Kristen Lodge: Grand County’s osprey have returned
May 6, 2011
I am obsessed with osprey. It started when I read David Gessner’s book about osprey Migration from Cape Cod to Cuba, “Soaring with Fidel.” Gessner also has a website dedicated solely to the bird, http://www.ospreyworld.com/.
I’m hooked. I read books and websites about osprey. I follow blogs and webcams about osprey.
So when Grand County local and history buff Dede Fay heard about my osprey obsession, she immediately wanted to show me the osprey nests she has been watching every spring.
Dede moved to Grand County in 1988 and has been a birder off and on since she was 5 years old, thanks to her mother, Joan Fay.
Dede, Joan, and I searched for osprey on Saturday and went to view their nests near Ouray Ranch on the Colorado River and Willow Creek Reservoir.
The first nesting spot was on the river on ranch property on a dead tree. There are no signs of osprey nesting. Dede thinks they just haven’t laid eggs yet or that it is just too cold. The Colorado River is flowing so there are places to fish, but still no osprey nesting.
As we drove around, Dede told me how an osprey will fly by “showing off its catch” from the Colorado River.
“They fly with the fish facing forward, they are so close to my house I can see the fish squirming with the talons wrapped around it. They are the biggest, most beautiful birds. We love watching them.”
As we turned on the Willow Creek Reservoir road we saw two occupied nests. In the first nest closest to Highway 34 we saw the osprey hunkered down, and since we had binoculars we could see it nesting. As we drove farther down the road, we saw osprey flying but not fishing.
I talked to Brock McCormick, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, about why we didn’t see more osprey in nests.
“It’s still early,” he said. “The osprey will be rolling in for a few more weeks. The ones that are here aren’t quite settled in, so don’t yet give up hope on the Ouray Ranch nest.
“The foul weather probably isn’t causing problems with nesting quite yet, but if poor weather continues into May we will likely see some declines in reproductive success,” he added.
I asked about the migratory habits of the Colorado osprey, since I know from reading Gessner the Cape Cod osprey migrate to Cuba.
“Our osprey probably migrate to Texas/Mexico/Gulf Coast,” McCormick said. “Osprey are pretty loyal to their nest sites, so the ones that don’t come back probably didn’t survive migration.”
I asked how the nests survive the Grand County wind and cold.
“The weak point is really the tree,” he said. “With all the dead lodgepoles we have, nest trees blown down in wind storms. This caused numerous nest failures last summer and will likely become a common occurrence for some time to come.”
Dede said it gives she and her mother great pleasure to watch these nests year after year. I think I will start doing this, too, and get to know the Grand County osprey.
She confessed: “I’m not an obsessed birder that needs to check off all the birds I see.”
However, she told me this just hours after sitting in her kitchen talking about osprey, when a rare, yellow headed black bird flew up to her bird feeder. “I’m checking this one off my list.”
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