EnviroQuest

Photography by Larry A Lyons

Posts tagged ‘refuge’

Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey

This is the second post of a three part series of a Florida field trip that this photographer co-coordinated for the South Jersey Camera Club members for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March. The first post entitled, ‘Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds’, visited the Venice Rookery with an amazing diversity of birds courting, mating and raising offspring. This post travels to various locations in southwest Florida to photograph birds of prey nesting and caring for their offspring.

Bald Eagle Portrait

‘Bald Eagle’ © Larry A Lyons

The Bald Eagle is another success story on the importance of banning harmful chemicals, such as the pesticide known as DDT; enacting laws such as the federal ‘Endangered Species Act’; and providing appropriate measures of wildlife management. In Florida there were only 88 active nests in 1973. Now there are more than 1,300 nests documented as a result of all of these initiatives.

One of these nests is situated high up in a tree in the northern section of Fort Meyers, Florida. Adult ‘Bald Eagles’, known as Ozzie and Harriet, have been coming to this nest since 2006 residing in the nest between the months of October and May. This eaglet was stretching its wings waiting its turn to be fed.

Can I Fly Yet?

‘Can I Fly Yet?’ © Larry A Lyons

Feeding The Eaglets

‘Feeding The Eaglets’ © Larry A Lyons

‘Burrowing Owls’, no bigger than 10 inches (25 cm) in height, live underground in burrows. They dig out tunnels in sandy soils often within residential communities, particularly vacant lots preferring areas with low ground cover. Burrows extend for 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) underground. This pair of owls was guarding its burrow.

No Trespassing

‘No Trespassing’ © Larry A Lyons

The Florida burrowing owl is classified as a “species of special concern”. This means burrows, owls, and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law.

Burrowing Owl Portrait

‘Burrowing Owl On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

The installation of T-perches near the owl burrows is often provided. These perches provide the owls with an elevated view that aids in looking out for predators. The T-perches also make the burrows visible for operators of lawn mowers.

Watching Over Nest

‘Watching Over Burrow’ © Larry A Lyons

Unlike other owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day. They have a diversified diet feeding on small mammals (moles and mice), insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Burrowing Owl On The Prowl

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

This wise old ‘Great Horned Owl’ was watching over an owlet living in this tree. Two nests of these owls were observed within a suburban community of Cape Coral that was no more than two blocks apart. It is one of the most common owls in North America. They live in a broad range of habitats from deserts, forests, tropical rainforests, cities, parks and suburbs. Like the burrowing owl, it has found a way of adapting to suburban sprawl.

The Wise One

‘The Wise One’ © Larry A Lyons

Great Horned Owls take life-long mates and will raise the young together. It does have a varied diet that can include small to medium sized mammals (foxes, rabbits, raccoons, rodents, etc.), amphibians, birds, fish and reptiles. This owlet is only a few weeks old and still covered with downy feathers.

Owlet

‘Owlet’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s because of the widespread use of an insecticide, known as DDT. Once DDT was finally banned in 1972, recovery of the osprey population began. A previous post entitled, ‘The Osprey Comeback’, provides more information about the how DDT caused the extermination of the osprey populations. The biology and reproduction cycle of the osprey is also provided in this previous post.

Osprey Portrait

‘Osprey Portrait’ © Larry A Lyons

The ospreys were quite active in building their nest. This nest was situated on an osprey platform in the Ding Darling Refuge in Sanibel Island and nesting begins as early as March. The male ‘Osprey’ brought the remainder of a fish to the female who was attending to constructing the nest. Ospreys mate for life and often return to the same nest year after year.

Room Service

‘Room Service’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for the final post of this series that will visit birds and other wildlife at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

 

The Osprey Comeback

Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s resulting primarily from the widespread use of a persistent insecticide, known as DDT. There were regions in the United States where 90 percent or more of the breeding pairs disappeared. Over 500 osprey nests were present in New Jersey prior to the effects of DDT. By 1974 only 50 nests remained in New Jersey.

