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Thread subject: Back from the banding trip, or Osprey Overload!
Name Date Message
Melanie 06/18/05 09:36 pm Ok – here’s an initial accounting to get this out there. I am definitely on osprey overload, so there are undoubtedly details that I will remember as the evening progresses and I sort through the 177 pictures that I took. Boy am I ever grateful that the magazine told me to take the company's digital camera. I can’t even imagine how I should have managed reloading film through all of this. I am going to sit down tonight and write a more detailed version for anyone interested, and sort through the pictures (some of which will never be seen in public, like several of me holding a chick) which I will put up in my web folder sometime on Sunday. I will put up thumbnails and large versions. As soon as it is up I will let everyone know.

We did the banding from a boat, which I didn’t know until I was given the tickets, directions and the RELEASE forms to fill out. We arrived at the park at noon and had a short briefing by Greg, the fellow who was taking us out. There was one woman in the group who had been out on several banding trips and some kids whom I’m not sure had ever seen an osprey up close before. There were 11 of us, plus Greg and his assistant. We got in the boat and off we went.

They do have an osprey cam, but it is not currently on the web. They hope to have it up next year, but with static pictures that refresh every 15-30 seconds. He is very familiar with Blackwater and with DPOF.

In two hours we visited 5 nests and banded 12 birds. Each nest had 3 very healthy chicks. Greg manages about 35 nests within the confines of this particular park and frequently swaps 4th chicks out to two chick nests to increase survivability. The adults freely accept the new addition without a moments hesitation.

The first two nests had chicks that were 5-6 weeks old. On our approach, the parents took off, circling and screaming, while he simply put a step ladder on the bow platform, went up and started grabbing chicks from the nest. He took the first chick out and showed us how to grasp the legs and subdue the wings so as not to get in the way of the talons, then started handing the birds back to any willing taker. The trick is to grasp the legs above the ankle with a finger between the legs. A couple of them were pretty feisty and got a few nips in, but they weren’t too hurtful. They didn’t break skin and didn’t even leave a mark. Pretty amazing considering some of them are at the self-feeding stage. Once they were banded, he put them head-first into a plastic grocery bag to hang them on the scale and then taken right back out. Each bird was banded, weighed and recorded. The birds were sexed by weight and sometimes in comparison to the other chicks in the nest. One nest had three males in it, the others generally had 2 females and a male. Sometimes you could actually see the necklace developing underneath the neck feathers.

The chicks were then put back in the nest. On our approach they of course were flattened down into the nest. When they were put back in they sat straight up all puffed out absolutely glowering at us. Boy, if looks could kill we would all have been struck dead. The parents kept a close eye but made no attempt to intervene with our interference. Although, one set of parents were so upset that they took their frustration out on a Great Blue Heron who was nearby – they divebombed him and knocked him right off his platform into the water.

We visited one nest, a nesting box privately constructed by someone whose property is adjacent to the park and since he was outside, we asked if we could band his birds. He got in the boat with us and got a first hand look at the nest. He said those adults had returned on VALENTINES DAY!

One nest we went to had very young chicks – perhaps 3 weeks old - still all down. We did not band them since their legs were still very small, but he did remove one from the nest so we could get a good look at it.

By the way, the "featherhead" effect with the crown feathers raised up is NOT due to wind – they do that when alarmed, like a dog raises its hackles. And if you are ever handed a chick with a full crop, you have to be sure to keep them upright and avoid pressure on the crop, otherwise "fish oil" will come dribbling out. AND chicks can develop "stress fractures" on their feathers from times of not getting quite enough food. One chick showed signs of being on the recieving end of aggression - you could actually see on his head where the blows landed.

Everywhere we looked there were nesting boxes and osprey call. We got back in the car to drive home and I still had osprey ringing in my ears.

Greg said that the recovery on Chesapeake Bay has been much more prolific than other areas in the northeast – that less than 30 years ago there were less than 40 nesting pairs on the entire Bay – and that covers nearly a 200 mile long watershed. While I have heard osprey numbers on Chesapeake Bay estimated to be near 4,000, he puts it more conservatively at 2,000.

He hacks approximately 15-20 chicks a year up into Pennsylvania to boost their population.

I’m sure I’ll remember much more tonight and I will post it.

