Thursday, December 15, 2016

Happy Holidays....

Well osprey it is, mid December already. I have been working hard at my pottery business this fall to try to make some money to keep body and soul together. I just wanted to send out my very best wishes for a very happy holiday season to all of you. Thanks to all who have helped me during the 2016 breeding season, all the wonderful nest monitors, the donors, those who shared photos and all who read this page, post comments and hit the "like" button. I deeply appreciate each and every one of you who shares this passion for Ospreys. As we approach the darkest time of the year, it is time to rest and rejuvenate. I will begin the huge task of gathering and organizing data in the new year.
Wishing you peace...

Friday, September 30, 2016

The 2016 Osprey breeding season comes to a close...

well, my friends, I think I can officially state that osprey season has come to a close here in the Twin Cities. We checked nests this week and found Little Arb still present Monday morning, Sept 26, with no sightings that afternoon and then the cam got turned around so we cannot see the nest. I contacted someone at the Arboretum and they said they would pass the info along to the IT department, but the cam has not been refocused on the nest. One of the monitors also saw another one of our late fledging chicks and her Dad on Tuesday morning, but by Wednesday all the nests that I, and my volunteers, checked were empty. The last chick to fledge at the end of August was last seen on Sunday, Sept 25. We may still see a migrating Osprey passing thru of course. It's always a wistful time of year for those of us who spend so much time with these birds during the breeding season. I appreciate all the volunteer efforts, all the field work and all the camaraderie we all share here. I couldn't do this without a lot of help. I will start gathering the data and tabulating results later this winter. Hugs to you all...and bon voyage to all our winged friends. May you all meet with extraordinary good fortune on your journeys!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25...

End of the day on September 25, and Little Arb is still here! I visited several other nests today and found three chicks, on three different nests. One adult male was perched near his offspring, ignoring the nonstop food begging from a chick with a full crop! Another adult male delivered a fish to the very last chick to fledge this all is well there and she has almost made it to that one month mark post fledge. On the third nest I observed only the juvenile, but she was food begging so in spite of my best efforts and 40 minutes, I could not spot the adult male. The winds are shifting to a WNW direction for the next few days, so this may end our Osprey season here. But, I will keep checking nests until no Ospreys can be found. 
Always a slightly sad time of year for some of us....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Still here!

Little Arb on the Arboretum osprey nest cam is still with us ...Food begging and waiting on the nest for some dinner to be delivered! I also ventured out today to visit the nest that held the last chick to fledge this year in the final days of August. The nest was empty. Their favorite dead tree was empty. I came back via another nest and found a chick still near her nest, eating a goldfish. I watched her for over an hour....can't explain why it's still fascinating to just watch an osprey eat a fish. What is most interesting about this chick is that she fledged by August 3, and is still here, being fed by her Dad! I expect these late fledges to still be around, but she has been flying for a long time and yet, does not yet feel the urge to head south. Interesting. Then I felt the pull to return to the other nest where the youngest chick should be...and sure enough, she was on the nest. She was quiet and I could not locate her Dad, but I was happy to see that she is still here. We have some northerly winds today, and they are predicting stronger winds from the NW for watch those of these days, a strong north wind will cause these birds to put out their wings and soar off towards their wintering grounds.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 17!

I headed east to Wisconsin for one of my favorite pottery fairs today and when I drove over the bridge that spans the St Croix, an Osprey flew right over my car with a fish, and shortly after that another Osprey followed. By the time I pulled over I could not spot them. They are still around! So after visiting some potter friends, I checked several nests, including the one with the second to last chick to fledge. Yes yes, there was that beautiful female chick, hollering for food and dear old Dad delivered. Yeah! On to another nest nearby....same thing...a female chick on the nest and the male delivered a fish. I visited several more nests with no Ospreys seen or heard. Another nest had a single juvenile perched quietly on the adult seen. And the final nest I visited had a young female food begging...she soon had her request granted when the male arrived with a fish! She took it to her favorite tree to eat. So there ya go....four nests that had juveniles still present, at three of them I saw the male deliver a fish! I had good timing on this beautiful fall day... Golden sunlight broke out in the afternoon, with the perfect temps, low 70s, dry air, nice breeze, leaves beginning to turn. Nine Ospreys seen! Pretty good for September 17!!! ! I think I am the only one checking nests at this time....most volunteers have moved on to other activities, but I treasure these fall days with those beauties! Every Osprey I see at this time of year is a big fat cherry on top of this breeding season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Still here...

Afternoon snack just delivered by Z3 to Little's a BIIIIIIGGGGG fish. She took it and she is learning to eat while perched somewhere other than the nest.
I also visited a few other nests today....the last fledged chick could not be found but her Dad was there, in a tree eating a fish. When he finished the head, he flew a large display with the fish to attract the chick. He circled all around the nest moving further and further away from the nest and going higher and higher. No food begging was heard, and no chick showed up so he swooped back down near the nest and then disappeared into some trees, probably to eat the fish. This is how they look for their offspring. She only fledged a little over two weeks ago. Did she head south? (Unlikely so soon). Did she get into some trouble? (Possible). Or was she just out of sight, exploring! I hope so. I will check again soon. At another nest I found a juvenile with a big adults seen but I suspect she did not catch the fish by herself. A third nest I visited also had the adult male perched near the nest...just preening. Looking around. Waiting. He was there in case one of the youngsters needed him. So there are Ospreys still around to be observed, and interesting behaviors to learn from.

Monday, September 12, 2016


I am so profoundly sad to learn that a man who mentored and inspired me in this osprey research died this past spring. Sergej Postupalsky was a deep source of information and encouragement to me for so many years. It's hard to find words to express his kindness, his real love for these birds, and his generous sharing of his 50 years of knowledge about the ospreys. I have a huge file of emails from him as well as all his published papers and I refer to them often. I had recently sent him a latter with my annual report and recieved an email from his daughter today. Oh how I wish I could have one more conversation with him. I met him when I traveled to Michigan to assist with their osprey reintroduction and Sergej and I got in a boat together to row to some of the tripod nests in the water to band and collect osprey chicks for translocation. I felt an instant sense of kinship with him. We remained friends, sharing annual reports and conversations about the Ospreys over the years. He was the one I always turned to when I was excited to share some behavioral observations.  I will never forget the day that I thanked him for teaching me so much, and he replied "who is teaching who?" He never failed to support and encourage me. He is the one who encouraged me to publish my observations about extra pair copulation. What will I do without him? A gentle soul, a head full of knowledge, and a genuine passion for these birds. Oh how I will miss him.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

more fish please....

I wrote this post on another site this morning...thought I would share it here as it relates to little Arbs big appetite and frequent presence on the nest...
Ha ha eating seems to be ALL she does! She has a good Dad. This should reinforce what the Dyfi folks and I have been saying.....that many of these juveniles do not catch their own fish. They rely on their parents. I do think they may occasionally catch a fish, primarily male chicks, because they are hard wired to fulfill the role of provider, but they still rely on their parents to provide a large portion of their food. I have heard a so called osprey expert here say that a fledged chick can go catch a fish on its first flight....highly unlikely. Maybe impossible. After all my years of watching them, I think if an osprey chick flies off and does not return during its early flights, it probably met some sad fate rather than became totally independent so quickly. I am coming to the conclusion that the mortality rate in the first year may be higher than we think. (We are looking at doing a little more research on this during the winter). I do think they may begin accepting a fish from an adult someplace other than the nest though. So, I think it's a GOOD sign that little Arb is still on the nest so much and is eating so much. I think that actually may be increasing her chances of long term survival. The fatter and stronger she is when she begins her migration, when she will have to start catching her own fish, the more cushion she will have against failed fishing attempts. Her instincts are growing stronger everyday, and her frequent food begging does not mean she is too dependent...she is building reserves and developing in ways that may not be apparent. It's all good!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Early September...

