Sunday, December 9, 2018

Happy holidays to all....

As our days become shorter and shorter, we think of our winged friends fishing in warmer waters....hope all have successfully survived migration. I send out a big thanks to all who have helped me watch over our Ospreys here in Minnesota, and a wish for happy holidays to all who read this page and offer support in so many different ways. May you all enjoy these quiet days as we contemplate the end of this year and set our sights on a new year and the return of our Osprey friends. After the holidays I will begin the huge task of pulling together all the data from 2018. 
My very best wishes to each and every one of you...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Close to the end?

We all hate this time of year huh? Not all Ospreys are gone yet tho....I saw a chick eating a fish near  it’s nest yesterday and just got a few reports of others seen in the metro this weekend.  Many nests are empty tho, and there is a silence at many nest sites that makes me feel lonely.  The strong and dramatic change in our weather here in Minnesota last Monday seems to have carried a lot of our friends off in a southerly direction. Those north winds were what they were waiting for to make the journey easy. This is the time of year that some of us search for a brief sighting of an osprey just to savor their beauty, their loud food begging, their devotion to their offspring....just to gaze at those bright yellow eyes, those spectacular talons grasping a fish, their dramatic wingspan one last time.  We still have work to do repairing some nests and my big task of writing the annual report will fill many hours this winter. I send good thoughts to all my winged friends, and to all those precious , irreplaceable volunteers who help me watch over all these nests.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New nests!

Believe it or not, we are STILL finding new nests! I recieved an email last night from a volunteer who is monitoring another nest, that she kept hearing faint food begging near her home. It was too far away from the nest she watches to be hearing those birds. So she and her husband went exploring, and she found a nest on a cell tower nearby. I went out there at 6:30 this morning to check it out. Easily found the nest, with no birds. I waited. Eventually I heard a juvenile food begging and he came to the nest, whining. It didn’t take too long for the male to bring a fish and drop it. I could see that he was banded, but he took off quickly so I could not read it. As the chick was eating, I still heard some food begging and eventually the adult female arrived. She is unbanded. Although most females have begun their migration at this time, she was still here and based upon the chicks behavior and eye color, it looks like this nest was a late one. I watched the chick and Mom and finally the male returned and perched where I could read his band. No other chicks were seen or heard. How lucky that we found this nest and I was able to get all the required data to add to our annual report! Thanks to Jean and Rod for listening and following their ears! This is often how we find new nests. Pay attention to flying birds, vocalizations, and searching for cell towers, ballfield lights, and other man made structures. We hope that the birding public will share such observations with us, as we are making a noble effort to monitor all nests in the eight county metro area, and I find many, but not all of them. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at We really need the public’s help with this effort. I have found so many new nests in recent weeks, that it makes me wonder how many I don’t know about!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The price we pay for caring....

We are very busy confirming successful fledging of the chicks on all nests. In the process I have stumbled upon several new nests, or nests I  didn’t know about! It still remains interesting at this stage of the breeding season. I came upon a new nest being built in the past few weeks and the banded male is from Iowa. It’s a little unusual for a male to travel that far from his fledging site, tho we have had an occasional male from a different state in the past.
I can also share with my long term readers that the male who successfully raised three chicks on his own last year, after his mate died /disappeared , has successfully fledged one chick with his new mate this year. It was a joyful experience to watch this young chick, whose parents are both so attentive, survive to fledging age. Last years test of his parental skills has turned him into a very devoted, reliable parent. Almost every time I visited the nest, he was there. 
I can also share that the two remaining chicks on the Arboretum cam nest have both fledged successfully. We are still sad about the tragic collision that caused such severe injuries to the third chick that he had to be euthanized. I believe that these sorts of accidents happen more frequently that we realize. Once a chick fledges, they can get into so many different kinds of trouble away from the nest. We were lucky that the chick was found quickly, but the outcome was still a sad one. 

That came on the heels of another tragic situation that we could not fully understand. I found a chick on a nest with no adults attending to it. It was a nest where we thought we had a monitor watching, but sometimes a volunteer loses interest and does not inform us that they will no longer be visiting the nest. I watched for 3.5 hours and saw no adult. I sent another monitor, Trusty Barb,  the next day and she found an adult female perched nearby and the chick flapping its wings, preparing for fledge. So I thought perhaps something had happened to the male and the female was caring for the chick alone. That might explain her absence when I was there. We also met a lovely gentleman, Bob,  who walked his dog near this nest and he became quite interested in this chick. The three of us were there over a period of days and saw several adults, male and female, near or on the nest. The chick was seen eating once. But my own observations and questions to the other monitors determined that the adults there were not providing any parental care, not reliably feeding the chick. There were behavioral clues that they were not the parents of the chick but were just Ospreys looking for a territory. The chick seemed distressed by the presence of the male. By the time we realized all this, the chick seemed to be quite weak, and then it disappeared. It was probably predated. We were heartbroken to watch this little guy waiting for food that didnt come. We have no idea what may have happened to the parents, since they do not just abandon their offspring. I wish we had figured it out sooner so we could have rescued him, but the nest itself was problematic since it is on a transmission line in the water. It would have required both state and federal permits to “take” the chick and Xcel energy would have had to climb the structure to rescue the chick. We simply were not able to coordinate all this in time. That little one won our human hearts and moved us to tears. Sometimes we just cant save  a chick, and that brought the three of us a great deal of sadness. But, as I have said before, I am glad that I still care enough about each and every bird to shed a tear over the losses. And I am glad I have some people working with me whose hearts are so big that they also care enough to weep and to lose sleep over these precious birds that bring so much meaning into our lives. Thanks to Barb Ankrum and Bob Holly. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

we lost one at the Arb....

