Scientists in the Field
Spiral Notebook
2017 Osprey Update
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
July 20, 2017
 
2017 Osprey Update
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This spring brings a lot of news from the two Montana osprey nests featured in The Call of the Osprey.  I’ll get the difficult news out of the way first.

As I wrote in 2016, Stanley, mate of Iris, the female at the Hellgate Canyon nest, didn’t return that spring.  However, a new male, dubbed Louis by scientist Erick Greene (see my blog entry of June 30, 2016, for the story of Louis’s naming), joined Iris, but the eggs she produced didn’t hatch.

Louis returned this year right after Iris.  They repaired winter damage to the nest, and Iris laid four eggs.  Everything was great until a freak snowstorm descended in the middle of May.  Iris stuck with her nest, however, bravely keeping her eggs warm despite the snow.  The chicks hatched, and all seemed well.  But scientist Erick Greene was worried, as the long, cold, snowy winter led to very high water levels in the Clark Fork River, where Louis fished.  An osprey must be able to see the fish in the water in order to catch them, and fish were hidden in the muddy river.

One of the chicks wandered out from under Iris’s warm body in the night in mid June and died of hypothermia.  A few days later, the other three chicks starved to death.  Louis did his best, but the murky water made fishing just too difficult.

Productive news comes from the other nest, at Dunrovin Ranch south of Missoula near the town of Lolo.  Ozzie, mate of female osprey Harriet in the book, had died in fall, 2014.  Luckily a new mate named Hal paired up with her and produced tow chicks in 2016.  This year, the pair are raising three chicks named Honk, Hoot, and Hero, which have all been banded by the University of Montana osprey study team (Visit http://missoulian.com/news/local/university-of-montana-researchers-band-osprey-chicks-honk-hoot-and/article_67da20c0-0d6d-505e-8730-008cbaea8069.html to read more, and http://missoulian.com/news/photos-banding-and-sampling-osprey-chicks/collection_ec3ffe56-07cd-5623-94d6-b13808009808.html#5 to see photos).

The Dunrovin Ranch sits alongside the Bitterroot River, which wasn’t as muddy from runoff this year as the Clark Fork River was.  It turns out that Iris and Louis weren’t the only ospreys with nest failure this year; a number of other nests along the Clark Fork suffered from unhatched eggs or starved chicks.  Life can be a real challenge for wild creatures.

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