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As of 1 September 2013 these pages will remain on this server as an archive, but they will not be updated. The maps for all birds tagged from 2000- spring of 2013 are available here.

Please visit my new site at www.ospreytrax.com

 

MIGRATION

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CONTENTS (click on the links to jump to that section.)   

Introduction - Migration patterns for North American Ospreys 
Techniques and technology - How do we trap the birds and how do the transmitters work?
Summary of our tagging and tracking data to date.
Detailed Migration Maps for: 
   
2000 - Two adult birds tagged on Martha's Vineyard.
   
2001 - Four adults tagged, three on the Vineyard and one in Charlotte
    2002 - No new birds tagged.
    2003 - No new adults, down to one surviving bird: KC.
    2004 - Five birds tagged, including our first juveniles 
    2005 - Two new transmitters deployed on fledglings-one in RI and one in MA.
    2006 - Five new juveniles tagged, including our first birds in DE.
    2007 - Five new juveniles tagged (DE and MA), including three with GPS transmitters.
    2008 - Seven juveniles tagged: 1 in DE, 3 on Martha's Vineyard and 2 on Cape Cod--all GPS.
    2009 - Four adult males tagged in May, 8 young scheduled for tagging in July and August.
    2010 - Four new adult males tagged in May--RI, Westport River, and Nantucket. Two young (DE and Martha's Vineyard) and another adult male (Long Island) tagged in July/August.
     2011 - Started the year with 6 birds in the Bahamas or South America. Two are juveniles and will stay down another year. The remaining birds include three adult males and one almost 2-year old. These four will head north this winter. We tagged 2 adult males in May (one died flying into a bus on Long Island) and 4 juveniles (2 in New Hampshire and 2 on Martha's Vineyard)
     2012 - Began the year with 2 young from 2010 and one from 2011 in South America, along with 2 adult males and one young from 2009 on his wintering grounds for the second time. We lost only 1 bird over the winter and all that headed north in the spring made it home. This spring on the Westport River, MA, we tagged 2 adult males with new transmitters that communicate to us via cell towers instead of satellites, and an adult male on the Pemigewasset River in central NH, using a conventional satellite PTT. Mid-summer we tagged a sub-adult(?) male on Long Island and two juveniles in New Hampshire.
     2013 - The year began with 5 birds wearing satellite transmitters down in South America all ready to come home. One, Snowy, is a 2011 young who will be coming north for the first time. We have two other birds carrying cell-tower transmitters. They've both been out of contact for months, so we're not sure if they're both still alive. We know one (Bridger) made it to Bolivia, so he got past the most dangerous hurdle (crossing the Caribbean in the hurricane season) at least. Most adults that do that make it home.


Links to other Satellite Tracking studies:
     Ospreys in Finland migrating to Africa - Pertti Saurola from the Finnish Natural History Museum. Check out Haari's migration on the 2001-2 season link--from northern Finland to South Africa!
     Ospreys (and other raptors) from Scotland to Africa - Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife.
     Peregrine Falcons from Chile to Canada - The Southern Cross Peregrine Project
     Bar-tailed Godwits - They're not raptors, but they make the rest of the migrating birds of the world look like wimps!

INTRODUCTION

   In 2000 I began collaborating with Mark Martell, who was then working with The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. At that point, Mark had already put well over a hundred satellite transmitters on Ospreys all over the US and followed their annual migrations from the breeding grounds to wintering areas in Mexico and Central and South America. (Mark now works for the Minnesota Audubon office as their Director of Bird Conservation.)

     Mark's work elucidated several patterns in Osprey migration across North America. The Pacific Northwest birds all make a non-stop sprint migration over the western deserts and winter in Mexico and Central America. None of these birds went as far as South America.
     East coast birds all go down the east coast, some fairly far inland, some along the coast proper, to the tip of Florida, over to Cuba, and then on to Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Some winter in the Caribbean, but the majority make the 4-500 mile trip across the Caribbean to Venezuela. From there, they scatter across much of the South American continent, some going as far as the Pantanal in Paraguay and Southwestern Brazil. Some truly overachieving birds even make it to Argentina!
     There are some very rare exceptions--two birds we have followed got to Cuba and went west to Central America and then on into South America via the Isthmus of Panama, and one of our 2006 birds went due south from Cuba to Jamaica and on to Panama--a crossing of over 700 mi.
     Birds that we have followed for several migrations tend to be as faithful to their wintering spot in South America as they are to their nesting area up north.
     Males and females take separate vacations, which someone waggishly suggested is the reason they can stay mated for life. The young travel on their own when they head south. They do not follow their parents, but work on pure instinct, apparently following a fairly simple two-line program: Go south and stay over land as long as possible. This gets them to the Keys in Florida, the southeastern tip of Cuba, and many of them to the little peninsula on the south coast of Hispaniola.
     The young remain on their wintering grounds for an extra year, not returning until just before their first "hatchday". They're not going to breed until they're 3 or 4 anyway, so we suspected they may use the extra time to locate a really reliable fishing spot for future migrations, but our growing data set for young birds suggests that they've already settled down well before their "extra" year in the tropics, so it may just be an adaptation to avoid the risks associated with a 3000+ mile trip. 

