Saturday, December 16, 2017


A wish to you all for a happy holiday season....Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year....wishing you peace in all your celebrations. I will begin tabulating results for the 2017 osprey season in the new year, and in the meantime, may you find some quiet moments to enjoy the season.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

its over....

The winds switched directions yesterday and northerly breezes brought much cooler temps. I visited a few nests after work on monday and found several juveniles still hanging around their nests. Today I revisited those three nests and could not locate a single osprey. I hiked out to one nest, the leaves crunching under my feet, and the honey crisp apple I was eating was crunching in my head! I had to stop moving and stop eating to listen for the Ospreys. Silence. I continued to the nest. Empty. I examined all the perches where I had seen Ospreys throughout the breeding season. No Ospreys. I stood silently, waiting, in case. A single redtail hawk soared in circles above the nest, calling. It almost seemed as if he was looking for the Ospreys also. I slowly ambled back to the car, sat there with the car door open as I wrote the final entry in the 200 page field notebook..."it's over". I sadly drove away, with my eyes still to the sky....Be safe, my friends.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Still hot, and some Ospreys still here!

The heat continues here in Minnesota. I took a drive to western Wisconsin to visit a few potters studios and checked 7 osprey nests on the eastern edge of MN along the way. No Ospreys seen.  After visiting with some potters I headed back to check a few nests on the western side of the metro. I saw six Ospreys today! On my way out there I spotted an adult osprey perched on a cell tower so I put up the scope and and read his band....turned out to be a male who was fairly far from his nest. His three chicks seem to be long gone, but he is still exploring the area I guess! He flew off and I watched him soaring over a lake and then finally disappearing behind some trees. I also visited the nest where the property owner had concerns about the chick last week. I tried to hike out quietly, but with the trail covered with dry leaves, a silent approach is not possible! But I stopped occasionally to listen. I could hear some quiet peeps and intermittent, muffled, short food begging. It made me smile because without seeing her,  I knew exactly what I was hearing, where the chick was perched and that she had a fish. I was correct. As I got out to the spot near the nest, she was perched low in her secret eating perch and she had a fish. I love that I recognize their vocalizations well enough to know exactly what was happening before I got there. And dear old Dad was on his perch, on a small dead branch at the very top of a tree. I watched them silently for a while, and then had a little talk with them, since the winds are expected to shift to the north  in the next day or two and I suspect this may be their departure time. I requested that they be very careful, told Dad that  I looked forward to seeing him again next year, and I promised to think good thoughts for them...sending them my love. I peeked at two other nests also. I found one chick alone, waiting for food on her nest, and at another nest the chick was delivered a fish by her Dad. So, still a few Ospreys in town, and I managed to enjoy their company one more time. Here I am, still searching until the last minute, savoring their beauty, their behaviors, their vocalizations...squeezing out every moment with them that I can. Life is a lot less interesting when they leave. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

First day of fall.....

The first day of fall was a stinkin hot one here in Minnesota....90 degrees and VERY humid. Like a sauna out there. But still, I checked a few nests on my way home from work. The first nest was one that had a chick on it last Sunday, but was empty today. The second nest was the one that I visited on Wednesday....the chick was still there, easily found in a favorite perch of the adults all summer. She was food begging. Again, I hiked away from the nest in the sizzling hot sun....I didnt bring the scope. Too hot. Did bring the iPad to take a few bad photos. I circled around and then heard a commotion and knew Dad must be approaching.....she flew to the nest and he dropped a goldfish, and then flew to the same place where he perched on Wednesday after delivering a fish. She flew back into the trees and I finally found her secret perch, low in a tree. I was only there about 45 minutes...enough to be soaked in sweat and dragged myself back to the air conditioned car. I just wanted to know if they were still there, and they were...for those who wanted a photo, there is a bad one of the chick flying to the nest. Then I stopped at another nest that had been empty on Wednesday. Today there was a hollering chick on the nest, Dad perched on a nearby cell tower. He was snoozing, and I put up the scope on the car window, and noticed that while this chick was food begging endlessly, she had a full crop AND a while goldfish in her talons! Ha ha.....but still hollering. It's instinctive to food beg when an adult is nearby, even if they are not hungry! That may be why this male took off so quickly. He is the one I found fishing last week nearly ten miles away from his nest! At this time of year, I consider it a great day if I can find an osprey, and today I saw four!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20, still here....

Here it is September 20. Most of our Ospreys have headed south. I did see a few last weekend as my earlier post says. Yesterday I received an email from one of our private property owners who is hosting a nest on her property. She expressed her concern that one chick had been "left behind", as she was just seeing the one juvenile, flying around and crying. I explained to her that Ospreys do not migrate as a family unit, but rather they head south individually. At some point, all young Ospreys must become independent. However, usually those intrepid males do stick around to feed the youngsters who linger and beg for food. I also suspected if the youngster was vocalizing a lot, it was probably food begging which typically is a response to seeing someone who they think can feed them. None the less, in spite of having many other things I should have been doing today, I always prefer watching Ospreys to almost anything else in life! So I went out to check out the "situation". This nest is in a particularly lovely setting, so I hiked out on this early fall day with my scope and tripod over my shoulder. I snuck up to the nest and saw the chick perched on the nest edge. I actually heard her before I saw her.....quietly food begging. I wanted to get a good view without disturbing her. I always try to observe without affecting behaviors so I can assess what is actually happening. So I headed away from the nest on a far trail to observe from a longer distance. My scope always makes up for the distance.  As I hiked away from the nest tho, she saw me, followed me and flew over my head giving an alarm call.....just to let me know that she saw me! I kept moving further away from the nest and she turned away and I set up my scope. She flew high over the territory and disappeared behind some trees. I waited. For a long time. But such a beautiful day, I used this time to decompress from life.....listening to the crickets, the rustling of dry leaves, watching a few leaves drifting down, listening to the other birds, redtail, blue jay, crow. She finally returned to the nest

 and began food begging tho all my scans of nearby trees and the sky revealed no adult osprey. I got to examine her visually.....her crop was empty, but she definitely had some belly fat sharp keel, bones well padded. Her nares had no salt around them so she was well hydrated. Her flight had been strong and controlled. All good signs indicating excellent health. I thought about how beautiful this osprey looked against the gold leaves behind her. Take it in. Remember it all, let my senses drink in this other people, just peace and quiet. I need that so much. Sometimes I think I enjoy being alone with these birds a little too much! Anyway, she suddenly started food begging loudly and flew off behind some trees and I lost her, so I hiked in a different direction where I might be able to see her secret perch away from the nest. I walked, scanned, but could not locate her. I had now been out here for over two hours. I knew she looked well, but still was determined to figure out the whole story. So again, I waited. Listened. Watched. Finally I hear that desperate, whining  food begging sound that these youngsters make when they see a 
male coming with food....and she came screaming to the nest, as I noticed another Osprey coming from the other's an adult male! Must be Dad. He lands on the nest with a fish and she grabs it and heads back to her secret perch....I can't see her but can hear her. He heads off immediately also and disappears quickly. All is well, she has not been left behind, she is being cared for, so I began hiking back and then spotted the male in a tree where I was able to read his band and identify him one last time. It's getting late, but these males do typically stay until no one 
needs food. But they are often scarce and it requires great patience, and some luck,  to witness those quick fish 
deliveries. It's easy to think that the adults are not around 
any longer. They no longer perch near the nest watching over the juveniles. But the males have a huge investment in the youngsters and they are remarkably committed to caring for them. That's his DNA in that juvenile! As I often say, their behaviors are largely motivated by two strong survive and to reproduce. To breed successfully requires them to do this caretaking until the juveniles begin their migration. The fatter the juveniles are when they begin their big trip, the better their chances of survival are. It was a pleasure to spend time out there today with some of the last Ospreys left here in my study area in the Twin Cities. I do appreciate when people share their concerns with me so I can check things out. I still learn, and I love to educate people about these birds I love so much. It took me nearly three hours to figure it all out and witness that adult male delivering a fish to his offspring. But I wanted the whole story, the big picture. And it was worth it. What better way is there to spend time? 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Still here!

