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.

Starting off to be a great day in Bird World

Looking out onto the garden in the morning is always a delight, even when it feels like rain or snow is coming. The sky is a white-grey. The trunks and branches of the trees are all manner of brown except for the Flame Willow which is the most striking orange-red. Our forecast is for three days of snow starting Monday. They are mostly wrong. Fingers crossed.

The Grackles are building their nest and the Starlings seem to have taken over the feeders while the Dark-eyed Junco are dancing around on the outdoor carpet finding any little seed they can. How many grains do they need to keep up their energetic activity?

“Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)” by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“European Starling” by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For the past four years, the European Starlings and the Dark-eyed Juncos arrive in the garden in early April. This year they came in mid-March. The Starlings are known to chase the sparrows away from the feeders but, in my yard, they seem to prefer to forage around on the ground. It is the Grackle family that causes the most mischief but I adore them. They always arrive around the end of March and did the same this year. Two years ago they fledged a single chick. The extended family arrived to cheer it on. It was the most amazing moment. I am going to get an outdoor camera! There were seventeen of them gathered. The fledgling and its family all left together. Last year Mr Crow raided the nest and ate the new fluffy chicks right after the Great Horned Owl threatened its nest. It is always a big saga during the summer. Things quiet down again in October when the visitors return to their winter vacation spots.

Speaking of migration, there is a lot of news. I have borrowed the image below from the Loch Arkaig FB page. I do hope they don’t mind. The credit goes to Hugh William Martin. The posting says it all. The much loved and long awaited male osprey who doesn’t hesitate to tandem feed with his mate, Aila, stole my heart last year for that single reason. He is an amazing dad and mate. Louis will fish day and night for his family and he will help Aila keep the kids sorted. No fears for JJ7 the third, the tercel, the smaller male named after Captain Sir Thomas Moore. You will remember Sir Tom, the war hero who, at nearly 100, pledged to walk 100 lengths of his garden to raise money for the National Health Service (NHS). His goal was 1000 GBP but his venture captured the hearts of people around the world and he made over 13 million GBP for the health services in Britain. Incredible. I hope that Captain’s (JJ7) life is as long and illustrious.

But for now we celebrate the arrival of Louis. There are more than 300 people at this moment watching an empty nest; Lewis is off on his roost or fishing. Hopefully, Aila will return shortly and we will be able to watch them again outfit their nest and get to raising a healthy happy family!

In other migration news, the book, A World on the Wing. The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Widensaul arrived this morning in the mail. I cannot wait to grab some time and read it. Glancing I notice a lot of material on satellite transmitters.

The other day someone watching one of the nests that I check said they did not believe in banding or transmitters – the osprey are not endangered. I would argue, as they did at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania in the 20th century, that you need to know when you are entering a decline to find out why. That is one reason that you want numbers. How do you really know if there are too many? Hawk Mountain is on the migratory bird route from the Eastern parts of Canada and the US and they literally count the birds. A research project coming out of the University of Montana at Missoula with Dr Erick Greene has to do with migration and the understanding of the perils the birds face. Dr Green is also interested in the mercury levels in the local osprey as well as foraging and how a colony of ospreys can help one another find more food versus a solitary osprey. Some of the Montana birds are wintering in southern Mexico. At Port Lincoln, Solly, the 2020 first hatched female, was fitted with a satellite transmitter and ringed. She has already changed what we know about osprey movements away from their nest in that area where Osprey are highly endangered. Lots to learn about the long and arduous trips that all the migratory birds make – not just Ospreys! The bird books are stacking up but I do hope to get to read them shortly!

There have been a few chuckles up at the Loch of the Lowes Osprey nest since Laddie (LM12) inadvertently gave a fish to an intruder sitting on the nest and not to his mate NC0 yesterday. To put it mildly, don’t get a female Osprey upset!!! Everyone wondered if NC0 would forgive Laddie – she kicked him off the nest. Everything looked as if it was going fine this morning. NC0 returned to the nest cup. Everything appeared to be rather serene. Is she preparing to lay an egg?

But, as this soap opera continues, no more had everything appeared to be settled than the intruder arrived and Laddie flew in to assist. Didn’t someone say that there are eight Osprey males in Scotland needing mates?! or is it also this prime piece of real estate?

A female osprey has returned from her migration and has, for the past couple of days, been hanging around the Llyn Brenig nest in north Wales. It is the home to male Blue HR7 and female Blue 24. Please note the wind turbines. Some chicks have been killed in them. Spotters are hoping to identify the bird by her tag. She is being very mysterious and teasing us and not revealing anything, not even one number!