Lori 06/18/05 10:15 pm Hey Melanie, Sounds like you had the most amazing time! I am truely envious. Bet you go to sleep with a big smile on your face tonight. :-) Looking foward to the pictures ---all 177 of them!!!!
Marie 06/18/05 11:18 pm Boy...what a story for us all and how wonderful..........
You are so lucky to have had that experience. I am truly envious.
I think I will hold off posting my day of adventure out Whale Watching today( Orca).
Save it for a rainy day.
Melanie 06/18/05 11:32 pm Hah! Fat chance!

Another thing - the nesting boxes were often built with a downstairs apartment, usually a nesting box for ducks. Some of the nests are vulnerable to raccoons, since the low tides uncover mud flats. Those nests have metal baffles on the posts and there are quite a lot of claw and tooth marks from determined but deterred critters. Gary said the pretty much the only threat to the chicks would the a GHO and there are quite a few in the area. Only one of the 35 nest that he manages, however, completely failed due to predation.

He told a story of someone about 20 miles down river (not in park property) who was trying to have a dock built. They did not move fast enough and a nest was started and eggs were laid. This caused major delays to the project to the tune of over $100 a day. They tried to navigate through official channels until they came across Gary who agreed to help them. Once the chicks hatched, he redistributed them to his nests up river. With no chicks in the nest the adults abandoned their nest and moved on. The building project went on. They were warned that the adults would very likely turn up again next year - the answer was they didn't care - they would be welcome next year and would put up a nesting box for them - just let them get the dock done this year.

All the nests we peered into were amazingly free of any curious items - no bras, no naked Barbie dolls, no hula hoops. Happily no monofilament, plastic or other potentially harmful items. The only artifact we did see in a nest was a pretty decent sized fish skull. They are feeding extremely well on shad which are in great supply there.

Gary also said that Osprey further down the Bay in saltier areas are having a difficult time because menhaden would be the predominant fish over extended periods of time, and the run failed this year.

One disease osprey are succeptible to is aspergillosis, which is fungus that basically causes pneumonia. It is a fungus which is common to birds. When I learned about aspergillis in my bacteriology class in college, we were told it used to be known as statue cleaners disease because the guys who cleaned pigeon poop off statues in town parks would get so much exposure to it they would become infected and sometimes die.
Melanie 06/18/05 11:33 pm I meant fat chance to all 177 pictures making it. You snuck one in on me Marie, before I got it posted ;-p
Marie 06/19/05 01:20 am lol............Melanie.Got ya!
GREAT info are still a lucky girl.
Did you notice their SMELL. ? They are different from other birds.
Celeste 06/19/05 04:59 am Loved every word.......what an experience....and through you we got to "experience" your day also....Thank you!
Anne 06/19/05 05:40 am Fascinating. You are so lucky Melanie.
Tiger 06/19/05 07:01 am Oh Melanie what a fantastic trip. There are just so many things that one would want to discuss.

The thing that comes to mind immediatly is the "stress bars". As you say they are a result of periods of starvation. It was noted that when the Rutland chicks were banded in 2003 that they had almost no stress bars. Although we have no way of knowing, our own Cz from last year was unlikely to many but poor Spirit probably had lots :)

I like the adopting tactics as I was aware they did this very successfully with peregrines but had not heard about doing it with ospreys.

Also interested that they do so much hacking with ospreys. It seems clear that this is the way to spread the breeding territories quite quickly. At the moment they are bringing birds from Scotland, Germany and Finland to resestablish a colony of ospreys in Spain.
Pam 06/19/05 07:44 am Thanks for all your work in reporting your trip Melanie - I am printing this thread out so that I can keep it to hand. I was quite surprised to read so much hacking went on and also that so many nests had three chicks - why oh why did Betty not feed Chick 3? Didn't I also read somewhere that foreign objects were regularly removed from the nests in the bay area, explaining why they were so clear of it ? You must have some fabulous photos.
Pam 06/19/05 07:45 am Also interested to read about the necklaces developing. As I said in an earlier post, I think I see necklaces on our two chicks - would others agree ?
Tiger 06/19/05 07:48 am Yes Pam it is really incredible what happened to our Chick 4. Like you I have been watching the Conneticut nest and as you know a chick with also zero prospects is doing well there.
Anne 06/19/05 08:50 am Yes Pam, I agree that our chicks are developing necklaces. I had a good view of them yesterday.
Celeste 06/19/05 08:51 am Yes Pam, this morning in particular I saw necklaces!
Melanie 06/19/05 09:15 am I was very surprised - there was no noticeable smell with these birds, and I am pretty sensitive to smells. I expected them to smell a little gamey at least, if not fishy. But there was no smell.

