Osprey Banding

Ellen works for a local occupational high school where one of the learning areas is Marine Occupations. The school has a boat for this, and last week Ellen and a group of other support staff were taken out on a boat trip by instructor Hans Toft, assisted by Rusty Miller. Seen above, if I have it right, are Betsy, Shirley, Benita, Michele, Liz, Ellen and Alicia with Hans in the background. Hans also does Osprey chick banding for the state, and he was planning to band one on the trip. Rusty took the picture with Betsy’s camera, she was kind enough to share these pictures with us.

Ospreys on their platform nests are a familiar sight along the Jersey coast these days, though forty years ago they were nearly wiped out by the pesticide DDT. Since then the state has maintained a monitoring program, which is why they band the birds when they’re too young to fly away. Locally known as “fish hawks” by some, Ospreys accept human presence much better than most raptors, and take readily to nesting on man-made platforms on poles. We often see them fishing in the ocean when we’re at the beach. Ospreys eat only fresh-caught fish, and are very good at catching them.

Everyone enjoyed going out in the boat, Ellen reports, though some had never been in the back-bay wetlands where Hans brought them. Luckily they had good weather that day, after cancelling an earlier trip because of a storm.

Here’s Hans with the Osprey chick after they’d landed near the nest and he’d gone up on a ladder to get it. Only one chick on this nest, which is not unusual, though sometimes there are two. Hans has a necklace of Osprey bands around his neck for easy retrieval.

Ellen got to hold the bird while Hans prepared to band, which I’m sure she enjoyed.

Here’s a close look at the chick. Ellen said it was very passive, didn’t seem to mind being held at all. Some adult plumage feathers are already out on its head, though the body still has baby feathers.

Here’s Hans putting the band on the bird’s leg. The bands are aluminum and very light, they don’t even seem to know they’re there.

Here’s he’s closing the band with a crimping tool, I think.

All done, and none the worse for it. Hans is about to climb the ladder and return the chick to the nest, no doubt under the watchful eye of the parents flying somewhere nearby. A fun experience that Ellen enjoyed quite a lot.

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