Home Page - Osprey Main Page - 2009 Maps - Birds of Prey

Migration - 2008

Click here to: Subscribe to the email "New Maps Alert" list.

INTRODUCTION: Status of our migration studies. This is the second year we have used GPS transmitters. The data are already showing us some amazing details of Osprey behavior.

OLD BIRDS: Updates on birds tagged in '05, '06, and '07.
NEW BIRDS: "Bios" for seven birds tagged in 2008.
Quick Map Links: Claws -- Conomo -- Duke -- Goody -- Homer -- Meadow -- L.R. -- Mittark -- Penelope

Watch a great 5-minute video about our Osprey research
. This was filmed and produced by Amanda Wallas at Martha's Vineyard Plum TV.

Other satellite migration websites (mostly raptors)

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

Meadow - This fledgling Osprey, tagged at Tashmoo on Martha's Vineyard in August 2008, has taken a rather unconventional approach to migration.


This is the ninth year of our study of Osprey migration. Since 2004 we have been tagging juvenile birds. The migrations of more than 120 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 was very 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 the new birds tagged in 2008, we have tagged 22 fledgling Ospreys. 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 two of the 15 young tagged prior to this year did not make it to the Caribbean (or an obvious end of migration in the southeastern US).


OLD BIRDS (For these old timers, click on the bird's name to get to its most recent map.)

The Class of '04: Jaws - No signals since he returned in the spring of '07. We haven't seen a bird with a transmitter flying around, but we like to think he's out there somewhere. His transmitter was behaving very sporadically in the last year we heard from him.

The Class of '05: Only Homer survives from the young we tagged in 2005. After turning his first 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". He completed his second round trip to Venezuela and back on 4 May 2008. Homer is our most  interesting bird to date. I think it's worth going back to Day 1 for this bird and following his whole saga.

The Class of '06 No survivors remain from this group. Della, tagged south of Cape Henlopen, DE, stopped signaling just a few months before she should have returned. She may be OK but simply carrying a bad radio. We'll keep our eyes open for a tagged bird in the area this summer.

The Class of '07: Two birds are still with us from last year's group of five. Conomo (from the Lobsterville nest on the Vineyard) is in Cuba, fishing in a big reservoir on the eastern end of the island, not far from Guantanamo. Claws, a Delaware bird, seems to finally have settled down at a reservoir in Venezuela. He has covered a lot of ground in his search for a suitable fishing hole and still doesn't seem completely satisfied.

The Class of '08: This was a very busy summer! I tagged seven birds, from South Carolina to Cape Cod, Mass. Click on the bird's name below for a bio and description of the bird's capture or the Maps link to get right to the chase.

     Duke - A South Carolina youngster tagged on the Catawba River about 45 miles south of Charlotte
: Maps
Little Ricky - A young male tagged in Lewes, DE, just south of Cape May, NJ: Bio - Maps
     Penelope - A young female tagged at Homer's old nest on the Vineyard's south shore: Maps
- A fledgling male from the Lobsterville nest that produced Moshup in '05 and Conomo in '06 - Maps
     Sheri - A recently fledged female from the Woods Hole nest of internet fame. Sheri was fatally injured before she could start her migration, so there are no maps.
Meadow - This young male (?) was born in the nest where I tagged my first juvenile, Tasha, way back in '04 - Maps
     Goody Hallett - One of three young fledged in Eastham, at the crook of the Cape Cod elbow. - Maps

 NEW BIRDS for 2008 (Click on the bird's name to go straight to the maps.)

Duke: This year's trapping began on 15 July in Great Falls, SC, along the Catawba River.
     We trapped this young male on his nest a couple of weeks after he and his two siblings fledged. I arrived in Great Falls at 0600h and met up with Bill Price, Lindsay Pettus, and Charlotte Observer photographer John Simmons.We drove down to the nest area only to discover that the key Bill had received from Duke Power didn't fit the padlock for the gate into the nest area. So, up and over the fence we went with ladder, all the trapping gear, and two rainbow trout from the local supermarket. We had the noose carpet out over fish in the nest at 0650h. The nest is a tall one--all the 25' ladder plus another 20 ft of climbing with spurs. As we arrived a Great Blue Heron flew over,upsetting the adults.