This morning I decided not to get up and check on the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg- at least, not first thing. Some days my whole body seems to go on a food strike in support of Tiny. But I seem to have helpers these days -wonderful ones -and I was told right away that Tiny was eating after 10am. So coffee in hand, I decided to go back and check. I am happy to report that although he ate last, Tiny did get 88 bites (call me obsessive) between 7:46:22 and 7::52:27. Diane offered him the tail at the end and he mantled it. Great work Tiny Tot!

Here he is with fish flakes around his mouth at 7:50 having a private feed:

And here is Tiny mantling the fish tail that Diane gave him:

Tiny had a crop, in the image above, at 8:01. He dropped that crop prior to 9:30. Note: Dropping food from the crop sends it to the stomach. It is like a holding and processing tank. At 9:40:39 a second fish was delivered to the nest. At 10:04:20 Tiny is fed. There is a lot of skin but Diane is also finding flakes of fish. Tiny had 97 bites. Diane offered him the tail. At 10:16, Tiny had a crop again. In the scheme of things anyone watching would realize that the amount of food to fill Tiny is insignificant in the face of what the two older siblings eat.

Someone asked if Tiny would catch up in size. That is an interesting question. I have not gone through all my notes but it appears that from 12 March to now, Tiny missed seven (7) complete days of food. And we know that he has not eaten nearly the amount of fish as the others on the other days. A real reveal would be to compare meals and length of feeding times since we cannot weigh the food. Still, skin or not, I was glad that Tiny was rewarded by 97 bites on that second feeding. It is nearing 4pm on the nest. Hopefully two more fish will come in before dark – two more fish that are large enough for all.

Diane trying to provide shade on a hot 26 degree C day in St Pete’s.

The three siblings on the Achieva Osprey nest. From left to write 1, Tiny Tot, and 2. Everyone hopes that any intruders that may be in the area will leave so that Diane can go fishing, too. We wait and hope. It is all anyone can do.

I want to leave you some close up images of Iris, the world’s oldest osprey. She returned from her long migration to Missoula, Montana yesterday. It wasn’t long til she was over in the river and had caught herself a whopper. Apparently, Louis has been around for a visit today. Louis became Iris’s mate when her faithful companion Stanley died. Louis has been around for 4 years with no breeding success. He has another family so food and nest security are all left to Iris who also has to lay the eggs, incubate, and eat. Last year a raven stole her egg. Prior to Louia, Iris has raised, it is believed, anywhere from 30-40 chicks to fledge. All are hoping for a devoted partner. Hopefully she will kick Louis from the nest for good!

And a quick peak at the two Great Horned Owlets in the Bald Eagle nest in Kansas. They are growing and growing and Farmer Derek’s snake population on his farm is declining! If you can’t get mice, snake is an excellent second choice! It is hard to believe but these two will be branching soon. They look like little people with those big eyes all wrapped up for winter. Adorable.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me and the birds in ‘As the Nest Turns’. I hope you have a great end of the week wherever you are.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I grab my images: Farmer Derek, Montana Osprey Project and Cornell Bird Labs, Friends of Loch of the Lowes and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Friends of Loch Arkaig, Scottish Wildlife Trust and People Play Lottery, Friends of Llyn Brenig, and the Achieva Credit Union. Also the Friends of Loch Arkaig FB Page.

Oh, it’s cold out there

It was so cold today, -14. It meant that my friend, Sharpie pretended he was a Peregrine Falcon and not a Sharp-shinned Hawk and tore between the houses and into the garden like a Stealth bomber. He first flew into snow on top of the back wood box and out, down between the houses and back again. I blinked and if I had done it again, I would have missed him. He certainly wasn’t after the European Starlings. They had been sitting on the tips of the Lilac bushes and then decided to eat the frozen grapes on the vines, instead of the bird seed, and were tottering all over the place when Sharpie arrived. Silly things! It’s like eating Ice Wine candies. Maybe Sharpies, like Peregrines, don’t particularly like the Starlings. I wonder if they are tough? Must be something. He totally ignored them.

Sharpie comes to visit and is puffed up it is so cold.

Sharpie doesn’t cooperate, too fast for me and the camera. This is a photo from a couple of weeks ago just so you can see what the little guy looks like. Oh, he is tiny. I think the plan is to get a camera and have it constantly running using solar power. That way I don’t frighten him peeking out the windows. I haven’t seen Sharpie’s mate for a little over a year. And, if you are wondering, yes, it is unusual for these hawks not to migrate with the other birds. We first noticed them in January 2018. There is a Polar Vortex heading our way for Saturday and the temperatures will plummet very quickly. I hope Sharpie is tucked up nice and warm somewhere.

UPDATES: The Threesome are working on their nest on the Mississippi River near Fulton. Valor I, II, and Starr moved a few big sticks around this morning. There is a blizzard and extreme cold temperatures headed for their area and the trio were not seen at the nest after 9:30 am.