Little Arb has been waiting and begging for a fish this morning, poking at that crusty old one that remains on the nest after about 4 days....finally the male delivered breakfast! As we are seeing here, these young birds usually don't go catch their own fish, and they rely on the nest post fledge as a place to get fed. This nest is still very much her "home base". They often remain dependent upon their parents for food, especially females. Yesterday I visited five nests, and I found four chicks and three adult males. Two nests had two chicks still hanging around their natal territory, food begging, waiting....and when the male delivered a fish a skirmish erupted for possession of the fish. On one nest I found the adult male perched nearby on a cell tower eating and looking around, sometimes displaying the fish in case any youngsters were in need of fuel. No chicks arrived so he ate. I visited his nest twice and never saw any chicks and he was eating a fish in different places each time. Clearly he is preparing for his departure. On two of the nests I found no Ospreys at all....where the polygamous male raised his two families. Perhaps they have all dispersed and begun the journey south. Little Arb is lucky that she does not have to compete for food. She will undertake her migration with a full tank! I expect her to be around for several more weeks...we hope anyway!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Last chick has fledged...

I am happy to finally report that the last chick in the metro area has fledged successfully! I visited last Sunday and the juvenile was still in the nest, and on Tuesday she was gone, and could not be found anywhere, in spite of searching for two hours. I don't consider it a successful fledge until I see the youngster flying and returning to the nest, landing well. Today I visited again and the chick was on the nest eating, she flew off and I searched and found her perched in a tree! And I must say she is a beautiful female...large with dark, distinctive spots evenly scattered over her breast. I hope she will be around for several more weeks at least with one of her parents.
A more disturbing discovery yesterday was that a cell company had removed a nest shortly after the chicks fledged, while they were still dependent upon that nest for feeding. I was so surprised that they did not wait another month, when the birds would have been gone. I suspect this was an illegal removal, without the required permits. I have notified the DNR.

Many osprey families appear to be totally gone now, the nests so empty and quiet. But with so many late breeders, there are still Ospreys to be found, though it takes some searching, waiting, listening, to find them. It's a game I play this time of year, finding a few Ospreys makes for a successful day in the field! Now I finally have time to just sit and watch, without having to rush on to the next nest. I no longer try to cram 20 nests into a day. I use the time at an empty nest to work on updating the data charts as I wait for an osprey to show up, entering band numbers as I listen for the sound of food begging. When and if they do show up, I set the iPad aside and focus all my attention on the Ospreys. What can you teach me today? I treasure every moment I get to spend with them.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Instinctive behaviors....

Some interesting behavioral observations today. As the breeding season winds down, I still like to search for my osprey friends and see what's going on. There is always something to learn if you just keep watching and open your mind. I visited a bunch of empty nests, and at one nest, which held three chicks earlier, I found one male juvenile on the nest, snoozing and occasionally food begging. You all know the drill now....when Dad approaches with a fish, the chick gets almost apoplectic. So excited. Dad dropped the fish and escaped quickly and the young male took the bright goldfish and flew up into the air and flapped his wings at a very fast pace, hovering and dropping and flying upwards again....while trying to imitate the courtship vocalization!  "Eeeedle-eet." (Forgive me...there are no adequate words to express that vocalization in a written post). At first I thought, isnt that cute...he is practicing a sky dance! I have not seen this before, or it didn't register in my head what was happening. When you think about it, this young bird was not even an egg when these behaviors were being exhibited by the adults. Chances are, it is not something he has observed and therefore is not imitating in the true sense of the word. This is a behavior that is deeply encoded in his DNA, or, as I have said before regarding flight or fishing, he is hard wired to do this. There was something about his excitement in having that bright gold fish that made him want to display it, to be seen by other Ospreys...preferably a female I suppose. It was just instinct, saying " look at me and my fish"! It didnt last long before he headed off to a tree to eat his lovely fish. But I recognized the behavior and the vocalization, tho it was brief. Delightful.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Not quite yet...

Today I went to check on some of those chicks that had not been confirmed as fledging successfully. The first nest I visited hatched two chicks,  and one of them had fledged quite a while ago...I had seen her flying and returning to the nest several times. But the second chick was always in the nest! There did not appear to be anything wrong, but I just never saw her fly, or found her perched elsewhere. I watched for almost an hour and all she did was preen and food beg. The rest of the family were coming and going. They all disappeared eventually leaving this chick home alone. I decided to go check a few other nests and come back. When I got back an hour later she had not moved...still standing in the nest preening. I finally said out loud, out of total frustration and worry..." Will you please fly so I know you are OK!" That's all it took! She immediately stretched her wings, flew off the nest, circled around the nest in a large loop and returned to the nest and landed perfectly! Ha ha! I am not kidding! What an obedient osprey! All is well...she is just a homebody.
(I have one more nest where I see one chick always in the nest, long after its sibling has fledged. I believe she can fly, but I need to see it. One of my volunteers or I will confirm this ones status soon! )
Then I headed off to the other nest I had been watching where the single chick has not fledged. This one was still in the nest alone. The adult female was perched nearby. I watched for over an hour here as well . The chick did some flapping and hopping and is getting a little loft....flew from one side of the nest to the other, but is still primarily standing there watching the world go by. I can tell that this one is not quite physiologically ready to fly. It will be soon, but she is still pretty calm, not flapping with the focus, energy and enthusiasm that a chick that is about to fly does. It can almost seem frantic sometimes as they flap, flap, flap. It's late. She will get there. I will try to get back there this weekend. This will be the final chick to go here, I think. And she still has a lot of learning ahead post fledge! I did not see the male here today, but the female stayed close by, watching over the youngster. Hope the adults will stay around for another month so this chick will be cared for as she develops all those skills she needs to migrate successfully. You know I will be watching! Ospreys look especially lovely with red and gold leaves behind them!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

So hungry....

 Went out in search of a particular osprey today, actually several of them, but did not find the ones I was searching for. But I stopped at one nest and found all three chicks still present on and around the nest. All were quiet. Suddenly they burst into that desperate, raspy, whining sound of food begging....wings went out and down in a subordinate position as they hollered so loudly. I laughed out loud. Dad must be on his way! Sure enough, Dear old Dad arrived on the nest as two chicks dove for the fish, a serious tug of war broke out. Of course Dad departed as quickly as possible. Then one of the chicks on the nest flew up in the air and made a particular vocalization that adults commonly make when they see a Bald Eagle. It was kind of cute to hear a juvenile try to replicate that sound. I understood it! And then a large adult Eagle flew above the nest, followed by a juvenile eagle. All three chicks scattered in all directions. The juvenile eagle went after the one with the fish. Oh dear. I lost them behind some trees and I waited anxiously....and one by one they all returned to the nest, without a fish. Smart! The one with the fish must have dropped it, rather than fight with an eagle!  Then they all started hollering again. This time, Mom arrived with a fish! Yeah! She is still around and still helping to feed this large brood! Many females are hard to find now so I was surprised to see her. The whole family was well and accounted for! That is not the case on many nests now. I moved on to another nest where I found two chicks on the nest, also hollering for food. Desperate, hungry, cries that escalated to a pitch which announced that Dad must be in sight. He arrived shortly with a fish, and again, these two struggled to gain control  of that piece of gold! In fact, this struggle was so intense, they both fell off the nest, and a chase ensued. Eventually they found their way back to the nest and of course, neither had the fish. Oops. So the food begging began anew. Ya gotta laugh. So noisy. But the instinct to "bulk up" before migration is strong. Their survival may depend on it! I had to leave before another fish was delivered...but the male here is still working hard to care for these youngsters. The last nest I visited today revealed two adults calmly and quietly  eating their own fish. No food begging heard, no chicks seen. So these adults are still sticking around, in case they are needed, and preparing for their long trip south. I enjoy every last moment spent with these birds, still trying to clarify some research details, be sure our data is accurate, and just soaking up the sights and sounds of these magnificent raptors.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Little Arb Fledged!