And I was surprised how cool to the touch they were. I would expect that of the body where all you would be coming in contact with would be feathers, but the legs - when we held them - were not terribly warm to the touch.
Mickey 06/19/05 10:13 am Im so jealous! And happy for you. And thankful you took the time out to write us. tytytyty
maybe you could burn those pictures to a cd and bring it to the get together. Then several of us can burn copies for any interested party.
Tiger 06/19/05 10:19 am Must say Melanie that your post was one of the most interesting that has ever been posted on this site. If we have a "Post of the year" competition it would certainly be in the running.

Melanie 06/19/05 10:40 am I will be happy to burn a CD for whoever wants one, even though they will go on the web over the next few days. I'll also bring an album to the get together. I'm going to try to add a nest a day. I will have contact info on the webpage. I winnowed out the crappy (me)/redundant pictures and the accidental pictures of people's butts and narrowed the 177 down to around 120. That's still a lot of pictures! And going through them this morning has the adrenaline pumping again!
RonS 06/19/05 11:07 am Melanie, a HUGE thank you hug for being so generous with your day!!! What a fantastic adventure. RonS
rick s. 06/19/05 11:27 am Congratulations, Melanie.....and thanks for sharing the experience with us! .......great report!!!
Kathy 06/19/05 01:41 pm Thank you for sharing your great day with us. 120 pictures! Can't wait to see them.
cathy 06/19/05 02:33 pm Thank you for telling us this story. I enjoyed every word. Its so good to hear the details - such as how they feel to touch, how they act, and about policies involving Ospreys. This month in the National Geographic, there is a long article about Chesapeake Bay. We can learn from the experinece of the Bay here in Puget Sound - another great inland water that has been dramatically changed by population pressure.
Marie 06/19/05 02:54 pm Melanie, you mentioned about the legs not being warm...
well the blood supply is such in the legs so that birds can get rid of a great deal of (HEAT) when they need to in hot weather, and visa versa keep heat closer to the body in cold weather. They can control this loss of heat more than 90% in times of heat conservation by simply controlling the blood supply to the feet. This is made possible by special blood vessels in the avian leg .The arteries and veins serving the leg intertwine at the base of the leg in such a way that heat carried by the arterial blood from the body core can be transferred directly to the returning cold blood in the veins of an exposed leg. This is called countercurrent exchange. So in other words they can keep really warm when need to and also keep real cool in the hot weather.
( FROM my book of ORNITHOLOGY by Frank B. Gill)
Excellent reference by the way for me.
Vicki in S. CA. 06/19/05 02:55 pm Lurker here. I agree that Melanie's post was the most interesting one I have seen. I recently traveled on the Columbia River and thought I saw a lot of osprey nests but nothing like what she has described. Looking forward to those pictures too.
Celeste 06/19/05 04:10 pm Thank you, thankyou, thank you; thank you - great photos, looking forward to the seeing the rest!!!!!
Tiger 06/19/05 04:11 pm Ah Vicki now that you are no longer a lurker,,,,,WELCOME. It is much more fun being a poster than a LURKER.

Looking forward to hearing more from you!

Tim P 06/19/05 05:35 pm I'm jealous...
Vicki in S. CA. 06/19/05 05:55 pm Tiger, lurking is kind of fun. But I will try to throw in a word or two occasionally. Of interest, I bowl with a fellow names Puleston and he is indeed related to Dennis, knew all about his sailing history but not the ospreys. I also found that I learned the osprey call from lurking here. The first time I heard one on my Columbia River trip I immediately said "I hear an osprey" and sure enough, there was one.
Marie 06/19/05 10:53 pm Welcome Vicki. We love to hear from others. BTW Melanie....I would really like a CD of the pics you took if that is possible.
Tiger 06/20/05 02:27 am Lurking may be fun, and I do lurk in some places, but as I have said so often, if all people did was lurk there would be no forum!
cathy 06/20/05 03:00 pm Melanie - I am looking forward to learning where I can see the photos - once you recover from the day.
Shelley 06/20/05 08:15 pm Wonderful, Melanie! Thanks so much

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