all over eight counties checking on chicks and its hard to be at the right place at the right time...this is why we need volunteers to help watch over these little guys. Sometimes we are able to rescue them and it is a wonderful feeling when we are successful. This time, it sounds like nothing could have been done...the fall likely killed him. The bugs have been a problem for other birds this year too and all of this may point to the effects of climate change. The heavy rainfall has created a bumper crop of bugs. This is why we keep up the research when others see no point in it...we will document the changes and the losses and the overall effect on productivity. This time having a cam allowed us to see what happened...thanks again to everyone. And in spite of the awful weather today, I am off to check all the nests in Wright County today. May all chicks be safe today...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finally, a new post...

Sorry I haven't posted in a while...busy time personally. I have been checking nests when possible and am discovering more nests that have failed. We are up to about twenty now, with more failures  possible in that delicate time between hatching and fledging. I cannot attribute all failures to any one cause. I have observed some mystifying things...including seeing a male earlier this spring who I had not seen since 2005-2007, when he made some nest attempts that failed, and then he totally disappeared, only to resurface this spring on a nest! Now he is gone again! I have no idea where he has been or where he went, but I certainly am curious. There may be nests I do not know about. So here is my plea again to report any new nests to us! With all the failed nests, we may see some frustration nests being built at this time of year, so if you see an osprey carrying sticks, PLEASE let me  know! I also have been watching a nest that had an unbanded male in the beginning of the season, and during incubation I rarely saw the male and when hatching occurred I noticed the male is banded...and he was present at this nest two years ago, but not last year! That is quite unusual. When a male does not return to a nest we tend to assume he did not survive migration. In this case, apparently there is some other explanation for his absence last year. If these birds could talk! 
I am busy counting chicks and I do think many nests have fewer chicks this year. The statistics will be interesting. Believe it or not, there are nests that laid eggs so late, they have not hatched yet. It remains to be seen if they do hatch or not. Those late chicks are at a great disadvantage when the time comes to migrate as they will not be as skilled or mature as the chicks that hatched earlier.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Failed nests

So sad to be discovering some failed nests this week...not sure if it is predation, all the rain that may make it difficult for the male to provide enough food, flies (given all the reports of eagles and hawks being bothered, harmed). We will keep investigating. I appreciate the volunteers checking their nests...this is a particularly vulnerable time for the chicks as they become too big to be brooded constantly but they cannot fly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Unhatched eggs

There are lots of interesting dramas and behaviors going on in the osprey world. I will try to share some of them as time allows. Tonight I am feeling fairly certain that the other two eggs on the Arboretum nest will not hatch. It's been 5.5 -6 days since the first egg hatched. That is longer than the normal interval between eggs. As I stated earlier I have noticed smaller broods from older males and suspect that fertility may drop in males as they age. Still we can be happy that Mr 79 produced one chick that appears to be healthy. This is the first offspring from this female...and possibly his last. (Our oldest male in the past was 22 years old in his final breeding season. He only produced one chick that year also, but the chick died / disappeared from the nest in late July, possible predation.) The new little guy on the Arb nest will get all the food without competition. Lucky! I love seeing his full crop! The female seemed very restless today. But I have seen no sign of hatching...I wonder if she is beginning to figure out that the eggs are not going to hatch. They seem to give up slowly.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I have been checking lots of nests...some for signs of hatching, some earlier hatches to see if I can tell how many chicks are in the nest. MANY nests are hatched now, a few are not...and on the nests where I can actually see some chicks, I have only seen two little guys...doesn't mean there isn't a third smaller chick there who is just not visible. I wonder how our overall numbers will be this year...I suspect down. I am also beginning to get complaints from people who have become addicted to their neighborhood osprey nest or the Arboretum cam!!! Should I start a twelve step program? I do fully understand how invested we can become in these wonderful birds! They took over my life! We are all anxiously waiting for another egg to hatch on the Arb nest...time will tell. As I said in another post, it seems as if the fertility of older males may drop...we have seen smaller broods from them in the past. But as I have also said many times...I am still learning! That is what keeps me going...knowing that something new may occur to raise questions about our assumptions or our commonly accepted keep watching, and keep reading, and feel free to ask questions here!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The wee ones...

