Osprey Banding

I don't know how many of you readers have been following the Zickefoose Blog about blogging styles: as a blogger, are you an ant (writing posts ahead of time and having a store of well thought out, well written, typo free entries) or are you a grasshopper (posting as the muse strikes you, never bothering to have a larder of entries)? If you haven't been able to catch on by my typos, I am very much a grasshopper. I would say that for the most part, that works for me. However this week, the blogging has been a struggle. Nor for lack of inspiration--but lack of time and alertness to do many posts. I have a back log of entries.

Now, on to Thursday's osprey banding:

My friends, Amber and Reier picked me up Thursday morning for some osprey banding with Mark Martell. We stopped at four different nests and had some interesting discoveries.

Nest 1: only one chick to band (mark did two nests on Sunday and each had three chicks) and the adult female had a transmitter on her back--she's from Milwaukee. Can you see the chick in the nest in this photo? When the osprey parents call the warning, the chicks go flat like a pancake, this only shows their brown feathers and hides the white feathers. To a passing aerial predator, the nest would look empty.

Nest 2: three chicks, one died as soon as it was taken out of the nest--very similar to what happened in 2005. The necropsy of the 2005 chick showed that it was severely weakened from a liver problem and that it died from cardiac arrest. The stress of being taken from the nest killed it, but had it been healthy to begin with it, then it would have survived the banding. The problem that the chick had would have killed it either before it left the nest or not soon after. I have a feeling, the necropsy for this bird will show that they same thing happened. Bummer.

Nest 3: Two healthy chicks. Although, besides just the pair of adults screaming at us as we banded, a third flew over and joined in the screaming and yelling. You should be able to see three birds in the above photo, flying in the sky.

Nest 4: Empty. What was interesting about this nest was that chicks were observed in the nest this past Sunday but a mere four days later they were gone. It was way too soon for them to have left the nest and even still, there should have been some osprey activity and it was dead quiet. A new eagle nest was built withing half mile of the osprey nest and Mark speculated that the eagles at the chicks sometime between Sunday and Thursday (guess the pancake defense didn't work so well that time). Talk about getting two birds with one stone (har har)--they get to juicy birds as well as cut back some of the competition for fish in the lake.

Sometimes great horned owls will take osprey chicks, but they aren't strong enough to carry the body away and eat it right in the nest. An eagle, is much larger and can easily carry an osprey chick. The lack of feathers and body parts in the nest points the finger to the eagle.

For me, the best part of the day was at the Lake Josephine nest. There were some kids who came to watch the banding and while this bird waited its turn to be banded, I let them touch it and even better--smell it. Since osprey only eat fish, they have a very distinct aroma. They also became our helpers, holding the bands and other equipment before we put them on the birds. They did a good job. Perhaps future naturalists?

And, because I feel like everywhere I go, I'm finding grasshopper sparrows, I'll include the above photo. This bird was near one of the osprey nests, perched on top of a sapling covered with a plastic tube (to keep deer from chewing it) and then covered with netting on top (to keep bluebirds from going into the tube looking for nest cavities and getting stuck). It tried not to move, hoping I wouldn't notice it just sitting there with some incredibly incriminating billful of food, on its way to feed a nest of hungry chicks. I was more entranced by the insect that whipped around in the tiny bill. I wonder what it was?