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SATELLITE TRACKING ON MARTHA'S VINEYARD, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, NORTH CAROLINA, DELAWARE, AND NEW HAMPSHIRE.
    In our first first year we tagged two birds--a mated pair from the south shore of Martha's Vineyard. "HX," the male (the birds were named for the letters on their colored leg bands), migrated to the delta of the Orinoco River in Venezuela and returned the next spring. His mate died somewhere in Panama in November. (Maps)

     In this photo, Mark and Annie Lemenager hold KC and KB, the adult pair we trapped and tagged at Felix Neck in 2001. In addition to the Felix Neck pair, in 2001 we tagged "KD," HX's new mate, and a female in Charlotte, NC. (Maps)

     The Charlotte bird wintered in Peru but died crossing the Gulf of Mexico on her spring migration in 2002. KB and KD landed on boats crossing the Caribbean on their southward migration in the fall and disappeared. We don't know what happened to them. HX died on his wintering grounds in Venezuela. 

    No new birds were tagged in 2002. KC returned from his wintering area in Venezuela only to find a young male claiming his territory. He was late getting back (he left his wintering grounds a week after the first Ospreys arrived on the Vineyard), so I suspect he may have been an old bird. (Maps)
   We followed him through another migration, and in the spring of 2003 he once again was late leaving Venezuela. When he arrived (a week later than the year before), he once again found a bird claiming his territory. This may have been the same male that tried to claim the territory the year before. Whether or not it was, the new male was not to be intimidated and a rather vicious battle ensued. KC was driven, bleeding, from the territory and found dead about two weeks later on the shores of the Lagoon in Vineyard Haven. The good news of this story was that we were able to recover his transmitter and had it refurbished for deployment in 2004. (Maps)

     In 2004 the BBC contacted me and asked if I'd help with a series of documentaries they were planning entitled "Incredible Journeys." They wanted to start with Ospreys and offered to buy 4 transmitters if I would help them with their show. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we put their transmitters on 4 Vineyard Ospreys and the transmitter recovered from KC on a fifth bird. On our first expedition to the Island we tagged an adult female (Elsie) at her nest in Edgartown and an adult male (Bluebeard) near the great clay cliffs of Aqunnah. We then ran out of luck and time and couldn't catch any more adults but still had 3 BBC transmitters to put on birds. So we came back in late July and put the transmitters of 3 young birds, Tasha, Bunga, and Jaws. Tasha and Jaws turned out to be the stars of the BBC's show. Bunga died near New London, CT. (We we were able to find the transmitter and use it in 2005.) Tasha made it to Hispaniola, where she went off the air. I suspect she wound up in a soup pot. Jaws made it to Colombia and settled down at an enormous lagoon, which was nothing short of Osprey heaven. Bluebeard, after an extended stay near the nest taking care of an apparently incompetent offspring, migrated deep into Columbia, almost at the Brazilian border. The documentary (Osprey Oddysey) aired in 2007 on the Animal Planet. (Maps)

    In 2005, Bluebeard returned to his nest in the spring. We tagged a young bird (Homer) on Martha's Vineyard and a young bird (Conanicus) on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island. Conanicus migrated as far as Cuba and decided that that was far enough. (Our first bird to stop in Cuba.) Homer led us on a merry chase, which included migrating through NC three times on the same migration (see his maps for details)! Bluebeard made it all the way into Columbia and was on the home stretch of his migration when he disappeared. Suspiciously, our last signals from him were in an area with extensive human activity. We're quite sure he was shot. Jaws remained on his winter territory throughout 2005, although his transmitter went off the air in November, leading to much anxiety here at Osprey Central. (Maps)

    In 2006, Thanks to the efforts of the staff and Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park, we expanded our project south and tagged three young Ospreys in Delaware. Rhode Island Audubon sponsored another transmitter for a bird in Jamestown, and we put another transmitter on a recent fledgling on Martha's Vineyard. 

     Meanwhile, Jaws was spotted flying north through North Carolina by a colleague in Wilmington in May, several months after I had deactivated his ID with the satellite company, ARGOS. A week after he was spotted, ARGOS contacted me to say that they were receiving intermittent transmissions from him and ask if we wanted his ID reactivated. We did indeed and had remarkable luck with his transmitter turning on exactly when we would have turned it on ourselves, had it been under our control. It came on just as he was crossing Rhode Island and landing on the Vineyard. Then it went off for a while, but came on in August, documenting his return to the very spot in eastern CT where he had spent a month prior to his first migration back in '04. This dovetailed beautifully with our observations of adults that commuted back and forth between freshwater areas in NY or CT and their nesting territories after a nest failure. It appears that some Ospreys have a favorite fishing hole in freshwater areas that they can rely on when the fishing is bad around the nests, and return periodically to the nests, 1-200 miles away to make sure no young upstart gets any ideas about the territory being vacant.