Birds are incredibly smart as all of you know. And I am certain if they could figure out how to handle the computers and the green screens, the CBC would be wise to hire them as the weather forecaster. Seriously, it is so rare that the get the forecast right here. If you listen you might hear it is sunny but if you look out the window, you can see the rain coming down. Does this happen anywhere else?

The Threesome Nest on the Mississippi River, 4 February 2020. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

E17 and E18 were improved at 4pm on Thursday. These little muffins. My goodness, they have grown, changed colour, and are getting better. They can’t go back to Harriet and M15 until they are completely clear of the ‘pink eye’. But the news today is optimistic.

And look, they are feeding themselves out of the little dishes. Wonder if they prefer fish or these nice tender, cut just right morsels of quail and rat?? E18 is on the left. He is a little whiter than E17 on the right E17 is still having to go to the time out corner. As she continues to feel better, she is taking it out on her little brother at meal time. And doesn’t E18 just look so sweet? I had so hoped they would have grown out of this phase. It makes me ache when one is bopping the other. Seriously, there is enough food to go around. You two are lucky. Your patron, Pritchett Real Estate, has a stocked pond full of fish just for you.

E18 (left) and E17 (right) enjoying their 4pm snack. Image courtesy of CROW.

And now on Friday morning, CROW has been able to return the pair to their nest. It is 24 degrees so warm. The little ones can pant to regulate their temperature and they are cheeping. But so far, neither Harriet or M15 have come to the nest. It has been several hours and I have to admit that I am getting a little anxious. And, of course, E17 already needs another time out!

It is a bit windy. The camera operator has moved it looking for the parents who appear to be at a distance hunting.

The image below is not great but it will give you an idea of the area around the nest. Dick Pritchett owns the land that the nest tree is located on and does have a fully stocked pond for the eagles. It looks they are flying around in the thermals.

CROW has permission for immediate rescue if the parents do not return to the nest. I am anxiously watching and will bring an update as soon as I have one.

It is Friday. For those of you out there working or working from home, it must feel really good to see a weekend coming. And since it is Friday, it is time for some cuteness overload. And where better for that than the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand.

Lime-Green-Black (LGK) is so proud of his eleven day old chick. It is so sweet how gentle he is. His eyes tell us just how proud he is of this little furry bundle. And how happy he is to be there in the warm sunshine rubbing his bill.

LGK teaching his chick to tap bills to stimulate feeding. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

Oh, and what a beautiful smile!

Hello! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

It sure didn’t take long for this little fella’ to figure out precisely how to fit that tiny bill inside dad’s great big one so that he could have some squid shake. Nature is truly amazing.

Great Feeding! Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

With the little one safely tucked in between his big paddle feet, LGK does some of his morning wingersizes. I wonder if birds get ‘stiff’ from sitting in one place for too long, like humans so?

LGK stretching in the morning. Image courtesy of Cornell Bird Cams and NZ DOC.

And since it is the weekend, I have a recommendation for you. Now, I don’t always suggest movies to people because each of us has our own likes and dislikes. The little girl down the street left me a note today in my mailbox. “There is a movie that you have to see and it will make me cry”. And then one of the FB members of the Crow, Raven, and Corvid group recommended the same flick. So, I decided to put everything aside and watch it. It is on Netflix and the movie is Penguin Bloom. The woman on the FB group said:

Penguin Bloom, is the story of a woman who has had a catastrophic injury and endures depression related to her inability to lead a “normal” life with her husband and three rambunctious young boys. One of the boys finds an injured magpie, brings it home to care for it, and well, saying more would give away much of the story. It’s a charming movie, well done, probably not an Oscar contender, but the magpie’s (named Penguin) interaction with the family makes it worth a watch”.

The New York Times had a good review of Penguin Bloom. I hope that you can open this and read it.

You will need a box of tissue if you watch the movie.

I was very interested in this movie for two reasons. One is because WBSE 26, with its wonky leg, overcame so many obstacles to fly. So many people told me how inspirational she was to them. Several with physical challenges and who were not working as hard as they should said that if 26 could do it so could they! Secondly because, just the other day, one of Daisy Duck’s very good friends from Poland sent me a note to tell me that she had found and nursed an injured Raven back to health. It was in terrible shape with the feathers on top of its head all pulled out and, of course, it was starving. She took the Raven into her home and cared for it for five months til it was ready to be re-wilded. Little tears came down my cheeks. People can be incredibly kind and loving. My heart melted when I read her letter. I hope to bring you more about her story shortly.

Birds are magical if you let them into your heart.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join me. Stay safe. See you tomorrow!