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.

It’s Cold out there

The Polar Vortex has come down to the Canadian Prairies. Outside it is -33 with a wind chill that makes it far colder out there. Today, two BlueJays appeared at the feeder along with the chickadees and the sparrows. The sparrows were floofed up to keep warm, so much so that they were the size of those amazing navel oranges I got as a child in my Christmas stocking. Mother Nature seems to take care of the birds.

You might also be feeling some of this Arctic air where you live. So stay safe and warm!

The eagles at The Duke Farm in Hillsborough, New Jersey got hit by the same storm that dumped rain on the Northeast Florida eagles. More snow arrived progressively through the early hours of the morning and the day. And, just think, everything had melted for this Bald Eagle couple and the nest was drying out.

Despite all of the snow, those eggs must be toasty. My only concern is when there is the exchange of incubation duties and the snow falls down on them. The new parent’s temperature will certainly thaw that snow and, let us all hope that the pores of the eggs do mot get clogged.

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For Bald Eagles, the time between the egg laying and hatch is 35 days. There are three eggs under our mom at Duke Farms. The first was laid on January 17, the second on the 20th, and the third on the 23rd. So, there are approximately 22 days left until we hold our breaths for the first egg to pip.

And speaking of pipping, Gabby and Samson got drenched with all of the rain in Northeast Florida. This was the same system that sent snow into New Jersey (or so I am told). The rain did not stop their first egg from pipping at 5:31 am yesterday. I will bring you updates as they are available.

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2pm 7 February. Pip is now a crack.

The nest that Samson and Gabrielle use originally belonged to a long time mated couple, Romeo and Juliet. For ten years, they fledged every eaglet that hatched. That was nineteen eaglets in total. Then something tragic happened and this is why I always mention intruders. It might be all well and good to think that eagles lay their eggs, find food, raise their babies and life is simply golden but, it is not. By now you know many of the things that can happen. In 2018, several eagles tried to take over the nest of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet was injured in one of the battles trying to protect her eggs just days before they were due to hatch. Romeo was left, just like Daisy the Duck, to take care of everything by himself. That is, as you will imagine, an inordinate task as he has to feed himself and the eaglets, brood them so they are warm, as well as protect the territory and chase off intruders. The little eaglets are very vulnerable in this situation once they hatch. On Christmas Day, 2018, the first of the eggs hatched. Almost immediately a female eagle appeared when Romeo was away and snatched the eaglet taking it away. Romeo was so distraught that he left the nest like Juliet and never returned. Neither Romeo or Juliet have been seen since.

The intruding eagles did not take up residence on the nest. Eventually a male eagle appeared. My heart skipped a little beat when the was identified as one of the eaglets born on this very nest to Romeo and Juliet. It is always terrible to see such a pair of wonderful eagle parents be injured and driven off their nest. If there is a silver lining, it is the fact that one of Romeo and Juliet’s children will raise their grandchildren on the nest. The male’s name is Samson and he was born in 2013.

There were a lot of females that flitted in and out of the nest trying to get Samson’s attention but he was not interested until Gabrielle appeared. And, if it couldn’t get any better, Gabrielle was not the female eagle that attacked Samson’s mother, Juliet. This is Samson and Gabby’s second year together as a mated pair. Both of their eaglets in 2020 fledged! This year they also have two eggs – and as you know from above, one of those is pipping right now.

By early afternoon, the rain had stopped. Gabby was getting hungry. Samson first brought her a little fish which she ate right while incubating. It really was that small, like an appetizer! Gabby must have been disappointed. But not long after, Samson came in with the main course, a nice fresh possum!

Did I ever warn you that people who love raptors wind up trying to identify a lot of prey brought to the pantry?

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Gabby was quite impressed and jumped off the eggs and tucked in.

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She stopped long enough to check on the progress of the pipping before settling down.

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Back to incubating those eggs!

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We can’t see Samson in the image below but he is on a branch just out of the picture frame watching over Gabby while she gets some sleep and protecting the nest from intruders.

Isn’t it amazing how they can bend their neck and tuck it under their wings?

