Migration - 2007

Migration home page
Migration 2008

Introduction: Status of our migration studies.
Old Birds: Updates on birds tagged in '04, '05, and '06.
New Birds: I tagged 5 new fledglings this summer. I began with two in Delaware and then tagged three on Martha's Vineyard. One of the Vineyard birds, Felix, was tagged at Felix Neck, the Mass Audubon sanctuary on the Vineyard. The sanctuary has a long and storied history with Ospreys on Martha's Vineyard (see the History section on the main Osprey page).
     This is the first year we have used GPS transmitters, and the data are already showing us some amazing details of Osprey behavior.
Other satellite migration websites (mostly raptors)

 Click here to read the "bios" of the birds and notes on how they were captured and see pictures of the Class of '07.

If you would like to be included in an email list to receive a notice each time maps are updated, send me an e-mail: rbierreg@uncc.edu

[This doesn't work yet, but will be worth the wait! Fly with an Osprey! This is truly remarkable. You have to have Google Earth installed on your computer (it's free). With Google Earth installed, download a file from the list below and save it to your computer. Then open that file with Google Earth. It will appear in your "Temporary Places" folder. Open the folder (click the "+" in front of the folder's name). Then click once on the Tour file. Now click the "Play tour" button right below the list of files in your "Places" menu box. This is the little right-facing triangle that looks like the play button on your TVs remote control. Sit back and enjoy an Osprey's eye view of the area that bird covered.
     Claws - Venezuela (long)  click here to download the file 
Claws - Venezuela (11/28) test]

 New (and Old) Birds (click on the links below to go to that bird's maps)
- First map - Migration begins - Penultimate map - Most recent map
     Conomo - First map - Migration begins - Penultimate mapMost recent map
     Della - August in Brazil - Last map
     Felix - First map -Migration begins (Start here!) - Last map
     Homer - Migration begins - Penultimate map - Most recent map
     LukeFirst map - Penultimate map - Most recent map
     PatienceFirst map - Last map

Spring Migration 2007
- Is back home for the first time and continuing his peripatetic ways!
    Jaws - Back for his second trip home, now a 3 year old bird. His transmitter seems to have finally given up. We hope we see him at a nest next year, where we might be able to trap him and get the transmitter back.
    Conanicus - Our Rhode Island youngster from '05 started his migration from his redoubt in the Zapata Swamps on Cuba's south shore, but did not even make it all the way across the island.
     Della - Our surviving Delaware bird is not migrating, but her month-by-month movements are interesting. This link will take you back to Oct. 06 when she stopped migrating. From there you can browse her monthly maps.


This is the eighth year of our study of Osprey migration. Since 2004 we have been concentrating on tagging juvenile birds. The migrations of more than 150 adult Ospreys have been documented in North America, mostly by Mark Martell during his time at the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center. As a result we have a quite detailed understanding of how and when adult Ospreys migrate. We know the routes they take. Almost all east-coast birds go through Florida to Cuba to Hispaniola and on to South America. Some New England birds think Florida or the Caribbean islands is far enough south, while some Florida adults, for reasons difficult to fathom, migrate deep into South America. Other Florida adults stick around for the winter.

 Adult females migrate about a month before males, and adults of both sexes are very faithful to their chosen wintering grounds. Because young experience a very high mortality rate and satellite transmitters are very expensive, only a handful of first-year Ospreys had been tagged prior to 2004, and thus their migration is poorly understood. When do they go south? How do they find a reliable wintering area? Do they spend time exploring or chose the first good spot they find? We know from traditional banding studies that they stay on the wintering grounds for at least a year and a half. Do they all return in their second year? Do they go all the way home on their first return?

With five young tagged in 2006 and five to be tagged in 2007, we will have tagged 15 fledgling Ospreys, which more than doubles the number of first-year birds that have been tagged anywhere else, as far as I know. By "cherry picking" young from old, established breeding pairs, and trapping young that have already been flying for a couple of weeks, we have significantly beaten the odds--only one of the five young tagged prior to this year did not make it to the Caribbean.


