I spy Osprey
I wish I could have taken the week off for the holiday, but though they don’t seem like it, Corey, Mike and Charlie are slave-drivers, working us poor beat writers to the bone in their content factory. Worse, it’s non-union. I never though Corey, of all people, would sink so low.
Anyway, here’s a short piece on a truly fascinating piece of research that’s being done by Rob Bierregard, a professor of Biology at UNC-Charlotte, tracking migration of Ospreys up and down the east coast and beyond. Bierregard and his team put satellite transmitters on the birds nesting on and around Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and monitor their entire year, from their local movements during the breeding season in New England to their migration down the east coast, finally ending up deep in the Amazon Basin of South America. Their location is geo-coded to Google maps every few hours, which creates some absolutely stunning visual representations of the movement of these familiar birds.
We’re all well-aware of how migration works. The birds travel great distances between breeding grounds and wintering grounds. We birders are often fortunate enough to catch them heading back and forth and that’s a good day in the field. But something about seeing a map showing where the birds are on every step of the way allows you to really grasp these movements that so often seem invisible. It really makes the whole individual drama of the event really hit home.
Osprey are perfect birds for this sort of treatment. They’re highly migratory, more than we probably realize, and they’re robust enough to carry the backpack needed to track their movements with little concern. Plus, they’re charismatic like most raptors, with dashing back and white patterns and a penchant for dramatic plunges into the water to catch fish. For this particular study, you couldn’t use a better species if you’d created one yourself at Build-a-bird workshop.
And it doesn’t hurt that Bierregard’s team gives them funny names and treats them as members of their family which, when you’ve been following migrating Osprey for 10 years as they have, they kind of are. So definitely check out the site, follow the lives of North Fork Bob and Sr. Bones, gape in awe at the ambitious Atlantic crossings of young birds like Moffet and Belle, choke up at the tragic tale of Gunny.
It’s fabulous stuff. Go enjoy it.