Although the winds turned around and became more northerly today, we still have a few Ospreys around. We are no longer checking all nests, but still checking in with a few of our favorites. I checked 8 nests on sept 14 and found three nests occupied, with one adult and two juveniles. Today I visited eight slightly different nests, and a few repeats, and also found three Ospreys, on two nests. One adult male brought a fish to the remaining juvenile, and another nest had a single chick sitting quietly. I assume that male is also still around.
Last week I also got to see one of my favorite males. Those of you who are following this page may remember the male who suffered a fractured keel mid season,spent a month in rehab before I returned him to his nest and family of three chicks. We were all shocked when the female attacked him and would not let him bring fish to his chicks. He kept trying and when the female left on migration, he stepped in and completely cared for his chicks. The two adults reconciled the next
spring. He has always remained one of my favorites. He is a devoted male and wonderful parent. It's always rewarding to see a rehabbed bird who rejoins the population, and continues to be a successful breeding adult. The monitor on his nest had not seen anyone at that nest recently, but I was lucky to catch the chick and the male delivering a fish to her. Fun to have one last chance to observe them.
One of the nest monitors visited her favorite nest today and found one chick remaining in the area. Yes, we have our favorites for sure. Years of watching them brings a familiarity with their behaviors, their favorite perches, and you just can't help but feel a special kinship with some of them.
I believe the single male and his chicks are gone now, as are the oldest male and his two chicks. I still enjoy looking for them, and have also caught a few Ospreys in odd places, perhaps migrating birds, and some young birds far from their nests. How much longer until we can find no Ospreys? I am still keeping my eyes open and my scope with me all the time!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

migrating Ospreys....

This is an older article, (link below) but still quite interesting as we watch our Ospreys disappearing from their nests. I visited several nests yesterday and found three adult males waiting around, just in case a youngster needs some food. One male was eating a fish, unbothered by any food begging. Another male snoozing alone in his tree perch near his nest, also unbothered by any chicks hollering for food. And a third male perching near his nest with a fish, looking all around as if to say " anyone hungry?" He waited for at least 20 minutes, not eating the fish, until finally a juvenile came flying in, whining, that raspy desperate food begging call we are so familiar with. He gave her the fish and quickly departed. The adult males are usually the last ones to depart. They stay to feed their chicks as long as needed and they defend their territory from other migrating Ospreys. I cannot help but worry about all the Ospreys, particularly those along the east coast, who are heading straight into a pretty severe hurricane, one just passed and two more on the way. This can be disastrous for these young birds on their first migration. I hope they just get blown off course, rather than killed. We have done a lot of finger crossing this year, but we all must keep them crossed and think good thoughts. I hope the Ospreys we still have here, will wait a bit before heading south, but most will leave before mid September. Right now we have southerly winds, which may cause the remaining Ospreys to stay put until the winds shift to being from the north. There is a world of potential trouble out there for these young Ospreys on their first migration, detailed in the article, but I hope my favorite adults will be safe, and smart, and return next April.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Deja vu.....

I headed out on Saturday morning to check some nests, and then noticed I had a bill that needed to be mailed sitting on the car seat so I took a different turn to go to the post office. I drove past the little marshy pond where I saw the male fishing a few days ago....and he was there again! Circling above the pond, big splash and he came up with a goldfish. Deja vu! I reconfirmed his band, and it was the same guy, ten miles from his nests again. Isn't that interesting! That suggests that they routinely go quite far, to a small fishing spot that produces an easy catch! And if I hadnt gone to the post office, right then, I wouldn't have seen that male! I checked his nest again and found the three female chicks still there eating a fish, the other two hollering. I also took another peek at the nest of our oldest male, 23, and he is still bringing fish for his two chicks. I wanted to actually re read his band but he drops that fish so quickly and disappears. I have hiked and searched and can't locate his hideaway. It is a banded male, with some spots on his breast, which is what he looks like ( I have been looking at him for a lot of years!) and who else would feed his offspring so reliably? I did read his band several times in the early season.
Today I visited our single male. I had seen him alone twice in the past week, and started to wonder if both chicks had started their first migration. Today I found no Ospreys in any of the usual perches. I waited a while, drove around, then went to get a cup of coffee and came back. Still no birds on any of the perches where I have commonly seen them in the past. Sigh. I was about to give up and was heading on to another nest and slammed on the brakes. Ah there was an osprey on one of their deceased Mommas favorite perches. I had checked it several times, so this chick had just arrived. She had a fish and finished it off quickly. She was silent. No food begging. Then she turned around and flew north, towards a lake where I think Dad does some of their fishing. I hiked around, looked, listened, but could not find her or hear her. Anyway she is still around and I suspect her Dad is also, but I will return in a day or two and see if I can locate him. There are so many other things I should be doing, but I love finding these remaining birds, even when it's difficult, and following up on the stories I have been sharing. Every minute I get to spend with them is savored. My curiousity about how their stories will end, for this year, drives me to continue visiting nests as long as I can find some Ospreys. It's not over yet!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

So far from home.....

Yesterday on my way home from work I drove past a small little marshy pond that is about a mile from my home. I have never seen an osprey there before, but there was an osprey hunting in the late afternoon golden sunlight, so I pulled off on a side road to watch and enjoy. The first plunge into the water was unsuccessful, but the second big splash produced a bright goldfish! He went to a tree to eat and my first thought was, is he banded? Yup he was! That lead to some jockeying around with the car in different spots to get a good view of the band. I found the right place to read the band and was surprised! He was a male from a nest that was about ten miles away! I wondered, have all his chicks departed on their first migration leaving him free to start moving south a bit? Hmmmmm. So this morning I headed to his nest to see what was going on. When I got there, I burst out laughing. It was choir practice time for these three female chicks, "singing" their cute little heads off. Seriously, what a ruckus! Ha ha. I guess that was why Dad was eating peacefully so far from his territory! Part of the reason for all the hollering was that there was an adult male nearby, but when I read his band I was surprised that it was not Dad! It was another young male that I had seen earlier in the spring at another nest before he was chased off by that resident male. This male was actually hatched in a nest a few miles away, so he is looking for a nest, a territory, a mate, somewhere near his natal nest. It did not take too long for the Dad at this nest to show up with a fish, that one lucky chick grabbed quickly before Dad took off after that other male. So things are still interesting out there! I am always curious about how far from their territory they will go during their regular daily activities.
I have also seen the single male and one female chick, still doing well. I did not see the male chick. Still so pleased to see this male, even tho now his behavior is just what every male would be doing. Just knowing all that he went thru and how successful he was at caring for those chicks alone, is touching to me. He will always occupy a soft spot in my heart.
I also visited the oldest male recently. I saw him drop a fish quickly for his two chicks last week and on Sunday I returned to try to actually read his band to confirm, but although his two chicks were still there, also facing each other and hollering, I did not see the male. I think he was around but I could not locate him. An adult male flew over once. I will try again. Some nests are empty, I am not seeing adult females at most nests. I still enjoy searching for the birds and savoring all the sights and sounds...wondering each time, will this be the last time I see them?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Quick update...

