Let’s start off with the fledges. Wow. They almost happened simultaneously.
Only Bob, Blue 496 at Clywedog, the son of Dylan and Seren fledged at 12:34:54 on 12 July.
And he’s off. He first flight was short but it was a fledge – he went to the camera pole. Congratulations Only Bob!
Dysynni, Blue 490, fledged from the Dyfi nest, the son of Idris and Telyn, at 12:26.
Gorgeous take off! Congratulations.
And now to the serious stuff for the day. It is wonderful to see the birds fledge but we need to take care of them afterwards.
If someone stopped you on the street and asked you to list all of the threats to the well being of our beloved Fish Hawks, what would you say? Think about this and jot down as many issues as you can. You can even use some historic examples because in parts of the world some of those could still be threats.
- Methamphetamines. The Smithsonian Magazine picked up a story running in several newspapers about a week ago. That article focused on the minute amounts of meth amphetamine that were in the water and that the fish had gotten addicted. The diet of Ospreys is fish. How might this impact the adults and their chicks?
- Fishing Equipment. Every year adults and chicks alike get tangled in monofilament fishing line. Without doing any research to find the latest examples, there was the incident of the dead Osprey near London, Ontario about a month ago and just a week ago Fortis Alberta was called to the Red Deer Osprey Nest to remove monofilament line around the only surviving chick on that nest. I am going to guess that anyone reading this will have several examples. Then there are the hooks. And hooks attached to monofilament line.
- Non degradable Baling Twine. The banders who went to Warm Springs, Montana, found four chicks entangled in bailing twine. One had died. It took 20 minutes to remove the twine from another chick. The twine was so tightly wound that it had cut through the skin and had halted the chick’s circulation. As a result the chick was in pain and the leg was very swollen.
- The impacts of climate change can include a long list of side effects. One of those is heavy winds that can tear down trees and nests.
- The impacts of climate change can include a warming planet. Everyone witnessed the high temperatures that hit the Pacific Northwest (the US and Canada) recently (June 28). Heat kills Osprey chicks that cannot regulate their own temperature to survive. The heat also causes the fish to go to the bottom of the river or lake so that they are difficult to catch. This causes the birds to become dehydrated and die if there are not sufficient deliveries. You can probably name several nests where you witnessed chicks die due to the heat. Ospreys want open nests or platforms where they can see the environment around them. Because of this the nests are not shaded and the temperature on the nests can be higher than that reported. The sun bears down on the little ones and they die quickly. A good example is the Cowlitz chick. Electra went to get fish despite the fact that the chick had a crop. Temperatures were in excess of 40 degrees C. The mother was only gone from the nest for a few minutes when the chick began calling for her and died of heat stroke. Osprey chicks in British Columbia and in Alberta also suffered death from the high temperatures.
- Decline in fish stock numbers due to pollution, high temperatures, and drought. The diet of Ospreys is 99% fish and if the fish numbers are low, the Osprey have nothing to eat.
- Snowpack. Warming temperatures mean that there is less of a snowpack at the top of the mountains. The snowpack will melt faster causing flooding making it difficult for the Osprey males to catch fish when the chicks are hatching.
- Mine waste and heavy metals. Eric Greene studies the toxic heavy metals in Montana from the old mining sites. He tests for these when Osprey chicks are banded. He has found 30% more arsenic in 2018 than he did when he began his study in 2006. Greene has also found very high mercury levels that result in egg mortality. The rate is up to 50%. Greene also found that the level of mercury in Osprey chicks blood is 100 times higher in the chicks than what is considered a problem for humans. Imagine. In other areas of the Clark Forks River, there is so much dioxins, furans, and PCBs that humans have been told not to eat the fish. The Osprey continue to eat the fish and feed it to their chicks. I do not know if you can open it but here is a report from Montana on the clean up and issues related to heavy metals in the Osprey:
- Soil Remediation to remove the contaminants from the rivers causes a temporary decline in fish stock.
- Egg collecting. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, the collection of Osprey eggs was very much ‘in vogue’. This caused the numbers of Osprey to decline significantly. There remain some egg thieves today. The eggs of Osprey were considered the most beautiful and were highly prized. A man in the United Kingdom, Mark Gonshaw, was convicted of illegally acquiring eggs of endangered species including eight Osprey eggs in 2011. He had more than 700 eggs in his possession and on 22 December 2011 he was sentenced to prison. You can read about this here: https://focusingonwildlife.com/news/british-egg-collector-sentenced-to-prison-term/
- Vandalism. A good example is the instance when one or more persons came to the Lyn Brenig Osprey Platform where there was egg/s and cut down the platform with a chainsaw.
- Shooting. This year it is known that at least two Ospreys were shot over Malta on their return flight from Africa to their breeding grounds in the United Kingdom and Europe.
- Other Birds of Prey or Animals. Other birds and animals often predate the eggs or take the chicks out of the nest such as the attack on the nest by a Northern Goshawk in Latvia recently. Great Horned Owls are also problematic as are Ravens who love Osprey eggs.
- Urban Development and loss of forest habitat.
- Power Lines. Many power companies are now creating artificial platforms so that the birds are not electrocuted on the lines.
- Pesticides. Ospreys were the first of the large raptors to warm about DDT. Today DDT still exists in the soil of some areas and causes reproductive and thinning of the egg shells.
- Poor Water Quality. You might recall that there was an enormous spill of toxic material into the water near the Sarasota Osprey nests. Those toxins will spread with the flow of the water.
- Hypothermia. Hypothermia is believed to be the cause of the deaths of the surviving two osprey chicks at the Urdaibai Biosphere in Spain.
- Human disturbance. Ospreys are much more tolerant of humans than many of the other large birds of prey. Still humans can come near the nests and frighten the birds causing them to abandon their nests with eggs or chicks.
- Avian Flu. The impact from this is not clear. I continue to research.
- Competition within their own species for nests and territories.
- Competition within their own nest.
The article from The Smithsonian is here:
You have probably thought of many more ways that these beloved birds are threatened. I would love to hear from you!
I will leave you with a couple of images of Tiny Little taken around 6:15 am Monday 12 July 2021 nest time. Tiny you are not looking so Tiny! No one needs to worry about you and that is fantastic.
Tiny Little seems to really be enjoying himself up on that perch instead of being on the soggy nest this morning. Look at those wings. Tiny Little has grown like a very bad weed in my flowerbed. Unbelievable! Maybe that bander is right and he will be the second to fledge! We wait. This afternoon, Little Bob was getting some bites in between Fledgling Bob, 464 being fed.
Thank you so much for joining me. Stay safe and take care. See you soon.
Thank you to the following for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots: The Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest, the Dyfi Osprey Project, and CarnyX Wildlife and the Clywedog Osprey Cam. I am grateful to the Montana Osprey Project FB site for the link to the recent report on threats to the Ospreys in their state and for the photo of the entangled Osprey chick which I took from their FB Page.