Friday morning, August 19, 8:20 a.m.....Fledged! Mom is on the nest looking for little Arb.....I didn't see the moment she took off...hoping she gets back to the nest soon! 
Little Arb made it back and landed on the perch at about 11 a.m! She stuck her landing like a pro and then had some lunch with Mom! We can celebrate!

 Little Arb chick is falling asleep standing up friday afternoon after her big day....seems like just yesterday I watched her wiggle her way out of that small egg....and now she is a real osprey that can fly! After years of failure at this nest, we are so happy to see this day come. We will continue to watch over her and her antics. She will continue to return to the nest to eat for many weeks, and if she does try her luck at fishing, she will still rely on Dad as her back up if she is hungry. The adult female may begin her migration within the next few weeks but this chick may stick around with Dad until some time in mid September before they head south. Those females are tied to the nest thru all the weeks of incubation and care / feeding of chicks, and now she will be a little more free, to fly, build up her strength and prepare for migration. I see signs already....she is eating a lot to prepare for the big trip ahead to South or Central America. Some females leave quite early, in fact I believe some are gone already. But some females stick around a bit longer. Chicks can get into a million different kinds of trouble post fledge and fewer than half will survive the first year, so let's keep our fingers crossed for this one to stay safe, and stay close to home. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Little Arb chick....

Let's talk about feathers! What do the feathers go thru to be prepared for flight? As the new feathers grow in on our young Ospreys, the shaft is full of blood. Therefore they are called " blood feathers!" ( this is true of adults also as they molt and grow new feathers). These growing feathers are very fragile and if broken they can hemorrhage quite profusely. It can require medical care. That is why these nestlings need to be handled so carefully at banding time, approximately five weeks of age. As these youngsters approach fledging age the blood in the feather shaft begins to recede and the shaft begins to harden. On the reintroduction program, one of the indications that a bird was ready to fly was that the feather looked different. We would examine the flight feathers closely to see if the shaft of the feather was beginning to look clear or white rather than engorged with blood. These feathers are referred to as " hard penned".
These stiffened feathers are more able to sustain flight and can withstand the vigorous flapping that is typically observed prior to fledge. There is nothing an osprey can do to prepare the feathers or to promote this physiological stage of development. If we were to look at little Arbs feathers today, they might look a little striped, as the blood in the shaft has dried up and receded. That, along with the muscular strength she is developing, is what is required for her first flight. We are watching for indications that she can get some loft and hover a bit above the nest and come down in a controlled way. I expect her to make her maiden voyage soon!

Friday, August 12, 2016


I have some updates to share as this breeding season begins to wind down. We still have some very late nesters with unfledged chicks! But many of our chicks have fledged, including the two nests, six chicks, that share the same father. The bad news on this situation is that one of the nests, which was on a transmission tower, has collapsed. This male was so busy providing food for these two families that we rarely saw him bringing sticks or working on the nest as most males do during the breeding season. The female did bring a few sticks, but between the lack of maintenance and the heavy rains we have had this summer, most of the nest fell last weekend. There are a few sticks still up there and the chicks still return there to grab a fish from mom or dad. We are so happy that all chicks had fledged when this happened and it is still their home base. It will be interesting to see what this male does now. Will he rebuild this nest, originally built by another male, or will this bring a natural end to his polygyny?
Sadly I must also report that the nest that had four chicks only seems to have fledged two. I have been back several times to look for chicks and have only found two, which have fledged successfully. I am not sure what happened here. With so many nests to watch, I can't get back as often as I would like.
Believe it or not we are still finding new nests!  We deeply appreciate the people who report new nests to us, since trying to keep track of all nests in eight counties is a big job! I do find some of them, as do my volunteers, but some we might never find if it weren't for the public keeping us posted about what they observe in their neighborhoods! New nests are often built late in the season in preparation for next year. We try to read all bands on the birds building these late nests to be sure they are not frustration nests.  We are working hard to confirm successful fledging and make sure our final chick numbers are accurate.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Confirming fledging...

I spent a full day in the field with one of my great volunteers yesterday. We checked about 18 nests and I visited a few more on the way home. At this time of the breeding season we are trying to accurately account for successful fledging of the chicks. We try to find each chick that we have been observing since hatching. Sometimes this requires searching all the surrounding trees, moving around for different views, listening carefully for food begging. A successful nest is one where at least one chick was known to have fledged successfully. That does not mean it flew away. It means it flew and landed successfully and has returned to the nest to eat. We referred to past visits and the number of chicks noted in each visit. We try to document mortality rates, so that means narrowing down what period of time a chick may have disappeared, going over field notes to arrive at the answer. Then we begin to search for all the chicks seen on previous visits. I get a great feeling of satisfaction when we can account for all chicks.  We also realize that less than half of these chicks will survive their first year. These youngsters can get into a million kinds of trouble post fledge. We will continue to observe as long as we can tho some volunteers may begin to pack up their field notes after fledge. Some of us keep watching until we can no longer find any Ospreys. This year we had quite a few late nesters so we will be watching a few nests for quite some time, well into September.
On one of the nests I visited on my way home, I had not found any Ospreys on the nest this week. I was worried. The male finally arrived with a fish, but did not go to the nest. He perched on a light pole and began eating a fish. Where did the chicks go? What happened? Ahhhhh, there it is, that tell tale raspy, whining sound of a juvenile food begging. I could not find the chick tho! It took me quite a while, moving around until I finally spotted the young one in a tree, whining desperately! All is well, this nest is successful, the young one can fly, land in a tree and is still here asking for food.
In the process of visiting all these nests yesterday, we also saw a family of sand hill cranes in a field, a doe and her two fawns that were still  trying to nurse while their tails were wagging at lightening speed. She was trying to drag them away from the road while they nursed! Funny. We also observed a young bald eagle feeding on a dead raccoon while an adult watched over him, they both flew, were joined by another adult, soaring together, and the juvenile landed in a very tall cornfield. Interesting choice!
I love spending time in the field with the volunteer monitors, as we learn together, putting the pieces of the puzzle together on each nest.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Encouraging words....

We recieved this encouraging comment on our Facebook page from Wayne Melquist, a long time osprey researcher in just made my day so I had to share it! Knowing that other researchers see the value in my efforts, makes all the hard work and uphill battles worth it!

"Well done and the information you folks are gathering is redefining some of our assumptions on osprey ecology! I just wish we had had today's "tools" back in the early 1970s when I first started working on ospreys. My hat is off to all you dedicated osprey watchers. Being from Minnesota and Wisconsin (born in Minneapolis), I'll have to check in with you all during one of my trips back to visit family. Best of luck and keep up the great work!"