Just a quickie....checked on the single male and his family today....did not find either of the juveniles, but dear Mr Mom was perched very high, watching over his territory, constantly looking around. Have the chicks departed? Just out and about exploring today? Don't know, but I am still touched to see him there watching, in case they need some food. Sigh. I check them as often as I can because, as you know, this family has captured my heart.
I also searched again for the chick I released after several weeks of rehab and could not find him. This is discouraging.
I also met yesterday with a gentleman from a company who had a pair of Ospreys build a nest on their property in an problematic place. They want to remove the nest but build a nestpole for them elsewhere on their property. We are working with them to make this happen. I have donated a nestbox and have been busy sending emails to try to find someone to set a tall pole for us. Some of my contacts have been helpful... Hopefully we can make this happen. Doing what we can to help the birds!
It is getting to be quiet out there in ospreyland. Finding a single bird here and there....a few loud juveniles still packing on the pounds before they begin their big adventure. Although I am tired from so much hard work all summer, I hate to see this time of year come. I still feel like there are loose ends, questions unanswered, data I didn't get. But this time of year I just have to accept some of those holes. Just feeling like I still have to find some Ospreys to hang out with! Their days are numbered now.....but it's been an interesting year. We have learned, seen new things, weathered some trying times with people, politics and the birds themselves. I savor the sights and sounds of our beautiful winged friends as I see the subtle change of color surrounding the nests, leaves beginning to turn yellow, prairie grasses turning also, the sound of dry leaves rustling in the wind. How did we get here so fast?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Loose ends....

Once again I have gotten behind in writing some posts for you all. So many stories to follow up on, so many loose ends to try to tie up. I spent all day Saturday and Sunday last weekend searching for the chicks that we released after several weeks in rehab. His parents had given up and left the nest and he  exams capable of flight during his time in the hospital. These situations are so difficult. We decided to release him near a nest where we hoped the active family might adopt him and help care for him. This does work sometimes. The younger they are, the better it works. At any rate, he was not adopted by any of the families in the area. We saw him a few times over that first week, always with an empty crop, but not looking all that bad when I last saw him. That was almost two weeks ago. All my searching last weekend did not locate him. I also looked for over three hours yesterday and did not find him. I am afraid he may have perished with no adults to care for him. I will still look, but its getting harder and harder to find chicks now. 
On a happier note I have visited the single Dad who lost his mate when the chicks were very young, and he successfully cared for these chicks on his own. They all fledged, but one landed on a power pole and cross phased, which resulted in electrocution. But the other two chicks are doing very well. I never seem to be sleep to find everyone at the same time but between visits on Thursday and Friday I did see both chicks and dear Mr Mom. He was chasing a bald eagle away, followed by a juvenile learning the skills of eagle chasing! I even saw one chick return to the nest, all wet, with a fish! I am so thrilled that this very special super osprey has been so successful at raising these chicks alone, playing both Mom and Dad to them. They are so beautiful and healthy. It was not easy for him, but he managed to balance his double role perfectly. 
Today I went to visit our oldest male at 23 years of age. He is still bringing fish for his two chicks. We have never had a male this age breed successfully. So this male also can be considered to be a super osprey! 

I also was thinking about a male who had his nest blow down in a storm last year, destroying all the eggs. I saw him once early in the breeding season this year, in May, dropping sticks on a power pole. It never really turned into a nest and I have wondered what happened to him. I have looked for him so many times as I was in that area, but never saw him again. I just wanted to make one last effort to find him and as I drove a route today that I have driven SO many times this year, I saw an adult perched in a dead tree. I stopped the car and put the spotting scope on the window, and was him! Waiting for me! In my field notebook I wrote, " WOW, this is WEIRD". When I go looking for a specific bird, it is often like searching for a needle  in a haystack...and to have him show up like that gave me goosebumps. I don't know where he has been all summer. I looked for a new nest in the area but did not find one. He would not share his story, but he showed me that he is alive and well, and still in the area. So many searches for the rehabbed chick have failed, so to locate this fellow just when I wanted to find him, is one of those little miracles that seems to reinforce my connection with these birds, and tells me that the effort is worth it. Especially on this very hot and super muggy day, when it's a challenge to be out there all day. My curiosity about each bird, how their stories unfold, what their behaviors reveal about the species and how we can better care for them keeps me going, paddling upstream so often, learning as I go, putting the pieces of the puzzle together...and sharing it with you! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The rehabbed chick....

I was back out there yesterday, looking for the chick we released last week. After many hours of searching, I did find him. Maybe he has a daily routine because I found him in the same place and the same time as Barb saw him the day before. Earlier in the day, he was not there. Anyway, he looked better than he did when I saw him briefly last Saturday. His crop was not as sunken and hollow, he had no salt around his nares. He did not have a full crop by any means.....but it appeared that he probably had something to eat that day. He was near a nest, food begging, but he did not go to the nest where another chick was food begging. I then saw him swoop down towards a small creek. I did not see him come up with a fish, but it appears that he is trying to feed himself. Must be finding enough food to stay alive. And of course, as time goes on, he will get better at fishing as he practices those skills. He has been given a crash course in growing up. He is a pretty cute little fellow, fighting the odds. Another tough cookie! And we will continue to do our job of observing, taking good notes, so we can learn more about what happens when a young bird ends up in rehab and has no family to return to. It will make us better at what we do, so we can help these birds when necessary.

I also had a little thrill when I learned that cumulatively the papers I have coauthored about Ospreys have now been cited by other scientists over 100 times! Nice to know that my efforts have contributed something to the general knowledge about Ospreys! Don't mean to toot my own horn, but it kind of amazes me! Makes me feel like all the sacrifice, effort and hard work is worth it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Update on Mr Mom and the released chick...

I have a quick little update for you regarding our single male. I did not see him when I was there for over 90 minutes yesterday. On the surface, that may be no cause for concern after chicks have fledged. But nothing is normal on that nest so I worried about him as I tossed and turned last night. So this afternoon on my way home from work my car took a detour and I went to check on him. At first all I could find was the female juvenile, flying around whining all the way. She is a very vocal chick! I searched for the Dad and finally spotted him perched quite far away, very high up watching over his offspring. Again my hand went to my heart. Of course, he is near, he is watching, he is a rock for this family. I am amazed that I noticed him, and he was probably there yesterday also. He looked like a king observing his domain. He is staying out of the way, as the crazy kids come and go. He no longer perches on the nest edge. He avoids the chaos but he is there if they need food. I did not see the male chick today, but he was fine yesterday.
AND! My trusty volunteer Barb just called and she has spotted the chick we released! He is on a snag near the nest where we released him and he is "food begging like crazy". The other Ospreys are not chasing him. We hope he will go to the nest and food beg so the adult may deliver a fish to him. I will go visit him tomorrow. I cant wait to see him! So, some happy news for you all tonight.....

