Osprey young ready for banding
By John Faucher
“There’s something about birds of prey that just fascinates people,” said Pat Fisher.
The 30-year veteran bird rehabilitator was busy Tuesday, July 5 setting up volunteers and making arrangements to band young of the year osprey.
“We typically band them around the Fourth of July every year,” Fisher said.
She has been banding birds in Waupaca County since 2005.
Banding studies help in tracking osprey migrations and they provide researchers with valuable information on their longevity and mortality rates. Banding studies also play an important role in helping scientists and the public understand how environmental factors like mercury influence the species.
Because the nests are often as high up as 75 feet in the air, special climbers and equipment are required in the banding project.
Fisher relies on volunteers to assist her with banding efforts.
“I couldn’t do any of this without volunteers,” Fisher said.
Volunteers begin by helping Fisher monitor six nesting platforms in the area each spring and summer.
Once observers determine if young are present, they report back to Fisher with the information and plans are made for banding.
This week Fisher is banding in Weyauwega, Fremont, Kiesow’s Landing and New London.
Some of the more remote locations include platforms at Larsen’s ditch, Flease’s marsh, and in New London’s Fifth Ward.
This is the first of many years there is not a nesting pair on the platform at Larsen’s ditch. Fisher said that is unusual for that location.
“It could be that one of the pair was killed, or another pair of birds destroyed the nest,” said Fisher.
Local anglers reported seeing active birds on the platform in early spring. However, by early June the nest was void of activity.
Drew Fietzer of Waupaca spent just over 40 hours observing the nest site during the first week of June. He observed two adult birds in the general area but they were not using the platform.
Fietzer used a kayak to reach the remote platform surrounded by water. He packed enough food and supplies to last a few days on the water. He also packed a few fishing poles to help pass the time.
Fietzer said fishing was poor due to the turbid water and excessive rain in the previous days.
“The fishing wasn’t that great, but the experience was awesome,” Fietzer said. He plans to return with the kayak and do further observations in the future.
“This is just a great place,” he said. “I will definitely be back.”
Fietzer hopes he can return to New London and assist Fisher during the banding process.
At the time of banding, the young are very carefully brought down for a “check-up” and data recording. Each bird receives its own U.S. Fish and Wildlife bird band and a colored band before being placed back in the nest.
Usually during the banding, the adult osprey are circling the nest and are quite vocal at the team of volunteers, but after a short time the young birds are back on the platform, and all is back to normal.
The adult wingspan reaches over five feet long and their bellies are as white as snow with deep brown feathers across their backs and distinct facial markings. The North American osprey is the only raptor to feed almost exclusively on live fish. Because of this, they are commonly referred to as sea hawks.
They hunt from the sky locking their eyes in on prey from 50 to 180 feet above. Then, with a swift and powerful dive, they plunge feet first, often becoming submerged in the water in the moment of the catch.