     One of the adults landed on the nest, which was encouraging. Bill, who's been watching this nest closely for three years, reports that the young rarely return to the nest after fledging. This made me nervous, as trapping the young depends on their returning to the nest for food, which every other Osprey family I've worked with does regularly for weeks after the young take their first flight. The young were perched in trees across the reservoir. One was feeding on a fish the parents probably delivered before we arrived. Around 0750h an adult came in to the nest with a stick. No real reason to trim the nest at this late stage of the cycle, but the titre of reproductive hormones was still high enough to trigger this behavior. 

One of the young, seeing its parent heading to the nest with something in its talons, flew up to the adult, begging for food. The adult didn't land on the nest, fortunately (I didn't want to have to go back up the pole to get an adult out of the noose carpet), and the young hovered over the nest a couple of times, but never landed. The rest of the morning the adults flew around a bit, hunting mostly down the river. For most of the time we didn't see any young. I was ready to bet that we weren't going to get a bird. Then, at 1200h a young flew right to the nest, hunger chirping as it approached. It landed on the carpet with no hesitation and started trying to eat the fish. About 20 minutes later, it was noosed. (This picture was taken by Bill Price before the young fledged.) Forty-five minutes later, Duke was flying around sporting a new, high-tech backpack.
Follow Duke's travels.

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

Little Ricky: - On July 28th I began this year's 5-birds-in-6-days trapping marathon in Lewes, DE, at the campus of the University of DE's College of Marine and Earth Sciences. Our target bird was a single young fledged out of the nest where we tagged Lew back in '06. The adults at the nest have been nicknamed Lucy and Ricky by the faculty at CMES, who have their spotting scopes zeroed in on the nest. (I suspect office productivity has increased since the young fledged!).
     We sat and waited and sat and waited for an hour and a half or so. I needed to send an email about the next stop on the trapping trip, so I headed across the street to the CMES lab, assuring those waiting that nothing happens quickly when trapping young Ospreys. If a bird lands on the nest, it usually takes a while before they get caught. Last year, Richard Julian and I watched Patience and her sibling stand in their nest for almost two hours before we caught Patience. And then we have to wait a while to be sure they're really stuck in the noose carpet. We had to watch Homer for 45 minutes after he stepped onto the carpet before we were convinced he was securely noosed. Of course this meant that five minutes after entering the lab building, someone rushed in to tell me that both the adult male and the youngster had landed in the nest as soon as I was out of sight and that both were instantly caught.
     We dashed back and rode the scissor lift up to the nest. Steve Cardano, a veteran Delaware Bay Osprey bander, went up with me to help get the two birds out of the noose carpet. We tagged and released Ricky (the adult male), and outfitted "Little Ricky" with a new GPS transmitter.
     This is the sixth bird I have tagged in Delaware. Follow Little Ricky's travels.

