Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

Photo by Nadav Cassuto

Here it is, the final few hours of 2015. I look forward and ponder what the new year will bring to Twin Cities Metro Osprey Watch. Will our oldest Osprey, B4, return and celebrate his 23rd year with us? How about our 22 year old E3? What will happen at the nest where the male spent a month in rehab with a fractured keel, and upon release his mate chased him away relentlessly? Will they both survive to return? Will she forget what happened in 2015 and renew their pair bond? So many Osprey stories to follow up on in the new breeding season. So much still to learn! Will we find someone to help us become a non profit? Will we find the financial support we need to continue this long term research project? Will we find the volunteers we need to help watch over 100 nests? Will our skilled monitors from past years return for another year of data collection? Will our population grow or level off? Will we find the help we need to place some new nest poles in the metro area? What new behaviors will we observe? So many questions, so many possibilities. Tonight, I light a candle, sip some bubbly and contemplate what's to come. I will begin gathering the 2015 data for analysis in the coming weeks, pour over what really happened and examine the numbers and compare them to past years. Spring will be here before you know it! Happy New Year to you all! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays....

Happy Solstice, a belated Happy Hanukkha, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all the Osprey people out there...
and to all our winged friends who bring us such joy. Peace to you all...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving...

Wishing all the osprey people out there a very Happy and peaceful Thanksgiving....may our winged friends all be safely loafing on their wintering grounds. I am thankful to all the volunteers here who watch over our Ospreys, and to all the folks out there who support my efforts by reading and "liking" this page. Many blessings to you all...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23... Empty nests.

Well, Dear readers... Now I think I must report that osprey season has ended here in the Twin Cities. My final sighting of the Dad of the rehabbed chick was last Friday. We had some northerly winds that day and I guess he took advantage of that easy ride south to depart. He hung around for a week after the last sighting of his dear chick before he decided he was no longer needed here. 
 I last saw the offspring of the oldest male on Sunday. She was still hollering her head off, which may have meant she knew her Dad was there, but I could not locate him. I visited that nest today and it was so very quiet. Peaceful, still. Her favorite perch in the cottonwood tree was empty. It was a little sad, to be honest. I went around the lake for another perspective and I sat for about 30 minutes, scanning all the trees with my binoculars. Listening. Watching some loons and gulls. No Ospreys. So I will stop my visits for this year unless someone reports a sighting to me. Thanks to all of the dear volunteers who have helped me  to watch over this population of Ospreys. I treasure each and every one of you! And thanks to all the people who have hit the "like" button here...each time you do that, it makes me feel that I am doing something valuable. It shows support and I need that. I treasure all my fellow osprey enthusiasts, around the world, who understand how special these birds are. I don't know what the future holds for this project. It's been a tough year financially for me. The number of nests continues to grow, the behaviors are changing and I still see great value in this research, but I need more help to keep it going. I will write a post about all that sometime down the road...but now I have to turn my attention to making some money, selling some pots. 
I will miss my winged friends who bring me so much joy and a very special kind of inner peace when I am watching them. I know you all understand...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September 16...

They are not all gone yet! I kept checking on the rehabbed chick last week and saw both chick and dad on Friday....but over the weekend, I saw neither. Lo and behold on Monday I did see Dad on his lofty perch. No chick seen or heard tho. 
Today I went in search of our oldest male, the 22 year old. I arrived to see and hear his one remaining chick on the nest hollering loudly for food. I could NOT find Dad for the life of me. After about an hour tho an adult came flying by, causing the chick to almost have a seizure! But the male went past the nest into a back marsh area to perch where the chick could not see him. After about 15 minutes back there he cruised past the nest again, causing another spasm of desperate food begging. He did not stop, but kept flying off over the trees. The chick waited patiently and quietly. After another 20 minutes, the chick became apoplectic again as dear old Dad came soaring in with a goldfish. He delivered it quickly...too quickly to read the band, but I could see that the color band was on the left leg, which indicated that he was a hacked bird from the reintroduction. He is the only one that is still alive. He scooted off very quickly as the chick dove into the goldfish, looking up occasionally with fish all over his beak, while still food begging. Made me laugh out loud. This old male is not perching in any of his usual perches, and is hard to find these days. I am not sure why,  since he has always been a very attentive male, perching near the nest and watching over his kids for most of his life. Maybe he has a new perch that I am just not able to see, or maybe age is affecting his behavior. But he is still providing for this lingering juvenile. At any rate, here we are, on the back side of September, and I was still able to enjoy a couple of hours watching my winged friends. It's not always easy to find them, but there are still some Ospreys around town. I savor these final days, wondering each time I drive away...will this be my last visit with them? 

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11...

I have been back to check on the rehabbed chick every day. For the past two days, she was not seen, tho her Dad was always sitting on his high perch, surveying his kingdom. Today again, I found only Dad, sitting up there and I watched him intently for almost an hour. He preened, looked around, scanning the horizon for his last chick, as if he had far away places in his mind. I am amazed that I can spend so much time staring at a perching osprey, noting all the details of his behavior and appearance...noticing how full or empty his crop is, the various shades of brown on his body and wing feathers, some slightly bleached out, the particular markings on the top of his head, his eye stripe and his breast markings...each osprey, so unique looking. I watch as he closes his eyes briefly for a slight snooze. Did you know they close one eye to rest the opposite side of his brain? Interesting to observe. I notice which direction he seems to look most often...probably where he last saw his chick heading. What is it about these particular birds that captivate me so deeply? I remember at the Raptor Center, when I was training their captive osprey, we called these birds, "heyoka". This is a Lakota term that refers to a special, holy person who does things backwards, a sacred clown, a contrary shaman. Ospreys are so different than other raptors, particularly in captivity...perhaps that is why I love them. They are like me. I find them completely mesmerizing. I do not like to anthropomorphize, but I can't help but be touched by this male as he balances his pull to head south and his devotion to caring for this offspring, to give her the very best chance at survival, watching over her until the last minute. It's all about survival and reproduction. 
As I peacefully watched him, I suddenly heard, far off in the distance, that familiar whine of a hungry juvenile. I clapped my hands...she is still here!!!! Weeeeee here she comes, hollering all the way. She landed and I was able to confirm her identity by the silver band that The Raptor Center placed on her left leg. She kept food begging non stop for about 15 minutes, and then Dad took off to get her some lunch. I have watched them enough to know when he goes THAT direction, he usually returns with a goldfish. Any other direction and he is more likely to return with a less exotic sort of lunch. I wanted to wait for his return, but another person scared the chick off the nest and after 15 minutes of no Ospreys,  I had to move on. Still, it was a happy day to see them both, knowing I will have so little time left to spend with them. One of my volunteers asked me earlier this season if I had a favorite Osprey. I often do, but it also changes every year, based upon events, circumstances and behaviors. I have to say, as the 2015 Osprey season winds down, I have fallen for this male and the rehabbed adult male that I released. Both of them have displayed such a powerful committment to caring for their offspring....that it has touched my heart deeply. Can't wait to see both of them next spring. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Still here...