We have been going thru some sad losses these last few weeks, and sometimes it’s hard to write about it. I must share that we have lost one of the chicks from the Arboretum nest. Last Thursday August 9, I was there to check the nest in person for you guys since we can’t see much on the cam. I found another chick flying, one in the nest and the first to fledge was missing. Someone from the Arboretum came to tell me that the chick was found on the ground that morning and taken to The Raptor Center. I checked with them that day and was Informed that the chick was too unstable to examine. The same was still true the next day. When they tried to examine him, the least bit of stress caused labored breathing. They observed two droopy wings and today they discovered a broken coracoid and internal injuries. Both wing tips were cold. So unfortunately they had to euthanize him. Clearly these injuries were the result of some kind of impact. He was found beneath a power line and not too far from a tall fence. We are so deeply saddened by this accident. A very special thanks to Rhonda Andreen from the Arboretum for rescuing this young bird and taking him to TRC. There  is a photo of him on our Facebook page that she took that day, as disturbing as it is. We have had some other losses too and numerous tears have been shed. But we must focus on the chicks who have made it. I am sure the last chick at the Arboretum has probably fledged now and I will get out there to confirm that soon. Even after 25 years, I never get use to this, and it still brings me grief. May every other osprey chick be safe and successful in their flying adventures.

Friday, August 10, 2018

help for some Ospreys

A few quick updates....for those concerned about the chicks in the tilted box that our friend Ken stabilized two weeks ago.....they have all fledged!!!!!! Woo hoo! They are still returning to the nest but are no longer in danger of ending up on the ground. We will replace the box this fall.
And for those concerned about the leaning tower of Ospreys.....Our friend Ken said he has access to some used 40 foot poles and will save us a few! Another Woo Hoo! We will investigate the situation, after the birds are more independent, to see if that ground is a suitable spot to set a pole. He also said he has a friend who can save us some lumber for new Nestboxes. So we are pooling our efforts to make some safer homes for our osprey friends. It restores my faith in humanity when people come together to help these birds. For some reason I cannot access my photos of these nests on this page but photos are available on our Facebook page! You may be able to go there and look, even if you are not a member of Facebook.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

flying at the Arb!

Since our current view of the Arboretum Osprey Cam nest is obscured by osprey body waste, ahem, I have been visiting in person to see how the family is doing. Yesterday I found all three chicks still in the nest, which surprised me a bit since they are now two months old. But today I found two in the nest and one perched nearby on a power pole across the field from the nest. I was hoping to see him fly, but when Dad delivered a fish to the rest of the family, it was not enough of a motivating factor for him to return to the nest. He seemed to be enjoying his space! He had one foot tucked up and his eyes closed lazily, as he basked in the late afternoon sun. I stayed and watched them for quite a while, but he was making me sleepy watching him, so I left him there and will check again soon. I am sure the others will follow him within a few days!
I enjoyed watching several newly fledged chicks today. On one nest I found a young male out on the very end of the nest perch. I wondered if he walked out there or flew out there. His siblings remained in the nest with Mom. After a while Mom came out and perched next to him, and he began to act a bit nervous. He kept looking at the nest, looking around, he got closer to mom as if he was suggesting that she move. She was oblivious. He put his wings out, and then decided, no. He turned around several times, looking at his nest mates lounging. Watching him began to make me nervous....what was he going to do? Finally he took the leap and flew several loops before he landed safely back in the nest! Whew! I’ll drink to that!

Saturday, July 28, 2018


That time has arrived, and I have confirmed fledgling on a couple of our earliest nests! Seems like they just hatched but now they are adult size and taking their first flights. So what is it that happens physiologically that prepares them for flight? As their feathers are growing in they are called blood feathers, as the shaft is full of blood. They do a lot of eating and sleeping as their bodies are putting energy into growing these feathers. Breaking a blood feather can cause a serious loss of blood. As they approach fledging, the blood in the  shaft of the feather begins to dry up and the feathers stiffen enough to be able to sustain flight. In those 10-15 days prior to fledging they will also be building their muscles by flapping their wings. On a nest full of three chicks, it can become chaotic so quite often the parents begin to perch nearby, rather than in the nest. The chicks can begin to hover up above the nest or even “fly” from one side of the nest to the other. And then one day, a gust of wind will carry the chick off the nest on its first voyage away from the nest. I watch closely to be sure they land safely somewhere nearby. After 25 years of watching this, I have come to believe that flying is the easy part, but landing is difficult. Sometimes the return to the nest ends in a face plant!  Technically I call a nest “successful” when at least one chick is known to have fledged successfully. That does not mean it flew away, and was never seen again. Ospreys remain dependent upon their parents for 10-30 days post fledge. So a successful first flight will end up with a chick back on the nest to be fed. While this stage of their development can be very exciting, it’s also a little sad and worrisome. They are on their way to independence , but they can get into a million kinds of trouble away from the nest and rescues may be necessary. We will keep searching for them on each visit, which I find to be a fun adventure. But for some of us, an empty nest is a sad sight. But let’s not go there yet! So much data still to collect. I found a new nest last week that still has a young chick in it, but I have not determined who the male is! So I still have a lot of work to do. One band number has evaded me, and I keep doing as much as I can to gather all the important facts. Our fledging dates this year are a little later than in last years, due to the late start to the breeding season, so we will be able to enjoy our friends a little longer this year! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

another rescue...