Friday, July 29, 2016


Today I visited many nests,  checking for successful fledging of the chicks. One nest I visited had previously held three chicks, but today I only saw two in the nest. Did we lose one here? Could one have fledged? Perhaps, but my search around the nest area revealed no other chick. I proceeded onto to the next nest, which was very close to the first nest. I found a single chick there, as there had been last time I visited. The male chick stood quietly, watching everything in his world, and then the adult male arrived carrying a fish, and right behind him was another screaming juvenile! I had never seen two chicks on this nest previously, and one was missing from the neighboring nest. Hmmmmmmmm. I have seen a chick move from one of these nests to another in the past, so I pondered that possibility. If the chicks had been banded I would know for sure, but since they weren't, I could only contemplate that possibility, as I chuckled.
One thing many of my volunteer monitors are noticing this time of year, as the young ones take flight, is that suddenly some of the females may be harder to find. They have remained steadfastly with their eggs, their chicks for so many months and now our visits often find no female present. It's usually only a temporary absence, but that is a change. This is the time of year that the bonds they have felt for their offspring begin to loosen a bit and the females begin the slow, subtle preparation for migration. The females can lose muscle mass after all the incubating, shading and feeding and now they are finally able to leave the nest and fly a bit, they begin catching a fish occasionally, bathing, perching near the nest instead of on it. Of course part of the reason for clearing out is all that flapping!  As the chicks jump, flap, fly from one side of the nest to the other, there is little room for adults on a nest with three chicks. The females won't leave yet, but the behaviors do change, the males are stepping up their game, fishing, watching over the youngsters, they may follow him to the favorite fishing hole. I visited a nest where the homeowner shared that the chicks began fledging yesterday. So I snuck out to the backyard, using all my best raptor approaching skills...and I recieved no alarm calls. One chick still in the nest, the adult female in a nearby tree. I stayed down low, basically on my knees, scanning with my binoculars to try to find the other two chicks. Ah, there was one perched on a bench on a neighbors dock. And I finally spotted the other one perched on a boat cover near the other neighbors dock. Then the first chick began flying all around the shore of the lake and plunging into the water, and then mustering all his strength to get lift off out of the water...only to do it again, and again. It was so much fun to watch! He was practicing his water starts, already! It was not fishing, since there was no hovering, no looking into the water....just the in and out of the water activity. Developing a very necessary skill! It was delightful to witness. Pretty sure I heard the other chick, who was watching all this, say, "wow"!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

After the sizzling heat....

Good news, bad news. I made some rounds today, partly in torrential check on the chicks. I checked seventeen nests and most had all chicks still present and accounted for after our stretch of extreme heat and humidity. One nest that had one chick nine days ago, when I last visited, had failed. One nest,that had two chicks nine days ago, had one on the nest and, sadly, one hanging dead from the side of the nest tangled in fishing line. Heart breaking. Must have happened shortly after my last visit because it was quite decomposed. On another nest where there were originally three chicks, only one remained. I believe that one of these chicks died from injuries related to baling twine.
Let me reinforce the plea for people to please pick up fishing line and baling twine to prevent these tragedies. These materials kill.

So fourteen nests had chicks, 2-3 on most nests, that all survived this tough week! I always tell people that it is amazing what they survive, but they are built for this, made for sitting out in the sun, in the rain, in the open, and they handle it all much better than I do! I thought I would find more chicks fledged than I did, but perhaps the wet weather caused fledglings to just stick to the nest today. I try to confirm successful fledging, and I will visit all these nests again, but sometimes I have to settle for confirming that they survived to fledging age. With so many nests to watch over now, I simply can't get to all of them as much as would like. As the population grows we have an increasing need for good volunteer monitors that will make a commitment to watching some nests thru the breeding season and sharing their observations with me weekly. Skilled birders with spotting scopes, cameras with long lenses or hi powered binoculars are especially treasured. We do have amazing volunteers who are watching so many nests, sometimes stretched so thin, and we are still getting new monitors who find out about our efforts and want to join in the fun (and work). Just got a new one last week with lots of experience with other raptors! Yeah! Thanks to all who are helping me watch over these birds. It's a labor of love, fueled by passion and curiosity, and a deep commitment to the welfare of these raptors. We are all still learning so much, sharing the joys and sorrows involved with this kind of a project. Grateful to all who pitch in to help, grateful that so many chicks are fine after the brutal weather this week. And yet, we weep for those Ospreys that have been lost, here, and around the world. Each one is precious.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The tale of two families....

Just a quick update on the polygynous male and his two families...
believe it or not they have started fledging! I saw five of the six chicks that had fledged did not show up for me today, but my nest monitor, Carol, saw him on Tuesday. Another one that has fledged was flying in and out of the nest. I hope the one that fledged earlier is's scorching hot today....mid nineties with a dew point of 75. I did my best to search for that chick, but it wore me out so after three hours I had to head for some AC.
The other nest had all three chicks present and one was going between the nest perch and the nest but I never actually saw him make his move so am not sure if he was flying, hopping or just walking out on the perch. It was always the same one on the perch. There I was trying to watch both nests at the same time, and take notes, and no matter where I looked, I was missing something! The VIB ( very important bird) never showed up! The male! Both females were gone at one came back with a fish and the other came back all wet, but with no fish. I must say a large part of the success of this story is attributable to those females.
All chicks have survived to an advanced age, and that is somewhat unusual in a situation like this. So that is cause for celebration. As for any chicks, fledging can be a treacherous time and I certainly hope they all survive this next big hurdle in their development. I will keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Floating is not quite flying....

It is brutally hot out there today, and supposed to be worse tomorrow. On the way to get my car repaired I checked some one nest I watched in amazement as three chicks were jumping, flapping furiously and then taking turns laying down, ducking when it all was too chaotic. Of course I located the adults nearby, but there was no room for them on the nest today! One of these lovely juveniles was floating straight up at least four feet above the nest and flapping as he just hung in the air for LONG periods of time! He did this over and over, remaining up in the air for 2-3 minutes at a time! The nest is in a high spot and it was windy enough that at some times he even quit flapping and literally just floated in the air. He was even practicing tucking his feet up under him and really exploring the feeling of "loft"! But each time he made his way back onto the nest without really launching off the nest and steering his first flight in a loop. It was funny and awesome to observe. If it hadn't been so hot I would have stayed longer....perhaps by now he has made his maiden voyage! I never tire of watching these winged ones...I remain in awe of them.
It's amazing what these birds survive and today the birds I saw looked fine, better than me! Crops full, panting to release internal heat. They are designed for sitting in the sun. But we have several more days of brutal heat. Think good thoughts. And think good thoughts for Ceri on the DYFI nest who is struggling....we are sincerely hoping for a good outcome there.…/e…/2016/07/20/ceri-update

