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.

Rain and blowing winds

It’s raining outside. The sky is a heavy grey and the flame willow’s bark is a bright reddish-orange in this light. It is gorgeous. But where are the robins who should be pulling worms from the soil around the flame tree? They are no where to be seen. And the Dark eyed Juncos have not arrived en masse either. We wait.

The branches turn green in the summer but in the winter the Flame Willow is a bright red-orange.
“American Robin” by nicolebeaulac is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There is no life in the dreary damp garden except for two BlueJays flitting about. In half an hour it will fill up just when the feeders are being replenished. Sometimes I think the sparrows have an alarm clock set – they are that punctual.

The last couple of days there has been a sadness hanging over the Bald Eagle community. Indeed, it hangs heavy today just like the grey drizzly skies that surround me. Jackie and Shadow on the Big Bear Bald Eagle nest in Big Bear, California lost their first clutch this year. Their nest is about 44 metres or 145 feet up in a Jeffrey pine tree with a view of Big Bear Lake. It is incredibly beautiful. Jackie is thought to be nine years old and Shadow is around seven; neither are banded and both so want to be parents. A Raven ate their first egg and the second broke. They tried again. Sadly, the first chick died during hatch as thousands of people watched anxiously along with Jackie and Shadow on 18 March. They could hear its chirping and must have been so excited. The second egg is now 38 days old. The normal for BE hatch is 35. Last year they incubated their eggs for sixty days and when they finally stopped the ravens came – the eggs were empty.

So we hope and wait. I really hope – beyond hope – for this nest to be successful this year.

And, of course, there are the on going issues related to the Great Horned Owls and Harriet and M15 on the Pritchett Farm in Fort Myers, Florida. The GHOW nest is 274 metres or .1 of a mile away from the eagle’s nest. This has caused nothing but undue problems for the eagles this year. Last night’s attack was one of the worst. The GHOW knocked Harriet off the branch and into the nest but a then off the nes! You can hear the cries.

Lady Hawk’s video shows this from several angles. You can watch the first and get the idea.

Eagle and Great Horn Owl populations have recovered since the time of DDT. Now, there are several issues both related to human activity – the loss of habitat -meaning space – and also the lack of trees adequate for nests that impact the lives of both. There is more and more competition for resources.

E17 and E18 are both self-feeding and they really are the best of buddies. Twins born within hours of one another. E18 might be the Queen of Mantling but both still love to be fed by their parents. They are so big. One of the best ways of telling which is which is if you can see the tip of the tails. The one with a white band, on the left, is E18.

For those who worry about aggressive behaviours, it is now easy to forget that many were horrified at the bopping E17 gave 18. E17 even had to go into time out at CROW clinic! It all evened out. E18 grew and became not so intimidated. That is a good thing. They will hopefully both thrive in the wild. As Sharon Dunne (aka Lady Hawk) reminded many on one of her videos yesterday, if the birds cannot survive in the nest being fed by parents they will never be able to survive in the wild. As it stands, less than half the bald eagles that fledge live to see their first birthday.

Look close. The white band is on the eaglet on the left. That is E18 with E17 on the right.

I continue to tell people that GHOWs are fierce competitors and they are dangerous. There is nothing cuddly about them! Speaking about Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles, the two owlets of Bonnie and Clyde are really growing. The oldest is always ready to try and hork down the mouse that Clyde delivers. In this early morning shot, you can see Clyde, Bonnie, and one of the eaglets. Everyone is doing fine on that nest. Only time will tell if the owls become permanent occupants of what was a Bald Eagle nest.

The daughters of Farmer Derek named the owlets Tiger (the eldest) and Lily (the youngest). In the image below Clyde is on the left, Bonnie is in the back and if you squint you can see one of the owlets, probably Tiger, in the nest. Sweet names. I wonder if they knew that GHOWs are sometimes called ‘Tiger’ owls?

21 March 2021. Clyde, Harriet, and one of the owlets.

The young father, Harry, is incubating the two eggs on the Bald Eagle nest at the Minnesota DNR. You can tell it is Harry and not Nancy because of the dark patch at the end of his beak. Remember – this young father has not fully changed to his adult colouring – he is only four years old! That tree is really twisting and the wind is howling and blowing. Those eagles have had all kinds of weather to contend with, too. But now we should be thinking about a pip! Their second egg was laid at 2:54 pm on 20 February with the first on the 18th. That means that egg 1 is 31 days old. If the rule of 32 days for a hatch applies this young father should be getting excited. I hope that the weather smartens up for them and they have a successful hatch!

Very young father incubates eggs at MNDNR awaiting first pip. 21 March 2021.

The rain and the wind that is keeping the Minnesota nest soaked and twisting left the Bald Eagle nest in Jacksonville soaked as well. Gabby did a great job of keeping Legacy covered up and Samson even brought in provisions during the windy storm.

One of the things you will no longer see on the NE Florida eagle nest is ‘eggie’. Samson came in on the 17th of March and while Legacy was self-feeding, he aerated the nest. As he was punching holes in the base of the nest cup, Samson kept checking that Legacy was busy eating. Then he buried ‘Eggie’ in one of the holes and covered it with Spanish Moss. There seem to be no adverse effects. Some of us thought we would have to strap a backpack on Legacy so she could take Eggie and pinecone with her when she fledges. It’s hard to believe that it was not so long ago when Legacy had Avian Pox. She survived it well. In the image below Gabby has brought in a fish for Legacy. Legacy mantles and feeds herself. ‘Look, I am all grown up, Mom!’ They are all growing way too fast.

21 March 2021. Legacy is self feeding.

And the rest of Bird World seems to be in a holding pattern today. The trio at the Achieva Osprey nest have been fed. They all had good full crops last night and there was not so much commotion this morning when the first fish was brought in at 7:59.

21 March 2021 From left to right: 2, Brutus, Tiny Tot

The people on chat have named the eldest Brutus because of the way that it treats the other two. And, Brutus, was particularly nasty to both Tiny Tot and 2 last evening. Still, they got food and that was really what mattered. Brutus has not been able to stifle their will to survive. You can see all three of them standing up to be fed this morning. I did do a wee bit of a giggle. For many, Brutus is a male name and is associated with male aggression since the time when Marcus Junius Brutus was one of Julius Cesar’s assassins. In this instance, it is, however, highly likely that Brutus is a big female. Watching the Port Lincoln Osprey cam showed me that like GHOWs, you do not mess with a big female Osprey when she is upset. Best to just stay away.