Today I stopped to check on the chick that was released from rehab several weeks ago. She has not left the nest much since she returned to the nest weeks ago...but the past two days she was not there. I was not sure whether to worry or not. She certainly needs to be flying, exploring, practicing her water starts etc. The male has been perched very high above the nest on an antenna on a water tower...watching for her almost all the time. Every now and then he would fly off and be gone for a short time, seemingly trying to scare her up. The juveniles will often follow an adult back to the nest, hollering for food. Yesterday his efforts failed when I was watching. Today he flew off and then, back to the nest came my little rehabbed chick, whining desperately for food. Dear old Dad was right behind her, but he returned to his lofty perch, with no fish. It seemed quite clear that he had gone looking for her. He is trying to figure out what he needs to do as well. I am sure he feels the pull to head south, but also feels the strong instinct to care for his offspring. Ah, chick is still here, he needs to stay and feed her. I am pleased that she is still here, but is venturing forth a bit more, practicing some of her osprey skills while Dad is still there to feed her when necessary. It won't be long until these nests are empty and silent. I relish every minute  I get to spend watching these last few Ospreys. I will check her again tomorrow. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Today I am hanging out at the nest with the rehabbed adult male.
I am so happy to say that finally, the female is not around to chase him away, so he is perched near the nest, relaxing, preening. A female chick remains on the nest food begging. After about 20 minutes of hollering, the male heads out to get some lunch. I have not seen the other two chicks. How long will it take this male to return with food for a chick that does not exactly have an empty crop?  They are eating machines this time of year...never enough!  The male looks good...really somewhat plump for a male! Good to know that he will embark upon migration with plenty of reserves.
It looks as if the nest needs some maintenance. Usually the adults bring sticks throughout the nesting season, but this year the unusual circumstances seem to have moved housekeeping to the bottom of the priority list. Many sticks are falling and the nest looks thin on top, but this can be repaired in the spring.
After a little over an hour, the male returns with a fish for his youngster. He drops it on the nest and perches nearby...preening calmly. The chick ate, and whined, and then came and landed next to Dad, which made him fly off, and the chick followed. Not sure the chick ate the whole fish...I think she may have dropped it. But they are sticking together, these two. After a short time, the chick returned, alone, to the nest. Dad will get another fish. He is definitely watching over this chick and providing for her very well. The scientist in me just observes and takes notes, documenting the behaviors....but my human heart has fallen in love with this male.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The rehabbed adult male...

I am visiting the nest where the rehabbed adult male belongs. No one was here when I arrived. I waited....answered emails on the iPad. Patience is a necessary quality to have for this work. Finally I hear the distant sound of a juvenile food begging...far off...but getting closer. Finally I see two Ospreys circling high above the nest. The juvenile lands, followed quickly by the rehabbed male who dropped a fish and zoomed off. Yeah! He is still secretly supplying fish to his kids when the female is not around. I have not seen the female today so perhaps she has begun her migration. What a great male...and how lucky that The Raptor Center got him all fixed up. I know you all like happy endings, and this surely is one of those stories. And so very interesting from a behavioral point of view. Still watching, still learning, still accumulating a rich data base in my mind.

Oooops...not missing after all!

Apparently I wrote too I returned to visit the nest where the  22 year old male was  missing. I have been to this nest 8 times since Aug 1, usually watching for about an hour or more. I have never seen him, but have seen the female delivering fish at least five times...but today he is here! One chick was alone on the nest when I arrived, quietly finishing the tail of a fish. I waited. Suddenly the young one errupted into hysterical food begging. I checked the old males favorite perch and sure enough, it was him. He ate part of the fish and then delivered it to the youngster in the nest who was almost apoplectic. The other chick did not show up, so must be out of earshot...or on its way south. So I breath a sigh of relief. He may be slowing down in his  old age, but he is still here. I am crossing all my fingers and toes that he will survive another migration and set a new longevity record next year by breeding successfully in his 23rd year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


How can it be September already?  September first brings the beginning of the change here...leaves are starting to turn in some locations, Ospreys are harder to locate, and it's exciting when I can find a whole family, which I did at one nest today!  My focus these past few weeks have been those birds and nests that I have concerns about. I have been watching over the rehab birds carefully. Nothing has changed with them...the adult male is still seen occasionally sneaking into his territory when the female is not there, and she still watches for him and chases him away. The chicks seem to be doing allright tho we do see aggression between them, as they compete for food. The young osprey that was returned to her nest is still sticking very close to home...never far from the nest. The male chick and the adult female from this nest seem to be gone. The male here is attentive and is often nearby watching over this chick who has been thru so much.
I have been spending more and more time at a nest where one of our oldest males has been for many years. Since The 23 year old died earlier this year, this male has taken the lead, age wise, at 22 years old.  Sadly, I have not seen him in many weeks. At first I just assumed it was because he was busy fishing and my infrequent visits just happen to be timed when he was gone. But more recently I am seeing the female bringing all the fish, and it is time for her to leave, but she remains, apparently trying to care for her chicks single handedly. This male used to be a very attentive male, easily found in one of his favorite perches, but now I am unable to locate him. It is becoming increasingly clear that we may have lost him. It's so hard to not know what happened to him. 
I also received the sad news that our oldest banded female, 21 years old, has died. Her nest failed this year for reasons that were unclear to me...incubating one week and then gone the next. I have visited the nest often hoping to see her and her mate, but the nest remained empty. Then her band was discovered recently on the ground below the nest. There was no body found. I suspect she died a long time ago, and perhaps her death was the reason for the nest failure back in June. I have known both these birds for so long that they are like family to me. They both had long and very successful lives and it honestly feels like just yesterday that I first met them, read their bands and did drawings of their markings...but it was over 20 years ago. The memories of those early days flood my mind. 
As I checked nests today I stopped at another nest, hoping to locate all the chicks and was skunked on that effort, but I saw an adult sitting in a tree and I set the scope on him....ah, another one of my old friends! This fellow is now our oldest male at 21 years of age. It did my heart good to watch him, sitting quietly, snoozing, watching fish in the water and just peacefully watching over his territory, with no chicks hollering for his attention. I reviewed his life in my different from the other two males who we seem to have lost this year. This guy nested at only one nest as far as we know. When I first began this research, someone else was monitoring this nest and for several years he reported a banded male but said, " you will never be able to read that males band". To me, that was like throwing down the gauntlet! I was determined to get this band read. I can't STAND an unread band! I hiked out to his nest, sneaking around behind trees, so as not to frighten him away...but in the end I just walked out there, sat down and he showed me his band, and he has done that every year since! (These birds often cooperate with me.) He has had a variety of different females...I will have to look up his history and count his mates. He has produced many offspring. Another very reliable male. I pondered the losses this year, wondering if I will see him next spring. So many changes politically, so many people moving onto other phases of their lives, so many properties being sold, development changing the habitats, the banding being largely all makes me sad, frustrated that I don't have the money to do what I would like to for these birds, this research. What will 2016 bring? Will we find the help we need, will the right people show up, will people start to recognize the importance of maintaining these nest sites, habitats and continuing the research and banding? Time will tell. For now, we begin to say our goodbyes to our osprey friends...old and new. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The rehabbed adult male....