Saturday, July 16, 2016


I am often puzzled by behaviors, (especially human behaviors!) but I also realize you must watch these ospreys carefully enough to even BE puzzled! I continue to observe these birds until I begin to understand the behaviors and am able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Some times I am left with questions, and I allow those questions to remain rather than mislead anyone by jumping to an easy conclusion. I am watching two nests where the males identity has changed sometime during this breeding season. This requires repeated band reading and careful observation. Sometimes the behaviors are subtle, but are a tip off that the attending male may not be the father of the chicks. In both of these cases I notice that these males are rather scarce. They are not what I would describe as "attentive", as some males are. At first you may think, " it's bad timing of my visits". Eventually it becomes clear that it is more than that.  I also see that these nests often have a lot of chaos around them....extra Ospreys flying over, circling, chirping. This is the response to an undefended or only partially defended territory. If no male is seen on or near the nest, it is a signal that the territory may be up for grabs, in spite of a female and chicks occupying the nest. The males that are trying to take over the nest almost never feed the chicks directly, shade the chicks, or stick close to them while the female takes a break. When they do bring a fish, they may drop it for the female, as a typical part of courtship behavior or they may just eat it themselves while the whole family food begs. They usually do not provide enough food to care for a large family and on one of the nests I am watching, one chick has already been lost, probably as a result of insufficient food. They may even work on the nest...bringing sticks, even sometimes placing them ON the chicks or ignoring those squatters in his nest. It's all the familiar courtship behaviors we see in the spring, with no parental attention to the chicks. Sometimes they even seem slightly aggressive towards the female. I believe these males are just trying to acquire a territory. They can see that this territory is not being defended my another male, so they move in, do what they have to regarding courtship, and quite often this strategy gains them what they want. Next year this territory will belong to them. It's all interesting to me...the more I watch the subtle interactions, the more I learn.

Another puzzling situation is on a nest where I identified the two banded adults sitting comfortably side by side in a tree in April. Many return visits revealed no sign of incubation. This pair had been together for several years, so what was the problem? What was causing the delay? One day I returned, saw two adults on the nest, but noticed that the male seemed defensive, his back turned to the female, his head hanging low. Why would he act this way with his mate of several years? Hmmmmmm. So I read bands again only to discover that this was a different female! She was young, only two years old, unreceptive to copulation, probably too young to breed. Where was the territorial female? What happened to her???? I returned a week or two later to find this same young female present. I assumed that the original female had met some sad fate. I thought I should go search for her body, but didn't have time. Too many nests to watch. Then a few weeks later I returned again, and discovered the original female back on the nest! The male brought her a fish and they were standing side by side, comfortably, on the nest, with the female eating her fish. Now it is too late for egg laying so it's a failed breeding season for this pair, for reasons I cannot quite figure out. Where was this female when the other one was on the nest? This is one of those cases which will remain a mystery. If I were able to check all nests every day, perhaps  I would have better insights. There may be reasons why a pair doesn't breed that we don't understand. I can theorize, but science is about documented facts and known outcomes, not guesses, estimates or theories. We can spin some good tales about what might have happened, but must carefully separate that from the facts.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I can report that our first chick has fledged. Yesterday  I watched a young one fly a beautiful loop and made a damn fine landing for one who is new to this. As I have said repeatedly, flying is easy, landing is hard. It's been a few days since I have visited this nest so I suspect this one has made a few loops previously. It looked to me like the sibling was still a nestling, having not ventured forth yet. At least while I was there, this chick preferred to lounge in the nest than do any jumping, flapping or flying. She was also eating a lot, ripping and tearing a fish on her own, which is an important developmental stage.  However, they often eat less right before fledging. So now begins the most treacherous time of the breeding season. Things do go wrong on those first flights, young ones do land on the ground sometimes, perhaps uninjured but unable to achieve lift off from the ground. So we must visit often, count the heads often, search for fledged chicks when possible, and sometimes a rescue is required. Sadly, some serious injuries also occur at this time as these young ones are not good at steering. Sometimes listening carefully is useful for finding a grounded juvenile....I have discovered a chick on the ground by its food begging. (Unfortunately they go silent as you approach them so finding them can be a challenge!) The parents usually will not feed a chick on the ground as it may put the adult at risk of predation. They cannot get the chick safely back to the nest, nor can they stay on the ground 24/7 to protect the chick. Having said that, I did see an adult feed a chick on the ground once. It was at a nest in a gravel pit where a chick had landed on a small hill of sand. The female fed the chick there and I watched for many hours as the chick walked up higher and eventually made very short flights from one pile of sand to another and, yes, made it back to the nest! I spent about three hours planning a rescue in my head that, in the end, was not required! I love a happy ending!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July....

I really tried to have an osprey free day just catch up on personal stuff, prepare for a big week ahead, get some housework and yard work done....I wondered if I could do it. I see that other people do it...even osprey lovin people do it. In the end I failed. I went out to get a few things at Target and Whole foods and next thing I knew, the car had taken a little detour, to re route me past one of my favorite nests. Oh, it was lovely. It was so quiet there today, and both parents were on the nest, attending the little guys. And the little guys....well, they had such full crops it looked as if they might explode. Their little rounded breasts were still grey and downy, probably close to three weeks of age. As they both stood up, looking out at their new world, the looked, well, happy! Perhaps I am being anthropomorphic but they truely looked satisfied and as if they were grinning! Eyes bright and rusty colored....beaks open, tongues pink. The female decided to take a little break and flew off to a nearby favorite perch. The male remained on the nest, close to the chicks. He is a great male, so dependable and attentive. This nest has been successful every year since it was first built. When I looked back at the chicks, one of them had collapsed into that common post fish coma. The other stood tall, looking around and, smiling! I swear. They may not like this evening tho. We have one nest on some Ballfield lights in a park where they shoot off fireworks and we have lost a chick this night for the past two years. We are watching closely this year. One of my great volunteers, Barb, will check the nest today and very early tomorrow, in case a chick needs rescuing. We do our best. We love these guys. We can scarcely go a day with visiting with one of our friends. Happy Fourth of July.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Update on the male with two families....

Just a quick update from the field. I have revisited the two nests that belong to our polygynous male. I held my breath as I drove up and got positioned between the two nests so I could view both. I set the scope on one nest and waited patiently. Female was up but chicks were all snoozing. I waited patiently. Two heads up....what happened to number three? Did we lose one? Wouldn't be surprising in this kind of a situation. Then I focused on the other nest...quickly counted the chicks. 1,2, 3! Then all voices rose in a cacophony of food comes the male. Where will he go? Straight to his primary nest with a goldfish. Off he went as the other nest continued the insistent food begging. The female on the primary nest began feeding the three cutie patooties (a scientific term). In less than ten minutes he arrived at the secondary nest with another fish, and THREE chicks stood up! Yeah! All six chicks have survived this far and our busy male is keeping up with the demands of having two families! What do ya say about that? Wow!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Putting the pieces together...