Ah yes...first chick on the Arboretum nest...tumbling around under Mom. We saw the first pip of the shell late yesterday and we awoke to  the first chick! Male is standing guard. She is food begging so I hope we see a feeding soon. For all of the new volunteers on the TCM Osprey Watch this year, this is a good chance to observe the adult behaviors which are clues that a chick has arrived. This may help you to identify hatching on other nests. I know we tend to watch the chick on this cam, but also pay attention to what the adults are doing...the body position, the focus below, the males response. What a great teaching tool! We always need volunteers if anyone is interested in adopting a nest to watch over! And thanks to all of you who have alerted me to hatching on other nests! I am making the rounds to confirm as my time allows! It takes a village!
We are watching for subsequent eggs to hatch at the Arb and mnay nests are brooding and feeding chicks now. Little heads are being seen on some of the earliest nests to hatch...starting to count chicks! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

HATCHING has begun! I have confirmed hatching on a handful of nests in the past few days. It is such a thrill to watch the adults leaning into the nestcup with tiny bits of fish! It never gets old to me.  I am still  trying to get around to check more of the nests. Unfortunately hatching is occurring when I am preparing for my first pottery sale of the year! More about the ospreys soon!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29...

Our earliest nesters may begin hatching this week so stay tuned for the news! When the chicks first hatch, we cannot see them as they do not stand up and move around much. We must watch the adults behaviors for clues. During incubation, the sitting  bird has its attention focused outward most of the time...watching other birds, snoozing, only occasionally poking around in the nest cup, rolling the eggs. When the chicks begin to pip the shell, the adults can become restless, looking down a lot, getting up to peek into the nest cup. Often when the male comes, they both stare into the nest. The female may sit a bit higher. The confirmation comes when the adults begin feeding the chicks, ripping small bits off the fish and offering it into the nest cup. To some people, brooding looks just like we have to observe more closely to catch the subtle signs that the chicks have begun hatching. When you have been watching this miraculous event as many years as I have, the signs are quite clear. It still thrills me after all these years!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Non breeding pairs...

Well, I have not posted much in the past week. Incubation can be a boring time. I have used the time to try to get bands read...I have now identified 78 birds by their leg bands. There are a few left to go. Some are difficult to view,  some males are scarce and females are hunkered down. I keep trying to catch the changing of the guard, when the males bring a fish for the female and he takes over the incubation duties...but my timing is not always right. I have seen at least six pairs of ospreys in the past week that are STILL not incubating. We are sliding past the window of opportunity now. When you add up a 38-39 day incubation period, 7.5-8 weeks until they fledge and at least a few weeks to learn to fish on their own, independent of their parents, you can see that chicks which hatch late have a poor chance of being adequately prepared to undertake their first migration in September. I am curious about why some pairs have not laid eggs. Some may have paired up with a female that is not sexually mature and is therefore not receptive to copulation attempts. ( Many females are unbanded so we do not know their ages). There may be other reasons for not laying eggs, nest removal that required extensive rebuilding, and some reasons we may not fully understand. We expected this rapidly growing reintroduced population of ospreys to level off at some point, but had no idea how that might look. Perhaps we will  begin to see more non breeding pairs.  We call these pairs "housekeepers".

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday, May 16

I can now say I have visited all known nests and read bands at most of them. There are a few birds that are testing my patience by keeping their legs hidden. They will not escape my prying eyes for long. I am happy that the two nests where males disappeared / died mid season last year have new banded males on them.  I have been trying to read a band on one male who apparently LOVES to incubate. He sits for long periods, with the female perched nearby. I waited and waited and waited the other day...and when he finally got up and flew away, he came back in less than a minute with a stick, and pushed the female out of the way so he could sit down again. So interesting. They are all unique. It won't be long before hatching begins on some of the early nests!
All you birders in the metro area, remember to keep watching for new nests and let me know about them so the research can be as complete as possible. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Update for early May...