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

Penelope was captured and tagged on July 30th, the first bird of this year's Vineyard trapping campaign. The bird is probably a female. She is the half sibling of Homer, who was trapped here in 2005 and is back on the Island after completing his second full migration cycle. When we caught Homer we also caught and banded his mother. This nest was inactive last year, although there were birds around. We can see a band on the female here, so she's almost certainly the female from Homer's hatch year. The lack of breeding last year suggest that there was a changing of the guard on the male side of the family. The new male may have been a young one and not quite ready for prime time last year, or there may have been a contested replacement. We have seen other nests where the the squabbling over who would take over a vacancy took so long that the birds never got around to breeding that year.
     We set up at Long Point around 0610h. Two menhaden were the bait. We could see two young and an adult across the pond. We had quite a crew with lots of Trustees of Reservation staff on hand.
     About 0800 a bird came in as if to land, but a jogger was heading up the road and may have flushed the bird, although what we saw later suggested that it wouldn't have landed anyway.
     Three dozen donuts arrived around 0830, but that was about all the action for several hours.
     Throughout the morning one or two young were flying around and approaching the nest, hunger screaming. They'd come in as if to land and flare up, hover over the nest and bank away. They clearly saw the noose carpet. The second approach was at 1040. We sent a scout over to flush the birds sitting across the pond. She did so, but to no avail. The birds just headed over to the west or moved around the cove.    One young landed on the tree swallow box near the nest pole a couple of times. We sent little Gabe out to flush it and stir things up. The bird he flushed flew over the nest, begging a bit, and another bird flew in from way up, dumping air out of its wings and came down to nest level. An adult came in with the tail end of a fish. None landed on the nest. They all flew around for a minute or two and then headed back across the pond.

     At 1140h the young were yinging around the nest when the male came in with the end of a scup. He landed on the nest, apparently not worried about the noose carpet. One of the young followed him straight to the nest. Hunger trumping unease about that weird thing in the nest. The adult male was instantly caught and the young took the fish and started to eat. I didn't want to rush the nest, as we weren't sure the young was caught, but the male was struggling more than I liked. I waited as long as I could and slowly approached the nest.
     We saw that the juvenile was caught and went up to extract the two birds. When I got to the nest, I hooded the young and then tried to put a hood on the adult male but dropped it out of the nest. I got the male out, put him in the "straight jacket" and lowered him down to Dick. I then got the young out and brought him down. We left the carpet on the nest while we processed the two birds. As we were going up to the nest the female came in with half a fish. She saw the two birds stuck in the nest and dropped her fish to the ground.
     Processing the birds went smoothly. Liz Baldwin, a shorebird biologist with the Trustees of Reservations, was my very capable Osprey wrangler. We were done by 1240.
     The name was chosen to keep with the Homer's Odyssey theme. Had it been a male, Telemarchus would have been a great choice--if you like puns. Follow Penelope's travels.

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

Mittark- Our second bird on the Island was trapped on the western end of the Island in Lobsterville. This is the same nest where we trapped Moshup in ’06 and Conomo in ’07. It is also the most productive nest on Martha’s Vineyard. They sealed that deal by fledging four young this year. The picture here was taken after all four young had fledged.
     This nest has the luxury of being right next to a large shoal that has plenty of flounder. The adults here actually defend these feeding grounds from neighboring adults, which is unusual in Ospreys. Because they feed so often on schooling fish and often very far from the nest, it is generally not possible to defend a territory.
     We set up at the nest pole at 0640. It was overcast and foggy. There was one bird on the nest when we got there. As we were unloading the gear two more birds landed on the nest. With four young and two adults flying around, the airspace can get pretty crowded.

      For the next hour we had a couple of approaches, with young birds hovering over the nest and banking away. We never know what to expect when setting up to trap a juvenile. The first time we trapped at this nest we waited seven hours before we finally trapped Moshup.
Around 0750 it began to rain. The rain seemed to get the birds to the nest. Around 0800 two young landed on the nest were caught quickly. As we approached the nest a third young landed on the nest and was briefly captured. Fortunately, it got out. I did not want to deal with three young struggling in the noose carpet when I got to the nest. I got the two birds out of the nest and down to the ground quickly.
     One of the birds was clearly a male and not as well muscled as the other. We thought this smaller juvenile might have been the last of the brood and perhaps had not been as well fed as his older sibs, so we just banded it and released it. It isn’t often that we have the luxury of choosing between two candidates for a transmitter.
     The second bird, also a male (we think), seemed in very good shape, so he got a transmitter as well as his Fish and Wildlife Service band and was released around 0900.
     Because this nest is in the tribal lands of the Wampanoags, we stuck with the tradition of choosing names associated with the tribe. Mittark was the last of the legendary Wampanoag sachems. Follow Mittark's travels