Today I returned to check on the adult male that I released several weeks ago. If you read the earlier post about him you know that the family dynamics were not exactly what I expected upon his return to his family after a month in rehab. The female treated him like an intruder and would not let him near the nest. I have returned to visit several times and found him sitting near the nest once, with all his chicks on the nest with full crops. I did not see him feed them tho and the female still chased him off. On another visit he could not be found anywhere. The volunteer monitor has not seen him either. The female seemed to be caring for the chicks alone. When I arrived today I found one chick on the nest and another one arrived a short time later and perched nearby. Much to my surprise, the male came flying in with a fish and gave it to the chick on the nest! She grabbed his foot in the process of diving for the fish, but she finally let go and he zoomed off. He returned shortly and perched nearby as one chick ate and the other begged for food. I enjoyed watching him closely as he watched over his territory. Then some chaos errupted with another osprey flying around, which was the third chick and then the female arrived on the nest with a fish for the chick who missed the males delivery. Suddenly there were three Ospreys flying around and I was not certain who was chasing who! And as quickly as that brouhaha exploded, it ended and the flying Ospreys disappeared, leaving two chicks, each eating their own fish. I stayed for four hours just watching every behavior. I hoped the male would return, but he didn't. The female was there standing guard for part of that time, so I have not seen him feed the chicks when she is present. But one big question has been answered. The month long absence while he was in rehab, did not turn off his parental instincts. He still clearly feels that this is his territory, and these chicks are his to care for. I am still so curious about these birds and I continue to learn something every day I spend in the field.  At one point today there was one chick on the nest, seemingly positioning herself for the next fish delivery. The other chick was perched nearby in a tree, also waiting for food. The chick on the nest saw another osprey, not one of the family, and gave a little alarm call and flew up to circle around and the chick in the tree seemed to see this as an opportunity to sneak in and take over the nest, so she zoomed over to land on the nest immediately while the other chick flew a brief loop around the nest. The first chick had lost her position on the nest, and that started a little squabble. She landed on the other chick and they both fell off the nest, but the original nest sitter was the one to get back on the nest first! It was like a little game of musical nests! So interesting to watch what seemed to be tactical maneuvers by the chicks to get the prime spot on the nest, to be positioned to get the next fish. I watched the jockeying for position, back and forth. This is probably a response to not getting enough food, so the competition for fish becomes exaggerated. There is always something interesting to watch! Even just noticing that when the female was there standing guard, the chicks finally felt free to snooze a bit, knowing that she would alert them to any danger. I am never bored watching these guys, always learning something. So that is the update on the family of the rehabbed male. All Ospreys are well, and the male continues to try to inhabit his territory and care for his offspring. It will be interesting to see if the female will leave soon, allowing him to take over complete care of the chicks, or if she will fight to the end of the breeding season. Both adults are displaying strong urges to care for these young Ospreys under an unusual circumstance. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The rehab osprey chick...

An update on the young osprey I released last week...after her harrowing day of absence (harrowing for ME!) and her happy return to her nest, she has stayed put. I have visited her many times and she has remained at home this last week. I only found her perched on a nearby cell tower once, otherwise she stays right in the nest. She missed ten days of her normal development while in rehab and seems a bit traumatized by her experience, so she is staying safe. It's all good for now, but eventually she will have to venture forth. One other chick has been there with her much of the time, tho yesterday she was alone in the afternoon. The third chick, a male, has not been seen in about 6 days now, and neither has Mom. She is eating well and clearly putting on weight in preparation for what's to come. But she needs to develop her flight skills and start thinking about how to catch a fish. I will keep watching...I think many rehabbed birds are not followed closely to see how that experience affects their development. It's especially tough for a young bird, whose normal development is a little altered by the time in a cage. We were lucky that this osprey could be returned to her nest while the parents and siblings were still there, as this will support her reintegration into osprey life. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spectacular day in the field...

What a spectacular day it was here in Minnesota...upper 60's, sunny, breezy, low humidity, popcorn clouds. Perfect! What a pleasure to be out there checkin on some nests I had not been to in a while. On many nests I found no females and males were scarce also. I was surprised at how many chicks I did see, tho some were missing, some nests empty. I spent quite a bit of time at a nest that had only one chick, but she is a beauty! Somehow she was captivating to me today. She was flying loops, dipsy doodle, landing in trees, returning to the nest to food beg. Her crop was very full, displaying her large dark spots symmetrically spaced across her breast, but I did not see her Dad feed her. Another male tried to land several times, hovering above the nest, but each time she acted defensively  and he finally flew off. Then another male, which might have been Dad, became involved with a redtail that was acting very aggressively, divebombing, footing and driving this adult osprey down to the ground. This is fairly uncommon as they usually ignore each other. Eventually they all disappeared, including the young osprey. I also hiked into one of the nests that was completely blown out, killing three chicks, during the big storm on July 18. I was surprised at the amount of damage done in that area. Their favorite big, old perching tree was down. This opens up the area, which may be good. The nestpole itself was twisted and leaning, but the Ospreys are rebuilding the nest. I was able to find both adults, and read the males band. I am relieved to know that they both survived and will be able to try again next year. I was surprised, with so many females gone who still have chicks near their nests, to find this female still here, working on the nest with her mate. Something both sad and touching about that. I also visited one of my favorite nests. They have a devoted Dad and this nest is always successful. I had not seen all three chicks for a while, but today when I arrived, all three were lined up on the nest waiting for Pop to bring dinner. A special treat for me in these waning days of Osprey season. They, also, struck me as really beautiful Ospreys. Maybe it was the lovely light today, the late afternoon, axial rays of golden sun, showing off their increasingly golden eyes. The cooler temps and low dew points made the sun feel good on my face. You really just have to stop and take it all in deeply. What magnificent birds, and how lucky I am to know their stories, their histories, their struggles and their triumphs, year after year. These three juveniles waited so quietly and respectfully...until they saw Dad coming with a fish and the hollering began with gusto! I had to laugh. Who will win? Ah the largest female with the fullest crop dove for the fish and got it. The little male grabbed for it, but only got Dads foot, and wouldn't let go for a minute. Dad waited and then flew off as fast as he could...gotta go get more! The winning chick took the fish and flew off behind some trees to eat in peace. This is exactly why I see so few males these days!
I have also been enjoying watching the young ones develop their skills...even just perching near the water and watching the fish below is part of learning how food looks when it is not delivered to them on the nest! So fun to watch them splashing into the water, not to catch a fish but to learn how to dive and how to get those great water starts! So much to learn in such a short time. Their days of playing and depending on Dad for food are coming to an end. How I will miss these friends in a few weeks. It was a day to savor. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lost...and found!