Another eventful day in the osprey world. Last sunday when I visited this nest it was clearly tilting and looked as if it might dump three chicks any day. I could see that the bottom of the box was deteriorating.  I fretted about what to do.  I called a wonderful guy I met last year named Ken Conrad and he came out today, with his friend Dave Faulk, and he climbed the pole, attached some supporting arms so the box is temporarily stabilized and those chicks are out of immediate danger. We will replace the whole nestbox in the fall after the Ospreys leave. There were a few breath holding moments as the oldest  of the three chicks kept standing up and putting his wings out. I hoped he would not jump prematurely, and thank goodness he didn’t. Whew. The female was flying and giving alarm calls and these chicks appeared to be around five week old, when they are still usually obeying her calls to lay down. The youngest of the three remained hidden thru the whole operation, and in fact I was worried that we had lost one since Sunday, but when Ken had returned to the ground and we observed from a distance, three heads popped up. And dear old dad arrived carrying a fish. In fact, this is the same male I rescued last week. I noticed the tilt of the box when I rescued him, and a week later it seemed worse, so I spent a sleepless night trying to formulate a plan to alleviate the potential disaster. I am sure the fix will hold until they fledge in a few weeks and we will complete a more permanent fix in a few months. I cant express enough gratitude to Ken and Dave for coming to the rescue without hesitation. I cant do this alone and I am so deeply appreciative of the wonderful people who pitch in to assist with the care of the Ospreys and the support of the ongoing research. A million thanks to Ken for being a lifesaver. And I also want to thank Steven Koski at Xcel for hooking me up with Ken last year. It takes a village! You can view photos on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

important article...

This is an important and disturbing article...please read it. It has far reaching implications, outside of Yellowstone ....and is why the ongoing accurate monitoring of our population of Ospreys, and many other long term wildlife studies, may be critically important down the road. Some small acts can throw everything out of balance. Hope the link works...

Saturday, July 7, 2018

6 a.m. phone call...

We’ll I have had an interesting few days. Yesterday morning I recieved a phone call shortly after 6 a.m. Of course that is always a bit unsettling. It was from an employee at a gravel pit where there is an osprey nest. They had found an osprey up in some of their equipment and they got him out but he would not fly away. So they put him in a box and called me. I drove the long trip thru rush hour traffic and picked him up. Sadly, he was a male from a nest with three chicks in it. He seemed fiesty tho. I took him to The Raptor Center. They were very busy so could not examine him while I waited. I worried constantly about him thru the course of the day and evening of course, and emailed requesting an update. Finally today they contacted me and said they found no injuries and he flew well when they tested him so he was ready for release. He must have just been stunned by his predicament yesterday. I went to get him and return him to his nest. When I opened the box, he stepped out, turned around and stared at me. I stared at him. He was less than two feet away from me, and we had a moment! He did not fly off tho, so I backed up, took the box back to the car, grabbed my iPad to take a photo, walked around the car and he was still just standing there! I was starting to worry a bit....but when I approached him again he finally took off. He flew perfectly, tho not towards the nest, but in the opposite direction! He immediately began chasing another osprey. I counted the chicks in the nest and all three had survived tho they had empty crops. The female began chirping and food begging ...this is called mixed messages! But it was so interesting that this male was more concerned about defending the territory than feeding the chicks. I suppose in those 24 plus hours, a single female with chicks and no male defending the nest, must have looked like a territory that might be up for grabs. This could attract males that are looking for a territory. Sometimes, this is how a young male can establish himself. But our male decided that dispatching that intruding male was the first order of business. He was quite aggressive in defending his nest, dive bombing and footing the interloper. He did finally go to the nest and the female literally got in his face about her desire for some fish! He remained focused on the other male, and he finally went to a nearby perch where he could watch over everything. The female finally left, perhaps to get some food, since he was watching over the kingdom. I love watching their behaviors, especially in unusual circumstances. I remain so curious about their reactions, and how they cope with difficulties. At any rate, I am relieved that our guy is back with his family and all is well on that nest.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Fourth......

Happy Fourth of July to you’s not one of my favorite holidays, nor is it enjoyed by the Ospreys. We have several nests on ballfields lights, where fireworks are shot off every year. We have often lost chicks on this night. I presume they jump out of the nest too soon, out of fear, and are predated on the ground. So few people think about how these activities affect wildlife. I checked many nests today and had to wait out some heavy rain several times. The reward was counting many chicks. At one nest, as the rain slowed down I watched a female standing up with her wings out, providing shelter for her young.....and a cute head popped out from under Moms breast, all snuggled up sweet. She almost seemed to be hugging her little guy. Another chick snuggled up on her side...but that guy who got the prime spot for weathering the storm, was so cute, looking up at mom....don’t squish me!
Now this is the way to spend a holiday like this....peaceful, endearing. I also stumbled upon a new nest being built....I am not sure if it’s a frustration nest or a totally new nest, since the male was unbanded, but it was not far from a failed nest. Hmmmmm. Tomorrow I will try to visit some nests where fireworks went off, to count heads again and see if they all survived the chaos.

Friday, June 29, 2018

99 degrees!

