5,000 miles

NH ospreys survive S. American migration

Special to the Union Leader
October 27. 2013 11:34PM
This fall, so far so good for Artoo the osprey, being held here by Dr. Rob Bierregaard this summer after being fitted with a GPS tracking device. 

HOLDERNESS — Four of five New Hampshire-born ospreys tagged with GPS-enabled tracking devices recently completed the 5,000-mile migration to South America.

Sadly, one of the four, a juvenile female named Weber, left her nest in Hampton Harbor on Sept. 6 and made an uninterrupted flight to Venezuela, but after her signal stopped on Sept. 29, researchers assume she perished. The fifth tagged osprey, an adult male named Mackenzie, died before leaving New Hampshire on the shore of Head Pond in Berlin, likely the victim of a predator. Researchers recovered his remains in October.

The large, fish-eating birds are being monitored through Project OspreyTrack, a collaborative effort led by Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Executive Director Iain MacLeod and his research partner, Dr. Rob Bierregaard, with financial and logistical support from Public Service of New Hampshire, funding from grant from the Jane B. Cook 1983 Charitable Trust and the Science Center's Innovative Project Fund.

Two of the surviving birds — brothers Artoo and Bergen — are the sons of Art, the adult male that was followed last year on his 10,000-mile round-trip migration from Bridgewater to Brazil and back. MacLeod and Bierregaard recaptured Art in August and removed the transmitter he carried for 14,000 miles. That device was placed on his son, Artoo, and a new device was placed on Bergen. Art's third chick, a young female, was not tracked this year.

According to MacLeod, Artoo left his nest in Bridgewater on Aug. 16 and headed to Pennsylvania where he fished at various rivers before heading to Chesapeake Bay in Maryland for a couple weeks. "Amazingly Bergen and Artoo crossed paths just to the west of the Chesapeake on the afternoon of September 23. Then they both headed out over the open ocean, known as the 'Georgia bite,' at one point only half a mile apart," he said. Both reached the Georgia shore, took different routes to Florida, to Cuba, Haiti and to the Dominican Republic.

Bergen arrived in Colombia on Oct. 11, while Artoo lingered in the Dominican Republic until Oct. 20, and then crossed over to Venezuela — a journey of more than 460 miles — on the morning of Oct. 21.

Donovan is the third adult male osprey to have survived the journey. Donovan is the father of two juveniles, Jill and Chip, who were followed, but perished, last year. Donovan departed New Hampshire on Sept. 17, eventually flew to the Virgin Islands but flew back to Puerto Rico where he fished for about a week before venturing south to St. Croix and a 660-mile nonstop trip from the Caribbean to Venezuela. MacLeod said Donovan is a mature bird who has made this migration several times.

"He knew where he was going. Ospreys are very faithful to both the winter and summer haunts and will return year after year to the same South American river," added MacLeod.

Readers can follow the continuing journeys of Artoo, Bergen and Donovan on MacLeod's blog at nhnature/org/programs/project_ospreytrack/ or via MacLeod's Twitter feed, @OspreyNH.

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