Big and Li’l are doing fine on the Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest. Both of them had a nice crop this morning. There was even a tandem feeding with Mom and Dad.

21 March 2021. Both parents feeding at Duke Farms eagle nest.

Someone remarked at how big Li’l is getting – that is what happens when you get enough food, you grow!

And last but never least – the ‘Brutus’ of the Port Lincoln Osprey nest, Solly, is thriving. She is 183 days old today and she has mustered the strength and the courage to cross the entire bay at Streaky Bay. Well done, Solly!

Thanks for coming to check all the characters in Bird World today. The birds bring us so much joy – and sadness, sometimes. And, yes, uneasiness when we worry about them. Most of us sleep better when we know they have had a good meal. So today, let us send warm wishes for Jackie and Shadow – maybe a miracle will happen. It is too bad we can’t slip an orphaned baby eaglet in their nest for them. I am sure they would adore it.And let’s begin to get excited for the young father up in Minnesota. I hope it is a nice warm day tomorrow for their hatch.

And thank you to Port Lincoln Osprey and their Satellite Tracker, the streaming cams from Duke Farms, Achieva Osprey, NE Florida Eagle Cam and the AEF, SW Florida Eagle Cam and D Pritchett, Farmer Derek, the Minnesota DNR, and Big Bear Eagle cam.

UC Berkley Falcons and quick Friday updates

The University of California Campus at Berkeley is ‘falcon crazy.’ They even named their basketball team the Falcons. Indeed, the feathered pair nesting on top of this beautiful building are ‘stars’. Everyone knows about them and gets excited – how grand is that?!

“The Campanile of UC-berkeley” by ChanduBandi is marked with CC0 1.0

The Campanile was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1914. The tower, reminiscent of the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, is ninety-four metres or 308 feet hight and has four bells. It is the most recognized building on the University campus.

This is the view from the roof:

In 2016, a pair of Peregrine Falcons began to roost on the roof of the Campanile. Their scrape box is two floors up from the bells and to everyone’s amazement the bell concerts do not seem to bother the raptors. If it did, we can imagine that they would have left quickly. Most of the time it is a safe place to raise their young but they have had, like other nests, intruders checking out their prime real estate.

In 2017, the same pair returned to raise eyases. They were given the names Annie and Grinnell in honour of the founder and first director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Annie Grinnell. Annie is not banded and her history including how old she is remains unknown. However, Grinnell was banded in 2013 as a nestling near Martinez, California. All of their chicks are banded in the nest.

If you have read most of my blogs you will know that I am a great proponent of banding. The amount of information that can be discovered is significant. And for Birders on the Ground it is an opportunity to take part. It takes a village to chase after falcons and check their bands, photograph them, and then find the right person to contact to tell them of the sighting.

If you have never seen a nestling banded, here is your opportunity. This is a short video of Poppy, Sequoia, and Redwood being banded in the scrape box in 2020 along with a Q&A:

Annie and Grinnell made their first nest on a sand bag on the roof of the Campanile in March of 2017. Poor things! But they had nothing else. In the wild, Peregrine falcons make their nests on a the edges of cliffs with a sandy base or in gravel.

In the image below, Grinnell is incubating the eggs in the permanent scrape box. Notice that it is a simple enclosure, with a single opening at the front. Wooden rulers have been fixed to the frame of the door and the corners so researchers can check the height of the young. Simple pea gravel or small river stones line the bottom. This is the ‘nest’. No other materials will be brought in. The falcons will rub their breast into the gravel to make a hollow for the eggs.

When two of the eggs of Annie and Grinnell’s first clutch rolled off the sandbox and broke, the University decided to install a temporary scrape box. Annie and Grinnell accepted the box and fledged their first babies – two eyases- from the Campanile. They were a male named Fiat and a female named Lux. The names were derived from the University motto, Fiat lux, which means bringing knowledge to light. Fiat survived but Lux was killed by window strike.

The following year the University installed a permanent nest box for the pair hoping that they would return and lay their eggs again. In April of 2018, Annie and Grinnell had three eggs hatch. Named after three elements discovered at Berkeley the chicks were a male named Berkelium, another male named Californium, and a female named Lawrencium. All three fledged. Lawrencium is the only one of Annie and Grinnell’s chicks that has been spotted. She is nesting on the island of Alcatraz.

In 2019, the exploits of Annie and Grinnell were streamed to the world. That year two chicks hatched and were successful fledges. One was named Carson after Rachel Carson. Hers is a name that you should know. Carson is the author of the book Silent Spring that led to the banning of DDT. Cade was named after Tom Cade, an Ornithologist recognized for his efforts to both protect and reestablish Peregrine Falcon populations after they were wiped out by DDT. Cade was the founder of the Peregrine Fund. He died in 2019 at the age of 91.

In 2020, Annie and Grinnell fledged three – a female named Poppy, a male named Sequoia, and another male named Redwood.

It’s 2021 and Annie and Grinnell are incubating four eggs! The first was laid on 10 March, followed by the second on 12 March, the third on the 14th and the final egg on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the image below, Grinnell has arrived to partially incubate the first three eggs. The eggs can actually range from a cream colour to red but here you see that Annie has laid three lovely red eggs.

While it is known that falcons sometimes lay five eggs, it is rare. And this brings me to why I love falcons so much and it isn’t just their very ‘cute’ plumage. It is because of delayed incubation. Annie and Grinnell can hatch four eyases but I am not up worrying all night when one didn’t get fed or the eldest was aggressive – it would be rare for that to happen but I am aware that it does.

Grenville on hard incubation duty, 19 March 2021.

The embryos inside eggs only develop when they are warm. Peregrine falcons, Red Tail Hawks and other raptor species (other than Ospreys and various species of eagles) want their eggs to hatch at roughly the same time. That way there is not a significant difference in development. To achieve this synchronization, the early eggs are only partially incubated until all are laid. Then hard incubation begins. Annie and Grinnell will take turns incubating the eggs. After hard incubation starts the eggs will hatch in roughly 32-33 days after the last egg was laid. The eyases use their ‘egg tooth’ to help them get through the thick shell which can take from 24-48 hours. Pip watch should start about 19 April! I am so excited!

UPDATES: Speaking of pip watch, Jackie and Shadow can hear one of their little ones chirping in the shell. Big Bear Eagle fans are on hatch alert!