The Class of '04: On his migration south in the fall of 2005, our only tagged adult Bluebeard was shot (almost certainly) just a couple of hundred miles north of his wintering grounds. That left only Jaws, a fledgling tagged in 2004, as a candidate to return to Martha's Vineyard in the spring of 2006, and his safety was in question as the year began. Our last signals from him were in December of 2005, and those were intermittent. We suspected a malfunctioning transmitter, given that he had been in what appeared to be Osprey heaven down in Colombia, with lots of fish and no one around that shoots Ospreys. Lo and behold, in May someone spotted an Osprey flying through eastern NC (when Jaws should have been moving back for his first trip home). In late May his transmitter turned on for a couple of days as he arrived back in his natal area. There's some sort of problem with his solar panel, so we only get very sporadic messages from him, but he's out there. Since then, he has returned to the Gulf of Venezuela to spend the winter of 2006-07 and returned again to Martha's Vineyard in April 2007. 

The Class of '05Homer spent a year and a half down south in Venezuela before heading home. Homer made it back to the Vineyard, while Conanicus started migrating but never made it to the north coast of Cuba, probably another victim of shooting. 

The Class of '06: We didn't have much luck with the 5 birds tagged in the summer of '06. Of the 2006 birds, only Della, tagged in the Delaware Seashore State Park, is left. She is down in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon and should return in the spring of '08. But this is pretty much what we expect--mortality in first year birds is probably between 80 and 90% over their first migration cycle.

WHO'S WHO? (Click on the bird's name to get to its most recent.)

Jaws - Tagged in '04, this young male is back on the Vineyard  with a mal-functioning transmitter. With luck, we may be able to retrap him next year and get the bad transmitter off him. We haven't had any signals from his radio (nor any sightings) since May 6th. We hope he'll show up at a nest next year, where we may be able to trap him and get the radio off his back.

Homer - After turning a 3,500-mile migration into a 5,200-mile odyssey (he was named for the pond near his nest, not in anticipation of his extended travels!), Homer finally (March '06) settled down at a reservoir to his liking and in April was making occasional trips some 30 miles to a mountain valley west of his reservoir. He has shown a predilection to mountain rivers throughout his migration. He arrived back on Martha's Vineyard on 20 May, 2007, a couple of weeks after his second "hatchday".

Conanicus - Our Rhode Island youngster, tagged as a recent fledgling in '05, frequented the Zapata swamps in southwestern Cuba for a year and a half. He began his '07 migration on the 29th of April and sadly ended his trip at a fish farm.

NEW BIRDS for 2007

This year's trapping began on 25 July at the SPI-Pharma facility next door to the Cape Henlopen State Park (CHSP). CHSP and the Friends of Cape Henlopen are sponsors of the two Delaware transmitters this year. (As above, click on the bird's name to go to its migration maps.)

Claws - I grabbed this young male off his nest atop an 80' water tank at the PSI Pharma facility that makes milk of magnesia from water taken from below CHSP. The nest is rigged with a camera that feeds to a TV monitor at the State Park Nature Center a half mile or so away. His sibling, hatched a full week after Claws, was not ready to fly. As it turned out, Claws could indeed fly, he just didn't know it yet. 
We took him down to ground level where we banded him and outfitted him with his new GPS transmitter. When we returned him to the nest, he leapt off the nest and sunk his talons into Holly Niederriter, a DE Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist who was helping me out. I was already half way down the ladder when this happened. Holly pried the bird off her and put him back on the nest. We gave her naming rights for the ordeal, and she chose, appropriately enough, "Claws".
     The next morning Claws was on the tower, but not in the nest, which is on a platform several feet above the top of the tower. I went up to make sure he was OK, and when I got to the top of the tower he took one look at me and decided he was more scared of me than he was of flying, so I got to watch his first flight. He flew beautifully around the tower for a few minutes. His landing on an adjacent tank was not so beautiful, as first landings often lack much grace. Later that morning he was in the nest, seen on the TV down at the Nature Center.


Patience - This young female was tagged in the Delaware Seashore State Park, south of Dewey Beach, just a mile or so north of the Indian River Inlet. The nest is the neighbor of the nest where we tagged Della in '06. 
Patience and her sibling were already flying and probably had been on the wing for at least a week. We arrived around 2PM and set up our noose carpet with a couple of fresh mackerel under it. Within fifteen minutes we caught the adult male, who landed on the nest and tried to grab the fish, getting his talons tangled in the nooses in the process.      We quickly got him off the noose carpet, banded and released. Fifteen minutes later we caught an adult female, which we likewise removed from the trap. It turned out she had been banded as a nestling 2 years before close by. When we caught her we thought she was the adult female at this nest.