'Osprey Comeback' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Comeback’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. DDT was banned in New Jersey in 1968 and banned almost entirely in the United States by 1972. Recovery of the osprey populations began once these bans were implemented.

'The Food Chain' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Food Chain’ © Larry A Lyons

The mechanism of toxicity resulting from DDT to predatory birds, like the osprey, is quite complex that ultimately affects their reproductive success. DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that tends to concentrate as it moves through the food chain. Fish that could be contaminated with DDT from eating shrimp or crabs would further magnify the concentration of DDT in predatory birds, like the osprey. The accumulation of DDT and its metabolites in the osprey prevents calcium metabolism causing the thinning of the eggshells. As a result of the eggshell thinning, the osprey would crush the eggs when sitting on them during incubation.

'Protect The Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Protect The Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The 1962 landmark book “Silent Spring” authored by Rachel Carson clearly expressed how important it is to maintain a vigilance on the use of chemicals and their fate in the environment. This book is often attributed to the environmental movement that was initiated in the 1960’s.

'Birds of Prey Socializing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Birds of Prey Socializing’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the osprey images were photographed at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge located on the southern coastline of New Jersey. This refuge, situated just north of Atlantic City, NJ, encompasses 47,000 acres of coastal habitat and is an important sanctuary for a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. A future post will present many other birds that utilize this refuge.

The osprey, also referred to as the fish hawk, has a diet that is almost entirely made-up of fish.

'The Fish Hawk' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Fish Hawk’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys have gripping pad on their feet that aids in plucking the slippery fish from the water with their long curved talons. The osprey will orient the fish head first to reduce wind direction when carrying the fish in flight. Here a flounder is being carried back to the nest.

'Entree of Flounder' © Larry A Lyons

‘Entree of Flounder’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey stands between 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm.) and has a wingspan of up to six feet (1.8 meters).

'Six Foot Wingspan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Six Foot Wingspan’ © Larry A Lyons

They do require suitable tall structures for building their nests. Platforms are often constructed to allow a suitable structure for nest building.

'Osprey Platform' © Larry a Lyons

‘Osprey Platform’ © Larry a Lyons

Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with grasses or seaweed. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material and the female arranges it. At the Forsythe refuge there are at least eight to ten platforms for the ospreys to build their nests.

'Nest Building' © Larry A Lyons

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

Males and females do appear similar in appearance, but there are some slight differences that can distinguish between the sexes. Males have a slimmer body and narrower wings. Also, the coloration of the breast band is either lighter or not present in the males.

'Osprey Pair' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Pair’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. They migrate back north in the Spring usually around the beginning of March.

'Feeding The Chicks' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding The Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

The female typically lays three eggs and both parents help to incubate the eggs. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, but rather hatching is staggered in time so some siblings are older and more dominant. The pair works together to raise the young.

'Peek A Boo' © Larry A Lyons

‘Peek A Boo’ © Larry A Lyons

The young fledge at about eight weeks of age and then remain in the area of the nest for about two months.

'On Watch'  © Larry A Lyons

‘On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

Juvenile ospreys have buff fringes to the plumage of the upper parts, a buff tone to the underbody, and streaked feathers on its head. Juveniles also have orange pupils that turn yellow when they reach adulthood.

'Juvenile Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Juvenile Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The adults and the juvenile ospreys will begin their southern migration by the end of August or beginning of September to their wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

'Are You Ready To Head South?'© Larry A Lyons

‘Are You Ready To Head South?’© Larry A Lyons

Ospreys are a conservation success story. Both the pesticide bans and the construction of artificial nest sites continue to allow for the comeback and growth of osprey populations.

'Enjoy, Don't Endanger' © Larry A Lyons

‘Enjoy, Don’t Endanger’ © Larry A Lyons

Leave you with a quote by Rachel Carson: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

References:

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/

http://www.conservewildlefenj.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/osprey

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey/id

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/osprey/

http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/osprey.html