Osprey Lessons and Sharpie pays a visit

A couple of weeks ago, a really good book landed on my desk. It is The Rutland Water Ospreys. It is beautiful, full of colour photographs, drawings, and brimming with all the information that Roy Dennis, Tim Appleton, Tim Mackrill, and Helen McIntryre learned when Rutland Water set about to increase the number of Ospreys in the United Kingdom. What they and other researchers learned through direct observation, banding, and using satellite monitored trackers has changed many commonly held beliefs about Osprey. I hope, over the course of the next weeks to introduce you to some of the things they learned, along with others.

Translocating. When Roy Dennis set about to take young osprey from their nests in Scotland and introduce them to Rutland, the team learned one big important aspect that increased their success. I mention this first because I am once again hoping there would be a break at the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot has not had anything to eat since 11 am on April 11. Despite fish deliveries including a whopper by Diane, Tiny did not get that much food. How could Tiny thrive too? I wished that the rangers in Florida that work with USFWS would remove Tiny from the nest and hand feed him til he was strong enough to be introduced. And this is precisely what they did at Rutland in the beginning. What they learned is you do not remove the runt from the nest. Instead you take one of the larger, older chicks leaving the little one with its parents and possibly another sibling. By removing the bigger older chick that required more food and was being the most aggressive, the little one grew and thrived. At the same time the bigger old chick did better being translocated. It did not have to be fed by hand but could eat on its own and did not have difficulties being removed from the nest.

The image below is of the 2011 chicks of Monty and Nora from the Cors Dyfi Nest in Wales. There they are: Einion Blue DH, Dulas Blue 99, and Leri Blue DJ. They have just received their trackers. Look how the trackers fit in a little pack on their backs. [Note: 3 healthy Osprey chicks raised in the same nest. No problems with rivalry].

The satellite trackers do not harm the birds. There are various models, some are battery powered while some are solar. Many weight only 0.15 grams. They get very sophisticated and expensive depending on what data the researchers want. Some fit directly on the feathers while others are inside a kind of backpack. Using super glue, some plastic tubing, and some dental floss the tracker is fitted onto the central shaft of the tail feather if it was a tail mounted device or on the back.

Researchers check to make sure that the feathers of the young Osprey are hard-penned. When feathers begin to grow, there is blood flowing through the shaft. As the birds ready to fledge, the blood supply to the feather stops flowing and the shaft turns white. At that stage, the feather is hard penned. Some of you might remember that Joe and Connie’s oldest chick, Hope, in the Captiva Florida Bald Eagle Nest on Santibel Island died from a broken blood feather. The real cause was rodenticide but the young bird, having ingested the poison from prey she was fed, broke off one of her feathers jumping about the nest. Because the poison was an anti-coagulant, she literally bled to death. Blood feather versus hard penned.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey is wearing a tracker positioned on her back that is expected to last for seven years. Others are only intended to last a year – for short term research projects. They will come off during the moult. That is the kind that the two Royal Albatross, LGL and LGK, have on their back.

Solly is 205 days old. From her backpack satellite transmitter, we know that she spent last night at Eba Anchorage. We have also learned from Solly that juvenile Eastern Osprey travel as much as 200 kilometres from their natal nest. The assumption had always been that juvenile osprey stayed closer to home. Not true!

Another common held belief was that male Ospreys always return to the area of their natal nest after their first migration to breed. The evidence this time came from banding, the coloured Darvic rings. The sighting of a male Osprey, orange/black 11 (98), a Rutland bird, in a Scots pine in north Wales, some 200 miles west of Rutland, proved that belief to be wrong. In fact, the sighting of orange/black 11 (98) in Wales did something else – it confirmed that the bird had survived. When it did not return to Rutland, it was wrongly assumed to be dead. Another sighting on that trip enroute home was of another Rutland male. This time 07 (97) was not dead either but had a female and a chick in a nest in mid-Wales.

These are only a few of the common beliefs that have been debunked through the use of logic, banding, or satellite transmitters. Every day researchers are learning something new and exciting. It is a great time to be learning about birds.

———————————————————————————-Some fun images to close off. Louis at the Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest. Instead of pacing and waiting for Aila to arrive, Louis (pronounced Lou-ee) is using his talons to dig up the nest and refurbish it. His digging is quite efficient. Everyone is holding their breath waiting for Aila to arrive.

12 April 2021. Louis is doing nestorations.

Louis continues to wait for Aila on the 13th. Oh that she would arrive. The migration is so difficult. A healthy Kielder Osprey, Blue Y6 (18) female was spotted in Santander, Spain a couple of days ago. She was healthy. Then she was found a couple of days later dehydrated and with a broken leg. All of Louis and Aila’s fans are hoping that she is in the last group of ospreys moving north from Africa into the United Kingdom.

And a glimpse at the cutes little baby osprey – the first hatch of the year in the Savannah, Georgia Osprey nest on 13 April. The pip started at 10:58 on the 12th. There are three eggs on this nest. If you want to follow this new little one and its siblings, I have posted the information below.

Sharpie must have known that I am feeling a ‘little blue’ over Tiny Tot and he decided to pay me an early morning visit. He caused quite the commotion on his arrival. There had been a glut of European Starlings at the feeders. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were no less than 35. And then we got the most beautiful murmurations – two of them – thanks to Sharpie! It is always a treat to see that Sharpie is surviving. He stays with us in the cold Canadian winter, never migrates and made a bit of history on Cornell birds because of that. Here he is today another snowy day – in April!

Thank you for joining me today – as I wait, impatiently, for Tiny Tot to be fed enough to survive. It is lovely hearing from you, too. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds!

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery and Rutland Water, Cornell Lab & Skidaway Audubon. Thanks also to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project and the telemetry they post on their FB Page.

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