Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Osprey released


Many of you may know that on April 27th our region experience a lot of storms with many tornadoes. There was a lot of property damage and even loss of human life. There are many stories that include what could only be described as miraculous that anyone survived in a particular tornado. We had three tornadoes near us it was a miracle that we didn't have any damage. Last week, I was relayed a message from Bethany Pack of the American Eagle Foundation that a fellow checking a cell tower near Chattanooga found, inside the base of the hollow steel tower, what was believed to be Peregrine Falcons. I called the fellow, Jeremy Oran, and he described the situation. I went out to the cell tower near Chickamauga Lake and met Jeremy for a short hike up to the tower. A fellow from the USDA had tried to retrieve the birds but couldn't quite reach them. Jeremy indicated that the birds were at the bottom of the tower. I totally expected the "Peregrine Falcons" to be American Kestrels, a robin-sized falcon that prefers to nest in cavities, so the hollow steel tower made sense to house these little falcons. As I peered into the base, I was astonished! The birds inside were not kestrels or even Peregrine Falcons, but an adult pair of Ospreys! How did these birds end up in the bottom of this tower? Ospreys will readily use man made structures for nesting, so the tall cell tower, less that a mile from water was perfect...except this tower didn't have a cover on top. The Osprey pair had apparently built their nest on this tower and what we theorize is that during one of the severe thunderstorms the nest with both of the birds on it were blown down into the tower.

The second scenario is that the nest was blown away and the pair ducked into the hollow tower for safety. Whatever happened, the birds somehow ended at the bottom, luckily without having broken any limbs (wings or legs). Jeremy just happened to spot one of the birds poking its head out of the bottom opening. I had brought a small dip net with me and despite trying for a number of minutes to net the birds, I could quite get the proper angle for extraction. I moved to the next opening which had a small platform. This allowed me to reach down with the net to engage first the male and then, the stronger female. I got both of the birds to grab the net and after several tries, I was able to entangle their feet and talons. I removed the male first and handed him to Jeremy, who got a crash course in Osprey wrangling. I went down to my van and got the medium sized sky kennel I was expecting to use to haul kestrels or Peregrines. After we placed the fairly weak male in the kennel, I then extracted his mate. She was a little more difficult to snag, but after several minutes, I was able to snag her feet. I didn't have a kennel for her.

Both birds were thin, the male more so that the female, so I contacted local wildlife rehabilitator, Alix Parks, to see if she could help me. She was more that willing and we arranged a meeting place. Jeremy loaded the kennel in the van and I drove for about fifteen minutes holding the female. Upon meeting Alix, she immediately gave the female and then the male some fluids. We estimated that they had gone for 13 days without food or water. She loaded them into larger kennels and took them to her facility for more intensive care. Both of the birds were forced fed fish (Osprey are notorious for not eating well in captivity) and were given access to water. The female responded more quickly than the male. Unfortunately, the male died two days later. The female, however, started eating the fresh local fish that Alix offered and quickly rebounded. Dale and I went and looked at her on Monday and we all agreed that she was ready to go. Jeremy was contacted to see if he were available for a Tuesday morning release. He was. So we met this morning at an unnamed park on the shores of Chickamauga Lake. This park had a direct view of the cell tower in which the bird was discovered. With Jeremy's family in attendance, Alix extracted the Osprey from the carrier. I checked a band that had been placed on her leg and made a readjustment. The bird was then handed to Jeremy and after a few pictures, was tossed toward the lake. She took off fairly well and at first started heading for the highway. She then veered back over the lake and flew right over the water for nearly one-half mile. She landed in a tree on the opposite shore, probably thinking "How did I get here?" This unusual story had a happy ending, a least for the female. The male, unfortunately was too far gone to save. But, one caring man, Jeremy, who could have shrugged off the situation as someone else's problem, followed through until help was found. Also, one great rehabber Alix, went above and beyond to get this bird back in shape for her return to the wild. Thank you both!!!


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