So many interesting behaviors are being observed on the nests. Some surprise me or cause me to return over and over to try to gather a few more pieces of the puzzle. Yes, sometimes it's not clear to me what is going on! Some time ago I reported about a female whose mate from last year had not returned. Instead she mated with another male who I have watched on another nest for years, but he was somehow displaced from his nest. This new pair laid eggs and I observed that male incubating and bringing fish. All seemed to be going well with her new mate. However, there were repeated intrusions from another male. I realized that I had not seen the first male for some time and decided to sit and watch for a longer period to try to figure out what was happening. That is when I observed the female leaving to feed herself. She would food beg loudly for long periods but no one brought her any fish. While she was gone one day the new intruding male was on the nest "digging" and it appeared as if he had destroyed the eggs. The female returned and did not resume incubating right away....she sat on the nest perch and walked around the nest edge looking down. I assumed the nest had failed. On my next visit I saw no Ospreys. Another visit found that second male (the intruding male) working on the nest, bringing sticks. I have never seen the male who was on the nest at the start of the season. The female accepted this new males presence. The next visit I found the female incubating again! This newer male was there often but he would not incubate or provide food. At first I wondered if they had laid more eggs, tho I had never seen them copulate. So I just kept returning to this nest every few days and then I was surprised to see signs of hatching! I was quite shocked. Happy that an egg had survived whatever has happened there, but also saddened that the new male was not incubating or providing any food for the female. As time has gone on, I have determined that there is only one chick on this nest. The new male has started bringing fish and dropping it for the female, but he does not bring enough fish, nor does he share in any of the parenting duties...but why would he? This is clearly not his offspring. The female seems stressed and thin. But the chick is surviving! It's interesting to observe these behaviors. Why would this male expend any energy providing for a chick that is not his? What is really happening here is that this male is trying to acquire a territory. He will not care for this chick but his provisioning is an attempt to win the female and take over this territory. He is defending the nest as his own, working on the nest, in spite of that chick there!
I worry about the female, and have my fingers crossed for this nestling. This new male is helping the female by chasing away other males, and he does bring some fish. With as large a population of Ospreys as we have here now, there is a lot of competition among young males for good nesting sites. This is one strategy for winning a territory. I have seen this before and that male did win the territory for many years of happy nesting after rescuing a damsel in distress, and just tolerating the offspring of another male. He is investing in the future. I hope it works out this time. I keep watching to see how the behaviors are changing, hoping for a happy ending for all...except perhaps for the original male who disappeared.
On a happier note, I stopped to check another nest today and found a delightfully devoted male osprey feeding his whole family...a bite for each of three chicks and then a bite for Mom. He rotated around all the mouths on the nest and sometimes the female passed her bite onto one of the chicks. So endearing to watch. A family affair, all working together to care for each other. The chicks lined up and patiently waited for their bite. Awwwwww. Sometimes that is all you can say eh? Does the heart good!

Monday, June 20, 2016


The single egg on the Arboretum nest hatched yesterday , June 19, at about 6 a.m. Both parents were so excited, as new first time parents often are. The male was so very interested in peeking at the chick. For some reason I can't  get photos to load here but there are images on our Facebook page if you want to see the little one half way out of the egg, and subsequent photos of the parents watching the little guy.
All is well this morning on the Arboretum cam nest. Chick survived the heat and the storms yesterday. Female is keeping the chick hidden this morning, but I did see the little wiggle worm beneath her. Mr Z3 is so fun to watch....he arrived with a whole fish a short time ago. Many of you know that males usually eat the head of the fish off first, with all its boney parts and then presents the soft body of the fish to the female so she can feed the soft fleshy parts to the young. The female did not get up when he arrived with the whole fish so he left with it, ate the head off and returned and offered it to her again....he literally dropped it in front of her, but again, she did not get up, so he ate the whole fish right there in front of her. Then she stood up and I saw another whole fish laying right next to her!!!
Ha ha he is providing well for them! He was out on the nest perch, but when she stood up he flew into the nest right away and cocked his head to the side to peek at the wee one. He is so curious, wants to see the chick, and is doing a great job of providing. It makes me smile to watch him. They are off to a good start!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Too many chicks!

Well, well, well. It's now been nearly a week since I visited the location of the polygynous male and his two families. ( it took me a while to get the last post written). The update today is interesting. I can now count the chicks on both nests and they each have THREE chicks!!!!!!  I am sitting here now observing  the male on the primary nest, as he is watching the female feed a goldfish to the three chicks. This is where he prefers to hang out. I have watched him try very hard to steal the large fish away from the female three times. She would not let go. I wonder if he wanted to take it to the other nest or eat it himself. His crop is empty. This guy certainly has his work cut out for him! But he has done this successfully before, so if anyone can do it, he can. I know that someone has coined the phrase "Super Osprey", and if anyone deserves that title, it is his guy!  Now the male has departed the primary nest and the female on the secondary nest is food begging loudly. Her crop is empty. The temperature is expected to hit the mid nineties today with extreme, oppressive humidity. I hope these birds all are able to stay hydrated. It is 9:30 in the morning and it is miserable out here. Storms are expected tonight. Keep your fingers crossed for these two families. Its  hard to tear myself away....interesting behaviors captivate me, even after all these years. I am so curious about what will happen next...and I want to see it all!  Now the secondary female is quiet, so the male must be out of sight. Will he return with a fish for this female and her chicks? Nope. He just returned to the primary nest with a stick. Off he goes again. I am parked between the two nests with my scope mounted on the window so I can see and hear what goes on at  both nests. The sun is sizzling hot. I am longing for an iced coffee, but can't leave or I might miss something!!!!! He's back again on the primary nest with more nest material. This nest definitely gets more attention and care. He has just returned with the third stick...he seems to be chick proofing the nest, building up the sides. Now he is perched outside the primary nest, but very near this family. I am watching the other family....the littlest chick there is still light colored and completely downy...about a week of age, while the older two are larger and darker as they lose their down and begin growing feathers. These chicks are now pecking at each other, which is a common behavior that is usually observed at about two weeks of age. They are literally establishing the pecking order. Parents don't intervene. I have seen this so often and it usually does not result in injury or death, but in an unusual situation such as this, where survival may be at stake, it could potentially be more serious. Lack of sufficient food and fluid is a definite concern here, especially as I watch the male perching near the other nest, ignoring this females calls for food. I can see no crusty salt residue on her nares tho so I know she has eaten today, is hydrated and there is no crisis. The chicks are those little squirts coming out of the nest, so we know they have eaten today. We watch for the subtle signs, keep our own emotions in check and document carefully. This is how we learn. I have been here for about three hours and have not seen the secondary nest be fed. The male has just shown up with a large goldfish and is on a power pole eating...near the primary nest. Well, not surprisingly, he took the rest of the fish to the primary nest. Frustrating to watch, for sure. The  last time this male  produced six chicks I predicted that they would not all survive, but they all made it to fledging age! The Ospreys love to prove me wrong! So I can only hope for a similarly amazing outcome here. Time will tell! This weather complicates things. The police just came to check out the reported "suspicious"activity. Ha ha. I can take no more of the heat.....I am soaked in sweat. Holding a good thought for these  birds. Family on the primary nest have finished their lunch and male has departed at 1 p.m. 89 degrees. Unbearable humidity.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Polygyny update....

I have been checking nests 3-4 days a week but can't seem to find the time or inspiration to write the stories!  I do want to fill you in a bit tho....earlier this year I wrote about polygyny (one male, two females) among Ospreys. I shared my historic observations with Emyr Evans in Wales too since Monty, the male on the Dyfi nest, was engaging in this behavior. Most of you probably know that one of Monty's nests failed, as is usually the case. Now I can report that our male, who has done this for the third time this year, has successfully hatched chicks on both nests. His primary nest hatched ten days to two weeks ago and I have been starting to count heads least two chicks. The secondary nest has just hatched in the past week, and the chick or chicks are too young to see yet, but we can tell by the adults behavior that they are feeding at least one chick. The secondary nest definitely gets less attention....the other nest is fed first and probably more often and he tends to hang out there more frequently. But clearly he is giving enough attention and providing enough food for at least one egg to have hatched. We did find him perched near the secondary nest this past weekend. We are expecting some hot weather in the next few days and this can be hard on the newly hatched chicks since they can't thermoregulate at first. The only fluid they get is from the fish, so regular feelings are extremely important to their survival. I hope he is able to provide enough fish for them all to remain hydrated. The secondary nest failed last year (eggs didn't hatch since the female had to leave them unattended to feed herself.) However, in 2013 he attended two nests that each fledged three chicks! He is quite an interesting male! In 2015 he established the secondary nest much closer to his primary nest than was the case in 2013. We will be watching closely to see if chicks fledge successfully from both nests. Polygyny is a breeding strategy this is not often successful among Ospreys, but it's so fascinating that this male has done it successfully and continues to engage in polygyny repeatedly.