There are only a few nests that have not laid eggs now. In most cases it is because it is a new pair (one or both birds are new to the territory), or a nest was removed over the winter and had to be rebuilt. I am still seeing extra ospreys interacting at many nests. But this is normal since ospreys are semi colonial and our population is large enough for there to always be young birds around looking for a territory. I did observe a fairly aggressive attack a few days ago between two of them had already laid eggs and I was worried that the eggs would be damaged by the attempts of one female to knock the other off the nest. Things did calm down when the male arrived...we will see if the eggs hatch.
As many of you know now the arboretum birds on the cam are incubating and have two eggs so far.
I spent some time watching a nest today where I still need to identify the male...but he would not get up from incubating! The female was walking around him and food begging for the 90 minutes I was there, trying to get him to stand up by getting very close and literally hollering in his face. Nope, he was comfortable. Some males really like to incubate, tho some seem nervous and can't wait for the female to take over. So interesting. I will have to try again to ID this male. The male who was on this nest earlier showed up at another nest so now I am wondering who this fellow is? I will figure it out. It's like putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Another day in the field yesterday...met with one of the new volunteers and toured a few nests. I am trying to meet with new volunteers that would like to spend some time in the field with me, so let me know if you are one of those people who would like to do that!
Most nests are incubating now...a few are not. I am seeing fewer territorial fights. Things are oddly unsettled on a few nests. I observed one female who was dirty, muddy looking with a fish in her talons, and a male sitting next to her. When she flew off, he chased her, as if he was trying to get the fish! Hmmm. Not sure how that is going to work out. Some of the nests that are not yet sitting on eggs are the new couples...still working on the courtship thing, nest building. Even on nests that have been active in the past, there may be a new bird. They are still playing musical nests, so I am still running back and forth between nests to see who ended up winning the territory, re reading bands when necessary. New nests are popping up. Many bands read, but still many more to read. On some nests it takes so much patience...especially now that they are incubating. Males can be hard to find, females won't stand up and reveal their legs. Of course males incubate also, but the females don't go as far as males do when they are on their break...they are usually somewhere nearby. I always have trouble keeping up with correspondence this time of forgive me if I forget to answer emails. Just remind me. It's important to get the data...keeping people posted is also important and I am doing my best, but it's a lot of work.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Empty nests?

I am getting a lot of emails telling me that there is something wrong on a nest, or that the birds are gone. When I visit those nests, I find they are incubating, very low in the nest. Sometimes they are very hard to see...I watch for a little movement between the sticks, a little flutter of a feather. Sometimes no head pops's cold and it been raining a lot and they really can hunker down.
I also visited some nests I had not been to in about nine days. One nest, that was empty on that last visit, had a pair present that were incubating. I followed the male to a perch and read his band...hmmmm, he was on a totally different nest 9 days ago. He had been seen there several times, copulating with the female. So I go to the nest where I had seen him before...female incubating there also, but I could not find a male anywhere. It started to rain so I will have to return and find the male to ID him. Musical nests. I wonder about the paternity there! I just can't catch up this year, with all the nests, all the bands to read, all the mate swapping and nest swapping. And I have another job too...gotta earn some money to pay for all this gas!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I recently read on another website that Ospreys are monogamous and mate for life. This is a commonly held belief about Ospreys and people often ask me about this aspect of osprey behavior. I have  documented repeatedly that they are not monogamous and do not necessarily mate for life. A perfect example is our 21 year old male this year. He has been with the same mate for 13 years. This is the longest pair bond I have documented in this population of ospreys. He had at least one other  mate prior to this one. However,  I have observed this male engaging in many extra pair copulations. He was with another female during the early days of this season before his mate returned. One year I witnessed him copulating with three different females before his long term mate returned! And yet, they remain together year after year. They have been very successful, producing 26 chicks together!  This is why they stay together, the biological imperative and driving force is to reproduce. Several of their offspring have returned and nested successfully also. I have also documented many "divorces". I hate this term as it is a legal term which does not really apply to birds, but it refers to the situation when a mated pair of ospreys are still alive and well, but split up and mate with other partners at other nests. It almost always follows a failed breeding season. My earliest observation of extra pair copulation, which led to the published paper, was seeing a female copulating with a different male than her long term mate for at least a week, but then she returned to her old mate and nest to lay her eggs. He was probably seen as a good provider in a better territory. When the chicks were all predated that year, she left him the following year and mated with the "boyfriend" of the previous year.  I have observed several males and females this year who are on different nests, with different mates, than they were  last year. In all cases, their nests failed last year. Not all ospreys split after a failed season however. The flip side is that producing chicks successfully together creates a bond with the partner and the nest...but extra pair copulations still occurr when the opportunity arises!
I co authored a paper that included some of this research that was published in 2008 in the Journal of Raptor Research. As our population of Ospreys has increased, I am seeing more extra pair copulations and divorces. Hard for me to understand why anyone still believes they are monogamous! But it takes long term study, good field work, with banded birds to prove these behaviors. I am certain it occurs more than we think among  unbanded birds.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday April 25...