Maya and Blue 33 have both arrived at the Mantou Bay Nest at Rutland in the UK on 19 March. Blue 33 (11) came in at 12:29 and Maya was right behind him at 12:56.

Maya and Blue 33 (10) arrive at the nest in Rutland on 19 March 2021.

So far it appears that Blue 25 (10) is still waiting for her mate at Rutland.

The three on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida have now been fed to the relief of everyone. The storm caused Jack to bring in only a small fish last evening. Brutus, the eldest, was very aggressive towards the smaller two and they went to sleep without any fish. (Brutus is the name given to the eldest by the chat group). First fish this morning was also small and caused aggressive behaviour. However, Jack went and brought in a nice sized second fish right away and everyone ate and were congenial.

Both were fed at the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey so all is well on that nest.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, is 181 days old today. She spent the night at the Streaky Bay Hospital and has been out and about looking for fish. She loves this area. I hope it keeps her safe and is her forever home.

It’s nearly 4pm on a beautiful sunny day on the Canadian prairies. Let’s hope it stays that way so that everyone can get out for a walk and check on the local wildlife in their area.

Thanks to UC Berkeley Falcons, Duke Farms, Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Big Bear for their steaming cams and Rutland Wildlife where I took my scaps and to Port Lincoln Ospreys and the PLO researchers for the satellite tracking for Solly.

Loch Arkaig Ospreys

What can I say? Spring is in the air everywhere and the folks in the United Kingdom are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their beloved Ospreys. There are now sightings for some of the nests and, we are, like them, getting ready for World Osprey Week. Today, the focus is on Loch Arkaig.

The staff at Loch Arkaig were shocked – pleasantly so – when the numbers of viewers of their streaming cam jumped from 60,000 to 400,000. Can you imagine? Many of the viewers during the pandemic were first time visitors to streaming cams. It is delightful because so many who began watching in the spring of 2020 now realize how much they enjoy the birds and how precarious their lives are. The people advocating for safety measures and donating to streaming cams has increased significantly. Many fell in love with the Scottish wilderness and the beautiful Osprey. Loch Arkaig is located in one of the only remaining Caledonian pine forest. These trees are part of the very first pine trees to be brought into Scotland during the Late Glacial period, about 7000 BCE.

Despite the fact that the Loch appears to be far away from Glasgow, it isn’t. If you travel to Scotland and like hiking, this area is a place not to miss. There are no less than twenty different trails near Loch Arkaig ranging from an easy walk of 9.5 km or 6 miles to a very hard walk of 224 km or nearly 15 miles. There are moors and there are hills, some of the highest in the area. And if you are a Harry Potter fan, you can catch the Harry Potter train at Fort William.

“LOCH ARKAIG: Forest road above the loch (5/16 an038)” by Ted and Jen is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“File:Beinn Bhan from Loch Arkaig woods.JPG” by Mick Knapton is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

As elsewhere, the Scottish Osprey disappeared during the twentieth century. In Scotland, the game keepers of the large estates killed the Osprey because they believed they were a threat to the wildlife on the grounds. The other major destruction came from egg collectors. Breeding pairs were seen before World War II at Loch Garten but it was not until 1954 when a pair of Scandinavian Ospreys arrived at the Loch that the modern era of Ospreys began in Scotland. In 2011, there were 202 known pairs and a decade later, there are more than 300 breeding pairs. Today, the Osprey is a Scottish icon.

In the United Kingdom, the ospreys grow to about 55-62 cm or 21 to 24 inches in length. Their wings span ranges from 145-180 cm or 57 to 71 inches. Their heads are white with the tell tale brown band running from the gorgeous yellow eyes. The breast of the female has a darker apron than the males with beautiful brown plumage on the backs and wings. They weigh 1.2-2 kg or 2.6 or 4.4 lbs. They have Reverse sex-size diamorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.

The Scottish Ospreys are a migratory species. They return to Scotland in late March (or early April) where they will stay til September raising their young before returning to Senegal or The Gambia for the winter. The clutch has an average of three eggs which are incubated for five weeks (35 days). The female does most of the incubation and brooding while the male provides the food and security. The Osplets will fledge between 51-56 days. About 21 days after the young fledge, the female leaves the nest for Africa. The male remains feeding any chicks for another 7-14 days. Then the male leaves for Africa. The juveniles also go to Senegal or The Gambia although some have been noted to remain on the southern coast of Spain and Portugal. The juveniles will not return to Scotland until they are two years old. To avoid interbreeding, the males tend to return to their natal nest area while the females go elsewhere.

The return of the Osprey is being celebrated during World Albatross Week from 22-26 March – the return of the Osprey to Wales, England, and Scotland! It is a joyous time with birders tracking the bands from the south of England and posting the notices on various FB pages. Indeed, it appears that the Ospreys in Scotland could be arriving back early. The bands on the Perth and Kinross Osprey were seen at Glen Shee flying west today, 21 March 2021 at 15:54. Wow!

Last year I marvelled at Louis and Aila at the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest. Louis first appeared in 2017 and was later joined by Aila. Their first Osplet was named Lachlan by the public and hatched in 2017. They lost their clutch in 2018 to Pine Martens (many sites are putting up protections for the Osprey from the Pine Martens) but fledged two in 2019, Mallie and Rannoch. And in 2020, nearly half a million people watched Doddie, Vera, and little Captain. To aid in identification, Scottish Osprey have a blue/white Darvic ring (blue band, 3 white letters/numbers) on their left leg and a metal British Ornithological band on their right. This is reversed for Welsh and English Ospreys. In Scotland they are called tags and in North American, they are called bands.

The unique letter and number code for Loch Arkaig Ospreys is:

JH4 – Lachlan, male, fledged in 2017
JJ0 – Mallie, female, fledged in 2019
JJ2 – Rannoch, female, fledged in 2019
JJ6 – Doddie, male, fledged in 2020
JJ8 – Vera, female, fledged in 2020
JJ7 – Captain, male, fledged in 2020

The family keeps Louis busy fishing. Loch Arkaig is 19 km or 12 miles long. Louis has brought in both fresh and salt water fish meaning that he also fishes at sea. That is apparently a little farther distance than if the fished at the very far end of Loch Arkaig. The favourite fish on the nest appear to be Brown Trout and Salmon.

In 2020, Louis brought in 553 fish. Ailia fished and brought 26 to the nest late in the breeding season. Breaking this down, information from the Loch shows that of those 579 fish there were 459 trout, 64 flat fish, 34 mackerel, 11 sea trout and grilse, 7 Arctic Char and 4 pike. Impressive.