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mr Mom.....

Another busy day in the field which began with a few hours of searching again for the newly released chick. I could not locate him. I hope to try again later this week. I moved onto a few nests I haven't visited in quite some time. I ended the day back at our single dads nest. Sadly, I have some bad news to report. I also stopped here yesterday and found two fledged chicks but could not locate the third one. Mr Mom was present and eating a fish himself as the female chick waited quietly next to him for some food. Then he moved over and began to feed her. Sweet. I returned today to try to find that third chick. Two of them were zooming all over the place, fledged successfully! As I searched for number three, my heart sank when I found him hanging dead from a power pole. He must have been electrocuted. It is a disturbing sight that made me nauseous. As I said earlier, when the chicks fledge, they are safer in one way as they can fly away from a predator, but they are also open to a whole new world of trouble. We have  to remember that over 50% of them do not survive the first year. I still view this male as being a remarkable, devoted osprey that did successfully fledge three chicks all on his own. He cared for those chicks heroically since they were about three weeks old. Newly fledged chicks often land in bad places and make bad decisions and some of this is just bad luck. This one is hard to accept because we so wanted this story to finish with a fairy tale ending. As I watched the two beautiful remaining chicks, a male and a female, I saw no sign of Dad in 90 minutes. I am not too worried tho because I think he knows they can fly and they may not need to be guarded quite as much now. He may have been watching from someplace where I couldn't see him. Just the same, I will return to look for him in the next day or two. It's been a tiring week, and I hope I will have some better news this week so we can celebrate the successes! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Releasing a chick....

It's been a busy week in ospreyland. I was out checking nests all day on Wednesday, trying to confirm final fledging numbers and getting those last bands read. When I got home I had a call from The Raptor Center about a chick that was ready for release after two weeks of rehab. (We believe he blew out of his nest in a storm.) After just battling thru rush hour traffic I needed to turn around and head right back to where I came from! Ahhhhhh. But after some discussion it was decided that this guy really needed to be released that evening. I always try to do what's best for the birds regardless of the inconvenience to me. This was a tricky one tho because his sibling had died, and with no chicks to care for, the parents had left the area. So we would have to release him near a nest that still had chicks and parents actively feeding them in hopes that they might adopt this juvenile. My field work that day had gathered the info we needed to decide where to release this chick, so off I went again. He flew off fine, but did not go to the nest. He landed in a nearby tree, in a somewhat awkward spot with a lot of small branches. I stayed and watched him until 8pm. The next  day it was raining and my concern for this guy sent me right back there to look for him. He was not in the tree. I walked and drove all around for 5 hours, got soaked to the bone. I kept finding the resident chicks from the nest but not the newly released chick. I finally went home defeated. I had to work the next day, but one of my faithful volunteers, Barb, spent some time looking for him. She too was skunked. Today I went back again. I drove around and hiked for 4.5 hours, finding various chicks from other nests, also found a new nest being built!  But my concern just kept increasing. Suddenly I saw an osprey perched on a pole and I slowly approached and was finally able to read his band and confirm that it was him!! Alive! His crop was very empty tho. He had moved away from the nest that we hoped would adopt him and was hanging around near another nest, but when he flew to the nest, he was chased off. These kinds of situations are difficult.  I have seen a juvenile move to a new nest on its own and be fully adopted, cared for and fed. I recently received an email from a scientist in the U.K. asking me about this behavior. I have also been rereading some emails from my mentor Sergej about these movements of young birds between nests. Do adults recognize their own offspring? It is instinctive to chase off an intruder, but why do they allow some juveniles to take up residence? Sergej believed if the chick arrives when the parents are gone, they accept them.....but if they see the chick approaching, they will instinctively chase it. (I once observed an adult female attack her own offspring who was just learning to fly!) In this post fledging conundrum, this chick was chased off even tho one of the resident family's chicks seemed to have disappeared after fledge so how did they know this was not a missing part of their family? Ironically, the real parents of this chick were building a frustration nest nearby! But it is known that after several weeks of not caring for chicks, their parental instincts seem to turn off. Will they find each other and resume their relationship? I doubt it, but this is why we keep watching, and always taking good notes! 
At any rate, after many hours of searching, I am happy that our released chick is alive. After he was chased off, I lost him again. But we will keep watching for him, to see if he is being fed somehow, since most newly fledged chicks are not able to feed themselves consistently. I always remain curious and every situation like this is different. All my time observing them just adds to my understanding of these birds. My mentor, Sergej Postupalsky, who died last year has left me a treasure trove of emails that I still refer to often. He studied these birds for over 50 years and he had the kind of knowledge that only comes from doing intensive fieldwork for many, many years. So tonight I am tired, but a bit relieved. 
There are photos on my Facebook page.....for some reason this blog can't seem to access my photos

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Updates...July 29.

A long, hot day of playing "where's Waldo" ...searching for chicks to confirm successful fledging. Just flying away from the nest does not indicate a successful fledge. We must see them land safely somewhere and return to the nest to eat. They can get into a million different kinds of trouble post fledge, but we can monitor carefully to determine that they have fledged successfully. And honestly, it's kind of fun searching for them. I always am learning more about them, the more time I spend observing at different stages of development. I got to finally meet up with one of my new monitors today. It's always so hard to connect....and we were finally in the right place at the right time. I love watching with the volunteers so I can explain some behaviors, point out the clues that I am observing, what the vocalizations and behaviors may indicate.
Right now I am sitting here watching the nest of Mr Mom. Wow. When I arrived our single dad was perched nearby, watching over his youngsters. I don't mean to anthropomorphize , but he did look proud, confident, and quite comfortable with this situation and his role. He is now quite used to caring for these chicks. They are very big, beginning to flap furiously and are clearly preparing for fledge. Now I know I am very biased, but I am sitting here thinking these are the most beautiful chicks I have ever seen in my 24 years. I wish they were banded so we could follow their lives. It looks like it might be two males and one female. Dad took off for some dinner. The chicks were not food begging but crops were looking a little empty. They must be eating a lot now at this stage of development...and it will only get worse. But I am certain that this male is up to the task of fishing constantly. They are always well behaved, with no fighting for fish, which means the food supply is sufficient. Dad returns with a large goldfish. Oh how funny.....I laughed out loud! As I was just saying, they are well behaved, so all three lined up around Dear old Dad, expecting him to feed them. But Dad said, ya gotta grow up and feed yourselves...and he left the fish and moved to a perch nearby to watch. They all stared at the one lunged for the fish. They looked at each other. SO FUNNY! Finally one decided to grab the fish, politely, and begin eating. The others watched and food begged quietly. Believe it or not, they took turns at the fish....each one eating some and then walking away so another could take a turn. I love these guys....each and everyone of this osprey family has touched my heart. I sit here with my hand over my heart. Pop better go get a couple more fish! Sweet! The theme song from the old Mary Tyler Moore show went thru my head...."you're gonna make it afterall!"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mr Mom.....

