They Don’t Look like Ospreys!

Maybe it is better not to make plans! We have so hoped for rain and this morning the forecast said – ‘70% chance of rain’. My heart skipped a beat. If it would just pour. As I write this I can hear thunder.

One of my readers wrote to ask about the fires we are experiencing. First, just so everyone knows the area where are talking about you need to know where Manitoba is. Our province is on the Canadian prairies between Saskatchewan and Ontario. We are directly north of Dallas, Texas. If you drove without stopping, it would take you 24 hours to reach Manitoba if you started in Dallas.

There are two very large lakes, Lake Winnipeg on the east and Lake Manitoba in the West. Both are north of Winnipeg; it is about a 90 minute n drive to the southern tip of each. Many of the migrating shore birds and large raptors, Ospreys and Bald Eagles, have their summer breeding areas around these lakes.

Our provincial Department of Conservation and Climate reports that there are currently 159 wildfires in our province today. 17 of those started in the last 48 hours. They also reported that the yearly total of acres lost to wildfires is 904,111. That impacts wildlife. There can be no question. Here is the current fire map:

The purple areas are fires that are being monitored; the red areas are fires that are out of control; the green areas are fires under control while the yellow ones are fires being held. We are fortunate that fire crews from other provinces have come to help. The smoke from the fires impacts everyone but the city of Winnipeg is not under any threat. My concern is the area around the Osprey nests and that is in a monitored area.

That is the state of our wildfires. Of course, our thoughts are also with those people in California where the Dixie Fire is raging and has already scorched 275,000 acres.

With the promise of rain, we head to one of the most beautiful areas in our City: Assiniboine Park. It is named after one of the two rivers that meet here; the other is the Red River. The park has our zoo, an area known as the English Gardens and the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden (Mol is a noted local sculptor who worked in bronze) as well as the Duck Pond.

“Leo Mol Sculpture Garden” by D-Stanley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Turns out this was a great decision. We managed to get lost and when we asked directions, a wonderful woman offered to show us the way. Then she stopped. “You know we have a family of Cooper’s Hawks right in that tree”. If it was not for pandemic restrictions, I would have thrown my arms around her in thanks. As it was, I quietly stood jumping up and down in my mind. It was simply magical.

The couple have three fledglings this year. They are all about the grounds catching bugs. The tripod proves cumbersome. Remember I have only practiced with this lens at home. This is the test to see if I can manage it.

A squirrel has the attention of the hawk in the back.
This hawk is looking up at a chipmunk.

Cooper’s hawks are about the size of crows. The Cooper’s are constantly confused with the Sharp-shinned Hawk. In flight, the Sharp-shinned has a squared-off tail and the Cooper’s is rounded. The prey for both are small birds, chipmunks, small squirrels and the books say small hares but Sharpie, who visits my garden) has never bothered the garden rabbit, Hedwig. The Cooper’s were busy eating bugs but also keeping their hawk eyes on a squirrel and a chipmunk! The eating of ‘bugs’ is not mentioned in any of the bird books. These hawks are adorable. It was fun to stop photographing and sit and watch the adults teaching the fledglings to hunt. They were having so much fun!

Next stop – Canada Geese! They are not Canada’s national bird. That is the Canada Jay – a grey version of a Blue-Jay (OK that is simplistic but it is a good description). The Canada Geese were in the pond but also seemed to be everywhere eating grass. Sadly, it looks rather dead in places from the lack of rain. Speaking of rain, we did get some. Probably not enough to even measure but it might help the grass!

And we have an update on your favourite goose – Arnold! The veterinary team at the Cape Wildlife Centre decided to remove Arnold’s bandage and boot today. Their assessment is that Arnold is doing great. He will not need any more bandages and will get to spend some time in the outdoor enclosure with a pool. Amelia comes every day and they get to spend time together having meals in the playpen. It will not be long until Arnold will be able to be in the wild with Amelia again. Isn’t that positive news?! What a great team.

@ Cape Wildlife Centre

Before I close, here is a reminder of a great fundraiser going on right now. I do not normally mention fundraisers unless I know that the funds really go to help the project – so I am delighted to mention this one again. I realize it is only August and everyone who has children or is a student is thinking about getting ready for ‘back to school’. I would like for you to think about birthdays and holiday gifts, too! If you are looking for something unique associated with the matriarch of Ospreys, Iris, whose nest is in Missoula, Montana – well, this is for you!

Dr Erick Greene of the University of Montana and the Montana Osprey Project gathers up the twigs that have dropped from Iris’s nest. These are twigs that Iris has broken off of trees and bushes in the area. The type of wood varies. Dr Greene then sends off a box of twigs to South Carolina to the workshop of master wood workers, Richard and Sharon Leigh Miles. They turn those twigs into beautiful pens. The patterns and colour depend on the type of wood. Iris goes out and gets Black Cottonwood, Douglas Fir and, sometimes, Choke cherry. Everything is sustainable and no one interferes with Iris when she is on the nest. Those sticks get knocked off and Iris will not go down on the ground and pick them up just like she won’t pick up fish that falls off the nest. This is such a unique fundraising even for the Ospreys but the number of pens are very limited.

I think they are gorgeous and can’t wait for mine to arrive. It is on its way. The cost is $45 USD. That includes postage within the United States and maybe parts of Canada.

@ Montana Osprey Project

This time I want to include the directions for you. Sometimes it is hard to find things on FB.
1) Send an email to
2) If your mailing address is in the US, on the subject line of your email, type your full name followed by Pen Order
For example To:
Subject: Your Name – Pen Order
3) If your mailing address is outside the US, on the subject line of your email, type your full name followed by International Pen Order
For example To:
Subject: Your Name – International Pen Order
If yours is an international order we will get back to you with a few additional instructions.
4) The email’s body should include the following information:
a) Your name
b) Your email
c) Number of pens you would like to order.
d) Total amount ($45.00 per pen). Shipping is included in this price.
e) Your mailing address just as it should be on the envelope.
f) Send the email to
5) For those of you who live in the United States, make out a check out to:
Montana Osprey Project – Erick Greene
(We are not set up to take credit card or Pay Pal orders. Sorry – has to be a personal check or money order)
6) Mail your check to:
Dr. Erick Greene – Montana Osprey Project
Division of Biological Sciences
32 Campus Drive
University of Montana
Missoula, Montana
USA 59812
7) For those of you who live outside of the US, send us the email with all of your information, but hold off on sending a check. We will get back to you with a few more instructions.

Thank you so much for joining me today. It is always great to hear from everyone. I have received a few letters this morning and there is some excellent information in those that I will share with everyone tomorrow! For those wondering about Malin, her feathers seem to be improving. We hope that her fish deliveries do the same. Take care. Stay Safe.

Thank you to the Montana Osprey Project FB page and the Cape Wildlife Clinic FB where I took my screen shots of the Iris pens and Arnold.

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