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

Sheri. For our next bird, we traveled across Vineyard Sound to Woods Hole, where our target bird was one of the three young that were fledged out of a nest familiar to many Osprey watchers. For the past three or four years, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has been streaming live video from this nest to the internet.
     A bucket truck, courtesy of Inman Tree Co., had been put in location the afternoon before. The nest is on a pretty tall pole, which is surrounded by a tangle of vegetation pretty similar to the stuff that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I suspect. There was no way I was getting to the nest with a ladder or climbing spurs. At 0630 I hopped in the bucket and by 0645 we had the fish and noose carpet in the nest.
     Three birds were in the nest when we arrived. One of them was feeding. With first light around 0500, it’s pretty hard to get set up before some of the young have had a bit of breakfast.
     Around 0740 the female came in and landed on the camera, which is one of her favorite perches. She was eyeing the fish in the nest. The young were over in some trees above the tennis courts. We bumped them a couple of times but didn’t get them to land on the nest. Around 8-something one of the adults landed on the nest, but didn’t stay long (or get caught).
     At 0930 the adult male arrived in the nest with a fish in its talons. Two young landed in the nest. One appeared to be on the carpet. The other was on a corner of the nest not covered by the carpet. Another bird (the adult female, I think) was on the camera, all wet from a plunge in the Sound.    
     The male left, as did the young on the far side of the nest. The remaining bird was caught. We waited a few minutes to make sure it was really caught, and then I went up in the bucket to get the bird out of the carpet. Weight and wing suggest a male, tail is in the female range. The thickness of the tarsus suggested female.
     We named the bird Sheri after the WHOI nestcam manager Sheri DeRosa. After a zillion pictures had been snapped, Sheri was released at 1018h.
     Sheri’s story had a sudden, sad, and bizarre ending only two days later. Sunday afternoon, people watching the nest on the internet noticed that Sheri was in the nest, in obvious distress. Calls came in from as far away as Nebraska! It was not clear what was wrong. The next morning someone at the WHOI campus near the nest found our bird on the ground. She was unable to land and perch. She was taken into captivity and delivered into the very capable hands of a local authority on birds of prey, who determined that both legs had been severely injured, one perhaps broken. The bird had to be euthanized. No one that I know has ever seen an Osprey injured like this. The only explanation we can imagine is that she was diving for a fish and hit a rock or something equally unforgiving.
     We do know that she was fine when we released her, so the injury was not related to the transmitter harness. We can't think of any other way she could have caused such severe trauma to her legs. A clumsy landing certainly wouldn't have done it.
     Sheri’s loss was a dramatic example of the harsh realities of wildlife biology. Probably 80% of all young fledged each year do not survive their first year of life. Typically with birds there are two phases of mortality in recently fledged young. The first comes when young birds take their first flights. They are clumsy and often wind up in trouble. A young Osprey from a neighboring nest in Falmouth was electrocuted about this same time. Young Peregrine Falcons born in the city suffer pretty high mortality in their first few days on the wing when they wind up on the ground in traffic. The second wave of mortality occurs when the parents stop feeding the young and they have to catch their own food. Sheri was flying well, so she had made it through the most dangerous first few days on the wing, and was probably beginning to hunt. Diving feet first into the water after a 100’ dive is clearly not without risks.

With migratory birds like our Ospreys, there is a third wave of mortality. Migration is very risky, especially for birds on their first trip south. Some mortality is just natural selection weeding out the least fit. Our Delaware youngster from ’06 that died out over the Atlantic with too much east in her compass was a classic example. Other times, the mortality is just bad luck. We have lost perfectly fit birds when they discovered a fish farm on their routes south and were killed by aquaculturists unwilling to share their fish. Birds are lost crossing the Caribbean when they fly into hurricanes.
     Craig Gibson was on hand for the trapping and tagging and took some fabulous photos of the operation.

