Migration - 2006
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Other Florida adults stick around for the winter. Adult females migrate about a month before males, and adults of both sexes are very faithful to their chosen wintering grounds. Because young experience a very high mortality rate and satellite transmitters are very expensive, only a handful of first-year Ospreys had been tagged prior to 2004 and thus their migration is poorly understood. When do they go south? How do they find a reliable wintering area? Do they spend time exploring or chose the first good spot they find?We know from traditional banding studies that they stay on the wintering grounds for at least a year and a half. Do they all return in their second year? Do they go all the way home on their first return?
With five young tagged this year (details below), we have now tagged nine fledgling Ospreys, which is probably about as many as have ever been tagged. By "cherry picking" young from old, established breeding pairs, and trapping young that have already been flying for a couple of weeks, we have significantly beaten the odds--only one of the five young tagged prior to this year did not make it to the Caribbean.
On his migration south in the fall of 2005, our only tagged adult Bluebeard was shot (almost certainly) just a couple of hundred miles north of his wintering grounds. That left only Jaws, a fledgling tagged in 2004, as a candidate to return to Martha's Vineyard this spring, and his safety was in question as the year began. Our last signals from him were in December of 2005, and those were intermittent. We suspected a malfunctioning transmitter, given that he had been in what appeared to be Osprey heaven down in Colombia, with lots of fish and no one around that shoots Ospreys. Lo and behold, in March someone spotted an Osprey flying through eastern NC (when Jaws should have been moving back for his first trip home). In late May his transmitter turned on for a couple of days as he arrived back in his natal area. There's some sort of problem with his solar panel, so we only get very sporadic messages from him, but he's out there. The two one-year olds from the "class of '05" have both settled down (Conanicus in Cuba and the peripatetic Homer in Venezuela) and will spend another year, at least, down south before heading home.
WHO'S WHO? (Click on the bird's name to get to its series of maps.)
Jaws - Tagged in '04, this young male is back on the Vineyard (and was recently spotted on Cape Cod!) with a mal-functioning transmitter. With luck, we may be able to retrap him next year and get the bad transmitter off him.
Homer - After turning a 3,500-mile migration into a 5.200-mile odyssey (he was named for the pond near his nest, not in anticipation of his extended travels!), Homer finally (March) settled down and is moving back and forth between two locations in central Venezuela. He has found a reservoir to his liking and in April was making occasional trips some 30 miles to a mountain valley west of his reservoir. He has shown a predilection to mountain rivers throughout his migration. We expect him back on Martha's Vineyard in the spring of '07, in time to celebrate his second "hatchday."
Conanicus - Our Rhode Island youngster, tagged as a recent fledgling in '05, continues to frequent the Zapata swamps in southwestern Cuba. He should be back next year as well.
Lew - This young male was trapped on his nest in Lewes, Delaware. His nest is atop a 26' pole and we needed all the ladder we could find to get up there. His big sister was also trapped, but only got a Fish and Wildlife Service band.
Comet - is Conanicus's younger (1 year later) brother, trapped on his nest at Marsh Meadow in Jamestown, RI. He was named for Metacomet, AKA King Phillip, of the Wampanoag tribe. The Wampanoags were the chief enemies of the Narragansetts (Conanicus's tribe). Not that we're trying to get any sibling rivalry going here.... Because Comet's parents arrived and quickly got down to the business of nesting, we suspect they're the same adults that nested here last year, making Conanicus and Comet full siblings.