I released a juvenile osprey yesterday after about ten days in rehab. He was found on the ground but actually had no broken bones. Unfortunately, when I opened his box he did not fly immediately, but turned to look at I backed up and he took off in a different direction than I thought he would. He did not head for the nest but veered off, flying very low and dodged some trees and then over a hill and he was gone. Darn it!  I spent a long, hot, humid day searching for that chick. I found the other two fledged chicks from his family and learned all their secret perching spots. Every time I saw a juvenile flying I chased after it the released chick? Nope. They came and went, had lunch served, and I located both adults but alas, the missing chick evaded me completely all day. I finally gave up in defeat...tired, hungry, thirsty, and went home. I worried about him all night and was back there by 8 a.m. to start the search all over. As I drove up to the nest, I held my breath....hoping he would be on the nest, but he wasn't. In fact, no one was.  Not an osprey in sight. I waited. Eventually the female came with a bright goldfish and she circled all around the area, a typical display meant to attract any hungry chicks in the area. No takers, so she ate it herself. The male arrived and perched right next to her, scanning in all direction for the kids. Eventually they saw a visiting osprey down the road and they both took off to circle with him, eventually disappearing from sight. The temps were  climbing rapidly and the dew points were horrendous. After three hours I left, discouraged, and got an iced coffee, but something inside said, go back to the I did just that. As I drove up, I saw an osprey on the nest....holy smokes, I could not get to the nest fast enough, fumbling with the scope...and then I saw, it was the released chick! Yeah! Finally this guy made it back to his nest, almost exactly 24 hours after I had released him. His crop was very empty. He sat so quietly. No adults anywhere in the area. Suddenly he started food begging quietly as an adult male osprey flew in circles above the nest. He did not land but perched on another structure nearby where I could read his band...not Dad, but a male that I have now seen at seven different nests this summer! He is a story for another day...seen all over the metro area after being displaced at his nest. He cracks me up. He eventually flew off. We waited. I finally was so wilted from the heat that I had to take a break and seek refuge in a cooler spot. A few hours later I returned to find, another chick on the nest with the released chick, and my little friend finally had a full crop and fish bits on his beak. Happy at, that is. Then Dad came with a fish, and the other chick lunged  for it. The released chick did not even try. He was full, in fact the tail of a goldfish was laying on the nest edge. He finally picked that up and was nibbling on that fishtail in 95 degree heat as I finally headed home to relax, worry free. He doesn't seem to want to leave the nest now that he has made it back there. All is well, I saw all members of the family today, and life has returned to normal here. I will still continue to watch over this nest as the season winds down, but I am relieved. Now I can get back to watching the other drama again from the previous post! This is my crazy life. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Out of rehab......

We have had an unusual turn of events on one nest that I have been watching. The adult male was injured in early July and wound up in rehab at The Raptor Center. That left the female caring for three chicks on her own. When he was ready for release, they asked if I would like to return him to his nest.
In 22 years of studying these birds, I have never had the opportunity to release an adult osprey back into his territory. We have rescued and returned many juveniles in those years , but not that many adult Ospreys get injured and recover fully during the breeding season so this was something new for me. Another chance to learn! We pondered what might happen after a full month in rehab. Would his parental instincts have turned off? We expected that the female would recognize him, since they had been together for several years and mated pairs seem to know each other upon return each spring. When I released him however, the female went after him like a bat out of hell. Full on alarm calls, way past the usual chirping that is an indication of an intruder. She dive bombed, and chased him relentlessly. I stayed all day to observe and she would not let him anywhere near the nest. The chicks all had empty crops. She finally responded to her chicks cries for food and left for a short time, during which time the male calmly perched near one of his fledged offspring. When she returned with a fish, she chased him off again. The next day a male flew over with a fish and, again, she took off after him. We watched closely for days and did not see the male here. Six days after his release, I arrived to check on the situation (a volunteer monitor had been checking the nest almost daily) and I found all chicks there food begging, one eating a fish and the male calmly perched nearby.  Oh happy day! BUT, then the female returned and chased him off again. This is all very interesting to me behaviorally. We have to be careful about  anthropomorphizing in a situation like this, and it's easy to slip into that mode for some easy answers. One way I evaluate behaviors is to realize that these birds are largely driven by two motivating factors. One is to survive and the other is to reproduce. Both of these Ospreys had been deeply involved in those struggles. The male struggling to survive in a difficult situation (rehab is not easy for an osprey) and the female struggling to survive herself and to make sure that her offspring survived. Did she not recognize him? Did she determine that this male was unable to provide for her and the chicks, and therefore saw him as a threat? Does the pair bond dissolve under these kinds of stressful circumstances? We know that the delivery of fish is a behavior that strengthens the pair bond, and the lack of provisioning during that month may have damaged their bond.  I am still trying to determine if he has some parental urge to feed his young, (I have not seen him deliver a fish to the chicks, but I can't say that hasn't happened). He clearly still views this as his territory and given a chance, he wants to be there. Will they work it out? I have to say that yesterday, for the first time in recent days, all chicks had food in their crops and seemed to be doing well. The female and chicks seemed so stressed right after his return. And I have seen other single females who have been in survival mode become very stressed and very defensive towards all other males. But I have also seen a single female with chicks (whose mate had died) allow another male, unrelated genetically to the chicks, bring fish to her and remain on the nest, tho he would not directly feed those chicks. He only brought fish when the adult female was present, as part of the typical courtship behavior. He also chased away other males which offered some protection to her and the youngsters. He won himself a territory with these behaviors and was the resident male there for many years after that.  Those of you who know me, know that I relish an opportunity to learn more about their behaviors and this new situation has been a great chance to understand these birds better. But we have to refrain from making up stories about what is happening, projecting our human emotions and judgements upon them. We will continue to observe as much as possible and keep very careful notes about the behaviors we see. The good news of course is that his injuries are fully healed and he flies beautifully! Thanks to TRC for that! But we also see that just fixing up bodies is not the end of the story. The social struggles in this family of Ospreys continues. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Migration already?

Getting that wistful feeling....this past week I am noticing changes on our osprey nests. All season long we have seen the adult female perched on the nest with the chicks or somewhere nearby, but now I am seeing fewer females and suddenly the males have a more prominent presence as they take over the duties of watching over their offspring, providing food when necessary. We are also finding it harder to locate all the chicks as they begin venturing forth on longer adventures in their neighborhoods. It's interesting to see several reports from across the pond of tagged Ospreys who have begun their migration, or chicks that are making trips away from their home territory. It happens so quickly doesn't it...I just read about Beatrice the osprey on Roy is a satellite tagged bird who began her migration on August 1!
But I still have some evolving stories to share about our Ospreys here in MN...stay tuned.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

August 8, 2015...

Once again I must apologize for the gap in posts. There has been so much going on that its hard to get around to writing. First of all we are still checking nests for successful fledging and finding more failed nests. In fact, I am finding it troubling that at least nine nests have failed in about a five mile radius in one part of the metro. There is no other concentrated pocket of failures like that in any other area that I am monitoring. One person casually blamed it all on Eagles, but to assign blame like that there must be some evidence to support that assertion and I haven't seen it. I observed one of those nine nests being harassed by Eagles, who were nesting nearby, and as a result the Ospreys eggs did not hatch. They were chased off the nest so often by the Eagles that their eggs may have died, although we don't know if they were fertile or not. I observed no eagle harassment on any of the other nests in that area. One nest clearly failed as a result of Great Horned Owl predation since the adult female was found dead on the ground with her head missing, and all chicks gone. Owls often remove the head of a bird that large since they cannot carry the entire body. There are many other areas  in the metro where we see numerous Eagles, and the osprey nests in those area have been successful. So what is going on? I have no answer. I guess sometimes we can only notice the patterns and raise questions. This is something worth paying attention to. Could there be a water quality issue? Could there be a contagious disease like avian flu? This is why we continue to research and monitor the nests of these Ospreys. We have 31 years of data collected and that allows us to examine long term trends in productivity. Ospreys are an indicator species, at the top of the aquatic food chain, so the health of their population reveals much about our environment. This is what keeps me going...the questions. My curiousity has never waned about these birds, and their behaviors. I am working very hard to account for all chicks after fledge and it is not easy. It requires repeated visits sometimes and searching for the young ones. It's so delightful to locate all the chicks in a nesting territory and watch them flying, chasing each other, trying to dive into the water, all the dipsy doodle aerial maneuvers...and then congregating back at the nest and whining desperately for food. They are a noisy bunch! It's also so frustrating to not be able to find them all. Its beginning to look like our overall failure rate may be high this year. This is also the time of year that the fledglings get into trouble and rescues need to be done. We know of several that were rescued, one died and one may soon be returned to its nest.  And yet, we are also still seeing new banded birds! We refer to these young unmated birds as "floaters"! It's actually a very interesting and busy time of year! Me and the volunteer monitors are being stretched thin as we try to determine true outcomes on the nests. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back on the road...