Monday, May 30, 2016


I have been so busy checking nests but haven't been able to muster the energy to write about all that I am observing. On the high note, I was able to see the chicks that hatched two weeks big, so fast. Watching them toddle around on the nest and looking out at their world is such a thrill, even after all these years. Of course I am a bit biased, but I think there is nothing cuter than a baby osprey! I am observing indications of hatching on many more nests now, but have only seen chicks on one of them so far.
On a sadder note, we have had at least five or six nests fail already. Sometimes I have no idea week they are happily incubating, and then the next week there are no Ospreys on or near the nest. Sometimes we find both adults, but they are no longer incubating. On one nest I have been slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together. This nest had the same female as last year but the male from past years did not return. She hooked up with another male, who I have known for quite a few years. He was somehow displaced from his original nest by another male. The early part of their relationship seemed to be going well, they were copulating, working on the nest, and eventually eggs were laid. In late April I did see this male bringing fish and sharing incubation duties. But in early May he seemed scarce. Another male was seen here occasionally, sometimes two males chasing each other. This past week I spent some time observing and found the female leaving the nest, presumably to feed herself. The second male was perched nearby, even bringing sticks to the nest, but he would not bring her any fish or incubate. She did not chase him away. One day the female was gone and the male was messing around in the nest, sitting down and digging with his legs, a behavior that is often done to prepare the nest cup for eggs, but can also be done to destroy eggs. When the female returned she was all wet, but her crop was empty. Sigh. She landed on the nest perch, and took a long time before she went into the nest and walked around. I knew it was over. So sad. I have no idea what happened to the first male. The second male seems to be claiming the territory, and the last time I was there he was alone, working on the nest. This is the way of things in the world of Ospreys.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Damaged egg....

This morning we see that one of the eggs at the Arboretum cam nest is damaged and laying off to the side. They are still incubating the remaining egg. What is going on? These eggs seem to break so easily. I wish I could provide an answer but I can't. We are seeing other nests failing now too....some where no eggs have been laid, some where apparently something happened to the eggs. But this is why we keep watching and documenting the best we can.

PS. Becki you can contact me privately at to give me more info.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


HATCHING! Even tho some nests have just laid eggs, our earliest nests have begun hatching. I am watching the first feeding I have seen this year. Still a thrill to see after all these years! The male brought a whole fish, tho his crop is empty, and the female started eating the head of the fish, the boney, tough parts. Now she is leaning into the nest cup with tiny soft bits of fish flesh....quiety peeping, as the male watches. I find it so touching. I will not be able to see chicks for quite a while...ten days or so, but the behavior is unmistakable. I love the quiet peeps they make as they 
encourage the wee ones to eat. These early feedings are over so quickly. Those tiny crops just can't hold much! Th male has taken what is left of the fish and moved to the nest perch to eat.
So we are off into the next phase of the breeding season. Our work gets harder now....I waited for two hours for this confirmation of hatching, tho I knew from the adults behavior shortly after I arrived. I waited for proof.
New nests continue to pop up...another one reported by one of our long time volunteers yesterday...and sadly our first report of a failed nest. Both adults are fine, but they are no longer incubating, so something happened to the eggs.
We can break out the bubbly tonight because we have our first chicks of the 2016 season!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New nests....

Our population of Ospreys is booming this year. We have found nine new nests so far this year. First let me define what we mean by a "new" nest. It may seem obvious but the way scientists count and calculate data can be diverse and In some cases downright misleading. When we are counting nests, we are not actually counting a pile of sticks....we are counting breeding territories, which also means we are counting breeding pairs, and are documenting the expansion of this reintroduced population. In other words, if a nest blows down in a storm and is rebuilt in the same place by the same pair of Ospreys, it is NOT counted as a new nest. It's just new sticks in a pre existing territory. Also if a pre existing nesting territory has one new bird, it is not a new nest. Even if it's a totally new pair, it is still not a new nest. If an existing nest is used for years, then is not occupied for one or more years and then is reoccupied, it is not a new nest. It is still counted as the same nesting territory. When a pair of Ospreys nests unsuccessfully, eggs do not hatch or chicks die, and they then build what is called a "frustration nest"....a new nest near an existing nest, built by the same pair of Ospreys, it is NOT counted as a new nest, since this would be counting the same pair of Ospreys twice, which can lead to artificially inflated numbers. This is why identifying the Ospreys is important. Some of this does become more difficult as we have fewer and fewer banded Ospreys, but we can still often identify a frustration nest by the timing of the nest building and the proximity to another failed nest.
When a new pair builds a new nest in a totally new place , where no nest has ever been occupied previously, THAT is considered a new nesting territory. So our criteria of what we call a new nest is very carefully thought out so we can actually document the expansion of our population of Ospreys without misleading or inflating the numbers. We are always very careful about the terms and methods used and if we don't know something or are not sure about something, we will state that. We try not to jump to conclusions without factual evidence to support our comments.
So to find this many new nests this early in the breeding season is important. Most of these nests have been found by me or my volunteers, but a few have been reported to us by some one in the public or some property managers. We are very grateful for those reports. I am sure there are some we don't know about and we continue to make pleas for the public to keep their eyes open and to let us know as they discover new nests being built on cell towers, Ballfield lights, transmission towers and other man made structures. Thanks to all who contribute to the success and accuracy of our research!

Thursday, May 12, 2016


The Arboretum cam nest Ospreys have laid their first egg! Finally! Both adults are sharing incubation duties. They commonly lay 2-3 eggs, tho we have seen four. It remains to be seen if this pair will lay more eggs since they are getting a late start. Eggs are usually laid about 2-3 days apart tho there is some variety in that timing from pair to pair.
This is not the latest egg laying we have seen, so if all goes well they will have time to raise the chicks and get them fledged and ready for migration by late September. 
(UPDATE: On May 14 at about 7:19 a second egg was laid in the Arboretum can nest. For some reason I cannot seem to transfer my photos from the iPad  to this blog...but you can find more images and info on our Face book page.) 
Sorry its it's been a while since my last post....I was on another planet last week, seeing Sir Paul twice. Beatlemania had a strangle hold on me. What an experience! But I have been checking nests and am still plugging away at band reading. We have discovered seven new nests already, so the population is booming. Hoping people will keep us posted about new nests!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Report new nests!

Thanks to all the people who have contacted me after seeing the Kare 11 coverage. I will answer each email and message but it's a crazy week with Sir Paul in town, and so much going on in the pottery world and my work. A reminder that an important bit of info that was cut out of the TV spot was that we need people's help in finding new if you see Ospreys carrying sticks, or fish, do watch where they are going and send me an email. They are increasingly nesting on cell towers, ballfield lights, transmission towers and other man made structures. If you know of any new nests in the past few years, we want to know about them! We are also interested in working with Boy Scouts who want to earn their Eagle Scout badge by putting up an osprey nesting platform. Our population is booming and we want to help them find good safe homes!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

End of April....