Interesting day in the field. I checked a bunch of nests and read a bunch of bands. I visited one of WU's nests, the male who tended two territories last year.  The new male, who was displaced from WU's other nest, is still there and he was strongly defending the territory. He stood very close to the female as another male buzzed the nest (perhaps WU?). He even mounted the female at one point as if to say"she is mine", tho they did  not copulate. He also chased the other male aggressively and returned to stand wing to wing with the female. It certainly looks like WU is no longer the territorial male there. It's interesting because this is the nest that was originally WU's primary nest, where he nested  successfully prior to the polygyny. The other nest may have some attributes which makes it a superior site, in the eyes of an osprey. It is higher, on a transmission tower, which makes it safer from predators. It also removes the birds further from human activity. It is literally overlooking the Mississippi river. A series of males have tried to take over this nest in past years, so it is a very attractive site to an osprey. I am seeing extra ospreys at many nests now, in fact most nests! Lots of territorial disputes....sometimes 4or5 extra ospreys. I also got to see a favorite pair of mine whose nest had failed last year and they just totally disappeared. I was happy to see them again, both alive and together.  Also found another of my favorite pairs have laid eggs! Chicks are on the way. So there are quite a few birds on eggs now. Don't ask me why some of these ospreys are my favorites. Some of it has to do with unusual events that I have observed, some of it has to do with the relationship between the two birds,  some of it really unexplainable. I have just enjoyed my time observing them. Some of it is related to how long I have known particular birds...some I have not known long, but somehow they have captivated me. A mystery. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting behind...

I have gotten SO far behind always happens this time of year. So much time spent in the field, gathering the data, that the correspondence and the posting here falls by the wayside. Where do I begin...first of all the male who was tending two nests last year did show up at the west nest and displaced the other young male seen there earlier. I have seen two different males (one of them young male mentioned above) at his east nest, but have not yet seen him there. I am only there about once a week tho...but he is incubating with the female at the west nest. No eggs at the other. (A handful of nests in the metro are incubating now.) I can also happily report that our two oldest males have returned! 22 and 21 years old. Our beloved female in Edina has not returned, and we will miss her after watching her produce 20 chicks in 8 years. There are a number of banded birds who have not returned and I wish I knew what happened to them.
Many of you are aware of the demolition going on at the old Arsenal plant. Many osprey nests were removed over the winter and five new nesting platforms were placed in various locations to accommodate the birds. (I was not involved with this). Ironically, only one nest pole is being used! Four other pairs have decided to rebuild on power poles still standing on the property. Ospreys want to be where Ospreys want to be! There is a lot to be learned here about osprey behavior and management. I am still working hard at reading bands, and documenting the movement of birds from nest to nest.
Special thanks to all the new volunteers!!!! I can't do this without a lot of help! I appreciate all of you! Keep your eyes open for new nests popping up on cell towers, ballfield lights, power poles, transmission towers etc!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Friday, April 18...

I will have more to post later but I am at the Arboretum watching the nest that is on the cam. The cam is on...
And I have identified both birds on the nest as the same ones as last year, including our elder statesman, 79, who is 22 yrs old this year! His mate is 3S, a four year old. There is currently a big brou haha here with five ospreys flying around, chasing. One of them hit the other so hard I heard a loud thud and the bird ended up on the ground. I was preparing to rescue when it finally got up and rejoined the chase. So far the old guy is defending his territory! Welcome back old friend! Several different males have been sky dancing at the same time, to win this females heart! Love that old guy...hope they are successful this year. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monday morning, April 14...

Good morning ...after checking nests all day yesterday I was too tired to post last night. I visited 24 nests, read twelve bands and have driven over 400 miles this past week. We do have a serious game of musical nests going on...ospreys identified on different nests than where they have been in the past. Doesn't mean they will stay there! I have been dismayed to see at least three nests removed from cell towers over the winter. The Ospreys can rebuild them in a heartbeat tho and they are determined! I am also seeing a number of new, young birds who are nesting for the first time.
This is also a plea for help...several of my volunteers are unable to check nests due to health issues so I do need help watching over all these nests. If you would like to get involved, watch a nest or two or three, learn about osprey behavior, spend time in the field with me, please send me a message. It takes a village!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday in the field...