     Jaws' transmitter went off for a while, but came on just as he was leaving FL and documented his trip across the Caribbean and return to the same general area where he spent his first year and a half in South America. 

     While Jaws was doing his first trip north and south, Homer had settled down in Venezuela, and Conanicus spent a year and a half in the Zapata Swamp on the south shore of Cuba.

     The "Class of '06" provided some interesting new data. One of the DE birds made it as far as Savannah, GA, and decided that was far enough. Another headed south over the Atlantic from Bald Head Island, NC,--a route a fair number of birds take on a short-cut to FL, but this bird had a bit too much east in her internal compass and went down at sea about 150 miles from Turks and Cacos Islands in the eastern Bahamas. The third Delaware bird made it to the Amazon, where she is currently waiting out her year-and-a-half on the wintering grounds. 

     The two New England birds did not fare well. The RI bird, Comet, showed us a new route, heading due south from Cuba, passing over Jamaica before crossing the Caribbean the really long way, landing in Panama. From there he headed into South America, where we lost his signal in November. We don't know what happened--it may be a malfunctioning transmitter, or he might have died. Moshup, our lone Vineyard bird tagged in '06 settled down for the winter in the Dominican Republic and was shot in March by hunters who confused him for a Red-tailed Hawk (which they shoot because Red-tails will take chickens, and back-yard chickens are an important protein source for many in the D.R.) We were able to get his transmitter back, as well as the transmitter from the DE bird that was wintering around Savannah. We have no idea why he died, but West Nile Virus is always a suspect with birds of prey. Since the loss of this bird in a wooded area, we have had several others somewhat mysteriously die under similar circumstances. We now strongly suspect that Great-horned Owls have taken a number of our migrating Ospreys. When an apparently healthy bird in full migration spends the night in a large woods and doesn't come out the next morning, we take this as strong circumstantial evidence that a Great-horned Owl took down our bird. (Maps)

     In 2007 we tagged five more birds--two in Delaware and three on Martha's Vineyard. Three of these transmitters are new, state-of-the-art GPS transmitters, two were the transmitters we recovered from Moshup in the D.R. and Lew near Savannah. Previous units provided locations that were at best within a hundred yards or so of the bird's true location, but often miles off. This level of accuracy is fine to study migration, but insufficient to really understand the fine details of migration and foraging ecology around the nests and wintering grounds. The new transmitters provide very accurate hourly locations, as well as speed, altitude, and direction of each fix.  (Maps)

     2008 was a busy year! We tagged 7 young Ospreys. Duke was tagged on the Catawba River down in Great Falls, SC; Little Ricky in Cape Henlopen, DE; Penelope, Mittark, and Meadow on the Vineyard; and Sheri and Goody Hallett on Cape Cod.
     Of this group, Sheri was fatally injured just days after we tagged her, probably when she hit some hard object diving into the water. We recovered her transmitter and put it on Goody Hallett, banded around Cape Cod's elbow. Goody disappeared mysteriously in the Brazilian Amazon. Ricky settled down in Miami and probably suffered some sort of accident, as he disappeared from one hour to the next in the winter of 2009. Mittark was another victim of shooting in the D.R. Meadow made an amazing trip to Lake Superior! before migrating down to the D.R., where she was also shot. (We did get this transmitter back, a year later.) Penelope made it to French Guiana, spent a year and a half there, and is now (20 July 2010) wandering around southern New England.
(Maps)

     In 2009 we continued tagging youngsters and initiated a new study of the foraging ecology of adult males. The new GPS transmitters are so accurate that we can now learn exactly where our birds are spending their time fishing. Six young (SC, RI, and MA) and four adult males (three on the Westport River in southeastern MA and one on Nantucket Island) were tagged. (Maps)

     The 2010 season began with tagging four more adult males. 2009 was going to be our last year for the study of junvenile migration, but that didn't work out. Our Delaware colleagues at the Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park had raised money for a transmitter for a young bird in 2009, but their target nest did not produce any young, so they deferred the deployment of their transmitter to 2010. Additionally, we finally got Meadow's transmitter back, a year after the bird was shot, so we had another transmitter to put on a young Osprey.
     In May, we put transmitters on a male (Neale) in Jamestown, RI, two males on the Westport River in southeastern MA, and another male on Nantucket.
     At the end of the summer tagging season, we had one more transmitter for a young bird on Long Island. As it turned out, we caught an adult male before we caught the juvenile and I made the snap decision to put the transmitter on the male, rather than waiting for the youngster. The alternatives were to increase our sample size for juveniles from 31 to 32 or increase our sample size for adult males from 8 to 9. I went with the bigger bang for our buck and tagged the male, which turned out to be a marauding neighbor and not the adult male at the target nest. Details on the 2010 map page (Maps)

OOPS! Just discovered how behind the times I am on this page. Someday I'll catch up...

 

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