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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Osprey Files: Weathering the Storm

The latest news from the Osprey family at Wolfe's Neck State Park is happy - they survived the Nor'easter of April 22/23. For those of you not living in New England, a Nor'easter is a strong storm that comes in off the Atlantic with heavy winds from, yes, the northeast. These storms typically bring heavy rains or snows, strong winds (sometimes of hurricane strength), often a storm surge, and very big surfs. While not hurricanes, they often do more damage to New England forests and buildings.

Our spring Nor'easter started with strong winds and light rain on the evening of Sunday, April 23. By Monday morning the rain was extremely heavy and the winds were driving it almost horizontal. Not many humans, inlcuding me, wanted to be outside in these conditions. We'd have been drenched to the skin in minutes! I'm such a softie when it comes to animals that all I could think about was the Osprey couple and their budding family out in the elements on their island nest a few miles away.

The storm was mostly gone by Tuesday morning, with moderate damage to trees and over 5 inches of much-needed rain left behind. We humans weren't impacted much and I continued to hope that the Ospreys came through OK too.

Notenwi (the male) returning with nest-repair material

I soon learned about the resiliancy of these beautiful birds. As soon as the weather had cleared off a bit a couple of days later I swung by the park and checked up on our couple. They were alive and well and still incubating eggs! Imagine - sitting out, exposed, at the top of a 40 foot tree for 36 long hours, being continually tossed back and forth by strong winds and drenched with cold rain. I know I would not have been able to endure it - I bet most humans would feel the same.

But these amazing birds came through this latest storm, apparently none the worse for wear. The female, Wapatewi, still sat on her eggs while her mate flew off from time to time in search of food. The nest took a bit of a beating, though, as it looks like the birds repaired its landward side with new sticks and bits of bark. In fact, they were still in the process of repairs the evening I watched them. Notenwi flew off several times between hunting trips and brought back bits of kelp, seaweed, and bark that the female used to line the nest.

I know Osprey have come through countless storms during their long history on this planet so I suppose I shouldn't have concerned myself about them. That didn't stop me from worrying just a bit though. Even knowing that the species is one of the "comeback kids" of the bird world - Osprey bouncing back to double their numbers after usage of DDT put them in serious jeopardy* - I still want this little family to thrive so I have the opportunity watch their young grow and fly off on their own!

The Wolfe's Neck Nest before the April storm

The Wolfe's Neck Nest after the April storm

A Second Nest

This past weekend I found a second natural Osprey nest near my home. An Osprey pair had just found it but had not set up permanent residence yet. I'll check back on these status of these two birds in a few days. I hope they decide to stay for the summer and raise a brood - I'd enjoy having two Osprey families to watch and photograph!

Female Osprey on nest at Reid State Park

*DDT also greatly affected other birds, particularly birds of prey including Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.

Text and photos copyright Nancy Rynes, 2012. You may link to this page but you're not allowed to copy any portion of it without my express written permission.

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