I have not been able to gather my thoughts and write for a while. I finally got a new used vehicle ( all that took a lot of time and energy) and am just starting to check nests again without the fear of being stranded far from home. Yesterday I went to visit a new homeowner who has a nest in her back yard...the nest is actually not new, but the previous owner who put it up, has moved so I am teaching the new owner about this amazing family she has living in her back yard! When I arrived she was very excited and said I should have been there at 6 a.m. when the chicks were all jumping up and down and hovering in the air. She thought one had fledged. I watched them all for a while...pretty calm, having their morning nap. Then I went up in the attic for a better view of the nest. As soon as my scope was set up one of the chicks took off flying loops and returning to the nest! Indeed, one has fledged! The landings were impressive too. No face plants for this one! Dad watched from a nearby tree, and after a while Mom arrived with a fish! So she is pitching in with the fishing for this family of three chicks, and her crop was full so she is also beginning to care for herself as she prepares for her migration. It was fun to see and fun to share the excitement with this new homeowner as she lives thru her first season of osprey watching.
We are also still tallying the losses after the big storm that moved thru on July 18. At least six chicks were lost around that time.  We do not have monitors on all nests, (if anyone wants to volunteer) and I was limited by my failing I am still making  the rounds and counting heads. I am finding many nests with no adult on them...because we are at the chaotic stage of life, when all the chicks are jumping and flapping, coming and going, and the adults prefer to keep an eye on things from a distance. I try to search for all the adults and chicks....funny to locate chicks in odd spots, like on a nearby chimney stack, and I can't always find them I keep trying, keep visiting. It takes time and a real interest and curiosity to find them all....but in the early days of this reintroduction, that is what my job find them all, and it's a challenge I still enjoy. I wish I had more time. The peace of mind of knowing they are OK is the reward. I also get to see some interesting behaviors while searching for them. One of my new volunteers recently saw an osprey dive for a fish for the first time and come up successfully grasping his dinner , and she was thrilled...these are the gifts that we get when we move away from the nest to observe.  Some people still erroneously think that when the chicks fledge, it marks the end of osprey season. But Ospreys are not like songbirds that just fly away one day and that is that. These youngsters will remain dependent  upon their parents  for food for quite a while...that phase can vary from about ten days to a month or more. Yes, we still have lots of time to watch our osprey friends...but we may have to search for them! Watch for foot dragging in the water, or trying to go into the water and get lift off out of the water, developing the skills of a real osprey...and yet, still returning to the nest to food beg.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Our chicks have begun fledging in the past few days or week. It is a treacherous time for them and our work as nest monitors becomes more challenging. Ideally, we like to locate all the chicks and be sure they have landed somewhere safely. This is not always easy to do. Some of them will fly a loop and come back to the nest. But some may land in a tree. They spend less and less time at the nest, tho they still return to eat there for a while. Today I searched for two chicks missing from a nest....wandering around their neighborhood, checking the lake....and finally spotting one of them in a tree! Yeah. Then I found the adult female...and sure enough as I examined the tree carefully, the other chick was perched not far from Mom. We are not always this lucky. Some do end up on the ground and they are usually not fed there. The young ones have difficulty getting lift off from the ground so they may die there if we do not rescue them. I often listen carefully....if you hear food begging but it's not coming from a mouth you can see....start searching the ground. They may be uninjured and able to fly if you can set them up on a fence or the branch of a tree....someplace they can jump off of to get going. 
Sadly the storm that blew thru here Friday night may have cost us some chicks. At least one nest had most of its sticks blown out and the chicks are missing. I am very frustrated this past week or so since my car is failing and I am unable to visit nests as I normally do. What a terrible time to have unreliable wheels. I am shopping for a new used car, a big financial life shock to me right now...and hope to figure this all out and be back to checking nests within a week or two in a new old car! Meanwhile I am asking the monitors to do a little more than usual, if possible, so we can be sure our little winged friends are all right. It can be such an exciting time, watching them fly for the first few times....but also a time that is not without some tragic endings. It's hard for me to be unable to go far from home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


When I am out in the field I see so many things that I think would be good to share with you all, and when I get home I often can't figure out what to write about! So many little dramas and interesting behaviors. If you remember, two years ago we had a male who had two families on two nests a few miles apart, each on different sides of the Mississippi River. We have seen cases of polygyny before and usually one nest gets more attention and the other nest fails. But much to our surprise, that male pulled it off that year, successfully raising SIX chicks on two nests! Plus providing for two females. The following year he decided to stick with one nest and allowed another male to take over the other territory. That male remained on that other nest this year as well. BUT the polygynous male did it again this year. But this time he set up his "mistress", for lack of a better word, on the old nestpole within a few hundred feet of his nest on a transmission tower! These females could see each other. This year, however, the outcome was different. One nest failed, from lack of attention from the male. He was not providing food or sharing the incubation duties on the second nest and tho that female gave it a gallant try, she could not pull it off. Her eggs never hatched and she abandoned the nest attempt. It's interesting to see this particular males tendency towards polygyny. One might expect to see this behavior when there are not enough males around, but our population has grown dramatically and I see many single males out and about, looking for females and territories. It's always fun to observe the aberrations to what might be considered normal behavior. Perhaps the growth of the population just provides more opportunities for these behaviors. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

This, my friends, is why I am so protective of our Ospreys. This is happening in Florida, but I have seen some pretty bad behavior here too. There are crazy people out there who do intentional harm to birds. It horrifies me.


