Project OspreyTrack: Lizzie Map
September 1, 2015
In the five years we have been doing Project OspreyTrack, there have been many high and many low moments. This past weekend was one of those very low moments. We were once again reminded that young Ospreys are always on the knife-edge of survival and that there are countless hazards that they must face in their first months of life. Lizzie had proved to be a fascinating Osprey, who’s journey to Rhode Island and self-adoption into the Belcher Cove nest provided new insight into Osprey survival strategies. Butch Lombardi’s beautiful photographs and careful documentation of her activities allowed us unprecedented access to her daily life. She became a local celebrity. Butch documented her on the Belcher Cove nest every day from when she arrived there on August 15 until 1pm on August 25. Her data upload on the 28th showed that she moved over to near a utility pole across the river from the nest between 4pm and 5pm on the 25th. All of her subsequent data points were from this location. This immediately worried me and I alerted Butch. He scanned the pole and checked the nest, but did not see Lizzie. He did report that on the 26th, he saw a Peregrine Falcon strafing a juvenile Osprey (not Lizzie) on the nest. The Peregrine landed on one of the nearby utility poles and was there a couple hours later. We kept our fingers crossed that Lizzie was just being “lazy” and was using the pole across the river as a feeding perch. On Sunday (30th) Butch went over to the area under the pole and searched. He saw no sign of Lizzie or the transmitter. He did find fish remains under the pole indicating that an Osprey had fed there (encouraging). Then Butch texted me with the words I had been waiting to read… “she’s alive.” Butch said he was uploading images from his camera and realized that he had a photo of an Osprey with a transmitter on the nest from that morning. What a relief. I texted Rob with the good news. Then another text came from Butch. In his excitement, he had read the “download” date (Sunday) rather than the “image taken” date and that indeed the last photo he had was from the 25th. What a rollercoaster! When her data started creeping in late on the evening of the 30th and all points were still right there near that same pole, I texted Butch again and he promised to check again the next morning. At 7:24am on Sunday Butch texted to say that he had found Lizzie’s body right where the signals indicated she was in tall eel grass about 20 feet from the pole and right under the wires. He examined her for injuries or any signs of how she died. Her body was already waterlogged and showed some signs of scavenging (likely had been there for five days). I asked him to check for burn marks on the feet or wings that would have indicated electrocution (none). Were there signs that she had been plucked or eaten by another raptor – no. Were there obvious fractures – Butch thought there might be dislocation in one wing. He sadly took several pictures, removed the transmitter and left her in the marsh. So. Lizzie’s story comes to a very sad end. My best guess is that she hit the wires that cross the river. Perhaps she was being harassed by the Peregrine or one of the resident chicks and took evasive action at the wrong time. She certainly didn’t starve to death. Every time Butch saw her she was eating a fish indicating that she was being well supplied by the local parent (likely the male) and/or catching her own fish. It’s a tough world out there.
August 25, 2015
Lizzie has made herself at home down on Belcher Cove in Rhode Island. She has “force-adopted” herself into the nest and is being regularly fed by at least one resident adult. She is being a bully towards the resident chick and it seems to have moved away for now (perhaps mooching at another nest). There were two chicks that fledged from this nest but the second has not been seen during Lizzie’s stay. She has been doing some exploring and we thought she had moved on last week . . . but she came back for dinner. This is truly a fascinating situation and one we are watching closely. “Cooperative rearing” within close clusters of Osprey nests has been noted before, but never from a nest from a completely different area (222km away).
August 18, 2015
Lizzie has indeed found a Rhode Island flophouse. Photo taken yesterday as she was being fed at Belcher Cove nest. Maybe we should rename her Minnie the Moocher ;)...
August 17, 2015
Lizzie didn’t waste any time and left the day after we tagged her. She quickly made her way south to Rhode Island and reached the north end of Narragansett Sound on Friday. She stopped moving at 11am on 15th and all her points through 4pm yesterday (16th) were in the same location, which initially was VERY worrying, BUT, zooming in on Google Earth reveals that those points are on an Osprey nest on a tall pole next to Belcher Cove. A quick look on the Rhode Island Osprey Monitoring website indicates that this is a well-established and occupied nest. My guess/hope is that Lizzie has decided to allow herself to be “adopted” by the local parents and mooch fish for a day or two – a common habit of young Ospreys. I won’t get more data from her until the 19th, so fingers crossed that she has found herself a foster parent and siblings for now.
August 13, 2015
Lizzie was tagged on August 12. She is the daughter of Art and Guin. We followed Art in 2012-2033. We have also followed three siblings of Lizzie: Artoo (tagged in 2013), Bergen (tagged in 2013) and Bridget (tagged in 2014). Lizzie’s first upload of data shows that she is sticking close to the nest and perching along the river waiting for meals to delivered to the nest by Art.