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Gabby asleep.

Hatching is one of the first survival tests the little eaglet goes through. If the chick is not strong enough to break out of its shell using that special tool called the ‘egg tooth’, it will not be strong enough to survive in the wild. And speaking of hatching, E24 hatched and E25 has its egg cracked all around. Congratulations Samson and Gabby!

Oh, look at that little fluff ball cuddling with Gabby. It can melt your heart instantly!

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E24 and Gabby.

E24 looks straight at us and is a sweetie. E25 is working hard to get out of that shell. Gabby and Samson are going to be busy tomorrow feeding these little ones. Oh, I hope that there is no bopping.

And for those of you not quite familiar with the egg tooth, see that white bit on E24’s beak – that is the egg tooth!

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Samson is busy stocking the pantry with fresh fish! Best way to stop any bopping that might start, fill the kiddos so full of fish they pass out!

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One of the real heartaches is watching these little ones grow up and then poof – they are gone and we never know what happens to them! It is only if there is something so unusual about them, like the torn wing of WBSE 21, that makes them instantly recognizable, that we know if they are alive or dead. It is very difficult to get permission to band the birds. And it is even more expensive to both band the birds and put satellite trackers on them. There is some headway being made in the use of trackers especially with the Albatross and the Ospreys. Many are using trackers on the Albatross to plot their interaction with the large international industrial fishing vessels. People are working diligently to try and get laws passed that would apply to all fishing vessels no matter what flag they fly under. For example, the laws would regulate the use of specialized hook covers (or other methods) so that the Albatross do not become bycatch. Those trackers are also allowing for the discover of illegal fishing vessels and they also allow an understanding of how far these amazing birds fly.

Eastern Osprey are severely endangered in Australia. This year three were born at Port Lincoln in a nest on a barge. Two lived to fledge: Solly, the oldest and female, and Dewey, the male. Both were banded with metal identification tags and coloured bands. Solly wears an orange band and Dew has a burgundy one. The research team at Port Lincoln were able to get permission for two satellite trackers. One was attached to Solly. (The other went to a male that had hatched in a different nest.). Solly took her very first flight off the barge on 24 November 2020. On 3 February 2021, Solly was 136 days old. She made history as the tracker showed that Solly travelled more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the barge at Port Lincoln. Even more surprising was the fact that she flew inland, not along the sea where she would catch fish! She stayed at Mount Wedge for two days, Tuesday and Wednesday before flying to Streaky Bay.

But wait! Don’t let that term ‘inland’ make you think that Solly would stay in a place for two days if it didn’t have fish. Solly loves her fish. And there are some very beautiful lakes up on the peaks. She’s a smart girl.

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Solly with satellite tracker at the barge at Port Lincoln.

The map below shows the Eyre Peninsula. At the point and just to the right is Port Lincoln. This is the location of the barge where Solly hatched. Today, the tracker has her heading north up at Streaky Bay. The closest named town near Mount Wedge is (I believe) either Kyancutta or Lock.

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To give you some perspective on where Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay are in relation to the rest of Australia, here is another map. If you locate Adelaide, Port Lincoln is not marked but it is across Spencer Bay to the left at the first blue anchor. Solly is heading north from Port Lincoln. I wonder if she will begin to head north west and wind up in Perth? Will keep you posted as Solly continues to make Osprey history.

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In the image below, an individual riding their bike along the shore at Streaky Bay came across Solly! The individual was David Lewis and he only had his iphone with him. But, does that matter? While we can’t see Solly very clearly, it is always – and I do mean always – a relief to have the bird spotted.

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Photo by David Lewis posted on Port Lincoln Osprey FB page, 8 February 2021.

Every time I look at this image from Australia, it reminds me that spring will be coming to North America in a few months. All of the birds will start migrating in. How grand! It will be nice to even see the Dark-eyed Juncos who, for some reason, like to tear the threads out of my outdoor carpet for their nest. Who cares?! It is going to a good cause.

Have a wonderful rest of your day everyone. Thank you for stopping in to catch up with the birds! See you tomorrow.