Here is a video of the highlights from the 2020 season:

And another. Enjoy!

None of the offspring of Louis and Aila have been spotted except when Doddie stopped in at Somerset on his first migration in the fall of 2020. The journey of more than 6400 km to migrate is treacherous. They get in storms, the winds, they can be shot, there was Avian Pox in Senegal in 2021, there are droughts, water shortage, and they can simply starve to death being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The little ones are young when they leave the nest. They have a long way to travel and find food and manage on their own without their parents or siblings there to help. Let us hope that some of them are spotted this year. That would be grand. It is heartbreaking to watch them hatch, grow, and fledge and never hear another word. It is one reason I am very grateful that some of these birds have satellite trackers like Solly from the Port Lincoln Osprey nest. (The Australian Osprey do not have to migrate but the young ones still have a daunting time surviving to adulthood).

I have to admit that the Osprey have become one of my favourite birds to watch. While I am counting down to World Osprey Week in the United Kingdom, I will also be looking forward to the arrival of the Osprey in Manitoba. More on that in the late spring.

Thank you for joining me today.

Cover photo credit: “Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)” by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The introduction of Osprey into the UK

Writing about Wales and the United Kingdom makes me a little ‘homesick’. My family and I lived in a beautiful little town in Lincolnshire while I read for my PhD at the University of Leicester. There were canals full of ducks, the prettiest gardens, and wonderful friends. Those were wonderful years and many times, in the last few years, I have longed to return, not as a visitor, but to live in the wildness of Pembrokeshire or the highlands of Scotland. My desire to see the Osprey and the eagles ‘in the wild’ will happen soon in Manitoba. Patience is required like it is for everyone else waiting. The Ospreys will return to the nests built by Manitoba Hydro and the Bald Eagles will be fishing off Hecla Island. On the way, they will stop in Winnipeg. It is always a surprise for everyone- looking out and seeing a Bald Eagle in one’s garden. Indeed, the first Bald Eagle has already arrived.

Leading up to World Osprey Week from 22-26 of March, I started with two of the nests in Wales yesterday. I had meant to move up to Loch Arkaig today but, it makes more sense to find out about the reintroduction of the Osprey into the United Kingdom before going to Scotland where there are now, at least, three hundred breeding pairs. Indeed, those first twelve birds brought to Rutland twenty-five years ago, when only five weeks old, came from nests in Scotland.

“Osprey – Rutland Water” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Today I want to share with you just one little eight-minute video. It really is worth a listen! I could not write with the enthusiasm of Tim Appleton – trust me – this man is inspiring and passionate.

In 1994, an Osprey landed in the tree across from Tim Appleton’s garden and that was the beginning of the work with Roy Dennis to establish The Rutland Osprey Project. Tim Appleton, MBE is an amazing individual. Just reading his biography on Google makes me tired! This man is a dynamo when it comes to doing good works for birds. Roy Dennis is Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Dennis worked with Appleton to create Rutland. Indeed, the success at Rutland led to the founding of the nests in Wales.

“The osprey nest at Rutland Water” by Phil McIver is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Here is the interview with Tim Appleton talking about this great adventure that lead to 170 fledglings. It must have been the most amazing journey. You can just ‘feel’ Appleton’s joy and love for these amazing birds.

Here is the streaming cam to the Manton Bay Osprey nest. Ooops. Looks like another hijacked nest! That is definitely not an Osprey on that nest. It’s a Cormorant and right now there are gale force winds on that nest and this bird is determined to stay. Wonder what the owners will think about that after their 6400 kilometer or 4000 mile journey from Africa to come home? It could get interesting. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be that Cormorant if the female owner of this nest got mad! I don’t know how many of you watched Solly take it out on DEW on the Port Lincoln Osprey Nest in Australia – but, wow. Wouldn’t want to mess with this Osprey not for a second.

Cormorant is gone. Wonder if it will return?

This is another very short video showing the 2019 Osprey family from the Manton Bay nest. A fresh fish is being caught to take to the nest:

If you want to read more about the Rutland Ospreys, this is an excellent book. You can purchase it from amazon.co.uk Yes, you can actually order from the UK site. You might be able to purchase it directly from the Leicestershire and Rutland Trust Offices – but I cannot promise. When I was in Scotland in 2019, most of the Osprey sites had buildings where you could buy books, pins, and clothing to help support the different projects.

Thank you so much for joining me today and celebrating the arrival of the Osprey in England so long ago and you can wait for their return from their winter migration. It is a long journey and we hope that they all arrive home safely!

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Credit for the feature image: “Photo of the Week – Osprey at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (VA)” by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region is marked with CC PDM 1.0

World Osprey Week 22-26 March 2021

What is World Osprey Week? It is when the world joins with all our friends in the United Kingdom to celebrate the return of the Ospreys from their winter migration. It is a time for celebration, educational fun, and competitions – especially for children. There will also be a lot of videos for those of us who do not live in the UK. Congratulations to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Osprey Week!

Ospreys are large ‘fish hawks’. In fact, they used to be included with all species of hawk but, now, they have their own category among avians. They live near water. It can be either fresh water or salt water – rivers like the one show in the image below or coastal estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, or fish hatching ponds. You will find them anywhere there are large numbers of fish. They are known for their ability to hover, like a helicopter. They do this often when landing at their nest or when fishing where they will hover over the fish until they plunge into catch that fish – feet first!

“One More Shot of the Wales Countryside” by Monkey Boson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The history of Ospreys in the United Kingdom is a sad one. By the middle of World War I (1916), they were almost extinct. The demise of the Ospreys was due to shootings and egg collecting. Later, in the twentieth century, more were dying because of pesticides like DDT. Indeed, the Ospreys were one of the first of the large birds to alert the world to the threat of these harmful chemicals. Electricity is something that each of us use daily. My laptop computer is plugged in right now recharging as I write. The lamp to my right allows me to see. But this modern convenience – electricity – is a real threat to raptors such as the Osprey. Indeed, the main threats today are loss of habitat, power line collisions, and electrocution.

“Ospreys Mean Spring” by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Operation Jimmy honours Blue CU2 ‘Jimmy’ an Osprey born in Scotland. On his migration home, Jimmy stopped in Wales and continued to return. Jimmy was very popular. Sadly, he was electrocuted on a killer pole on a windy rainy day after he had caught his last fish. People were sad and angry. But they got to work. In an effort to stop birds from landing on these electrical poles and being killed, artificial nests started being constructed for the Osprey. In this video you can see one being installed. With the addition of natural perches, it is hoped that there will not be another electrocution.

