Posted on January 6, 2017 by Dave Rimmer


On snowy wintery days like today, I can’t help but daydream about Ospreys. I reflect on the 2016 nesting season; I wonder what they are up to on now their wintering grounds; I imagine them returning here locally in a few months; I hear them calling overhead in my mind.

This past year – 2016 – was another remarkable year for Greenbelt’s Osprey Program. We installed new Osprey nesting platforms. We observed a record 40 breeding pairs and 60 fledglings from East Boston to Salisbury. We banded 35 chicks. We had over 20 volunteer citizen scientists monitoring nesting activity and they combined to submit more than 1000 online monitoring reports! Then in September, Greenbelt hosted the first New England Osprey Symposium in Essex, where 120 enthusiastic Osprey fanatics gathered to hear reports from all six New England states on Osprey abundance and conservation. In the end we estimated from 2500-3000 Ospreys breeding in the six New England states. It was an honor to host such a gathering and we hope do it again in a few years.

Now let’s look more closely at Flow, who as a 2 year old male Osprey had quite  remarkable year. We have already detailed his first migration south from MA to Cuba, which started in late August 2014 and landed him in Cuba in late October; a meandering 2 month journey with numerous extended stops in what we suspect were productive feeding areas. Then as we all know, he stayed in his wintering area, as 1 year old Osprey are known to do, until March of 2016 or about 18 months. His trip north started in late April (most adult Osprey are on their breeding grounds by then) and he made a very leisurely trip north stopping again for extended stays in numerous locations. He finally reach MA in mid June, where he settled on the Merrimack River in the Lawrence-Haverhill section in late June. He basically stayed on the Merrimack, but he did make trips to NH, Cape Ann and even the mouth of the Saugus River. Just wandering….just because he could!

Flow's southerly migration in 2016 was a whole different story. It started on September 29 and he reached the same wintering area in Cuba on October 8. He flew almost 2000 miles in 10 days and he flew every day, indicating he hit a good weather pattern. Here is a quick look at his daily progress and approximate miles travelled:

9/29 MA to NJ = 300 miles

9/30 NJ to MD = 200 miles

10/1 MD to VI = 150 miles

10/2 VI to NC = 175 miles

10/3 NC to SC = 175 miles

10/4 SC to FL = 225 miles over water in daylight in about 9 hours

10/5 FL to FL = 225 miles

10/6 FL to Cuba = 300 miles over water in daylight in about 10 hours

10/7 Cuba to Cuba = 200 miles

10/8 Cuba to wintering area = 100 miles

These distances are estimates but probably within 5% accuracy. So it is remarkable how directly Flow made this most recent trip from MA to Cuba….in 10 days never stopping much at all. Now we wait to see when he starts north again in spring 2017. I presume it will be an earlier departure that the late April push-off in 2016 – and that it will be more direct and faster, resulting in an earlier arrival. But many young Osprey do not become breeding birds until age 4-5, so Flow may spend another summer just exploring and feeding. Then again, he might begin to display some breeding behavior, perhaps start to defend a nest site or begin to bond with a female. Time will tell and we will be able to observe it as long as the solar powered satellite transmitter he is wearing continues to function. Dr. Rob Bierregaard has several deployed transmitters currently that are still operational after 3-4 years. So I am hopeful we will be able to continue to track Flow for many more years.

I still see snow outside my window and I have images in my head of Osprey, including Flow. We will start to gear up soon for the 2017 nesting season. We have some new nesting platforms to install, the webcam to redeploy, Flow to watch and a nesting season to watch unfold once again. We will not reconvene another Osprey Symposium in 2017 but maybe in 2018.

That’s all for now. Osprey are 1000s of miles away but never far from my thoughts.

 Dave Rimmer, Greenbelt Osprey Program Director



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