It’s a stinking hot day out there today and I was out there until I could no longer bear it. Those Ospreys get no respite tho, until evening. I watched those females valiantly trying to shade their chicks. Thank goodness it is quite windy today which helps a bit. The temp at my house now is 99 with a dew point of 70. Uff da. The adults and the older chicks can handle this heat if it is not prolonged. The newly hatched chicks tho, and we do have some, cannot thermoregulate at this point and this is an extreme stress for them. I am hoping they all survive, but we wont know because they are still too small to count. It’s important that they stay hydrated and the only fluid they recieve is from the fish they eat. We have some wonderful devoted males who are great at providing, and fish are abundant in Minnesota, so we can remain hopeful. I am now busy counting chicks on nests, and tho we wondered if the late spring would produce smaller broods, I am seeing many three chick nests, but also some failures. Time will tell what the overall counts are. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

counting chicks.....

It’s that fun time of the breeding season when we are beginning to be able to see the little chicks and start counting them. Some of the early nests have chicks that are now over two to three weeks old and are fairly easy to see. they are starting to look like real Ospreys now! Some of the later nests are just recently hatched and we still can’t quite see the wee ones in the nest cup, but we can see from the adults behavior that they are, indeed, there! I am happy to report that I have seen signs of hatching at the nest of our formerly single dad. What do I call him now? He is a dad again! Yeah! We are also watching some problem nests that were built in difficult spots. I have two ”nests” on top of a metal center pole of a cell tower....although there is not much of a nest per se, since there was nothing to anchor the sticks to, so most of them fell down below and the Ospreys laid eggs precariously on top of the metal, with little protection. I was actually hoping the eggs would not hatch, because I knew it would be difficult for chicks to survive a storm in that situation. One of these nests did have eggs that hatched and two small chicks were seen, but on the next visit they were gone. The parents continue to try to rebuild a nest, but it just won’t work. Perhap its best that gene pool not be reproduced! Neither of these males are young birds is ten years old, the other is 11. Both have nested successfully in the past, tho one of them always seems to choose odd, precarious locations. A daredevil, he is. But this is not a successful breeding strategy and will not effectively spread his DNA.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A full house!

We now have a full house, with three chicks hatched on the Arboretum cam nest! First chick hatched on 6/11, second on 6/13, and the third on 6/14.
The male on the Arboretum nest is always feeding that female! I am so touched by his attentiveness and devotion to his large family. Remember back to his first year when he was clumsy, stepping on eggs (yes he cracked one), as he struggled to figure out how to be a good male. He has become a model male osprey, delivering food often, feeding his mate, perching nearby. 
All chicks are being well fed. The little guy is still weaker as far as holding his head up, but he definitely is getting enough fish. The oldest chick clearly has a stronger neck and “gets” the feeding routine better as far as grabbing the food and swallowing it. Then dear Dad showed up and, yes, he tried to feed Mom again! His instinct to feed his family is so strong. They are all growing quickly, gaining strength and we are so thrilled to watch this threesome. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


And then there were two at the Arboretum cam nest! You can see a big piece of egg shell on the front edge of the nest and I have seen two bobble heads falling over underneath mom! Now we wait to see if egg number three will hatch too! Link to the web cam:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hatching at the Arb

We have the first hatch at the Arb Nest!  I knew it was coming yesterday based upon the females behavior....looking down a lot, restless. Hard to get a photo this morning but I have seen the little guys wobbly head! This first egg has hatched in day 39 of incubation which is the normal period here in Minnesota. Right on schedule! Break out the champagne and keep watching for more eggs to hatch within a day or two. Watch for the feeding of the wee one....

Friday, June 8, 2018

A million thanks....

I want to express my sincere and deep gratitude to John Howe and John Dingley at The Raptor Resource Project for the very generous donation I received today. I cannot continue this research project without the support of so many people. Thanks, also, to all those that have donated to the Go Fund Me page this year. It touches me deeply to know that what I am trying to do is valued. Thanks, thanks, a million thanks!

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Well our first osprey chicks have begun to hatch in the past two days! Every year it is as if I am experiencing it for the first time....although, after all these years, I am much more skilled at recognizing the subtle early signs of hatching. Often the females have a sligtha  different body position, but you have to have been watching them closely during incubation to notice  the changes. They may be sitting a little higher, a little more hunched over. I often notice that when they do stand up, instead of the egg rolling action, they often just stare into the nestcup. When they resettle,  they do it much more gently than the “plop” that I often see when they are sitting on eggs rather than newly hatched chicks. Their attention becomes much more focused downward than outward. Of course the tell tale sign of hatching is when the male brings a fish. If the female takes it and leaves to eat, there are no chicks. If she has chicks, she will begin taking small bites and leaning into the nest cup to feed them. They are unable to stand up at first so when viewing from the ground, you will not be able to see them for quite some time. It may be ten days or more before their little heads pop up and they begin to move around the nest. Part of this depends upon the depth of the nest and the angle of viewing. The feedings go quickly as those little crops can’t hold much, but what a joyful experience it is to see evidence of the new little osprey lives beginning. I watched two nests that had hatched today, and it was as moving as the first time I witnessed this. Many more nests will follow this week, and we may see hatching as late as the third week of June this year. Some nests have failed already, so we will see how this unusual year ends up. At any rate, we have some happy birthdays to celebrate!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Arboretum cam nest....

For those not reading the Facebook page, the Arboretum cam nest laid it’s first egg on May 3-4, the second egg on May 7 and the third egg on May 10. Like clockwork, every third day! They gave us a scare when the male brought a large sheet of plastic to the nest and the female struggled with one point it was completely covering her. Viewers were concerned that the adults would die, but they are always free to fly away and were in no danger. The concern was for the eggs. I watched another nest many years ago where the male brought some landscape fabric to the nest and when it covered the eggs, and they could no longer see them, they quit incubating and the eggs died, the nest failed. But in this case, although it was very frustrating to observe, the plastic got moved to the nest edge and finally blew away. Whew!
Ospreys are known for bringing interesting things to their nests. Over the years we found many funny things in the nests during banding, a lanyard with keys attached, hats, gloves, an arrow, etc. They  are also known for bringing dangerous things to the nest, like baling twine. We have rescued too many chicks that became tangled up in it. Last year I found a chick hanging dead from the nest edge tangled in orange baling twine. It wasnt the first time either.
Here is the link to the cam...