The chicks are growing and some are approaching fledging age, though we still have nests that are just hatching or have quite young chicks on them. (Every year it seems that some osprey sets a new record here for the latest egg laying!) I think our overall numbers will be very good this year since I am seeing so many nests with three chicks. Of course there is a long ways to go and so much can go wrong during the fledging phase. We already have a significant numbers of failed nests, with more to come I suspect.
Yesterday I watched some interesting behaviors on one nest with three large chicks, over 5 weeks old. All of them were quietly loafing when the male brought a stick to the nest. All of the nestlings got up and suddenly the smallest chick, with the least feather development, got very tall, neck extended, chest out and he began pushing one of the other, larger, chicks and pecking at her. The large chick just hung her head submissively, drooped her wings and would not move as the smaller chick behaved aggressively towards her. She finally slowly turned away, head down, until she was facing away from the other chick completely. Then she slowly stood up and looked at the other chick intensely. It made me laugh! That just caused the smaller chick to start the chest bumping and pecking again. Then he turned on the other chick as well. The female finally left the nest briefly and all of them laid back down. She came back on the opposite side of the nest, as if to break up the conflict by distraction. The smaller chick had an empty crop while the larger chicks had some food in their crops, so competition for food may have been the issue. This is a nest near an abundant food source and both adults were present today. Always interesting to watch the interactions.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 2, 2015

The last few weeks seem like a much happening and it's hard to get around to writing about it all. Last week I got to spend another day in the field with one of our great volunteer monitors. I love doing that, watching the birds together, figuring out what is going on, explaining behaviors that I just can't explain in an email. Answering questions, and catching up on our personal lives too. Thanks Alice! Yesterday I also had a chance to meet with a science teacher at a school that has a nest on the ballfield lights so he could view thru my scope and we could talk about the birds. It's so important to make these connections in the community...I wish it happened more. I consider it part of my field work. And I meet such interesting people! This man was breeding homing pigeons and he released a flock of 29 that were "in training". Why didn't I take photos? I was amazed at how moving it was to watch this flock of pure white birds circling above , getting their bearings before they headed home. He told me later they all seemed to have arrived. Thanks Erik! 
Then I met with a new volunteer monitor who has had past experience on an osprey research project in the 80s....we toured a few nests and talked about the project, (ours and hers) the birds, the politics, and our personal lives. So much fun to introduce my osprey friends to her, since she already understood so much about osprey behavior and clearly, she already loved them! Welcome, Nancy!
Of course sprinkled in between all that and the bandings, were my regular nest checks. 
More nest failures, more head counting....some going up (a little third head popping up!), and some going down. When new nests pop up at this time of year I have to be careful about identifying the adults when possible, if they are banded. This is when those frustration nests start to be found and if a pair has been counted earlier on another nest, they can't be counted again without artificially inflating the numbers and making it appear as if our population is larger than it really  is. When we count nests, we are not really counting how many piles of sticks....we are counting nesting territories, which is really counting nesting pairs of Ospreys. If one or both of the pair has a band and if those bands were read earlier at another nest where eggs were laid, and then after a nest failure for one reason or another, they are seen building another nest, we do NOT count that as another occupied territory. It is just a secondary nest within those birds territory. Now, as we have fewer and fewer banded birds, this gets harder of course, but while we do have banded birds, we need to be careful about this if we are interested in accurate research. Of course it takes time to read bands, but if we have banded birds we sure as heck should be reading those bands! They are there to help us understand Osprey behavior! I keep meaning to write about research methods and terminology....tho it may not be so interesting to some of the people who read this page, I like to do a little educating about all that for the volunteer monitors. It is important. We do need to think about the methods we use, the way we count things and analyze the data. I have learned so much about this topic from one of the best, Sergej Postupalsky, who wrote an important article on this topic many years ago. He studied the Ospreys in Michigan for over 50 years and he has been a mentor to me. He has made me a better scientist! I re read his published papers and his emails all the time. A deep bow of gratitude to him.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28, 2015

I have spent a lot of time in the field this weekend. I am sad to report that an adult female was found dead beneath her nest, both chicks gone. This is most likely the work of a Great Horned Owl. I also attended a few bandings of lovely, healthy four week old chicks. Very good to see. I am also still counting heads on the nests and was at one today where I was watching a big strong 3.5-4 week, old chick being fed. I was wondering why they only had one chick and then another popped up and I gasped audibly because it was so small compared to the other. We know that eggs can be laid about 3 days apart and if the middle egg did not hatch, these two could be almost six days apart in age. But the size difference seemed larger than that. I also know some cams have shown eggs laid even further apart than that, perhaps due to some kind of disruption on the nest. The little guy did get fed I will just keep watching to see what happens. This is the time of year when chicks can die, runts that don't get enough food, larger chicks getting blown out of the nest, or being predated. I have tried to count heads early so we can document the losses. I know some people just count chicks once and that is their final tally. But I try to count them early and then keep track as they approach fledging age and beyond, to see how these numbers change. I am always so darn curious about everything. The mortality rate is important too. Oddly enough, this year some nests that have historically been very successful, have failed....and some that have either failed in the past or have typically produced small broods, have three chicks on them! They like to keep us guessing! In some cases it is because there is one different adult on the nest, and the hormonal mix is different! I had an exciting morning online talking with a bunch of osprey researchers and serious enthusiasts from all over the world about various different situations and great to meet new people and talk shop, so to speak, about the passion we share for learning about these birds! Thanks Tiger, for hooking me up! Even tho I got a very late start on nest checking because of it! I have also run into some great people in the field who are so interested in these birds and what I am meeting them and talking about these birds, letting them look thru my scope. Now it is pouring home just in time.

Friday, June 26, 2015

News from the Mare Island Osprey Festival!

Just got a lovely email from a gentleman out in the Bay Area, who reads this page. He sent this link to the Mare Island Osprey festival. This is a former military installation that was turned into parkland with nesting Ospreys. It was the will of the people that this land, which is very valuable in the Bay Area, NOT be developed, but preserved for the future. It's inspiring. Especially in light of the development of the TCAAP land in Arden Hills, where we have five active osprey nests.…/3rd_Annual_San_Francisc…
hosted by the Bay Area Osprey Coalition, Mare Island Heritage Trust, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and the Golden Gate Audubon Society with thanks to Dolphin...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Success and failure....

A little happy update tonight....Today I visited the new nest of female 3S, who had nested unsuccessfully at the Arboretum Cam Nest the last few years. I am pleased to announce that she has three beautiful chicks with her new mate. She went thru so much this spring, waiting for 79, trying to find a mate....and after her only chick died last year, it was a joyful moment to watch three little heads popping up for a feeding this morning. The male she is with also had two chicks who died last year, so we are happy for him too. Of course they still have a long ways to go, but three chicks have survived the first few weeks. They are off to a very good start as a new pair.
I also found four more nests had failed in the past week or so. I was happy to find one pair, whose nest had failed earlier, was sitting side by side on the nest perch. Knowing the adults are alive and still remain in their territory together, bodes well for next year.
The number of failures so far is still in the realm of normal.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Losing birds, finding birds...

