12 June 2009

Preparations Underway for 2009 Osprey Reintroduction Project

Efforts are underway in preparation for "Wings Over Water," the second year of an osprey reintroduction project along the Missouri National Recreation River in South Dakota and Nebraska.

"Nesting pairs of ospreys have returned to the Coeur d’Alene Lake Basin and some are now incubating eggs," said Jane Fink the osprey release coordinator and biologist with Birds of Prey Northwest (BOPNW), a primary partner involved in a four-year project to reintroduce a viable population of Ospreys along the river.

Nests in northern Idaho are currently being closely monitored.

The the shores and shallow waters of the Coeur d’Alene Lake basin has "the largest nesting osprey (Pandion haliaetus), population west of the Rockies," Fink explained. "We choose nest sites that are accessible by boat or utility truck, and always leave one chick remaining in the nest." Young are taken from the nest when they are the appropriate age, or just about six weeks of age and prior to fledging.

Collection of the chicks is expected in mid-July, Fink said. "We collect from power poles, nesting platforms over water, and bridges."

The captive young will be held for observations and medical checks at the Birds of Prey Northwest raptor facility at Coeur d'Alene, prior to being flown to Yankton, South Dakota. Last year, the jet of the governor of Idaho was used to move the birds, Fink wrote in a lengthy article on the project, published in the South Dakota Conservation Digest.

The osprey will be placed into separate hack boxes grouped on the release towers - located on Corps of Engineers property at Lake Yankton, by Gavins Point Dam - upon arrival and allowed to acclimate for ten days to two weeks.

"Upon achieving the appropriate developmental age, they will be released in groups of five and tracked through the month of August and early September," Fink said. This year, a few ospreys as well as two birds held over from last year’s project will receive satellite transmitters to monitor their migration routes and wintering areas after fledging.

There were 18 ospreys released last season.

"The young birds will likely migrate south in early September, where they will overwinter until reaching sexual maturity at two years of age. Upon their return it is hoped they will establish nesting territories along the Missouri River in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.

This project is being funded by the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department, Fink said, in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers. Several biologists, including project leader Dr. Wayne Melquist of the Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and from Birds of Prey NW assist in collection of the young each year. BOPNW is responsible for their care prior to transport to South Dakota and is a primary partner. University of Idaho, Idaho Fish & Game, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe are secondary partners.

Fink said the project welcomes volunteers "interested in tracking and observing the young osprey as they learn to fish, soar, and negotiate fish-stealing bald eagles!" Volunteers helped to construct the release towers last year.

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