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!