First of all, Paul McCartney was great.....and you know who else is great? Our single dad...Mr Mom!!!!! He has successfully gotten those chicks thru another week and all are big, beautiful, with food in crops. He was not there when we arrived, but I could quickly count all three chicks lounging in the nest. Perhaps 15 minutes later Dad arrived with a fish and fed the chicks. Every week, they are closer to so many other chicks are around I celebrate each week.
As I check nests now, it's more of a challenge....when chicks have fledged we need to try to find them. Today I found an empty nest, but as I talked to a woman who was out walking she told me she saw the dad hunting over the field. But I realized Ospreys don't hunt over fields and she described short loops and I knew it must be a fledgling she was seeing. I easily found the youngster perched on a fence. And then heard another young one whining for food and flying with his legs dangling down, one of those funny behaviors of chicks who don't quite get the skill of pulling up the landing gear. So all accounted for at that nest. Mom was also flying and dad brought a fish and then retreated to his perch in a tree. The chicks are self feeding now. I love it when I find them all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A whole lot of flapping going on.....

I saw a couple more chicks that have fledged successfully today....boy, monitoring gets tougher when ya gotta search for them! But that was one of the fun things about the reintroduction project...having to find all the chicks every day, post fledge. I was pretty good at it. But now we must walk around, look, listen, pay attention to what the adults are looking at...a successful visit is accounting for each family member...sometimes a challenge, but I love it. Sometimes we do find a chick on the ground and must rescue the youngster and get it back to the nest.
And after a tough week, I am signing off for a few days....heading off to see Sir Paul McCartney!!!!!! Fourth row seat! And there is a chance I will never come back....just follow Paul.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lost chicks at the Arb....

After last nights rain, the Arboretum Cam has cleared a bit, revealing one chick. I ran out here and am watching in person and we appear to have lost one chick. The nest is behind a locked gate so I cannot drive closer, and I hesitate to walk in and disturb the family since I do not want to scare the remaining chick into pre fledging. I sadly also discovered that another chick on another nest nearby is also gone. I have contacted some people at the Arb to see if there is any more info, if a body was found beneath the other nest. I was last out here in person on July 5. I am watching too many nests to be able to visit more often, sadly, and the person I was counting on to monitor nests in this area just disappeared without telling me that she would not be able to fulfill her commitment to visit some of these nests. I am so dismayed this year by this kind of behavior. All I ask of the volunteer monitors is that they tell me if they will not be able to honor their commitment. I understand that things happen, people's lives change, people go on vacation only request was, just let me know so I can plug in someone else or check nests myself. To simply disappear, leaves me to figure it out slowly and data is lost. It is so irresponsible. But that is what I am up against.
Anyway, that is the sad current update. If great horned owl predation was the cause of these losses, we may lose this chick also. It has been a problem in the past at the Arboretum.
I have done the best I can this year, but it is not good enough. Without more reliable help, I cannot get all the data we wanted to. I wish I were able to do more. Without cooperation from more people and organizations, my hands are rather tied. I work 7 days a week...there is no more of me to spread around.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mr Mom....

It's been a tough weekend and some things have happened that may end this project. As I wait for the dust to settle tho I wanted to let you all know that I did check on the single dad raising chicks. I arrived with angst wondering what I would find, but immediately saw three chicks heads pop up! Yeah! Dad was not there tho. I waited for about 15- 20 minutes and Mr Mom flew in with a fish. Two chicks bellied up to the bar and the third hung back. He fed the first two until they wandered off to the far side of the nest, and then the third chick got some fish. Mr mom stayed for a short time, preening a bit and watching over the chicks before he flew off towards the lake again....yup, that third chick needed a little more food. I waited for another fish to arrive, but with so many nests to check, I headed out after another 15 minutes. All is well, all chicks are fed, they look great, looking like they are about 5 weeks old now, no down showing between the feathers anymore, and the tail feathers are about 4" long. Every week we are closer to fledging, which means they could fly away from a predator, but of course, fledging brings its own dangers. But every week I am more hopeful that this male may actually pull this off. We still have a few weeks to go tho....but, wow! It is so amazing to observe him. Oddly emotional!
I also checked some other nests that are in other parts of town, on very high structures....transmission towers, cell towers etc and they are all well, chicks all accounted for, so they survived the storm last week which cost us 6 chicks.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

No other losses...yet

I visited fifteen nests today in the area that one of the nests blew down and I am happy to report I found no other chicks missing, no nests damaged or down. Whew! I will continue to check some more nests this weekend in other areas....hoping for no bad news. I will also check on our single dad and his family. Thanks also to the volunteers who checked their nests and luckily, all the news from them was good so far.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Storm fatalities....

So very sad to report that we lost some chicks in the storms last night, July 11. I have recieved two reports of young that perished....two chicks blown out of one nest, found dead on the ground this morning. Another entire nest blown down, completely gone and with it three chicks. This is the new nest that I spent six hours at reading the bands on the adults. Glad I got that information, but I grew attached to the family during those six hours. This is a male who has lost many chicks over the years for various reasons. Heartbreaking. I will try to check as many nests as I can in these areas over the next few days and I hope all is well on other nests. Volunteers check your nests....especially on the northern parts of the metro.
When you follow these birds for as long as I have, and read bands, document their moves and their failures and successes over many years, it's not always easy to accept how tough some of these birds lives have been. Some birds have extraordinarily successful lives, producing many chicks without many losses. Others just seem to get slammed over and over, with storms and predation. Of course they don't emotionalize things the way we do...they just keep working, keep moving forward. Build a new nest, find a new mate if necessary. Try again next year. And I just watch and document how the years unfold...tho my understanding of these individual birds lives is so rich, so full, and sometimes so heartbreaking.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mr. Mom...

A quick update about the single male caring for the chicks. I stopped by today and all three chicks are still there and doing well. The male was feeding them when I arrived, and he stayed in the nest for the 90 minutes I was there. All chicks were well fed, no signs of dehydration, no salt around the
nares, crops had food in them, no sibling aggression observed. They wandered away from Dad and the fish, so presumably were full! I was so pleased to see them all doing well. I am amazed by this male. He is doing everything he possibly can to care for these chicks....he needs a little luck too. Hoping the weather does not become severe tomorrow.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Arboretum cam.....

I am getting emails about the Arboretum osprey cam. First of all I need to let people know that I do not run the cam. It is run by the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I do send behavioral updates for the public relations department to post ( after they rewrite them as they choose) because I have 24 years of experience studying these birds. The current problem is that the Ospreys have pooped all over the camera lens. Ospreys project their mutes (poop) to keep their nest clean, which works beautifully, but in this situation is a bit of a disadvantage! It would be far too disruptive to the birds to clean the cam, so we must wait for a heavy rain to wash the cam off. Patience! I know it is frustrating to not be able to see the chicks, but hopefully the problem will be solved soon. It might rain today!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July.....