May 20.....

It’s been a crazy few weeks but I will try to share some interesting stories with you about our Ospreys. First of all, I know that many of you are curious about our single dad from last year. He did find a  beautiful mate. I visited the nest many times and without exception, every time he tried to copulate with her, she was unreceptive (would not lift her tail) and the attempt was unsuccessful. I was beginning to think that perhaps she was too young to breed. It was discouraging to think that a whole breeding season might be wasted for him. But he and his new mate are now incubating eggs! Of course the amount of time I was at the nest may have only been several hours in a week, so there surely were many copulation attempts when I was not there. I do wonder if the eggs will be fertile, but once again I am keeping my fingers crossed for this fellow. 
 Me and my team are still working hard on getting the bands read, tho every year there are fewer banded birds, which is rapidly destroying the behavioral research. We still are hoping to find a master bander who wants to get involved and help us remedy this situation. We have documented a lot of movements between nests among the banded birds and I am still sorting out final territories! Most Ospreys have laid eggs now, which makes the band reading more difficult and can take many  hours as we wait for the birds to switch places. And often when they do take their shift on the eggs, the exchange can happen so quickly that all we can determine is IF a bird is banded or not. Females tend to stay closer to the nest during their break time, but the males often disappear. We are learning patience and perseverance! Because the birds do move around a lot in the early part of the breeding season we have to read and re read bands. Usually by the time eggs are laid, the game of musical nests has settled down. Most incubation dates are several weeks later than in past years so it will be interesting to see how this impacts overall productivity. Will we see more Ospreys remaining here until late September or October this year? Will we see fewer chicks on productive nests or more failed nests? We are finding new nests, and have at least six  so far that were not included in last years count. I am very sad to report that two of our oldest males did not return this year. They were 23 and 18 last year. They have been replaced by unbanded birds. I have known both of those birds for so long.....there have been a lot of goodbyes in recent years, the result of doing this research for 25 years. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A threesome?

Life remains pretty darn interesting in the Osprey world! I am still documenting a lot of musical nests....birds moving around, some still waiting for a mate, or looking for a mate. I am finding nests that have been unused for several years are suddenly reoccupied, have found several new nests already this year as well. Today I found a nest with two females and a male on it! The females were coexisting peacefully, one had a fish, the other was just waiting calmly as the male ate a fish nearby. I did not see any copulation, which might have given me some clues about what is actually occurring. Is there just an extra female being tolerated temporarily by a bonded pair....or is it really a threesome, with both females getting food and copulating with the male? Hmmmmm. I visited a lot of nests and covered 120+ miles, read some bands and found a lot of unbanded birds. Yesterday I revisited the single dad and found him still hanging around with the new female. I have not seen them copulate successfully yet but I am hopeful tho!
There are still so many bands to read and the light is just not cooperating. I really need some cool cloudy days to help me get the bands documented. I am finding more and more nests that have laid eggs. There are so many nests that I have not even gotten to once this time has been so limited lately. I know we have a lot of new readers who may be looking for basic information so do feel free to ask questions! The books say that Ospreys incubate between 35-43 days and many years ago, when I had only a few nests to watch, I determined that they most often hatch on day 39. Researchers in Pennsylvania also arrived at the same number. Of course there can be some variation, especially if the first egg does not hatch. I see that osprey researchers in other places have come up with a slightly different number. During this phase, both male and female will incubate so we watch for the changing of the guard. Usually when the male brings a fish, the female will take it and leave to eat her fish nearby. The male will then take over the incubation duties. In fact one of the tell tale signs that hatching has begun is that the female will NOT leave with the fish, but will begin taking small bites and leaning into the nest cup to feed the wee ones that can’t be seen at first. So this is a behavior to pay attention to....the alternating of incubators, so that when this behaviors changes, we can recognize the early signs of hatching.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Still in flux.....

These early days of the Osprey breeding season are alway so interesting, and behaviors change as populations grow. When you take the time to really watch, and read bands to identify individual birds, so much is revealed. Yesterday I went to visit a nest that I discovered over the winter and I found a banded female on the nest who I had seen at another nest, with another male, last Wednesday! I have documented a lot of movement between nests and extra pair copulation over the years of studying these birds. So today I need to return to the first nest where I saw this female to see who is there now! To fully understand and document what is happening requires me to return to re read bands, reevaluate what is occurring, sometimes over and over as things are still in flux! I also visited our single Dad again to see what was happening with his potential new mate. I found her perched near the nest, eating a goldfish. She is a beautiful osprey and she is still there which is a good sign. The male arrived with a stick and worked on the nest, then he flew over to try to copulate with her, but she said, NO. She stood up very straight and did not lift her tail, flapped her wings, and off he went. It maybe that she is unsure here, or she may be too young to breed. She is unbanded so I don’t know her age. I watched this male, who I have known for so many years, thru so many different nesting sites, so many different mates. There is a kind of knowledge and understanding of the nuances, combined with knowing so much about the histories of the individual banded birds that makes each year of studying these birds more and more fascinating. We are watching the annual game of musical nests as it unfolds....when a great horned owl takes over a nest so that pair of Ospreys moves to their neighbors nest! What happens? We watch as some of our old friends do not return and a single Osprey may hedge its bets by taking up with a new potential mate, while still also waiting for its former mate to return. I hear people tell me all the time, “our Ospreys have returned” when, in fact, it may not be the same birds! To me it is often very evident by the defensive behaviors the males display. Today I recieved several different reports of nests where more than two Ospreys were peacefully hanging out together! Many ask if these are the offspring of the original pair. I doubt it. We used to band approximately 85% of all chicks and in my 25 years of watching these birds, I have documented a banded osprey returning to its natal nest only once. (And ironically, it’s our single Dad!) So what is happening? Clearly, the expansion of the population creates a great deal of competition for nest sites, but when there is no aggression shown, I suspect the birds are sending some signals that they are not a threat. Ospreys are semi colonial, so Ospreys attract other Ospreys. They seek out other birds as a way of learning if this is a good area to it free from predators? Is there a good source of food? I have seen this several times in recent years, and eventually the territorial birds usually say, OK move along now! There is still a lot to learn and I am still curious! Every year I understand a little more about them, and every year, more questions are raised that keep me captivated! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Update on Mr Mom....

