Monday, July 29, 2019
THE WORST HAS HAPPENED
This is our osprey nest.
See anything missing?
THE ENTIRE FAMILY IS GONE.
All five birds. Gone.
Sometime between Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21, one parent - who we always believe is the male - disappeared.
Yes, again. The mate disappeared. On Sunday morning, while I sat outside reading and watching the nest, the remaining parent flew off the nest three times towards the river, and came back. No one brought fish to the nest at all on Sunday.
No one in that nest - one parent and three large babies - ate fish on Sunday that I noticed. Normally, I see an osprey fly into the nest with a fish as I start out on my early morning walk but no bird flew over me. I thought nothing of that then.
Early Monday, I left for a week in Ontario and when I returned home, the worst news awaited me. No osprey parents at all. The babies were alone in the nest.
Okay, when one osprey parent disappears one spring (2018), it's mysterious and spiritual and symbolic. When one osprey parent disappears the following summer (2019), it's HUMAN INTERFERENCE.
This is no sad coincidence. You don't lose a healthy, attentive male osprey two years in a row.
The problem is we have no way of knowing exactly what is taking our ospreys. Eagle? Fishing line? A boat?
My husband's theory is that someone nearby has a trout pond and the ospreys have been fishing it. Instead of creating a habitat where the trout can hide, the pond owner is simply shooting the osprey. He actually thinks he has a right to protect his trout stock by shooting the provincial bird of Nova Scotia.
And I think the remaining osprey parent is gone too. Gone, as in killed. Because why would she abandon her chicks when the oldest is less than a month from fledging? Perhaps the youngest and smallest chick would perish if the mother couldn't bring in enough fish in a day and the two older and stronger chicks shoved the baby out of the way in order to eat. But I simply can't see why she wouldn't have started to bring fish in, to keep her half-grown chicks alive.
Here she is on the Saturday before I left (July 20) with the two older chicks on either side of her. See how big they are? They are - WERE - so close to learning to fly. By the middle of August, they'd be flying. They'd be learning to fish for themselves. I honestly can't imagine a parent -- even an instinctive, survival-of-the-fittest wild bird -- abandoning its chicks.
But the alternative is no better: She was killed, too.
And thinking of a man pointing a gun at our ospreys and shooting them out of the sky because he's too lazy and too stupid to create a protective habit in his trout pond fills me with murderous rage.
Because it's not just two, probably three, adult ospreys we've lost in the last two years. It's also SIX BABIES. Three eggs were abandoned last spring, and three chicks were left alone this week.
That's what is hardest about this. To look at the nest now and know there are three osprey chicks lying dead in it. Those strong, growing, wing-stretching bodies are still, and baking in the hot sun.
This is so unbelievably cruel. This is devastating.
For ten years, our ospreys came to this nest and made it through the summer. The only threat was the eagle in the summer of 2015, but it took the babies, not the parents.
And now, nine ospreys have been taken out of the life cycle. The circle of life has stopped here.
So I hope they stop coming to this nest. Perhaps we should take down the pole. We can't keep inviting ospreys to live here knowing their lives are endangered. I don't think I can take another summer of no babies getting to grow up and fly away.
*** UPDATE - later in the day:
I was washing the dishes late in the afternoon when I heard an osprey chirping. I went and looked at the nest - there was an adult osprey standing on the side of the nest.
It stood there for the longest time, looking down into the nest.
Then it spread its wings and flew off the nest.
It had a fish in its talons.
IT BROUGHT A FISH TO THE NEST.
So...she is not dead BUT:
She let her babies die. No one brought any fish to the nest since I returned home two and a half days ago. She let her babies die. How could she not have managed to bring one fish a day to them, to keep them alive until they could fly? How could she not have managed to feed herself and her babies when they live right along the river?
I can't answer any of these questions. But this is too much. She came back to the nest with a fish, and found her babies dead. Too little too late.
This is even worse than the eagle snatching the three fledgings four years ago; at least then, we knew what happened. At least then, we had the chance to try and save one.
**** ANOTHER UPDATE:
I have no idea what's going on. All I know is I was back in my office, trying to work, when I heard chirping. Went outside and saw this:
I feel like I'm losing my mind! For ten years, these guys showed up in April, fixed the nest, laid eggs and hatched out two or three babies who learned to fly in August then everyone headed south in September. Now it's just a shit show.
Looks like one of the babies, likely the first born, oldest and strongest one, managed to survive the past two days without food. But will one fish every couple of days be enough?
I'll try to find something else to write about in a few days.
(I told Dwayne that we need to buy a cherry picker so that if/when this happens again, we can simply drive the cherry picker over and toss fresh-caught trout into the nest for them to eat! At least then, we'll feel like we're helping.)
(Another thought: Any chance we could get an osprey-sized camera to attach to one of them so we can see what is happening???)