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!