Last year there were four breeding pairs in Wales. Today I will take a quick peek at two of those nests: Glaslyn and Dyfi. The streaming cam links are posted so you can join in the fun welcoming back these very famous Osprey.

Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife (BGGW) started when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) ended his stewardship program of the Glaslyn Ospreys in 2013. BGGW is a small community not-for-profit group that is dedicated to the care of the wildlife in the Glaslyn Valley including the current resident pair of Ospreys, Mrs G and Aran (since 2015).

What a gorgeous place for an Osprey nest!

“Llyn Gwynant” by Joe Dunckley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mrs G is the oldest breeding female Osprey in Wales. She has been breeding at the Glaslyn nest since 2004. She is estimated to be nineteen or twenty years old. Mrs G has laid at least fifty-one known eggs to date. Forty-one of those hatched and thirty-eight fledged. Mrs G has at least eight-five grandchildren – some have revised this figure to 100. Whew! Those are the ones they know about. What a legacy! Here is the link to their live streaming cam:

Another nest in Wales is the Dyfi Ospreys near Machynlleth. The current resident pair are Idris and Telyn and they are passionately adored by their followers. This project began in 2009 with the erection of artificial nest and perches. The first breeding pair were Monty and Nora. Nora, however, did not return from the winter migration. A new female Blue 12/10 took Nora’s place and was subsequently named Glensi. The couple fledged thirteen chicks between 2009 and including 2017. Glensi did not return to the nest in 2018. Did I say that migrating back and forth from the United Kingdom to Africa is dangerous? That spring Monty bonded with Blue 3J/13 named Telyn. Together the pair have raised six to fledge – three females and three males in the 2018 and 2019 season. Monty did not return after the 2019 season.

“Storm clouds over the Dyfi estuary” by Ruth and Dave is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I love seeing Osprey catch fish to feed their little ones. Here is a look at Monty and Telyn in 2019 when there were three hungry mouths. Sadly, this will be Monty’s last clutch. He was an incredible provider:

We are related to dinosaurs, can you tell?

Here is the link to the Dyfi Osprey Project and its streaming cam:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk70QelhKG9mVuj7jN4I5Cg

All over the United Kingdom individuals are posting their sightings of returning Ospreys. There are currently contests at many nests to predict when the resident pair will land. One of those is Loch Arkaig and I will be taking a look at that nest tomorrow.

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I have not checked in on Solly lately and it is time. Solly, the Eastern Osprey born on the barge in Port Lincoln is 172 days old today. She has been moving between the Streaky Bay area and Eba Anchorage with a couple of flights to Haslam for several weeks. Today she is back in Streaky Bay! These satellite trackers are really quite amazing.

These three images show her movements for today (the top one) and yesterday (the bottom one). This girl loves to fly around.

It is unclear if there have been any sightings of her sibling, DEW.

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Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe!

Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project for the satellite tracking imagery of Solly.

Hey…birds down under

The 38 day old Royal Cam chick at Taiaroa Head is having some time on its own as the ‘pre guard’ stage sets in. The parents are leaving their little one alone for various short periods. The satellite trackers on both Lime-Green-Lime (LGL, mom) and Lime-Green-Black (LGK, dad) indicate that they are fishing just off the shores of this peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.

LGL gave a sky call as she approached her beautiful little chick. The Royal chick had a really good feeding before LGL headed out to sea to fish.

LGL gives a sky call before feeding her little one. Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.
Nice squid shake for the little one before LGL heads to sea. Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.

After LGL left to go fishing around 9:30 NZ time, the little one kept itself busy playing with the nest, preening, looking around, and enjoying the sprinklers at the NZ DOC bring out to keep the chicks cool. This helps the chicks to not get stressed by the 25 degree Celsius heat (77 F).

Oh, how refreshing! Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.
NZ DOC rangers hook up the sprayers on March 3 for the little ones. Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.
Playing with its nest. Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.

And sometimes, when you are all alone, you have to defend your nest in case a stranger walks by! As the stranger approaches, the Royal Cam chick stands alert and begins clacking its bill mimicking precisely what its parents would do.

Chick is on alert!

And here comes Henry the Heron! Henry lives on Taiaroa Head and loves to photo bomb the Royal cam chick! Sometimes Henry even does a kind of snake dance with its neck. Henry would never hurt the little chick but he does love to come for a visit to check in on the little one. We will see him often before the fledge in September.

Have I seen you before? Cornell Labs and NZ DOC streaming cam.

Where’s Solly? Solly is the 163 day old Eastern Osprey that was born on a barge in Port Lincoln. We checked in on Solly a couple of days ago and she was heading south from Eba Anchorage back to the Streaky Bay area. Well, Solly is now back in Eba Anchorage! Solly spent the night in the same marshy area as she did on her previous visit. You can see the green pin in the satellite image below. From that central point Solly has been busy going out fishing. It is always so nice to know where the birds are. These satellite trackers are quite amazing.

Port Lincoln Osprey Project Image.

It is early March. The White Bellied Sea Eagles whose nest is in the forest of Sydney’s Olympic Park will not be actively undertaking nestorations for a few months but already they have come back to the nest to do some inspections. I wonder if Daisy the Duck making a deep hole for her eggs will cause them any extra work? Last night the bonded couple, Lady and Dad, spent their night sleeping on the ‘parent branch’ of the natal nest after checking out the condition of the nest earlier and making a list of what they needed to do.

Lady and Dad sleeping on parent branch. WBSE Streaming Cam.

The Kakapo Recovery had sad news. Uri was taken into care because he was unwell. He had lost weight and the team felt that he would improve significantly with regular food and some checkups. Uri’s blood tests looked good and he had gained weight. But Uri seriously did not like being in a building with humans. The decision was made to return him to the island and to provide supplementary feedings and check ups for him there. When the team showed up this morning to do their check up, Uri had died. Uri had no outward signs or symptoms of Aspergillosis, a fungal disease that affects Kakapo. A necroscopy will be performed to determine the precise cause of death. There are currently 205 Kakapo.

Aren’t they cute? Three little Kakapo chicks.