What an interesting day in the field! Seeing old friends,(people and birds), observing behaviors and documenting the big game of musical nests! I visited ten nests, but had to go back and forth between them to figure things out, and it took me some time to read five bands. Three of those nests were still empty. Three of them had only one bird, and four of them had pairs present. Funniest part was seeing a male who I have not seen in about 7 years or so! He is 12 years old and showed up at a nest where the male disappeared last year and is presumed dead. Where has he been all this time??? AND he was with a female from another nest that failed last year...while her old mate is waiting alone for her. They seem to be taking over a nest...I wonder how this one will end. Jeeezzzz, it's so interesting. I also received several more emails with excited reports of birds back on their nests. So many nests to visit, and so many bands to read. Time is an issue...never enough.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First full day in the field...

My first full day in the field checking nests...some interesting observations. Overall, I visited 22 nests and found five nests with ospreys. There were a pair of birds on three nests and one bird on two nests. I saw extra ospreys flying around at two of those sites. I read three bands. Most lakes near the nests were still frozen. Many of you remember the saga last year of one male who was attending two nests, with three chicks in each. Today one of those nests had a new male. He was copulating with the female there tho I was unable to determine conclusively if she was the same female as last year. It remains to be seen what happens if the territorial male returns.  He may chase off this new male. I believe they sort of instinctively defend territories where they successfully reproduced. The female may have a say in the matter also as she might jump into the fray and help chase off the very male she has been copulating with, or she may stay out of it and let the males duke it out. Usually a territorial male can easily displace any other males who might try to take over. His  other nest was empty. Perhaps one of the females won't return. Perhaps that will solve the dilemma. Perhaps he won't return! There are many scenarios possible. I have seen males defend two nest sites even if they were only breeding at one...defending the other one against any other ospreys, only to use it as a perch. Ah the drama goes on. Still so much to learn!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

They're back!

I received several reports of Ospreys back on their nests today! The warm front has carried some of our winged friends back home at last! I spent some time watching one of my old friends working on his nest this afternoon. So osprey season has officially begun!  We're off and flying...

Sunday, March 30, 2014


The year 2013 began as a very late and snowy spring for the Ospreys in
the 8 county metro area surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul,
Minnesota. With so many lakes still frozen, many Ospreys did not
return to their nests as early as they did in 2012. We did receive
reports of Ospreys as early as March 20, but many did not arrive at
their nest sites until mid to late April. Once again there was a
significant increase in overall number of occupied nests. There were
105 nests which were occupied by a pair of adult ospreys. In
addition, there were three nests where ospreys were only seen briefly,
and two nests where only a single osprey was observed. Eggs were laid
in 94 nests (83 in 2012) and 70 of these nests had at least one chick
that was confirmed to have fledged successfully or survived to
fledging age (68 in 2012). There were two additional nests reported
that were not confirmed as successful. The mortality rate was high, 
with 33 nests that failed (20 in 2012). There are two distinct subcategories 
under failures; nests where a pair was present but no eggs were laid (9) and
nests where eggs were laid but they failed to successfully fledge a
single chick (22). There were two additional  nests, discovered late
in the season, where it was not known if eggs were laid or not, but
no chicks were observed.  Not laying eggs is considered to be a kind
of nest failure by other scientists. There were 146 chicks that were
known to have fledged successfully or survived to fledging age. (there
were two additional chicks reported that could not be confirmed).
There were two chicks which died / disappeared before banding time,
and 15 additional chicks which were known to have died between banding
time and fledging, or around fledging time.  Two additional adults
died or disappeared midseason.  There were 98 adult Ospreys identified by 
their bands. Three of these were from Iowa, one was from southern Ontario 
and one was from Wisconsin.
There were 22 new nesting territories (this does NOT count nesting
territories that have been active in the past, were unoccupied for one or
more years and then reoccupied) ; 15 where eggs were laid. One of
these nests was reported for the first time, although it had been
active for several years. Twelve of these new nests successfully
fledged chicks.  There were 15 banded Ospreys which were believed to
have bred successfully for the first time and their average age was 4
years old. (Average age of first successful breeding for males this
year was 4.1 years and for females it was 3.8 years).
The overall productivity of occupied nests which were successful
dropped this year to 67%  (77% in 2012, 70% in 2011, 73% in 2010, 67%
in 2009). The mean number of young fledged per successful nest was
2.08 (2.05 in 2012). The mean number of young fledged per active nest
was 1.55 (1.68 in 2012) and the mean number of young fledged per
occupied nest was 1.39 (1.59 in 2012).  These numbers reflect a drop
in overall productivity, with a slight rise in the number of chicks
per successful nest. 

I will post a new entry soon with an explanation of terms, and thoughts on research