An update on the single banded male with chicks. I visited the nest today and spent 3.5 hours observing. When I arrived the chicks were alone, tho I was surprised to clearly see that there are three chicks here. A lot of mouths to feed. After about 30 minutes a male arrived, but it was not the right male! He was unbanded! He stood on the edge of the nest looking at the chicks. He slowly moved around the edge of the nest, examining the chicks from all angles. My mind was trying to grasp what was happening. He seemed so calm and accepting. The chicks did not run to him, they just watched him quietly. He was there for nearly 30 minutes before the banded resident male came flying in with a fish, chirping all the way. This is the vocalizations they use to talk to other Ospreys. He flapped furiously as he landed which is a defensive behavior. The other intruding male took off as soon as he saw the banded male approaching. The resident male finally calmed down and fed the chicks. The intruder returned, circling the nest and trying to land. Our male said, with you. He lunged at him, flapped his wings and chirped loudly. The message was clear. The visitor tried several times and then a small hawk, looked like a sharpie, started dive bombing the extra osprey. He was hot on his tail, chasing that osprey in a very fierce manner! Ah, must be a friend of the resident Ospreys, trying to help out! Funny. It worked, and the other osprey quickly departed. The male calmly finished feeding the chicks. Now he has his wings out, providing a cool spot for the chicks to take a little siesta in the shade. He is stuck in a sea of chicks and can't move. Mr. Mom. All is well here so far. My dear osprey is managing to dig deep and be the hero he needs to be. It looks like other Ospreys may be the greatest problem here, tho that visitor made no aggressive moves towards the chicks. I am so proud of this male with the checkered past. He is stepping up to do what needs to be done. I look at him and wonder if he knows how magnificent he is. Gosh, I love these birds. Hard to tear myself away....but I have been here nearly four hours now. Time for a cool drink in the shade for me too. Happy Fourth of July to all the Ospreys and osprey lovers...may your evening be cool and quiet.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sad situation....

There is always something to worry about in the osprey world. Many of you see a fair amount of drama on the osprey cams around the world, and those sorts of things occur all the time without people even knowing. Sadly I have discovered a nest that has a female missing. She was there a week ago but yesterday and today, I found no female. Chicks were left alone for quite a while and then the male arrived with a fish and fed the chicks. I watched for several hours yesterday and today. It took several visits to be sure she was nowhere to be found. My heart breaks for this family. I have known this male for quite some time and I could write a book about him. His behavior has always been unusual since his first known nest attempt at five years of age. He has continually surprised me. I won't go into all the details now but suffice to say, although he is an experienced male who has successfully raised chicks in the past, he has never been a particularly devoted male. Today when I arrived the chicks were alone again. He finally arrived with a fish and fed the chicks. He then flew off, and my heart sank. These chicks need shade and protection. But he returned in minutes and shaded the chicks and watched over them. That is how I left them. For this nest to succeed, he will have to muster some heroic effort. I was tearing up as I observed him as he has been thru so much in the past. I ponder how his confusing thoughts and instincts must be pulling him in different directions. He seemed to be trying to continue his usual male role with the focus on provisioning, but at one point he perched near the nest and looked back at the chicks with no female shading them, and then he returned to the nest, and the chicks huddled beneath him. The instinct to care for his offspring is strong, tho he must leave the nest to feed them. He looks around a lot, as if he expects the female to return. This is a new wrinkle and he seems to be trying to adjust. I will watch over them as closely as I can, since this is something I have never observed before. I so want him to pull this off. The chicks look to be about 3.5-4 weeks old...about half way to fledging. I am thankful that they are a little older, with some feathers and the ability to thermoregulate, so they have a better chance of surviving the times when he is gone. I do not want to call much attention to this nest, they need no extra stress from people. I know there is a cam with a male caring for chicks alone in Ontario Canada, so we will see what both of these males can do. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts...very good thoughts. Please.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Six hours...two bands read!

Well, I had a challenge today! I found out about a new nest and went exploring. It was easy to find but not easy to access. I viewed it from quite a distance and I quickly determined it had two banded birds on it and at least two chicks. Now, how was I going to get close enough to this nest to read bands? I drove around the area, driving into some private property to speak to residents to see how I could get closer. "What kind of nest? What is an Osprey? " So I did a bit of educating. 
You all know about my band reading challenges this year, I am still behind, and at this time of year it's critical to get bands read and not save them for later. There may not be a later....if nests fail, as some have, without us getting those bands read. Adults can disappear leaving us without important data. I finally discovered that a power company was doing some work in the area and had set out that dura base material to make a road over soft ground...and they allowed me to drive out to get a better view of this nest. I watched for over six hours to get these bands both read! This time of year is difficult because the females rarely leave the nest. They remain in the nest with the young chicks, feeding, shading and tending to their care. I got the males band read fairly quickly, but that female kept me there all day! I can't stand an unread band! She remained in the nest where I could not see her legs. The upside of this frustrating experience is that I am forced to sit and watch the behaviors for long periods. This devoted male brought NINE fish in six hours!!!! They were quite small and most often were goldfish! This guy rarely stopped to rest, perch, preen....he was delivering fish constantly! He was a male I had known earlier...he nested elsewhere for several years and disappeared a few years ago after a series of problems...storms, eagles etc. I have been looking for him and was so happy to see him again with a new mate and a very nicely built nest in a lovely setting. When I got closer I was able to see that he has three chicks...all very well fed, with bulging crops all day long. Towards the end of the day the female finally took a little break and flew to another spot to perch and preen, away from the chicks and I was able to read her band. I had planned to visit many nests today but only got three checked since this new nest required so many hours to get the important info. I found another nest failed and we had not been able to get that female identified. It almost kills me to have to write "unknown" in the chart under the band number column. Even worse to not know why the nest failed. But I have to accept that I just cant do it all, and I should be pleased that I got all the important data on this new nest. I also met new people and was able to share some information and stimulate some interest in Ospreys in these people who live near this nest. Special thanks to the person who let me know about this nest. We rely on the public to report new nests to us and so deeply appreciate it when people do find me and direct me to a nest I was not aware of. We have had several reports like this lately, and I am so grateful to these people! The population is booming!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dreaded baling twine....

There have been some ups and downs in the osprey world. Sadly I discovered a dead chick hanging from the edge of a nest, tangled in baling twine. It is so disturbing to see. We try to get the word out about the dangers of baling twine but I am afraid that the people who need to see it, are not reading my page. I imagine it is a miserable way to die. On a happier note I visited the nest of our oldest male and was thrilled to see that he has two chicks in his nest! We have never had a male that old breed successfully. In fact we have noted a drop in productivity in some older males, which may reflect a drop in fertility. At any rate, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by our 23 year old males robust nesting activity. He is often near the nest, and providing well for his family. A new record has been set! We are continuing to work hard on gathering our early chick counts so we can monitor mortality rates. There seem to be many large three chick nests, tho the nest failures are mounting as well. So far the failure rate is not abnormally high but every week I seem to find another nest or two empty. Some pairs have simply given up on eggs that are infertile and therefore not hatching. At some nests I have seen evidence of hatching /feeding and later find the nest empty, with no idea what caused the chicks to die. I am still working on getting the remaining bands read. I did get a few difficult bands read last week and hope to get a few more challenging ones this week. I spent 3.5 hours at one nest trying to get a males band read! He is such an attentive male that he is always standing in the middle of the nest, watching his offspring, where I cannot see his band! But he finally cooperated with me a bit and by watching closely between the sticks, I was able to identify him. I have a few more of those to go and may have to devote an entire day to get those final bands read! I never give up! I often learn a lot about behavior and the personalities of the birds when I spend long periods there trying to get a band number. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

interesting behavior....