As I was out and about today, I visited the nest of our single Dad. Yesterday I found no one there. Today, at first, the nest was empty but then I saw an Osprey gliding towards the nest, but he kept going, circled around, went up high and started a sky dance! Then I saw her, the other osprey, for whom he was dancing....she landed on a favorite perch of his former mate. He danced for her for quite a while, they flew around together....but it doesn’t appear as if it is a done deal. I told her that he is a great mate, and she would be hard pressed to do any better. I had to leave for an appointment, but am hopeful. He is trying to get a girl! I also found several more Ospreys incubating. Have gotten a lot of lovely bits of info from the public.....people I don’t know, just sharing photos, observations, return dates of their favorite Ospreys,’s heart warming to know the public is watching, and is aware of my efforts, a lovely network is being created!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April 25...

What a lovely day.....I visited 15 nests and still had many more I had hoped to get to, but didn’t. Sigh. Sometimes bands can take a long time to read, especially on such a bright sunny day. I did visit the arboretum cam nest and both Ospreys are back on the nest.....Z3 was there with an unbanded female, just loafing. It was interesting how many nests had a lone female, waiting.... presumably because the males are having to travel further to get fish with so many lakes still frozen. But some birds were eating so they are finding food! I saw one male struggling with an enormous fish, looked like a pike! Lots of copulating, sky dancing, extra birds chasing.....clearly there is a great deal of competition for nest sites. Some new birds have shown up on nests, which may mean we have lost some of our old friends. But some nests are still empty so we still have Ospreys that have not made their way back to Minnesota. Things are still in flux! Thanks for all the reports, emails from the nest monitors as well as the general public! I appreciate each tidbit of info that is shared! I always enjoy the conversations about behaviors, bird histories, research goals and each chance to share my passion for these birds.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fun in the field!

Finally a warm day and some free time to check nests. I visited 13 nests and 7 of them had at least one bird, 6 nests were still empty. I saw 12 Ospreys and read two bands. At two different nests I observed three Ospreys flying, and interacting. None were aggressive. At one nest I watched TWO males sky dancing at the same time for a female that was standing on the nest, seemingly unimpressed. One male landed without a fish and he turned his back, hung his head, and shook his wings. This is a defensive behavior. I often see it with a new pair of Ospreys, but I suspected this was her long time mate as he had a band, tho I was not able to read it in the short time he was on the nest. The female eventually lunged at him, and he flew off. The other male was sky dancing with a fish and he finally delivered it to her. He was unbanded. She took the fish to a nearby perch to eat as the male moved sticks on the nest. He tried to copulate with the fema,e but she said, NO! Then the banded male returned, without a fish. I watched for nearly two hours as the behaviors were interesting, unsettled, and I am always captivated by the way these birds interact, they way they renew old bonds, the way new birds try to find a way to win a territory and a female.
So our Osprey season is picking up the pace, new birds finally arriving on these warm southerly winds. I wish I had more time to spend in the field...there are so many nests to check, new volunteers to meet, and bands to read. Thanks to the monitors who are visiting so many nests and band reading as possible. We have our work cut out for us! It was nice to be out there, listening to the courtship songs, watching these beautiful birds and remembering why we love them so much!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The single dad.....

Just a quick note.....for the fans who followed this page last year, I am over the moon happy to report that our single Dad has returned!!!!!! I am sitting here watching him eat a fish. No female seen yet. Fingers crossed! I also read a band on another male this morning, so our friends are trickling back in after our brutal, blizzardy early start to the breeding season. (Over a foot of snow one week ago!)
I know that some of you were waiting to hear about this fellow....and I had concerns since the last time I saw an osprey near this nest last September, it was being chased by a pair of bald eagles. Big sigh of relief!!!!! Now we are hoping that he will find a wonderful female to build a family with...any female would be lucky to mate with a male that was such a devoted parent. And a great provider! Woo hoo!

Saturday, April 14, 2018


WOO HOO......I have seen my first Ospreys and read my first band! It’s an old friend! Female unbanded so I will have to get out my drawings and see if it’s the same female. Copulating, bringing I do hearby officially declare that the 2018 Osprey breeding season has begun! 
Now where they are gonna get fish is another story! We are getting reports from around the metro and I have read three bands we are off and running! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April 11...