This is a link about the disease and the treatment that you might find interesting. The Kakapo in the video is such a sweetie as are all of these non-flying parrots. Everyone is working hard for their care and welfare.

https://www.audubon.org/news/fast-acting-kakapo-scientists-curb-fungal-disease-killed-seven-birds

Thank you so much for joining me today to check in on the birds that make our lives so interesting and joyful.

Time to check in with the birds

Wonder what Port Lincoln’s female Osprey fledgling is up to today? Solly was born on a barge tied at Port Lincoln. She is 163 days old today. For research purposes, Solly was fitted with a satellite tracking systems. You can see it on her back in the picture below taken by C. Crowder at Streaky Bay, Australia several weeks ago.

Solly at Streaky Bay. Photo by C Crowder posted on Port Lincoln Osprey FB Page.

The transmitter has worked perfectly and early on Solly’s travels away from her natal nest changed what was known about the movements of the Eastern Osprey. Solly travelled north to Streaky Bay and then further to Eba Anchorage and on to Perlubie and then on to Haslam. At that point she turned back, spent several days back in Eba Anchorage and today is back in Streaky Bay.

These are the latest satellite images of Solly’s tracking. In the images below, you can see Solly’s movements. She has a central place of interest and from there she flies out to fish.

Solly seems to love this house for some reason. @ Port Lincoln Osprey
Solly’s movements around the house at Streaky Bay. @ Port Lincoln Osprey

The most fascinating information coming from these satellite images is that Solly has chosen to stay close to people. The image below shows the house where Solly spends much of her time.

Solley loves the trees around this house! @Port Lincoln Osprey

Just think how much our knowledge of these large birds is changing with the introduction of satellite tracking devices, light weight enough to fit without harming the bird.

“Golden Eagle” by Just chaos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 2018, satellite trackers became part of a criminal investigation into the loss of a Golden Eagle. Raptor Persecution UK investigated a ‘highly suspicious’ disappearance of Fred, a golden eagle, in a nest in the Scottish Borders. Scotland is trying to reintroduce Golden Eagles and Fred was one of a breeding pair in that region. At the time, investigators thought that the Golden Eagle was killed and the body and its tracker dumped in the North Sea to hide the evidence. The Environment Secretary for Scotland, Roseanna Cunningham, said that they were taken this disappearance ‘very seriously.’

The Golden Eagle was in the Pentland Hills before its tag signal was lost. That signal was then picked up on 26 January 2018 off the coast of Scotland near St Andrews. The problem is this. Golden Eagles do not, of their own accord, fly out over large bodies of water. So what happened? Did someone accidentally kill the eagle and want to dispose of the evidence? was the eagle stolen and the transmitter destroyed? Both are sad possibilities.

“snowy Pentlands 02” by byronv2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Royal Chick is too big to brood. @ NZ DOC and Cornell Labs

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand gave permission and provided two solar powered GPS satellite trackers to follow the parents of the Royal Albatross Cam Chick at Taiaroa Head, New Zealand. Those Royal Albies with the trackers are Lime-Green-Black (father, LGK) and Lime-Green-Lime (mother, LGL). The twenty gram trackers were carefully and quickly attached to the feathers on the back of these large sea birds. Like many other trackers, they will continue to operate until the Royal Albatross molts in about a year.

Lime Green Black has just had his solar powered satellite transmitter installed. @NZ DOC and Cornell Labs.

What do trackers tell us about the birds? The Department of Conservation is hoping that the tracking will help them understand more about the locations where the birds hunt for food, the legal and illegal fishing activities that attract these birds (and sadly some become bycatch), and how climate change is impacting them. It is getting hotter and hotter in the Southern Hemisphere where these lovely seabirds live. How can people and government agencies support the Albatross long term survival? That is another question the researchers want to ask. Tracking information will be shared on the FB page of the Royal Albatross group on a regular basis.

Below is an image of the last posted tracking information on Lime Green Lime, the Royal Cam chick’s mother.

@NZ Doc provides tracking images for the Royal Cam Albatross FB Page

You might enjoy the comings and goings of the Royal Albatross at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. These are extremely social birds and the little fluff ball who will be given a Maori name before it fledges is now in the ‘pre guard’ stage. This means that the parents will leave it alone for periods of time easing it in to when both parents will go to sea to forage to feed their baby. As the chick grows so does its needs for more and more squid shakes! The Royal Cam is on twenty-four hours a day every day of the week. You can access it here:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/albatrosses/royal-albatross-toroa/royal-cam/meet-the-royal-family/

“Dunedin. Taiaroa Head at the end of Otago Peninsula. The buildings on the headland are the Royal Albatross Centre. The only mainland albatross nesting site in the world.” by denisbin is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Thank you for joining me. There will be late updates today on N24 who is fighting Avian Pox. Let’s all hope its immune system is working to its fullest. N24 had a good breakfast today.

What’s happening in Bird World?

Today is a bit of a catch up in Bird World. Lots of things are happening so hopefully you will enjoy some very funny moments, a bit of worry, and a celebration. Eggs are being laid all over North America including the nest at the Surrey Reserve part of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation in British Columbia. That happened on 24 February at 4:02 pm. More intruders everywhere. One of the Bald Eagles at the Hays Pittsburg nest was knocked off the nest by a Great Horned Owl on the 24th. This is the first time ever for such an attack at this nest. Sounds familiar? M15 and Harriet remain on full alert at night because of the GHOW in their Fort Myers, Florida territory.

The new mother and the recently hatched eaglet in the KNF nest in the central area of Louisiana seem to be gathering some momentum about feeding and eating. It is still not perfect with the eagle not understanding that it needs to feed its chick many small bites but, luckily the little one grabbed on to a big bite and ate it. Just ate it this morning as it had done yesterday. It was one of those hold your breath moments when you wished that piece of fish down that little one’s throat. That big piece was probably worth ten or more small ones. Yippee. The poor little thing needs its’ face wiped. I don’t think this mother would win a darts game, at least, not yet.

But notice. They now have the mechanics. Mom is sideways and the little one takes its beak at a ninety-degree angle. They are getting there.

Perfect!

It’s noon on the 26th and the little one ‘looks’ better. The mom has the size of the pieces of fish down (most of the time) but the chick, for some reason, doesn’t seem to get to open its beak wide and grab the fish yet.

Getting better but still not fully there.