 An hour later we caught the real adult female at the nest--setting a record for most Ospreys caught that we didn't want to catch, and realized that the first female we caught just happened to be flying over and, seeing the two fish in the nest, decided that if no one else wanted them, she'd help herself.
     At about 4PM the two young landed on the corners of the nest (not on the noose carpet) and just sat there. We watched them for 3 hours, as they preened, occasionally looked at the fish, and sometimes begged for food. Clearly these youngsters are spoiled rotten. A bit after 6 the adult female landed on a third corner of the nest and sat there for about 45 minutes. Eventually, the screaming young got to her, so she hopped down on the fish to feed them. At that point the hungrier of the two young landed near her and walked over to her, getting caught in the process. After the long stake out, CHSP's Director of Environmental Education, Richard Julian, suggested the name for this bird, who is now wearing the transmitter I recovered from one of the DE birds tagged last year.

On the 26th I flew to Martha's Vineyard for the final leg of the trapping trip. 

Luke - Early on the 27th, Dick Jennings and I set up our noose carpet at the Mink Meadows nest on the Vineyard's north shore. This has been one of the most productive nests since I re-started the Osprey census in 1998 and this year fledged two young. When we set up at 0630, there was not an Osprey in sight, which made us needlessly nervous. Around 8 we had an adult show up and by 9:15 a young bird landed on the nest and was caught. We tagged this bird with a GPS transmitter. The bird is named in memory of John Luke, a great friend of my family and a devoted Ospreyphile who lived in the Mink Meadows Osprey's backyard--or is it vice-versa?


- On the 28th we set our noose carpet on the nest at Mass Audubon's Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. Mass Audubon has been a great supporter of the tracking work, kindly processing all our finances, and the 60-70 Ospreys that now nest on the Vineyard are pretty much there because of the efforts of long-time Sanctuary Director Gus Ben David. Gus, who retired a couple of years ago, and his Osprey crew are responsible for most of the 115 nest poles on the Island, so it was an obvious place to tag a bird, and the name was similarly easy to come up with. We were ready with "Felicity", had our bird turned out to be a female. In fact, we're not completely sure we shouldn't have used Felicity to name this bird. Female Ospreys, like all birds of prey, are larger than males. It's pretty obvious when you have a small male or a really large female, but sometimes the intermediate birds are a bit tricky to sex. Let's just say I wouldn't be completely surprised if Felix comes back to the Vineyard in 3 or 4 years and lays some eggs!
Here are a couple of shots of setting the noose carpet as we prepared to trap Felix, courtesy of Rick Solberg.

    Trapping went fairly smoothly--no problems with catching adults this time, and that was a good thing! The nest in Delaware, where we caught 3 adults, was only about 12 feet off the marsh, so it was no big deal to throw the ladder up to the nest and extract our birds. The Felix Neck nest is about 40' high, so I have to use a ladder to go up the first 20' and then pole spurs then next 20'. I did not want to do that for anything other than our target youngster, so we were ready to run up to the nest and deflect any adults that came in on a landing approach. 
     We did have to wait until 11 for any action, because when we arrived at 6AM to set up, breakfast was being served in the nest. The early bird gets not only the worm, but occasionally the fish as well, it would appear. One of the two young was around the nest most of the morning, but not particularly hungry, having had sushi for breakfast. It made a few passes at the nest, but was put off by the noose carpet and flared off just before landing. 
     Felix spent the latter part of the morning over on an unoccupied nest pole, about 100 yds from the nest pole, waiting for Dad to bring home a fish. Around 11 Dad did come home with an early lunch and went over to land on the spare pole where the youngster was waiting. That would not have helped us, so we flushed the adult male a couple of times as he tried to land on the pole. After getting bumped off the pole the second time, he flew over to the nest and landed on it, fish in talons. Felix flew over to him and got snagged in the carpet around 1115. He is now wearing a GPS transmitter.



Conomo -- Our last transmitter was placed on a full sibling of Moshup, the youngster we tagged in '06 at the very productive Lobsterville Nest, which is located out on the southwest corner of the Island. Informed sources tell me that "Conomo" means plenty of fish in the local Amer-Indian (Wampanoag) dialect, so it's a hopeful name for the bird. This trapping session went pretty smoothly, and we had our bird in hand again at 1115. The year before we had to wait until about 2PM before we caught Moshup. We recovered this transmitter after Moshup was shot in March down in the Dominican Republic.



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