I have been doing the early counts of chicks on nests. We like to count as early as possible so we can document mortalities along the way, tho some have surely occurred before we are even able to see the little guys. My high powered scope is very helpful in these attempts. The experience I have acquired over the years is also helpful in peeking between the sticks, watching for subtle movement and good old patience is required! I noticed many years ago that there is a phase the chicks go thru at approximately two weeks of age when they do peck at each other. Perhaps it is a way to establish "pecking order"! On most nests it is not seriously aggressive and siblicide is rare with Ospreys. On some nests, it can become more aggressive. I have not seen that in person but have seen it on some cams. Most osprey researchers maintain that the adults will not intervene in these sibling squabbles. And up until yesterday I would have agreed with that. I was watching a nest with three chicks in it, and the largest chick was repeatedly pecking at both siblings. At first the female just watched, even moved away to the nest edge and then she suddenly moved back into the middle of the nest cup and stuck her beak out, as if she were feeding, but she had no fish and she tapped the bully chick on the beak with her beak. Then she pulled back. The chick began pecking again, and again, she moved into the nest cup and reached out with her beak towards the aggressive chick. She repeated this action over and over until the chick ceased its pecking. I have never seen anything like this, and it was very clear she was responding to the chicks behavior. I won't project meaning or pretend to know what her intention was, but her behavior seemed to successfully distract him from his aggression. Do these behaviors happen when the chicks are hungry? Shortly after that, the male arrived with a fish and she fed them all. I watch all these subtle behaviors with such interest. I remain curious, still learning. How could anyone ever lose interest in these birds????? How could anyone get bored? Wish I had more days in each week, more hours in each day to watch them. 
On a different note, I am happy to say that more nest checks have so far shown no other losses from the big storm last Sunday. Today I visited several nests on very high transmission towers, including one that has collapsed during storms in the past, and all were fine. Adults were feeding chicks even tho one nest was a bit ragged around the edges. I am relieved. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Storm losses....

I am busy checking nests after the storm that came thru on Sunday. Sadly, there were losses. I had watched three beautiful chicks bopping around on one nest last Saturday, but now, there is only one. This nest was in an area hit hard by hail. I think of what that poor female went thru to survive the storm herself....she took a beating for sure...and she probably couldnt adequately cover three chicks, and the piles of hail probably also caused them to get too cold, in addition to the potential injuries from the impact of the hail. So the fact that she survived and she saved one chick is amazing, and for that, we must be grateful. I am sad tho. Then I found another nest in that area, that had just recently hatched tho the chicks were too small to count, had totally failed. Both adults survived and were seen perching and eating elsewhere. The male even brought a stick, indicating he might build a frustration nest. This is the male who had two nests last year. Now he has none. Perhaps he will rebuild that second nest which may result in another case of polygyny next year! The drama goes on. I am worried about so many other nests, and they are predicting severe weather again tonight. I cannot check 125 nests everytime there is a storm. I will try to make my way around to the areas that seem to have been hit the hardest. The nests in my neck of the woods were all fine. This is nature. These increasingly severe storms are also the result of climate change... six inches of hail on the ground that required snow plows to clear in June. This points to one of the reasons that continuing this research is important. Ospreys are an indicator species, and what happens to this species reveals much about our environment. The health of their population, their productivity rates are important to monitor. I keep trying to move forward with this study, tho we face resistance, and lack of cooperation all the time. Thanks to all who DO help me, who still care, who help me watch over these birds, who offer financial support, who see the value of this long term study. My gratitude cannot be adequately expressed.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 11 storm....

All is well at the Arb after our morning storm.....wild for a short time. Hail, strong wind, but it passed quickly. Chicks are fine and poor Mom survived the beating. I was out checking nests and it got so dark and ominous that I hurried home. I will probably head out again and check a few nests. I think it's clear now that the third egg in the Arb nest will not hatch. I believe that actually was the first egg laid. The egg was probably infertile. Remember that frequent copulations are what is required to fertilize the egg...and at the beginning Mr Z3 was spending some time at another nest, so the timing of copulations may not have been effective in fertilizing that egg. We are happy to have two healthy chicks tho. It will be interesting to see what the adults do with the egg. Sometimes they bury them in new nest material.
I am worried about some nests in more precarious locations and I will continue making the rounds as possible and hope that the nest monitors will report their observations.....some already have. So far, only good news!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

So many nests hatched now.....

I visited 22 nests today....trying to primarily focus on those nests where I had not yet confirmed hatching. Five of those nests were still incubating with no clear signs of hatching yet. Sadly, two of those nests had failed. In one case, hatching had been confirmed but now the adults were not tending to chicks and the male even tried to copulate with the female. That is a sign that they know something has gone wrong and they want to try again, start over. It's too late for that and the female did not seem cooperative. I don't know what happened to the chicks. At another nest, I had never confirmed hatching, and now the adults were gone. Sometimes if they incubate too long, they realize the eggs won't hatch and just give up. I have often seen females give up first and I noticed that on yet another nest. I did not label it failed yet, but they are overdue and the female was on the nest perch food begging while the male incubated. He would not get up. We will see what happens. We have at least seven nests that have failed around the metro, and I am sure there will be more. This is a natural part of breeding. Eggs may be infertile, or they may have died along the way. It is much sadder when chicks die, and I am sure we will have that happen this year also. Meanwhile, we focus on the successes. I was able to count the little guys on a few nests and found a few nests with a "full house" of three chicks. After all these years, it's still a warm, fuzzy, joyful feeling to watch the wee ones, with their heads falling over, the older chicks starting to notice a world beyond Mom and Dad...looking out at their surroundings. Nothing going on. They grow so 80% of their adult size in the first 30 days. I am a bit worried about these newly hatched chicks as we face a brutally hot weekend here in Minnesota. Temps are expected to hit the upper 90s, with high humidity. Newly hatched chicks cannot thermo regulate, so very hot or cold weather can be very hard on them. I hope the adults keep them well hydrated and shaded. Fingers crossed that they all survive the weekend.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

And then there were two....

The first egg on the Arboretum nest cam hatched yesterday, June 6...and this morning, June 7, there were two chicks! I got some screen shots but this website can't seem to access my photos to share. I dont know why. But if you go to my facebook page you can see the photos. So now we wait to see if the third egg will hatch.....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New male on my "favorites" list...