So we have gotten a few reports of Ospreys, tho our monitors have not been able to confirm identities yet. But the south winds may be the start of our osprey season.... before winter comes this weekend again! 
So start your cars nest monitors.....I will check some nests tomorrow!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 8....still waiting...

I know you are all waiting, waiting, waiting for some Ospreys to show up, some news about our beloved birds. Many Ospreys are back on their nests in Montana, New Jersey the UK....and here in Minnesota? Nope. I have heard one reliable report of an osprey sighting, but repeated visits to that area have found no Ospreys, no fresh whitewash on the nests. With most lakes still frozen, I suspect our Ospreys are having quite a party somewhere south of here.....Missouri? This is one of the latest osprey seasons in my memory, and I suspect it will mean that when the weather turns and lakes begin to open up, we will have a LOT of Ospreys returning all at once!  And their little biological clocks will urge them to lay eggs quickly!  So for those of us monitoring these nests, our best time for band reading will be short, intense. Oh boy. 
Thanks to all the volunteer monitors who have been busy checking empty nests.  
We always need help monitoring all these nests, so if you have a spotting scope and want to help us watch over our osprey population, please contact me!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Well, my osprey friends, we are seeing reports of Ospreys back on the nest in the U.K. and in some more southerly states in the US, so we know our friends are on their way back to us. With the snow cover and frozen lakes here, they may hang out a bit south of here until reliable food sources become available. The rivers are open tho so our first Ospreys may be seen near the Mississippi. I am making lists and assigning nests for monitoring, so we are making the annual plea for help monitoring all these nests in the metro area. For all the wonderful monitors from last year...please let me know if you will be able to continue your careful watching over your nests this year. If others would like to get involved, we always need help. If you have a spotting scope or some good binoculars and can commit to checking a nest once a week and would like to learn more about Ospreys, please contact me at
It is rare and of immense value to have a field study which continues as long as this one has. This is my 25th year and overall the 33rd year that this population of Ospreys has been monitored...since the first nest attempt in 1986. When I got involved in this effort in 1994, I had only eight nests to watch and last year we had 132! So if you are able and interested in getting involved in a project like this...let me know!!!!!
So, get your scopes, binoculars and cameras out, your field notebook ready, your sunscreen and bug spray in the car! It won’t be long.....

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Birds of Prey Fundraiser

We are busy getting ready for the Birds Of Prey Fundraiser coming up this Saturday, Feb 17 at 7 p.m. at the Celtic Junction. Here is a link to the silent auction items we have so far.....take a look! You can bid online or better yet, come and join the fun, hear the speakers, have a glass of wine or a beer. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2017 results!

 Here it is....all the 2017 results!


                                    By Vanessa Greene
            The year 2017 was a very successful year for the Ospreys in the eight county metro area surrounding Minneapolis and St.Paul. The first Osprey sightings began to roll in on March 28 and the first osprey that I identified was a returning banded male on his nest on April 1! This year must be characterized once again as a very productive one for the Osprey population in this 34 year study, with the population continuing to grow and expand. There were 132 nests which were occupied* by a pair of adult ospreys. ( 122 occupied territories in 2016. There may be more nests we do not know about.) Two additional nests were frustration nests and therefore not counted as separate territories. Eggs were laid in 122 nests (113 in 2016) and 95 of these nests had at least one chick that was confirmed to have fledged successfully or survived to fledging age (93 in 2015). While the overall number of occupied nests went up, the number of nests where eggs were laid remained fairly static, with an increase in the number of nest failures. We documented 37 nests which failed (30 in 2016). We separate two distinct subcategories under failures; nests where a pair was present but no eggs were laid (10) and nests where eggs were laid but they failed to successfully fledge a single chick (27). (Not laying eggs is considered to be a kind of nest failure by other scientists.)
There were 214 chicks that were known to have fledged successfully or survived to fledging age! (208 in 2016). Most successful nests had two to three chicks. (44 nests with two chicks, 37 nests with three chicks, and 15 nests that only produced a single chick). The mortality rate this year was similar to last year with 19 chicks which were known to have died or disappeared before fledging,(18 last year) with five nests that  failed before we were able to see or accurately count chicks.  Two adult Ospreys were known to have died and one adult disappeared midseason and was presumed to have died. There were 99 adult Ospreys which were identified by their bands. Two of these were from Iowa. We located 13 new nesting territories, including two nests that were discovered this year, although reports indicated that they had been there for one or more years. Only five of these new nests successfully fledged chicks. Eight banded Ospreys were believed to have bred successfully for the first time and their average age was 4.50 years old. (Average age of first successful breeding for males this year was 5.25 years and for females it was 3.75 years). It is interesting to note that of the 132 occupied territories this year, 74 were on osprey nesting platforms, 20 were on cell or radio towers, 18 were on ballfield lights, 17 were on a power pole or transmission tower, and 3 were on other manmade structures. One nest was built in a dead tree in late 2016, but only a single osprey was seen there sporadically in 2017. Two osprey nests were taken over by geese and one by a Great Horned Owl this year.
The overall productivity of occupied nests which were successful this year was 72%, (76% in 2016, 68% in 2015, 70% in 2014, 67% in 2013, and 77% in 2012). The mean number of young fledged per successful nest was 2.25 (2.24 in 2016, 2.43 in 2015, 1.77 in 2014). The mean number of young fledged per active nest was 1.75 (1.84 in 2016, 1.88 in 2015, 1.41 in 2014) and the mean number of young fledged per occupied nest was 1.62 (1.70 in 2016, 1.65 in 2015, 1.25 in 2014).  These numbers reflect a slight decrease in overall productivity per nest, although the number of chicks fledged per successful nests remained similar to last year. The cluster of ten nests which all failed within a small area in 2015 (approx five mile radius), and had seven nests fail in 2016, did better this year, with only four nests failing. Three of those nests failed after hatching was observed, with the timing of failure unknown on the fourth nest. Two nests in that cluster have failed for three years in a row. Weather did have an impact this year, with 6 nests along the northern tier of the study area blown down during large storms in June and July. There were three additional nests where one or more chicks were blown out of the nest in these storms, although at least one chick survived. On one nest the adult female took a beating and was buried in six inches of hail. Two of her chicks were lost, but she somehow managed to protect one chick which survived and fledged. The most interesting behavior documented was a male whose mate disappeared, and presumably died, who took over the care and feeding of three small 3-4 week old chicks as a single parent. He heroically balanced the hunting, feeding and sheltering of these young birds, which all fledged successfully, although one of the chicks was subsequently electrocuted when it landed on a power pole.
The oldest male on record, at 23 years of age, returned and bred successfully, raising two chicks to fledge. This is the oldest bird to breed successfully in this 34 year study. Two additional older males, 18 and 17 years of age, also bred successfully. Our oldest females are quite a bit younger with four 10 year olds that all bred successfully.

