Monday, May 11, 2009
I haven't seen the osprey in the last two visits to the marshes, so back to the hummingbirds.
Not that I totally forget about perching birds when there's a raptor around. No, actually, I do.
The moment a hawk, or owl is in the picture my interest in the cute little warbler or thrush is cut short.
My fascination with "birds who kill" goes way back. My connection to osprey dates back 23 years. I can remember every time I've encountered one.
The first was alongside a great, deep, cold lake in Northern Manitoba. A huge nest on a telephone pole. My high school biology teacher told me about it and I drove the 30 minutes out to go see it on a Saturday morning. This was at a time that I wasn't very interested in school.
Then there was a dry spell. The next memorable meeting was up north again. This time in Northern Alberta, treeplanting on a block next to a little lake and each time I planted to the shore, a female osprey in a monstrous nest across the way would lift off the nest and hover just above it giving me her warning cry. She is the biggest I've ever seen.
Next it was Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and the last course of my biology degree – marine birds. I had to fight to convince my professor that osprey were marine birds. Hey, they were catching fish out of the Pacific Ocean.
The prof was all hung up on the little black and white jobbies that we usually think of as sea ducks. He was all hung up on numbers, too. I wanted to make osprey my independent study project and I wanted to do a straight up nest observation – pictures and words only.
He said if there were no numbers, it wasn't science, and that's when I knew that I wouldn't be travelling further down the halls of academia in biology.
I did do my project on the effects of weather on osprey foraging. It meant spending each day on the beach watching males hunting for fish in the surf and recording their efforts.
I also spent a fair bit of time at the nest of one of those males at a lake above the beach where his mate protected their two chicks. One time, when I went swimming beneath the nest, she circled above me following my movements as I paddled on my back and we watched each other like that for about five minutes.
The female up at the ponds may have just been on a stop over, or I've been missing her this week. Time will tell.
Oh, yeah, the hummingbirds.
After the big 135 bird weekend, the next session was just under 70 rufous hummingbirds caught and banded, or recaptured from previous years.
The composition of that group has shifted from mostly males to more females, some showing signs that they're ready to lay eggs.
That follows the expected pattern of migratory males passing through early in the season, followed by local nesting females until the numbers get lower and lower until we wrap it up in July.