I get too busy checking nests and have difficulty finding the time to write a post! My apologies to the readers. We have many nests hatched now and I observe so many interesting behaviors during this phase of breeding. Today I was watching a female incubating when the male arrived with a fish. She did not get up to grab the fish so the male started walking in circles around her, his head low and cocked to the side as if he was trying to get a peek beneath the female. He went around a couple of times, looking for a glimpse of those chicks! It was endearing. She finally stood up and grabbed the fish and began eating and finally feeding the chicks....leaning into the nest cup with tiny bits of fish. The male then went down into the nestcup and adopted that position that many people call "mombrella" , wings out to the side to create shade as the female fed the little guys. What lovely teamwork! Those are some lucky chicks! This male has now made it onto my "favorites" list. I am seeing a lot of feeding behavior and some males do get quite involved, feeding the female and then she feeds the chicks. All of these observations are the reward for watching what may appear  to be "just incubating". We cannot see the little chicks until they are ten days to two weeks old usually, so brooding chicks can look just like incubating eggs. There are some differences tho. It takes patience and perseverance to wait for something to be revealed. There is always so much going on and so many subtle behaviors to watch. I have been noticing that after rolling the eggs they usually turn a bit before settling back down into incubating posture, and it is most often a turn in a counter clockwise direction. I also notice how they rest one side of the brain by closing the opposite eye for brief periods. One eye quick naps. There are so many things to observe and make notes about. After 24 years it is never boring to me, and I have a hard time tearing myself away. But with so many nests to watch, I do have to keep moving. I have been able to read some of the most difficult bands, on nests I cannot get very close to and am feeling a sense of accomplishment about that after the scope fiasco. This, too, takes a lot of patience, multiple visits, the right light, a cooperative bird. Success is rewarding! Still some bands to read however! We are finding new nests during our rounds....the population is booming. I can't help but wonder how many I am please, readers, and birders, please do report new nests to us. Don't assume that we know about them. Maybe we do, but I don't want to miss any nests. We are trying so very hard to do an accurate and complete survey of all nests in the eight county metro area. 
Some of you may be wondering about the male who has had two mates at two nests the past few years. Last year when his primary nest collapsed from the transmission tower, I suggested that may put an end to his polygyny. I was correct. He did drop a few sticks on that tower initially, but his effort at rebuilding the nest was half hearted at best and he has settled for being a one nest guy this year.  This shows that these behaviors are a result of opportunity, and the strong instinct to reproduce. In spite of all the anthropomorphic stories that can be spun about's just instinct and opportunity meeting each other. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017


A few updates for is finally time for some eggs to start hatching on our nests! I visited 20 nests today and five of them had some signs of hatching! The signs can be subtle at first, since we cannot actually see the chicks from the ground until they are ten days or two weeks old! The adults may be restless, males may stick closer to the nest, they wiggle, rock, look down into the nest cup. Suddenly those incubating females become more interested in what is happening beneath them than what is going on around them. The clincher is when we observe feeding behavior. I pulled up to one nest today and immediately saw both adults, heads down in the nest....the male was feeding the female, who then fed the chicks. Even after all these years, I am still so moved so be able to view this first indication that a new life has begun. Some males are more involved than others and my heart melted watching this male today, so involved with feeding his mate and new offspring. I wished I could wait at all nests for a feeding, but with so many nests, I have to keep moving and rely on my 24 years of experience to know when the behaviors indicate that hatching has begun. Sadly, I discovered one nest that had failed for unknown reasons. Noone was incubating anymore and the male was perched a ways from the nest. No female seen. Sigh.
I am happy to report that I did recieve the new eyepiece from Japan and it fits my scope and it works perfectly! Thanks to all who contributed via the Go Fund Me page so I could get this replacement eyepiece. The additional funds will go towards gas and placing new poles. We are discovering new nest attempts and I am keeping very, very busy checking them out and trying to read all the bands that I was unable to read without my dearly beloved scope! And of course, visiting all known nests to determine if hatching has occurred. I am feeling overwhelmed, having gotten so far behind as a result of the scope fiasco. We never have enough volunteers but the ones we have are working hard to gather the data on their monitors are learning about behaviors, the experienced ones are always so ready and willing to run out and check a nest for me if I can't get there. Deep thanks to them all. Happy Memorial Day to you all!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Making lists....

On this stormy day I have been working on lists of projected hatch dates for all our nests.....oh it's a big job. In my experience, here in Minnesota, Ospreys usually incubate about 39 days before the first egg hatches. I know other people, in other places, have come up with slightly different numbers. In the early days of this reintroduction, when I only had 8-10 nests to watch, I was able to check nests more frequently than I can now and we knew exactly when they began incubating and when the first signs of hatching occurred and it was most commonly on day 39. The first reintroduction in the US in Pennsylvania also came up with the same number. I do believe there can be some variation in those numbers but that is the number that I use for projecting hatch dates. The large number of nests we have now makes it impossible to get perfect dates for all nests so now I am categorizing them based upon the week that they should start hatching, rather than the day. It's a big list, but it will give me something to go on for organizing nest visits in the upcoming weeks. We still have a few nests that have not laid least as of a few days ago. We have had Ospreys lay eggs at a shockingly late date....two years ago we had eggs laid in late May and chicks that didnt fledge until late August, and those birds and their dad stayed until early October! So we will keep checking!
We often discover new nests this time of year, and it's true this year as well. Please do let us know about any new nests, and don't assume that we know about it! I would rather hear repeated reports of nests I already know about than to miss one I don't know about! Thanks to those who have shared new nests, new sightings with us....we really rely on the birding public to help us with this huge task of monitoring all known nests in the eight county metro area ( Hennepin, Carver, Wright, Anoka, Washington, Ramsey, Dakota and Scott counties.) Thanks!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


While the scope issues have taken a great deal of my time and attention, I have been checking nests and have a few updates for you. We have had two nests taken over by....geese. Whaaaaa! I have been looking for where those Ospreys may have moved, but have been unsuccessful in finding them nesting anywhere nearby. In one case the pair was unbanded so we may never know what happened to them. The other pair had one banded bird, which has not been seen anywhere, yet. At least one of those nests has already launched a brood of goslings and the nest is vacant again. People ask if the Ospreys will return now. I think it's unlikely. The timing is such that a breeding pair of Ospreys has probably found a new territory and been setting up there, or they may skip a season of breeding and remain "floaters" for a year. I also have to say in many other cases of a stolen nest, the Ospreys never did return. I have seen Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles take over Osprey nests and the Ospreys have not returned to those sites. I know other places in the US have had more problems with geese than we have, even putting excluders on the nests until the Ospreys return. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come. We will see what happens next year at these sites.
I also have been watching our oldest male, 23 years old, and was getting discouraged that each visit revealed no eggs, no incubation. His new mate is unbanded so I do not know her age. I was beginning to wonder if she was too young to breed. But alas, this week I saw that they were incubating! Woo hoo! This male was acting so protective, perched on the nest edge as the female incubated. Chasing away other Ospreys and a pair of eagles. He was also eager to incubate himself. In the past we have documented an increase in unhatched eggs from older males, which raises the question of whether fertility drops as these birds age. I will be watching as much as I can and have my fingers crossed that he will successfully fledge at least one chick. Last year his nest failed, as no eggs were laid. I am not sure why. He had a banded female as a mate for several years, and she was seen in the early season, then another banded female was present for a short time, and then the first female was present again. And yet I never saw signs of incubation, unless eggs were laid and destroyed between my visits. The second female was probably too young to breed (2 years old) and was resistant to copulation. This second banded female, now 3 years old, is on another nest this year. I have never seen his original banded female this year. I am glad he found a new mate and I am hoping for a happy outcome this year for this male, to set a new record for the oldest breeding male in our study! At any rate, he seems healthy and I thoroughly enjoy still watching him after all these years.