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.