We have been so busy checking nests, still reading bands and counting heads. Sadly we are also documenting a number of failed nests. It's so sad when one week you are happily watching hem feeding chicks and the next week, everyone is gone, or you can only find one or both adults. Many times I do not know the cause of the failure. Of course chicks do die of natural causes, and they are also predated, most commonly by Great Horned Owls. If I find both adults alive it lessens the sadness as they will get another chance next year. Ospreys are a fairly long lived bird and we can expect some breeding failures in their lifetime. It is much sadder to me when a breeding adult dies. So I am searching for some missing adults, hoping they are still alive. 
While we sadly learned of the death of Mr 79 as a result of his band, we have also learned of a happy story, as the result of reading a band. I recently read a silver federal band on a female. She had no color band, (having a color band would mean that she was banded as a chick on a nest in the metro). The federal bands have 8 small engraved numbers that wrap around the band. They can be very difficult to read and really are intended to identify a dead bird. The larger two digit color bands are designed to identify living birds, since they can be read fairly easily from a distance with a spotting scope. But I spent several hours reading a females band and reported the band number to the National Banding lab, who informed me that she had been banded by the Raptor Center two years ago. I talked to my friends at TRC and learned she was a 2013 fledgling who was found on the ground with a broken coracoid bone in her shoulder. She spent a month at the Raptor Center and was released at the end of October of that year. Anytime a young bird spends a month in the hospital, it can have a very negative affect on their development since they miss time needed in the wild to learn to fish and fly and care for itself before they undertake their first migration.  So they released her with fingers crossed and I was able to identify her two years later, attempting to build a nest with a young male! The Raptor Center was excited to learn this news, as was I to learn the rest of her story! She successfully migrated and has survived to return to her home and search for a male and a territory! So her medical treatment at TRC was successful! Banding can supply such important information to us! Unfortunately, the nest she and her male friend were building was on an active power pole and it was removed , so we are looking for that pair again. Please help us by reporting any new nests, sticks being dropped on power poles, cell towers, lights over ballfields etc. We rely on the public to assist us with this research by reporting their observations to us. These sightings can be so important to so many people, for so many reasons! (Email us at

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sad news...

So much happening, I could write a book. First of all some sad news. I found out what happened to our 23 year old friend Mr 79, the long time male on the Arboretum nest (with the cam). He did end up at The Raptor Center the day after I last saw him in April.
He was in pretty bad shape...he was admitted on 4/24/15 with an old projectile wound in his neck, a large necrotic wound on his left wing near his elbow, and permanent damage to his left eye.  He was also in a state of starvation and could not be saved. He is free now and his genes will live on his offspring. I loved knowing him for all those years. He must have survived many difficult experiences to get back to his home that one last time. I shed a tear as I write this. It's hard to explain what it's like to observe these birds for so many years, and then to lose them. It's the way of things, and he had a terrific, long life...but still knowing that he encountered some awful experiences that would cause a projectile wound in his neck, makes me wonder about this world.
I will miss him.
On a happier note, his former mate, Ms 3S, who moved to a new nest with a new male, has successfully hatched some eggs and I watched her feeding the wee ones, still not visible, this morning.
I checked many nests today and on at least four of them I found males feeding females and chicks! So sweet. I have been able to count the chicks heads on many more nests now, so we are starting to get an idea of the size of the class of 2015! Only one nest today had three chicks, most had two, tho the chicks are so young that there certainly could be more wee ones in there! Many chicks are just still too young to be seen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Counting Heads!

I have begun seeing my first chicks! They usually can't be seen for about ten days if you are watching from the ground. It is so thrilling when you can start counting heads during a feeding. I watched one nest today where the male was doing the feeding of two little guys....who were spending a lot of time establishing the "pecking order". Literally. Pecking at each other, motoring around the nest a bit. Mom sat on the sidelines and watched, and quietly food begged. The pecking phase seems to pass and feeding times become more harmonious on many nests, when seniority is clear and fish are abundant. It is so exciting when we get to start counting heads. I like to do it as soon as possible and then keep counting as the season goes on, so we can document the mortalities. Inevitably, some little guys don't survive. We continue to monitor and count heads until after fledging, to make this productivity study as accurate as possible. Many chicks die between now and fledging and numbers can become quite inflated if nests are not checked throughout the season. The mortality rate was somewhat high last year, so we are paying close attention to outcomes.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are you kidding me? You again?

Everyday in the field watching these birds I love so much is fascinating. I am out checking nests for hatching now, and I did confirm that some more eggs have hatched today. Still so exciting to watch those adults staring into the nest cup, tip toeing around the nestcup so carefully, feeding tiny bits of fish to the unseen little ones. Their attention has shifted whole heartedly from what's around them to what's beneath them. In the process of gathering data about hatching, I get distracted by other stuff too. As I watched one nest today, hoping for signs of hatch, there was a second pair of Ospreys flying around the nest, trying to land on the nest, and none of it seemed very aggressive. The incubating female did not get up and chase...the male did soar with the extra birds as if trying to escort them away from the nest. Eventually the party settled down at the nest and as I left I found the extra pair of Ospreys perching on a nearby cell tower. I put up the scope to see if they were banded. Are you kidding me? The male is one that I have now seen, this spring, at five different nests! In many different parts of the metro. I am still baffled about his story tho. He nested at the same nest for many years, successfully. Suddenly, for some reason he was displaced. He did produce a single chick at his nest last year and most "divorces" occur after a failed breeding season. That is not the case here, so I am baffled. But since I am watching so many nests, I do not always get all the details, the full story, on each nest. For some reason he is no longer at the nest he occupied for four years. He is galavanting all over the metro area, courting many different females and yet no mate or territory has caused him to settle. Today he was actually quite close to his natal nest. He did try to take that nest over when he first returned as a very young osprey. The females had changed there so he was not copulating with his mother, tho I guess that happens! But he was displaced there by the residential male, upon his late return one spring. That is when he moved to the nest he occupied for four years. And he was seen there this spring briefly. Hmmmmm. It's all so fascinating. None of these behavioral observations are possible if the birds are not banded. More about that later. Anyway, I am still so curious, so fascinated by these magnificent raptors. I love it when they baffle me, I love it when they teach me new things, when I have new behaviors to ponder...and I do ponder these things, putting together the pieces of the puzzle behaviorally. It all just adds to my understanding of these Ospreys. The way this male keeps showing up where I am, is pretty interesting. Trying to show me something about the way these birds move around. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day weekend...

On this holiday weekend I had the privilege of meeting up with three of my volunteers to spend a little time in the field together. I love when I get a chance to do this, so we can get to know each other better, answer questions, share information. I also managed to get a few more bands read on those difficult holdouts. I observed a few nests where hatching may be imminent. It's interesting to watch a male walking in circles on the nest, around the incubating female, with his head cocked to the side as if he is looking for and listening for those chicks. One male was also feeding his incubating female...perhaps practicing for feeding the chicks. A few posts back I shared a story about a pair of Ospreys who had built a lovely, large nest on a power pole in a period of one week. As I was watching them, a power company truck pulled up and with one long pole, pushed the nest off the power line and drove away.  I have looked for that pair of Ospreys for two weeks and finally found them early last week, happily settled in a new nest. They had apparently built yet another nest on another power pole that belonged to a different power company and that power company, Minnesota Valley Electric Coop, has erected a wonderful nestpole for them. The nest was even "furnished" with sticks to get them started. This female had been seen at three other nests before settling here, so the long, tumultuous effort to find a nest and a mate has finally ended happily. We are hoping she will lay eggs soon and they will successfully raise a family on this nest. So that, as they say, is the rest of the story! Special thanks to MVEC for their efforts! 

Friday, May 22, 2015


I am happy to report that I can confirm that hatching has begun here in the metro area! After 22 years it's still a thrill to watch the female wiggling restlessly, looking down, and finally to see her feeding the wee one beneath her. Of course you cannot see the little guy at this stage as they can't even stand up, so we must rely on the sometimes subtle behavioral clues that the adults give us. If only we had cams on every nest! So we are off and running...the 2015 chicks have begun to arrive! Break out the champagne! And yet, some nests have not laid eggs yet! And on the flip side I am also beginning to confirm that some nests have failed. And sometimes I don't know day they are incubating, and then they are gone. I can't get to every nest often enough to know the rest of the story, so we still need more volunteers to watch over these nests. My car was in the shop two more times this week for another spendy many miles, trying to gather all the data on all these nests. But tonight we celebrate the excitement of seeing those first feedings.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Another egg at the Arb!

