Talons at the ready!
The Osprey’s many common names–River Hawk, Fish Hawk, And Sea Hawk–tell plainly of its diet.
Talons at the ready!
The Osprey’s many common names–River Hawk, Fish Hawk, And Sea Hawk–tell plainly of its diet.
On Cape Cod, that is. The south side of the Cape was about as stick-like as is Cape Ann, but the crocuses were coming up everywhere on the north side, with the yellow of a few daffodils peeking through, too. All along the marshes that border Rt. 6A, ospreys were constructing nests. From far across the marsh, I even caught a glimpse of a hawk fishing!
Osprey and Osprey Nests
My husband Tom suggested that I write a year-end post about the wildlife that I had photographed around Cape Ann. Super idea I thought, that will be fun and easy. Many hours later (not realizing how daunting) the following is a collection of some favorite images from this past year, beginning with the male Snowy Owl photographed at Captain Joe’s last winter, to December’s Red-tailed Hawk huntress.
Living along the great Atlantic Flyway, we have been graced with a bevy of birds. Perhaps the most exciting arrival of all occurred when early summer brought several pairs of nesting Piping Plovers to Gloucester’s most beloved (and most highly trafficked) of beaches, Good Harbor Beach. Their story is being documented on film.
Work on Mr. Swan’s film will also resume this January—the winters are simply not long enough for all I have planned!
While photographing and filming Red-winged Blackbirds this past spring, there was a face-to-face encounter with a hungry coyote, as well as several River Otter sightings.
The summer’s drought brought Muskrats out from the reeds and into full view at a very dry Henry’s Pond, and a short film about a North American Beaver encounter at Langsford Pond. Numerous stories were heard from folks who have lived on Cape Ann far longer than I about the extraordinary number of egrets, both Snowy and Great, dwelling on our shores.
There were few Monarch sightings, but the ones seen thankfully deposited eggs in our garden. Thank you to my new friend Christine who shared her Cecropia Silkmoth eggs with me and thank you to the countless readers who have extended an invitation to come by and photograph an exciting creature in their yard.
Pristine beaches, bodies of fresh water, and great swathes of protected marsh and woodland make for ideal wildlife habitat, and Cape Ann has it all. With global climate change pushing species further away from the Equator, I imagine we’ll be seeing even more creatures along our shores. Butterfly and bee populations are overall in decline, not only because of climate change and the use of pesticides, but also because of loss of habitat. As Massachusetts has become less agrarian and more greatly forested, fields of wildflowers are becoming increasingly rare. And too fields often make the best house lots. Farmers and property owners developing an awareness of the insects’ life cycle and planting and maintaining fields and gardens accordingly will truly help the butterflies and bees.
The images are not arranged in any particular order. If you would like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up.
With regrets, I am sorry to report that the Osprey fledgling has died. Don, whose property the nest is located upon, shares that he observed the Osprey Dad toss the nestling out of the nest. Don went to investigate and found the baby’s lifeless body lying on the ground. He placed it in a box and brought it to Greenbelt. Judging by the condition of the body, it was determined that the young Osprey was most likely killed by an owl.
On a positive note, Don and Eleanor’s Osprey pair will more than likely return to the same nest site next year. They are also thought to be a young couple. Hopefully the pair will hone their parenting skills and, quite possibly, have more than one fledgling on their next attempt. The growing recovery of Osprey to our region means that many things are going right; the improving health of our coastal environment, for example.
Many thanks again to Paul Morrison and sister Kathy, and to Don and Eleanor, for providing this brief window to see the Annisquam River Osprey family. I am looking forward to learning and sharing more next year.
This morning I had the joy to meet Don and Eleanor. Don built the fantastic Osprey platform that you see in the photos. Several years ago, Don noticed that an Osprey pair were trying to construct a nest on a post by the train tracks; the post that houses the all important train signals. Understandably, railroad workers had to destroy the nest as it was interfering with train operations. After watching the Osprey pair attempt to build a nest two years in a row, Don decided to build and install an Osprey platform in the marsh adjacent to his home. With some advice from Greenbelt, Don installed the platform early this spring. Wonder of wonders, his plan worked! The young pair built a perfect nest and one egg hatched.
If the mated pair survives the winter migration, upon their return, they will repair and add to their existing nest. And if the young fledgling also survives it too will most likely return to the region. Thanks to citizen scientists like Don and Eleanor and the Essex County Greenbelt’s amazing Osprey program, the north of Boston region is rapidly being repopulated with Opsrey. Don is already building a second platform with hopes of installing it in the spring of 2017.
Don reports that since the Osprey have been on the scene, they are no longer bothered by pesky crows. He witnessed a pair of crows trying to rob the Osprey nest of its egg. The Osprey swooped in, snatched both crows, and beat them down into the marsh. The crows have yet to return!
