an unusual sighting

For the past several years, a pair of ospreys have raised 2-3 chicks each year at the local marsh that surrounds Grass Lake, using a high nest platform erected specifically to entice them to breed there..

osprey-pair

The pair of Ospreys on their nest platform in June, 2016.

But this year, they must have arrived a little later than usual, because an interloper arrived first to claim the 50 foot high platform for her own nest.

canada goose-on osprey nest

It looks like Mother Goose tidied up the stick nest, before adding her own downy breast feathers to the nest cup.  Although her nest is well protected from danger of flooding on the osprey platform, it is exposed to aerial predators like Bald Eagles that might fly over.  

What is peculiar about this is that Canada Geese usually nest on land surrounded by or near the water on an elevated mound — but not this elevated!

great blue heron-and-canada geese-

While the hen incubates her eggs on her mounded nest, the gander runs protective interference and wards off potential predators or nosy herons.

Mother Goose usually sits tight on the nest, incubating her clutch of 6-8 eggs for most of a month or so, but Father Goose will take over at times so that the hen can stretch her legs and get a bit of food for herself.  Knowing how much space Canada Geese need to land on water or land, I have to wonder how good they are at making a touch down in the limited space of this nest platform.

Once the ducklings hatch, they usually move immediately into the water with their parents.

canada-goose-and-ducklings-1

It’s safer to be in the water because ducklings are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators on land.

Being nothing more than downy balls of fluff, they certainly can’t fly yet, so what will happen to the ducklings raised on an osprey platform?

osprey family update

I’ve been checking the osprey nest each week, and finally got some cooperation from the nestlings, allowing me to photograph their development.

osprey nest

This is what the nest looks like on most days I visit. The chicks are old enough now that mom can leave them for several minutes while she goes fishing.  When their parents are gone, the chicks must be down in the bottom of the nest, where their mottled plumage helps camouflage them.

osprey chicks-

One or both chicks suddenly appeared at the edge of the nest and started making begging calls — loud chips that sound like one note of the adult’s call.  You can just barely see the head of the second chick on the left of the one sitting upright.

osprey chicks-

One of the adults returns shortly after the chicks start begging; I think it might be the female, but she has not brought any fish for the chicks.

osprey chicks-

A nice family portrait, with both chicks sitting upright next to the much larger adult. They are a little more than 1/2 an adult’s size at this stage — approximately 6 weeks of age.

osprey chicks-

Their feathers are largely grown in now, wing feathers are elongating, and body feathers completely cover their naked skin. They spend most of their time lying prostrate in the nest, but every now and then need a good stretch…

Family life at the Osprey nest

I’m doing a weekly visit to monitor a local Osprey nest at the same park featured in the last two posts.  It’s a challenge to figure out exactly what is going on there with the aid of the telephoto lens or my binoculars.

osprey at the nest-

This is what it looks like most of the time — usually it’s the female either incubating eggs or sitting over the chicks to protect them from direct solar radiation. I think the chicks have hatched because she is sitting up much higher than she was a couple of weeks ago.  Previously only her head was visible.

osprey at the nest-

When dad arrives with a fish, there is some subtle communication that goes on before the fish is consumed.  

This was actually the second fish that dad brought to the nest.  After he delivered the first one, the two birds stood and looked at each other for a couple of minutes, and then he flew off with the fish in his talons.  Neither of them fed on it or diced it up for the chicks.  Hmmm… not sure what was going on there.

This was actually the second fish that dad brought to the nest.

Standing around thinking about what to do next with that fish…

This was actually the second fish that dad brought to the nest.

OK, let’s eat it. The female fed herself, the male seemed to be tearing off small chunks and leaning way into the nest toward where I assume the newly hatched chick(s) sat.

This was actually the second fish that dad brought to the nest.

When she comes around to his side of the nest, you can see marked differences between the birds. The female (on the left) is larger and is perhaps a little darker.  Her feathers are not smooth and sleek like his.  She needs a good preen job after sitting on eggs and chicks for more than a month.

osprey at their nest

Seems she needs to stretch out her wings as well. Lots of missing feathers there, and they’re looking a little ragged.

I’ll report back again when the chicks get a little bigger and are visible.

the flyover

Where are the warblers that should have arrived here in early May?  I think they flew right over Minnesota this year, in a hurry to get up north and set up housekeeping to raise the next brood of chicks.  Even the few Yellow-rumped Warblers that roamed the lakeside woods for a few days have moved on.  Better luck next year.

But in keeping with the “flyover” theme, I was treated to many flyovers by the local osprey at the marsh today.  First one member of the pair and then its mate circled over head while I fired off the camera shutter.

osprey

This may well be the most photographed bird in my collection. I have gone back to the marsh several times to check on whether there are chicks in the nest yet.

osprey

Those are some amazing long wings — all the better to glide around in circles watching me.

osprey

Part of this circling act may have been hunting, but there were too many trees in the way for me to see whether they actually were diving for fish.

osprey

Feet lowered to go after some fish?

osprey

It’s amazing how agile they are in flight, changing directions quickly and abruptly.

osprey at the nest

At one point, the presumed female gave up incubating for some exercise.  She took off, flew around the nest a couple of times, doing a few swoops and dives, and then settled right back on her eggs.  The incubation period is 36-42 days, so she will be sitting here for some time still.

Winter on the marsh

We had a few hours of sun yesterday, so I took a hike in a local marsh.  It was a silent walk, no birds, no squirrels, no deer, nothing moving on a relatively warm-ish (20 F) day.  But the sunlight brought out some unusual colors in the landscape.

Snail Lake marsh in winter

Snail Lake marsh in winter

This would be a great place to ice skate, but it is not uniformly frozen.  At least the muck below the ice in the marsh is not frozen yet.  I found this out when I tried to walk out to what I thought was a muskrat house, and sank into the muck up to mid-calf at the shoreline.  Stinky stuff!

There is an osprey nest on the tip of one peninsula that sticks out into the marsh. The birds have bred here for at least the last three years.

osprey tower at snail lake marsh

They have a pretty nice view of the marsh from here.

snail lake marsh in winter

It’s snowing again today.  Good thing I got out yesterday.