Right on schedule, as I predicted, another egg, number 3, arrived on the Arboretum nest ...2.5 days apart! Yeah! Hoping for the best here! This egg looks lighter than the first and less spotted than most osprey eggs are. Time will tell if one or both hatch! The normal incubation period in this area is about 39 days, so I usually start watching on day 37- 38. (There can be some slight variation in this period.) We will have to wait to see if they are fertile or not. Hoping for at least one chick! Both adults are being attentive to the eggs so keep your fingers crossed! I wonder if there will be another egg? If so, I believe it would come Monday afternoon- evening.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another egg

A second egg was laid in the Arboretum cam nest at about 7:15 p.m. on May 13. We held our breath to see what would happen. Would she incubate it? Would he male destroy this one too? We were relieved when she finally settled down on the egg. The male came briefly and landed on the nest perch but did not seem to notice that she was rolling an egg around. He finally arrived on the nest and did not harm the egg. Darkness came as she remained on the egg, "sitting tight". In the morning the male brought her a fish and when she flew off with it, he took over the incubation duties. Since then the egg has remained uncovered for several stretches, on a cold, rainy day,  as the male is sometimes slow to sit when the female is eating. It remains to be seen if the egg is fertile or if it will survive. We still could get another egg also. The trials and tribulations of a new, young pair of Ospreys.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Watching them fishing...

In spite of all the drama on the Arb Cam nest today, I went out to read some bands and was treated to some Ospreys fishing right in front of my face on this cool, cloudy, misty day. So delightful to watch, up close, plunging into the water, huge splash, no fish...but lovely to see anyways. This pair of Ospreys is still bringing sticks, working on where they should nest this year. Watching them for nearly 3 hours (to get the males band read) was good for my I pondered the events of the day and an email I recieved asking about similar behaviors on a nest in Scotland. Behaviors are changing as populations increase. It's such an important time to continue the research.

Arboretum nest cam...first egg

There was an egg visible on the Arb Cam nest this morning but I just watched the male standing on it, covering it, kicking it, digging around it. (The egg has been covered, uncovered and has now found its way back into the center of the nest.) This is behavior that has been seen on several other nests on other parts of the world also. He must think it's not his egg. The female was not incubating it. We will just have to keep watching and see what happens next. There may be more eggs that he will accept. It's been a stressful spring for these Ospreys and I think that is being reflected in these behaviors.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bath time...

Another long day in the field...175 miles. I spent a lot of time sitting and waiting for those males to show up and show me their bands. Some never did. I have to say tho, if you wait patiently, if you search around for the birds...don't just sit and stare at the nest, but drive around, walk around, scan the trees, will be rewarded with some interesting behavior. Today as I searched for one male, I noticed an osprey wading in the shallow water of a lake...then it turned into a wild bath. Dunking his head under the water, shaking his wings, splashing violently, turning around, repeatedly shaking his was so much fun to watch. Made me laugh out loud. He was a very clean osprey when he was done!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Musical nests...

It's been quite a week. Another major car repair, AHHHHH. And I have to say I have never seen such a widespread and amazing game of musical nests as I have this year. I am having to return to nests repeatedly to see who is there and figure out where the birds are that were there two weeks ago! One male has been seen, and his bands read, on four different nests, in four different parts of the metro! So I keep returning to where I saw him last, to see who is there now! Some birds have moved to new nests for reasons I don't fully understand. There have been a lot of new, young birds who arrived early and were identified...and then were displaced by the regular residential osprey of past years. Where did they go? And sadly, it seems like a lot of Ospreys who I have been watching for years, many of them middle aged, have not returned to their nests. It takes a lot of time to read and re read bands at all these sites. I am being stretched pretty thin these days. Many nests have begun incubating eggs, and yet, some nests have new residents that are still very much engaged in the courtship process. I watched a spectacular sky dance today...singing the courtship song, doing the dipsy doodle up and down dance with a fish in the air...and then zooming down to the nest, only to mantle over the fish and refuse to share! Ha Ha...won't get the girl that way! She seemed the forgiving type tho.
I love this time of year!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Arboretum Cam nest...

Have been watching the Arb cam this morning...looks like some of the chaos has settled down and it is Z3 and an unbanded female who have successfully claimed the territory. However, I am not seeing successful copulation. The male has mounted her back but she did not lift her tail enough so the attempt failed. Sometimes a female who is too young to breed will behave this way. But sometimes a hungry female will also behave this way! Part of the courtship! We will see if eggs are laid or not. Many nests are incubating now.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Several people have asked why the birds are still copulating after they have already started incubating. Ospreys begin incubating as soon as they lay the first egg. They continue to copulate to fertilize subsequent eggs. Eggs take about 72 hours to be formed, fertilized and pushed out, so they lay the eggs about one to  three days apart. (They typically lay 2-3 eggs. Occasionally there are four.) The chicks will also hatch one to three days apart, so one chick may be as much as six days older than the youngest.  This gives that first chick a head start and a distinct advantage when competing for food.  Alan Poole, who wrote the well known book "Ospreys, a Natural and Unnatural History" says the youngest chick can weight 25-30% less than its older nest mates. This is called asynchronous hatching. Ducks, on the other hand, do not begin incubating until all eggs have been laid, and then all chicks hatch at the same time. This is called synchronous hatching. 
We do see runts on Osprey nests with clear differences in size in the early days, and some of them do not survive, but in some cases, by fledging time they have caught up, and it's hard to tell which chick is the youngest! 
I watched a female lay an egg yesterday. She was upright on the nest edge when I arrived. I was hoping to read bands on both birds so stayed and watched for several hours. During that time she did not leave the nest but moved into the center of the nest and assumed  a hunched over position. She began rocking back and forth slightly, as if she was shifting her weight from one foot to the other and she repeatedly looked  down between her legs. After about 20- 30 minutes of this she began poking around in the nest cup and finally sat down in incubating posture! Then the male came with a fish and she stood up and they both looked into the nest cup, and then he assumed incubating posture! Chicks are on the way!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mr 79, the 23 year old Osprey...

Some news about our friend Mr 79, who has nested on the arboretum cam nest for years. He disappeared from that nest last Monday. Today I was out checking nests and saw an osprey sitting on the side of the was 79. I approached with a towel in hopes of capturing him but he flew off. He flew fine, wings are fine. He kept  landing on mailboxes, garbage cans etc...and everytime I tried to get close he flew. He finally made some loops and got higher in the air and soared off over Lake Minnetonka and I lost him. I do not think he is doing well, but he is fully flighted so he can't be caught. Maybe this is the way old birds fail. I hope he is just having a bad day. Somehow he wanted me to find him I think.  Send him good thoughts...and let me know if you see him.
Thanks to all the people who tried to help, bringing boxes, taking photos of his band. I feel sad. I want him to be OK.