It's been a hectic week of visiting nests, still trying to get bands read but so many nests are incubating now it's become difficult. We are finding new nests that are just being built now so we are working on identifying those birds. I find myself watching the Ospreys with the color banded leg tucked up so their foot pocket! I ponder why they always tuck up the color band which is usually on the right leg. Do you think if we placed the color band on the left leg we would have fewer problems? Or do you think they would then become right legged standers and tuck up the left leg? Are they really just being difficult? How long can an osprey actually stand on one leg? Very long.....longer than my patience sometimes. Some of them seem to have learned to take off without ever really putting the banded leg down! Ah the frustrations we face! But I never give up. It's so fun to watch an osprey I have known for many years, and realize that even without reading the band, I find their faces familiar, their head markings so unique. I think it's late enough now to sadly conclude that some of my favorite birds have not returned and are probably no longer alive. Our oldest male, who I had known since he was two years old, has not shown up. His mate of 14 years seems to have found a new partner. I am not sure the deal is sealed tho. I thought that my old friend, who was 22 last year, did not seem to be his usual self last year. He was a male who was so dependable, always easy to find, perched near his nest watching over his family....but last year I often had trouble locating him, the female was often seen bringing fish, but then he would show up again. I will miss of my first loves.

And the wonderful male whose chick ended up in rehab last year, has also not shown up. He was so attentive to that youngster who stuck so close to home after I released her ( after her 24 hour adventure which she never explained). He was always seen on his lofty perch, visible for miles, as I drove to his nest. He stayed for one week after the last chick dispersed....flying around with a fish to see if anyone needed it. After a week of no takers...he finally left on his migration. I missed him all winter as I drove past his perch. I was anxiously awaiting his return, but it has not happened. In his place we have another bird that I know quite who was somehow displaced from his territory, and spent last summer visiting nests all over the metro area, looking for a mate and a territory. I am glad to see him settled down with a mate and chicks on the way. I wish him great success, but I also remember the male he has replaced, with some sadness. This is nature, this is life going on, and this is the life of a researcher who has followed a population of birds for 23 years....I know so many of these birds as my old friends. They are like family to me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Blog about polygamy from Wales Dyfi project

Here is a link to the blog that Emyr posted about great to be able to share what I have observed during all these years. It's an interesting read.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Mare island osprey days

I received a lovely invitation today to attend the Mare Island Osprey Days in the Bay Area...doesn't this sound like fun?

Another case of polygyny

I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered yet another instance of polygyny in our population of Ospreys. Another male who was attending two nests that were almost in sight of each other. These two nests were not as close as our most current case. Chicks hatched on both nests, three chicks on one nest and a single chick on the other. Sadly the single chick was found dead below the nest, probable predation. So, once again, only one nest was successful. That brings the total cases of polygyny to seven,that I know of. And only once did both nests succeed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Facebook page....

To those of you that are reading the blog but not the Facebook page...the last few posts have generated a lot of comments and might enjoy going to the Facebook page to read them. So fun to communicate with people all over the world about osprey behaviors!


Been having fun the past few days emailing Emyr Evans of the Dyfi osprey project In Wales. As some of you may know, Monty now has two nests and two females. It is a behavior I have observed here five times. (It occurred one other time prior to my involvement in the project). So Emyr contacted me to get my thoughts. It's so great to talk to other osprey researchers and share our observations. Sometimes I hate this internet / Facebook thing because in some ways it separates us, but in other situations it allows us to connect and learn from people on the other side of the planet. That, I love. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how things turn out over there with Monty. Out of the five times I have documented polygamous behavior, four times involved a male going between two nests. Sometimes those nests were at least a mile or two apart, and sometimes they were within a few hundred yards (within sight of each other). Only once were chicks produced at both nests. And that male managed to produce three chicks at two nests and all chicks fledged! It surprised me! In fact I predicted that one of the nests would fail, which is what usually occurs. The Ospreys proved me wrong, and it's not the first time! The success was largely due to significant help from those females as well, who did help provide fish for the chicks as they became old enough to for her to leave them for short periods.
One case of polygyny ( polygyny is the term for one male with two females, polyandry is the term for one female with two males, and polygamy is the larger category that includes both of those...for those interested in correct terminology) I observed two females sharing a single nest with one male. They shared fish and shared Incubation duties, but when a single chick hatched one of the females lost interest and departed. The next year she had her own male and her own nest. Did she know the chick was not hers, or was it just too many birds in a nest? ( in 1986, prior to my involvement in the project, two females laid six eggs in a nest with one male, and none of the eggs hatched).
Well, one of our males has done this three times now, including this year. Now we have documented him at both nests. Quite often one nest will get more attention than the other, and it can be sad to watch a male ignoring one of the females as she begs for food while incubating. I often have to remind people that Ospreys are not "bad" for engaging in polygamy. We should not project our anthropomorphic moralistic ideas upon these birds. Ospreys are largely motivated by two survive and to reproduce. So when an opportunity arises to reproduce twice in one breeding season, some males will take advantage of it. It is often a result of nests being too close together. It's natural for a male to defend his territory against other males, and yet to allow another female into the territory. Some females would chase away another female, but if the male is allowing it, it sends a signal. I think there are all kinds of subtle signals being sent that we humans may not understand.
When the male does not care for the secondary nest, it can be hard to watch, and our human hearts get upset...but that male is making decisions about his own survival, and how much energy he has to provide for two families. The behaviors of the Ospreys change as our population increases and there may be more opportunities for these situations to occur. We are learning as we go...and now also learning as we communicate with other scientists around the world! Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An explanation, and a plea....

I am going to start a slightly controversial conversation here, and I know some of you will not agree with me, but many will. The question is about posting specific locations about nests online. I have made a very considered decision not to post locations on this page. I am becoming increasingly troubled by other sites where people do post clear locations, road names, directions etc. Unfortunately, I have seen birds harmed by people who make very poor decisions about wildlife. Our oldest male last year had to be euthanized...among his many injuries were BB pellets. I have been watching a nest where chicks have pre fledged several years in a row, ending up on the ground, vulnerable. One died, one was rescued. I learned that someone was flying a drone over that nest to get photos. I have seen too many people approaching a nest with a camera only to have the adults fly off the nest, screeching alarm calls and causing them to leave eggs uncovered. Sometimes they happily tell me that the birds are "talking" to them. Yes they are...they are saying, get away from my nest! I know that most of the people reading this page are true bird lovers who would never do anything to disturb our beloved Ospreys. But the difficult part about a page like this, a blog, or any social media site, is that anyone can read it. We are reaching people who may not have the birds best interests in mind. I try to educate here, and with this post I am asking everyone to consider what the ripple effects are of sharing too much in public forums. I am happy to share privately with people I trust, but am very careful about what is posted publicly. Last year I returned a rehabbed chick (who pre fledged) to a nest and the youngster flew off upon release and it took her 24 hours to find her way back to the nest. At that point she was dehydrated, hungry and a little freaked out. A photographer was there and I explained the situation and asked him to please give this bird at least 24 hours undisturbed to get used to being back home before he approached the nest at all. Within an hour he was right under the nest taking photos. The adult male was flying and giving alarm calls, trying to protect his offspring. I suppose this produced some great photos. Some people do not care about the welfare of these birds. So I am just careful. Please put the birds first. I can't control what some people post on other pages, but I can control it here and I will hide any posts with specific directions or locations. We do talk openly about the Arboretum cam, because people do not need to go there to see what's happening. I wish we could afford more cams. In other countries, nests are protected much more than they are here. I know many people understand and share my think before you post.
P.S. Anyone who wants to talk about specific locations should email me privately.