*Successful nests are those that  were known to have fledged at least one chick successfully, active nests are those where eggs are laid and occupied  nests are those where pairs are present  at a nest site for a period of time, regardless of the time of year or whether or not  they lay.

Any use or reproduction of this data should be appropriately credited to Vanessa Greene at Twin Cities Metro Osprey Watch.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fundraising event....

A reminder that I will be speaking at the Raptor Resource Project’s annual fundraiser on Feb 17, 7 p.m. at the Celtic Junction in St Paul! Funding will be for several raptor related projects....come and join us for a fun evening of speakers, great music, including the Brian Boru Pipe Band (awesome!) and have a glass of wine or a beer and bid on some of the silent auction items. A good time for all and a chance to chat with some interesting folks doing important work with these raptors we love so much!

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Well, here it is, February 2018 already! I have been working hard thru January to gather together all the data collected in 2017 and to organize and analyze it all. I would like to start with sharing the oh so important acknowledgments of all the people who have pitched in to help with this project. I am still proof reading all the overall results and will post that soon as well.
There are so many people who have been instrumental in helping Twin Cities Metro Osprey Watch continue this Osprey research. This year, 2017, marked my 24th year of monitoring all known nests in the eight county metro area surrounding the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, and I could not do this without a great deal of help. The careful, monitoring of these nests and the consistant collection and analysis of data over so many years may prove to be a significant contribution to understanding the world we live in, the health of our environment as well as overall productivity and behavior of this population of Ospreys. Special thanks to Alice Stoddard,  Barb Ankrum, Grace Pass, Faith Christine, Margaret Wurtele,  Phyllis Bofferding,  Carol Christians, Janae Herman, Perry Westphal,  Larry Waldhauser, Allie Gebauer, Elizabeth Closmore, Erik Gulsvig, Dani Porter Born, Barbara Gaughan, Carol Reitan, Cheri Fox, Susan Rego, Kristi H., Karen Connolly, Meg Smith, Sid Stivland, David Schranck, Jean and Rod DeZeeuw, Mike Lehrke, Judy Englund, Jeff Moravec, Jo Bolte and Ellie Crosby, for sharing their observations, their commitment to this effort, their photos, and their love for these birds.
Thanks to all the private property owners who are such important and wonderful hosts to our Ospreys, and who have provided me access to these nests for monitoring.Special thanks to Tim Fenstermacher at Aggregate Industries for his cooperation in allowing me to monitor nests on their property. A very heartfelt thanks to Cathy Gagliardi for initiating the Go Fund Me page to help with donations to support this project. Thanks to all who contributed…Barbara Pierson and Paul Patton, Carol Craig, Carol Fischenich, Judy Layzell, John Zakelj, Cheryl Batson, Carol Cummins, Sally Heuer, Mary Savina, Jeff Moravec, Roslynn Long, Perry Westphal, Frank Taylor, Pat Norton, Alex Doan, Barb Ankrum, Karen Nemchik, Dani Porter Born, Jim Podlich, Ellie Crosby, Robert Van De Loo, Gail Ireland, LaVonne Wathen, Meg Smith, and of course Cathy Gagliardi!  I also want to send a deep thanks to John Howe and John Dingley at the Raptor Resource Project for including me in their annual fundraising effort and for their generous financial support. I am deeply grateful for all the help I have received in so many different forms, and for showing your faith in my ongoing efforts to continue this research study.
Vanessa Greene
February 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Some news....

Just a quick post with some news.....I have been invited again to participate in the Raptor Resource Annual Fundraising event! The event will be in the evening of February 17 at the Celtic Junction in St Paul. More info will be coming soon, but I wanted to give you a heads up, in case you are available that evening to come and support various raptor related efforts, listen to some talks and some nice music, have a glass of wine or a beer, and participate in a silent auction (which you can also participate in online, so those who don’t live in the twin cities can bid also!) Also if anyone has something they would like to donate to help us raise funds for ongoing research, please contact me or The Raptor Resource Project. I will be speaking at the event, with an update on the osprey research so far, some good stories about behaviors etc...and I will donate a pot or two and a day in the field with me for the silent auction. So put it on your calendar and let me know if you have something to donate to help support Twin Cities Metro Osprey Watch and The Raptor Resource Project (who brought you the Decorah Eagle Cam!)