Tragedy Strikes at Manton Bay and other Bird World news

11 May 2022

Are you following Ares and Astrid at the Utica Peregrine Falcon scrape? Melissa Richards provided a link to this great blog bringing you up-to-date on all things regarding the nest and the intruders around the nest. There are two lively chicks and two more eggs but, it appears that those two are not viable. Just remember. Most often not all the eggs on a falcon’s scrape will hatch!

Last year Dr Erick Greene, University of Montana and one of the leads of the Montana Raptor Project warned all of us about the changing conditions on the Clark Fork River. Besides recognizing that the extreme heat was heating the water and/or drying it up in spots, he also spoke to how this would impact the Ospreys that depend on that river system for their fish. Recently Dr Greene wrote a letter to the members of the Montana Osprey FB group attempting to stress how the fish for the Ospreys could be very limited due to changes in snow and rainfall that feed into the river system. The news coming out of Dunrovin similarly speaks to the difference for Ospreys fishing in large lakes and oceans as opposed to rivers. They said, “Rivers are notorious for their fluctuating water flows, which can substantially alter fishing conditions. In western Montana, climate change is causing adverse fishing conditions for osprey populations. Snowmelt in the mountains is now occurring earlier and faster, resulting in higher and more turbulent spring river flows when osprey families are most vulnerable and need a consistent food source to feed the chicks. Over the last decade, University of Montana researchers have documented a nearly 60% decline in osprey chick survival in nests along western Montana Rivers.”

It is good to keep this in mind when we look at our beloved Iris. Iris is the matriarch of American Ospreys. She is 28 or 29 this year. She has one of the most well maintained nests that I have seen. She works diligently. We get mad at Louis for mating with her and then not caring for her or the chicks. While many are sad that Iris does not have a mate and a large clutch of eggs, it is prudent to listen to the warnings of Dr Greene. There is not enough fish to feed chicks. They die. Instead let us adore Iris – let her incubate the eggs and then let the crows get them. Iris can have a lovely retired summer taking care of herself. I know that none of us would want to see her chicks die of starvation.

Indeed, Iris was on her nest this morning but was off it for about 7 hours. She went and got her dinner and is eating it on the owl pole. She knows what we all know. Still, she can pretend for a bit. Why not?

There she is, the Queen of the Ospreys, on the 10th of May around 11:00.

Iris left her nest and has been away for some 7 hours. The eggs still seem to be there. As evening is arriving, Iris has herself a nice fish that she caught and is enjoying it on the owl pole. You can see the mountains in the distance with some snow.

I checked and Middle at the UFlorida-Gainesville Osprey nest had a nice crop heading into the evening. Tuesday was a good day for Middle. Let’s see if we can get this to happen tomorrow! Middle is a beautiful osprey.

Sadly, the first fish delivery on Wednesday morning at 07:23:28 caused Big to intimidate Middle. After the fish landed, Middle put its head down and Big pecked at its back causing Middle to go into submission.

At 07:37, some fourteen minutes later Middle is still trying to find a way to get over to the other side and get some fish as Mum frantically feeds Big.

At 07:41 Middle managed to get to the other side of Mum and get a few bites of fish before it was all gone. It is 14 degrees C and will reach a scorching high of 29 degrees C today in Gainesville. Hot and humid. Barometric pressure is 1020 and the humidity is 82%.

When I checked on one of my favourite UK Osprey nests – and I have many – Idris was down on the perch preparing a fish for Telyn who is incubating their three eggs. He will take the head and fly over and leave the other piece for her.

Look to the left and ddown. You can see Idris with the fish on the perch on the pole.

Look at those legs. That is why Idris is known as Daddy Long Legs.

Idris left Telyn a really nice fish. This is good. The weather is going to start getting really bad over the evening.

Indeed, the winds are really gusting and Telyn is hunkered down over those eggs. It would be really nice if the summer storms in Wales would just wait until fall. The Osprey nests can do without the cold damp when chicks are hatching.

Oh, my. It is not a good day at the Manton Bay platform of Blue 33 (11) and Maya. Two eggs have hatched and the rain is pouring down. It is difficult to keep those wee ones dry and feed them. You will get accustomed to me being anxious about the weather and the little ones. They cannot regulate their own temperate. The damp seems to settle in and cause them to get sick.

Blue comes in with a fish for their lunch. It is difficult to see what is happening with the chicks and eggs. Everything is wet.

Blue is there to see what he can do to help Maya with the kids.

In the morning when it is dry there are clearly two active chicks.

At 07:19 a large headless fish comes on to the nest. Both babies are up, alert and hungry.

The chicks are eating well. At 07:19 something terrible happens. The fish is still alive and it whips over onto the chicks and the egg.

At 07:19 the fish is on the egg cup.

Maya is in shock! Her two precious babies are under that big fish.

Maya does not appear to know precisely how to get the fish off of the chicks with the least harm.

Both chicks are still moving a bit at 07:22:11.

By late afternoon (17:00), I cannot see the smaller chick moving about. We are witnessing one of the best osprey mothers that I know in dire straights. She has no idea what to do to remedy the situation and it appears that her babies could be dying.

And then it starts to rain.

It appears that the youngest chick may not have survived. What a sad, sad day for this super Osprey couple. Let us all hope that this wee babe has no injuries that we cannot see and that the rain and the damp do not impact it. The condition of the egg is unknown.

Blue is there with his sweet Maya mourning the loss of their chick while, at the same time, surely being grateful that one survived. There are fish everywhere. So much fish. So sad.

I am stunned. We see fish on the nests all the time flopping about but these two little ones, nearly newly hatched, could not bear the weight of that big fish. Personally, I feel jinxed. I am going to stop praising raptor nests. Every time I do something seems to go sideways. This is nothing short of a very freak accident but it is another reminder of the fragile lives our bird friends have. I hope that this wee one has the stamina and is able to literally weather the storm. Devastated.

At 13:15, the other wee chick is moving a bit. Maya sees it there in front of the egg all blue. Is it going to oome around or is it too late?

Maya had a very difficult time getting the chick and the egg under her with that fish still in the egg cup. I am unclear why she did not drag it out. The other chick is still moving but Maya has not gotten it under her to brood. I cannot imagine that it would survive in the cold wet. It will probably die of exposure unless there is a miracle.

My heart goes out to Maya and to Blue 33 (11). Note: At 13:42 the other chick is moving and the feathers appear to be drying but it is not clear if it is going to survive. Maya is not brooding it.

It is only 07:35 on the Canadian Prairies. We are due to have rain start soon. On the sad note of the Manton Bay nest, I am going to close. What a tragedy. All of us would have liked to have reached through that screen and helped this otherwise very collected, very strong Osprey Mum and her chicks.

Thank you for joining me everyone. I wish I had closed with better news. Hopefully this is the only tragedy of the day for our Osprey families. Take care all.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: UFlorida-Gainesville Osprey, LRWT Manton Bay, Dyfi Osprey Project, and the Montana Osprey Project.