It’s actually very frustrating watching. Meanwhile, Dad has come in to check on the pantry. It doesn’t take many bites to keep these tiny little ones going but they do need several pieces of fish many times a day. It’s not like E17 and E18 (below) that now have fewer but heartier meals a day during their rapid growth phase. Fingers crossed! It has to be difficult being a first time mom. Humans, normally, have lots of help but this young eagle is all on her own. Most of the time it works out but this year, at least one first time Eagle mom, didn’t know what to do when her day old chick got out of the egg cup while she was incubating the second egg. And it all turned quickly into a tragedy as she picked the baby up with her beak. What option did she have? None other than to wait and it was during the Polar Vortex and there was snow on the ground. The father who was standing at the end of the nest was no help. Sadly, the second egg proved to be not viable for the Berry College Eagle Nest. We will hope this young mother does better next year. Or maybe she will try for a second clutch this year!

Dad checking on the pantry in the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest

Elsewhere, other Bald Eagle parents are filling their eaglets up to the top – making sure that they go into a food coma and don’t fight with one another.

At the SWFL nest, E18 looked like he is going to try out for the role of Hulk in the next movie. Honestly, I have never seen a crop this full. That looks very uncomfortable but he doesn’t seem to mind. These two are literally growing in their sleep and almost overnight, many of E18’s feathers turned dark.

I’m bigger than you are!

It is hot in Fort Meyers, 28 degrees C and everyone is trying to stay cool. Harriet tries to be a mombrella but E17 and E18 are getting really big.

Too big!

The Little one on the NEFL Bald Eagle nest is really starting to change. Notice those dark feathers coming in. But the sweetest thing is that this little one has finally found a good use for ‘that’ egg.

Now this is a perfect place to sit and rest. N24 sits on THE egg.

‘Little’ N24 looks so tiny sitting on that egg but he is too big to fit under Gabby anymore. He cuddles up close trying to stay in the shade as the temperatures begin to rise in St Augustine. Samson has filled the pantry and both him and Gabby have kept any intruders away from the nest.

Awwww. Poor Gabby still trying to incubate THE egg.

As the sun sets, Samson gets into position to keep watch during the night.

Samson is a great dad.

The old Warrior Eagle with the beak and leg injury is doing really well and will have another round of Chelation Therapy. Then he will go outside in the aviary spaces to build up his muscles. The vets and rehabbers will then be able to better assess his future. What an amazing recovery.

Improving every day. Photo credit: A Place of Hope FB.

More and more eagles are winding up in care because of lead poisoning. It is not just an issue for the US but also for Canada. This week alone five Bald Eagles have been treated in British Columbia for various levels of toxic lead poisoning. Wherever there is fishing and hunting this will be a problem until the type of fishing and hunting equipment is changed. That should mean that every state and province should outlaw the use of lead.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, looked like she was heading home to Port Lincoln and the barge but now seems to have changed her mind. She roosts in Eba Anchorage at night flying to Perlubie Wednesday to fish and today, at 159 days old, she has gone farther north to Haslam. There are a lot of people wishing Solly would return to the natal nest so they could have a look at her, she doesn’t seem to be interested. Let us all hope that she finds an amazing territory of her own with lots of fish and she prospers, finds a mate, and is that awesome female Osprey mom that we know she can be.

Solly is on the move. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Ospreys.
Solly continues to return to Eba Anchorage to roost at night. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Osprey.

And here is a peek at the hatchling at the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Remember that there were three eggs. One laid on Jan 17, the second on the 20th, and the third on the 23rd. If you have followed my postings, you will also remember that this poor eagle was encrusted in snow for many more days than some of the other nests. The dad came and pecked away at the snow so that the female could get out one time.

This poor mother eagle sitting on three eggs had to be pecked out by the dad. Photo credit: Duke Farms Eagle Streaming Cam.

Normally Bald Eagle eggs take 35-37 days to hatch. This is day 40. There is some speculation that egg 3 could be the only viable one.

Egg just hatched. 26 February 2021. Duke Farms. Image Credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

And here is the full reveal below. Great mom. That shell is cleaned up and the little one looks really healthy!

Here I am! 26 February 2021. Duke Farms brand new eaglet. Image credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

The parents of the Royal Cam chick, LGL (Lime Green Lime) and LGK (Lime Green Black), showed up at the natal nest to feed the little one. The chick which weights over 2.2 kilos is now in the ‘pre guard’ stage. This is when the parents leave the chick alone on the nest for short periods of time. They forage close and return to feed the baby. Gradually their time away will increase and it is anticipated that the two alternating will have a nice rhythm, one arriving and leaving and in a few days the other arrives, feeds, and leaves. This type of coordination doesn’t happen often. So it was a delight to see the three of them on the nest together at Taiaroa Head, NZ.

The Royal Cam family. 26 February 2021. Photo credit: Cornell Lab and NZ DOC.

Thanks for joining me today as we catch up on some of the amazing birds we have been watching together. I look forward to you checking in again!

Everyone loves Richmond

There is a lot of chattering going on around the ‘bird’ world and the one common word that binds people in the United Kingdom with those in San Francisco and Australia is: Osprey. Every continent has Osprey – some more than others. Many of my friends adore them above any of the other feathered friends because they ‘eat fish’. They are sometimes called ‘sea eagles’ but do not confuse them with White-Bellied Sea Eagles. Totally different.

Note the beautiful yellow eye, the dark line from that eye to the neck and the hooked beak. Wikimedia Commons.

You will find Ospreys on every continent in the world except for Antarctica. And there is no missing them. They have very distinctive plumage that helps them with the glare off of the water when they are hunting. See that black line going from the beak over the eyes and to the back of the head? That will stop the glare from the water so that their great vision, three times that of a human, can help them spot the fish swimming below the surface. If you watch American football you might recall that the players put a black line under their eyes to stop glare – something learned from the Osprey! The soles of their feet are different than other raptors. They are very rough with tiny little barbs. If they were a person you might recommend they go to get a pedicure – that is how rough those soles are. That rough surface helps them to hang on to wet slippery fish that do not want to be an Osprey’s dinner. They have four toes like all other raptors but the Ospreys can do something that others can’t – they can swivel one of those front toes to the back to help hold on to those wiggly fish. Brilliant.

Ospreys are smaller than a Bald Eagle but bigger than the large hawks. They weight 1500-2000 grams (3-4 pounds). They are about 54-58 cm long (21.3-22.8 inches) with a wingspan of 150-180 cm (59 to 79 inches). Their head, throat, and body along with their legs are mostly white. They have black and white banded tail feathers and distinctive black and white wings that bend at the joint. Their beak is black and shaped like a very sharp hook. Their eyes are a beautiful, beautiful yellow.