Osprey nesting platform built by Don
To take some truly terrific closeups, a longer zoom lens than my own 400mm is required, but we can at least get a glimpse of the Osprey family with these photos.
So many thanks to GMG’s Paul Morrison for the excursion out to photograph the Osprey nest on the Annisquam. And thank you to Paul’s sister Kathy for the suggestion. We were there for only a short time when we began to see movement beneath the adult perched on the nest’s edge. After a few moments, the nestling’s shape became visible, but only for seconds, before it settled back deeper into the nest.
Some interesting facts about Ospreys:
Their population has rebounded following the ban on the pesticide DDT.
This hawk is easy to identify when flying over head as it has a whiter belly than other raptors.
The male gathers the nesting material while the female builds the nest. Osprey return to the same nesting sight and nest, building and rebuilding the nest up over a period of many generations. The man made nesting platforms that we see in Essex County are relatively new nests. Osprey nests that are built up over decades can reach 10 to 13 feet deep and 3-6 feet in diameter, large enough for an adult to sit in.
The osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish, nearly 80 different species of fish are eaten by osprey. Sounds like a Gloucester sort of raptor!
Osprey nest made over multiple generations
The Fish on Fridays series is a collaboration between Gloucester photographers Kathy Chapman and Marty Luster. Look for various aspects of Gloucester’s centuries-old fishing industry highlighted here on Fridays.
Kathy and Marty had a brief but pleasant visit with Peter Mullen, owner of the 165 foot midwater trawler-seiner Western Venture and the 109 foot Osprey.
The boats fish for herring and mackerel, often on Georges Bank, and market their catch locally and in Boston for bait and overseas (Mediterranean countries and Africa) for human consumption.
Photos ©Kathy Chapman 2014
Photo © Marty Luster 2014
Volunteer “citizen scientists,” working in support of Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey Program, monitored Osprey nests in 10 communities and submitted their observations, helping Greenbelt confirm that 26 pairs of Osprey nested across Essex County in 2013, as compared to 18 pairs in 2012; 14 pairs in 2011 and 11 pairs in 2010.
The 26 pairs are the most observed since Greenbelt started helping the Osprey population in 2007 by building and repairing nesting platforms. “Osprey are really thriving in Essex County, and with the work of so many volunteers, we are collecting excellent information that is helping us understand where they are nesting and whether they are successfully fledging young,” said Greenbelt Director of Stewardship Dave Rimmer, who also directs the Osprey Program.
Rimmer released these findings in a full report entitled Status of Osprey Breeding Activity in Essex County Massachusetts 2013, available on the Greenbelt website, ecga.org.
Some 200 volunteers and Greenbelt staffers filed online reports of Osprey nesting activity from Salem to Salisbury, starting in April right though to September.
Greenbelt expanded its Osprey Program in 2013, adding a webcam on a nest at its Cox Reservation headquarters. The Osprey Program also established a more comprehensive nest monitoring effort; installed a new Osprey platform and repaired others; installed two outdoor kiosks with detailed information about Osprey biology and conservation, and collaborated with Dr. Rob Bierregaard of UNC, Charlotte, to track two fledgling Osprey by satellite to study Osprey migration.
But the highlight of 2013 was streaming webcam video from the nesting platform at the Cox Reservation, which went directly to the Greenbelt website. Rimmer credits the webcam for building new public awareness and support for Osprey conservation in Essex County. Video of Allyn and Ethel, the nesting Osprey pair at the Cox Reservation, their eggs and chick, was viewed more than 60,000 times on Greenbelt’s website and facebook page, from as far as away as a family in France and a class of school children in Florida. The webcam will go live again sometime in March, when the Osprey pair is expected to return.
On Greenbelt’s website, ecga.org, you can view the full report of the Status of Osprey in Essex County in 2013, see a map showing Osprey nest locations in Essex County, as well as view the current flight path of Whit, the one surviving fledgling from a Gloucester nesting platform. Dr. Bierregaard tagged Whit last August so a satellite could follow his travels as he migrated from Gloucester to Venezuela.
Rimmer says, “Osprey are such a beautiful and captivating bird of prey, while also a strong indicator of the health of our coastal ecosystem. We have been overwhelmed by the public interest in Osprey activity, especially the steaming webcam video that was viewed worldwide by so many. All of us at Greenbelt are eagerly anticipating the return of Osprey to the area this year in March and April, and we are excited to once again engage as many people as we can with our programs.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for Greenbelt’s Osprey Program should contact Dave Rimmer at email@example.com.
Video produced by Our Boy The Rabbit
Great way to spend a morning. This is the same pier that my grandfather Captain Joe would lug me down to when I was 12 years old to fish.
You can see the Osprey circling around in the foreground.