Rob Bierregaard, a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, was invited by the Museum to come to Fishers Island on May 11, 2013, to “tag” an osprey with a satellite transmitter. Rob was specifically interested in tagging a male osprey to determine over time the routes taken and sites visited by the bird while it foraged for fish. We chose the occupied osprey nest adjacent to Beach Pond—located at the southern end of Middle Farms Flats—because that platform was low enough to be accessible by ladder.
Rob and a small group of volunteer helpers arrived at the nest shortly after 11 AM and verified that the female was on the nest, incubating her eggs. We waited at a distance until we saw the male osprey—named “Edwin” in honor of the late Museum Curator and FI School teacher Ed Horning—deliver a fish to his mate. She took the fish off to eat, and Edwin settled down in the intermittent rain to take a turn at keeping the eggs warm. After about 20 minutes, the female had finished her lunch and was back on the eggs.
We then decided it was time to set the trap. As we approached the nest the female flushed and vigorously and vociferously let us know what she thought about our proximity to her clutch of eggs. The male, who had just left the nest, was conspicuous in his absence. The slightly camouflaged trap, which resembles the sort of hand-made wire hat one would wear to a H.O.G. tournament, had flat-rims with a protruding rectangular mid-section that “sat” over the eggs so they wouldn’t get damaged during the trapping. Rob placed the three eggs found in the nest within a plastic baggy to further protect them from exposure during the trapping. The female soon came back to the nest, landed on the platform edge, and tried to sit on her eggs. (The eggs are the “lures” in this process.) Her toes quickly got caught up in the fish-line “nooses” that cover the top of the wire trap. She was subsequently retrieved by Rob, hooded, bagged, and banded. During this period the female was kept quietly and safely by the car some distance away from the nest, while the waiting game began.
After about a half an hour, Edwin decided to return. (He was not the most attentive or protective male osprey that Rob has tagged.) The process then repeated itself after he landed on the nest and got his toes tangled in the trap’s nooses. The female was released soon after Edwin was captured, but only after the baggy had been removed from the eggs and the trap had been removed from the platform. In Edwin’s case, in addition to banding, a one-ounce, solar-powered transmitter was strapped to his back during a 30+ minute “operation” that was quite elaborate and involved a good deal of precise stitching to attach the cross-banded straps to each other. We were all quite impressed with Rob Bierregaard’s ingenious trapping method and his bird-handling skills. He is a consummate professional, and it was an honor to watch him in action.
The Museum has already received the first transmissions from “Edwin’s” transmitter and they reveal that he has been flying over to Connecticut to hunt for fish, reaching points as far west as East Lyme! We are working with Rob to coordinate on how best to share the data with everyone. After that has been worked out, we’ll all be able to follow Edwin on his rounds via Google Earth. We also should be able to determine where he winters.
The Museum appreciates the volunteer help we received in the field from JR Edwards, Jeff, Catherine and Benjamin Edwards, John Ski, Hank Golet, Ken Edwards, and Nick Spofford. Special thanks to the Utility Co. for their ongoing support of “Team Osprey” and to the Spofford Foundation for enabling this fantastic project. We are also most appreciative of the ongoing research that Richard O. “Rob” Bierregaard, Jr. conducts involving ospreys and other raptors and hope that Edwin contributes useful data to his efforts. Many thanks to all involved!