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page


Meadow - We trapped our third Vineyard bird of the year on 2 August. Our target bird was either of two young fledged at a nest on Lake Tashmoo on the Vineyard’s north shore. This was the nest where I tagged my first juvenile, Tasha, way back in ’04.
     Tashmoo is Osprey rich. There are seven pairs around the lake, including a couple at Mink Meadows, just up the shoreline a mile or so. Mink Meadows was home to one of the two pairs of Ospreys nesting on Martha’s Vineyard in the late ‘60s. Most of the Ospreys on the Vineyard and perhaps a lot over in the Westport River colony some 20 miles west, are descendants of the remarkable pair of Ospreys that routinely fledged three or four young each year in the early 70s. This was a time when the Ospreys in the rest of southern New England, Long Island included, were experiencing dismal reproductive failures.

     The nest is on a short pole at the edge of a lovely marsh, so setting up was quick and easy. A young landed briefly on the nest around 0730. It just touched down and took off. No hovering or hesitation. At 0753 a young landed on the nest and was instantly caught. We gave it a couple of minutes just to be sure and then went up and got it down. This was a new record. I never even had a chance to drop my usual line that wildlife biology is four or five hours of total boredom followed by 10 minutes of total chaos.
     The bird was processed and released by 0900. Dick Jennings, my capable right-hand man on trapping missions, and I didn’t know what to do with all the time we now had on our hands!
     Meadow’s name is inspired by the old road that passed by the nest, Meadow Path, and the Mink Meadows Osprey nest nearby. The bird is pretty intermediate in measurements between males and females. It’s probably a male, so, “Meadow” may actually be “Mr. Meadow.” I hope we get a chance to find out for sure in three or four years when this bird should be setting up a nest somewhere in the vicinity.
Follow Meadow's travels.

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

Goody Hallett - We used the transmitter recovered from Sheri on a young female trapped on her nest in Eastham, just at the inner bend of Cape Cod. Goody was one of three young fledged (she's one of the young in the picture at the left) off a nest pole in the midst of  an extensive marsh overlooking Cape Cod Bay. We got a bit of a late start, with the fish and noose carpet in place by 0745. There were no birds on the nest when we arrived, but a short while after we pulled the ladder down and retreated to a nearby vantage point, two young wheeled over the marsh, letting everyone in earshot know that they were hungry. One or both of them flew over the nest a few times, hovering and chirping, slowly descending just enough to get our pulses up a bit, but then peeling off, not quite sure about that strange thing in their nest.

      For about an hour and a half, we saw two young (it was probably all three taking turns) flying around the marsh. Shortly before 0900, one of the adults appeared with a headless scup (a favorite fish) and circled around the nest. When the young saw their parent inbound with food, they began circling and really begging up a storm.

     One of them decided to be first on the nest in case Dad (or Mom) came in to feed them. The bird was soon ensnared in the nooses. I was able to get her hooded and off the carpet very quickly and smoothly. For some reason, it took us a bit longer than normal to fit her transmitter harness, but the day was pretty cool and the bird remarkably calm. When we released her, she flew beautifully out over the marsh.
     About 10 minutes later her two siblings overcame their nervousness about the nest (even after we took the noose carpet down they were a bit hesitant about landing) and settled down for some serious begging. I was a bit surprised that they didn't go right after the two fish we left in the nest, but seemed to want Mom to come feed them. As usual, the newly tagged bird went off to pout somewhere close by.
     Looking for a name with local connections, we came up with
Goody Hallet, a famous early Eastham resident in the 18th century accused of witchcraft. After naming Homer for a pond and watching him go on an amazing odyssey, who knows what will happen now that we have named a bird after a witch?
Follow Goody's Travels

Top -- Link to '08 Maps -- Back to "Who's Who" on this page

THIS IS "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" -- I'VE BEEN TOO BUSY WITH NEW MAPS TO FIX SOME PROBLEMS HERE. 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.
     Meadow 17 Aug 08
     Claws - Venezuela (long) 
Claws - Venezuela (11/28) test]







Locations of visitors to this page

Hit Counter