Osprey Banding 2006

It's that special time of year again...osprey chick banding! After all that travel and then time off for the holiday weekend, I should have spent this morning scheduling meetings and catching up on paperwork...but I'm just a girl who cain't say no to biologists and researchers when they ask if I want to come along banding. It balanced out though, I ended up selling a couple of digiscoping adaptors and maybe even a spotting scope--whoot!

We had lots of kids and young people along this morning as we banded birds from three different locations. One of my favorites was bander Mark Martell's son Chris (or Mini Mark as I like to call him). Look at that hat! Don't you just want to eat him up? Chris is holding up one of the bands.

I love this photo, father and son banding together while an osprey waits its turn in front of them. Chris looks like he's supervising his dad. Mark needs all the suprevision he can get.

Speaking of young people, this was Elizabeth with bander Missy Patty. Elizabeth has a growing interest in biology and banding. I started listing all the great places Elizabeth can go. I'm not sure her mother appreciated all the advice, if I had kept going, I would have had her driving young Liz all over the state and even suggested that she skip school in the fall to go to Hawk Ridge on days when there's a northwest wind. There are so many opportunities for young people to get involved now, especially in Minnesota. Elizabeth is well on her way and has already volunteered with Featherfest at Waldorf Schools. Elizabeth, come to banding on Fridays at Carpenter, you know you want to! All the cool birders are doing it.

And I wonder why more people don't let me around their kids.

"GRRRR! I'm so fierce! Fear me and let me crush you like the bullhead you are!"

Now, on to gratuitous young osprey photos. The birds in these photos are around five weeks old and won't be flying for another three weeks. They're so funny at this age, they are just starting to learn what they can do with their feet and aren't very agile.

Missy Patty said that their muscles aren't strong enough to hold up their wings yet, so they just kind of hang on the sides. Doesn't this kind of take you back to eighth grade and all your adult body parts are coming in and you're growing and not used to taking up so much space? I feel for ya' dude. Instead of acne, these guys have to deal with all their feathers growing in at once. Feather quills coming in all at once have got to feel strange.

This bird was Mr. Bitey McBite Pants. It was the oldest and put up the most struggle. Since it didn't quite know how to use its feet yet, it bit everything--including its own toe! Toe biting with talons just doesn't work well at all and sure enough this bird got a minor puncture wound--man that's gotta be one heck of a canker sore. So, to keep the chick from biting itself anymore, Missy sacrificed her finger. It actually didn't hurt that much--with birds of prey, the talons are always what you worry about, not the bill.

"Wait, what do you mean you need a blood sample?"

Mark and Missy also took blood samples for all the birds for DNA testing. I'm not sure where that goes, but it's smart to start that now and keep track of bloodlines. It would especially be important if ospreys ever need to be bred in captivity again. Osprey reintroduction has been a smashing success in Minnesota. The most successful nest in the Twin Cities is at a private residence. Mark calculated that this particular nest has successfully fledged 33 birds since 1991--including three today.

One bizarre thing that young osprey do as a defense mechanism is what's called pancaking. You can see a young osprey doing it in response to my hat in the above photo. When the young birds hear the warning call from the adults or fell threatened, they kind of flatten out and tuck their heads down. What purpose could this serve? Are they just fainting and pretending to ignore the danger? No! Check out what they look like from above when they do this:

Kind of brown and nondescript. That blends perfectly with the inside of an osprey nest. So, if a potential predator is flying over, at first glance the predator may not notice any young in the nest with their white faces tucked away. Very clever.

I actually got to help and hold one of the young ospreys today. In my excitement and eagerness to help, I forgot to unclip my binos from the harness. When I was finished, they were a little messy:

Look at all that dander, shaft flakes and bird oil (that smells like fish because that's all the birds eat)--thank goodness for lens pens! Glad the talons didn't nail the lens--although, that would have been covered in the no fault warranty and I could have got them repaired.

Here we have a frog who made a cameo appearance during the banding--so tiny! I at first thought it was a spring peeper, but Missy and Mark thought it was a wood frog and with that mask I agreed. However, my Reptiles & Amphibians of Minnesota Field Guide suggests that it is a western chorus frog. If there are any frog experts who disagree, feel free to drop me an email. Whatever it was, it was teeny.

Osprey, a fierce fishing machine and yet goofy looking all at the same time.