Feet first to catch those fish! NASA image. Wikimedia Commons.

Female Osprey are about 20-30% larger than the males. The females have a ‘necklace’ of feathers that is darker and more distinctive than the male.

Female in back, male in front. Note feathers at top of chest. Scap from Loch Arkaig FB Page.

Osprey’s have a distinctive dive and I do not have an image of it. Once they have spotted their prey, they bring their feet forward so they are even with their beak and then catch their prey feet first. They then latch on to the fish with those sharp talons. It is quite spectacular.

How large are the fish that the Osprey catch? The Osprey normally catches fish that are 15-30 cm in length (6-12 inches) and that weight less than 454 grams or a pound. The largest observed catch was 1250 grams or 2.5 pounds. Some researchers believe that they can easily carry up to half their weight.

Do Ospreys eat anything other than fish? The answer is actually yes. While the majority of their diet is fish, Osprey have been observed, on rare occasions, to eat other birds, voles, squirrels, muskrats, eels, and salamanders. Droughts really impact Osprey and their ability to thrive.

Note: Ospreys carry their fish with those amazing feet and talons. Wikimedia Commons.

The territory of an Osprey will be near a body of water – a lake, a river with lots of fish, along the shores of the oceans and seas. They build their nests off the ground to avoid predators. Originally, Ospreys made their nests in tall trees but, as you know, there is a shortage of structurally sound tall trees.

Those migrating to Canada have been known to make their nests on utility poles. Sadly, this is a huge problem because of electrocutions. So many died that petitions were sent to Manitoba Hydro, a public utility company. Near to Lake Winnipeg, that company began erecting nest platforms for the Osprey. Ospreys actually like human-made nests. It is said that if you provide a nest, the sea hawks will come. And many in Scotland will tell you that is true! Ospreys are loyal and generally return to the same nest year after year.

During the winter, Ospreys head to warmer climates returning to their breeding grounds in spring. Ospreys from the United Kingdom migrate to The Gambia or Senegal with some juveniles known to stay around the coastal areas of Spain. Ospreys from North America migrate to the southern parts of the United States along the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California, the coasts of Mexico and countries of Central America. Some Ospreys do not migrate. They include those living in warmer climates year round such as Australia, Singapore, other parts of Asia, and parts of the southern United States including Florida.

An Osprey adding twigs to the human-made nest. Wikimedia Commons.

Solly was born on a nest sitting on a barge at Port Lincoln, Australia. She is an Eastern Osprey and they are critically endangered. Look carefully and you can see the satellite transmitter on her back. She has a bright orange band on her left leg and a metal one on the right. Solly is easy to spot and many are taking her photograph as she travels the Eyre Peninsula of Australia moving north from her barge nest. I often report on her movements and from those the researchers are changing their minds about how far Ospreys travel from their natal nest.

One of the most famous Osprey couples has their nest on a 75 foot high World War II Whirley crane in Richmond.

Rosie and Richmond’s nest on an old crane overlooking SF Bay. SFBayOsprey Cam scap.

They are Rosie and Richmond and Richmond – well, everyone loves Richmond! Richmond is quite the character. He loves bringing blankets and stuffed toys up to the nest.

Richmond with the notorious blanket. Everyone took turns moving it about the nest. It was removed for safety reasons. SFBay Osprey Cam scap.

One of my most favourite Ospreys is Iris. She is not named after the flower but because she has some very distinctive spots on the iris of her left eye. Iris is the female at the Hellsgate Nest in Montana. For many, many years Iris and her mate, Stanley, nested at the site and raised many chicks. Stanley did not return in 2016. Iris’s new mate, Louis, has proven to be unreliable and the breeding seasons have been unproductive. While most Osprey are thought to live up to twenty-five years, Iris is believed to now be twenty-nine years old.

Iris with her distinctive left eye. Cornell Bird Cam, Hellsgate Osprey scap.

During the 2020 breeding season, Iris had simply ‘had it’. Louis, her mate, actually had another family. Iris laid her egg on the nest but Louis did not bring her food or come to relieve her. She had to leave the egg to eat – and, of course, the Ravens were watching and they came and ate it. Iris was not pleased. Then a squirrel climbed up the platform and was trying to get on the nest. Take the time to watch this video to the end. It is only four minutes long. I seriously would not mess with a female Osprey when they are having a bad day. I want to add that Iris was seen fishing and she sometimes returns to the nest. Everyone is hoping that she will come back for the 2021 season with a new partner.

Iris may help avian researchers understand how long wild Osprey can lay fertile eggs. We know that with Wandering Albatross, Wisdom, who is 69 years old is still raising chicks.

Iris is having a very bad day.

Ospreys raise only a single brood of chicks a year. There will be anywhere from one to four eggs. Both parents will incubate the eggs although many note that the female is there more than the male. The eggs are hard incubated from the time the first one is laid. This means that the last chick might hatch six days later than the first. This often results in siblicide where there are three or more chicks. The smallest is just that much smaller and seen as a threat to food resources. That said, I have seen Osprey parents do dual feedings, such as Loch Arkaig in Scotland, with three chicks growing up to fledge with no dominance issues. First pips are normally around thirty-six days. First flight dates really vary from 50 to sometimes as much as 60 days with 55 being the average. The chicks will use their natal nest as a home base. Parents will teach the juveniles to fish and will supplement them with fish they have caught for several months after fledging.

Ospreys were severely impacted by the use of DDT and their numbers declined rapidly. Many countries are working hard to reintroduce them to the wild. I highly recommend:

The Woodland Trust Loch Arkaig Nest in the Scottish Highlands. That URL is: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/osprey-cam/

You can find Richmond and Rosie at: http://sfbayospreys.org/

If you are interested in following Solly, the Eastern Osprey from Port Lincoln, go to: https://www.facebook.com/portlincolnosprey

You can reach the Kielder Osprey Nests through the following URL: https://www.visitkielder.com/play/discover/kielder-ospreys

If you have a favourite Osprey nest, please let me know. I would love to hear about it.

Update on Solly before I leave. Solly is now 157 days old. She spent yesterday back at Eba Anchorage. Locals say she is staying in a small marshy area near the town.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Hope to see you again soon!

Thank you to the streaming cams at SFBay Ospreys, Hellsgate Osprey by Cornell Lab Cams, Woodland Trust and Loch Arkaig, Port Lincoln Osprey FB Page and Wikimedia Commons.