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The Ospreys Have Returned To Carver
Diving for Fish
Its Easter week and the ice has been off the lakes of central Minnesota for about a week. I was hunting for White Tail Shed Antlers in Carver Park Reserve, a 3000 acre nature reserve located about 25 miles west of the Twin Cities. White Tail bucks usually shed their antlers from late January to March, but I have seen bucks still carrying their racks as late as April. I followed a game trail through the reserve and came to a heavily wooded area that I knew White Tail used as a bedding area during the day time hours. I moved through the woods to one of Carvers nine lakes. I followed the shore line for about 15 minutes when I saw a large Bird of Prey silhouetted overhead against a clouded sky. I took out my binoculars and focused on the bird and realized I was watching an Osprey (also know as The Fish Hawk or Sea Hawk). I was in the reserve two weeks earlier and there were no signs of this beautiful raptor. The ice comes off the lakes, and like magic, their back. Its amazing how these birds know when the lakes are open and can be fished, because an Ospreys diet is almost exclusively live fish and they must have open water.
Emerging from water with fish
I watched the Big Bird for almost half an hour, soaring effortlessly over the water, wings out stretched, barely needing to move them. This great hunter spotted a fish, and in a blink of the eye was in a power dive. (Unlike the Bald Eagle, an Osprey can become completely submerged during its dive into the water and still be able to fly away with its prey). Diving feet first he hit the icy water with a splash. Using its 6 foot wing span, it emerged with a fish clutched tightly in its talons. It took only seconds and a few flaps of those powerful wings for the hunter to leave the water and move over the tree tops with its prize in tow. Then he was out of sight.
Fly-off with fish
Historically, Ospreys had nested in the Twin Cities area, but they had disappeared as a breeding species by the mid-20th century. This was due to shooting, loss of habitat, and pesticides such as DDT, which caused thin eggshells that broke prematurely. Before the reintroduction of Ospreys in 1984, no Ospreys were nesting in Minnesota south of Mille Lacs County. From 1984 to 1995, 144 young Ospreys from Northern Minnesota were relocated and released from six different hack sites with in the Twin Cities metro area. The first successful nesting occurred in 1988 in Carver Park Reserve. As a result of these efforts there are more than 60 pairs of Ospreys nesting in the Twin Cities metro area. The Ospreys nest is made of sticks and other material and is found in trees, on cliffs, on man made structures such as power poles, bridges, buoys, and elevated platforms and sometimes even on the ground. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs that are incubated for 35 to 40 days. The chicks tend to hatch sequentially, 1 to 5 days apart. The young fledge at about 7 to 8 weeks of age, but are usually dependant on the parents until the fall migration. Ospreys become sexually mature at about 3 years of age. Ospreys live throughout the world near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, marshes, mangroves, and seashores. They can be seen at nesting sites from April to early September; however, the best time to view them is in late July when the young birds begin to fly.