[July 25, 2006]

Osprey pair successfully roosts in Cedar Valley

(Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jul. 25--CEDAR FALLS -- For the second time in as many years an osprey has returned to the Cedar Valley to build its home.

Last summer the bird, which was released from the Hartman Reserve hacking tower in 2001, abandoned his nest before any osprey babies could be born. This summer was much more productive for the bird and his mate, which was not part of the Iowa project. Photographer Bill Schuerman captured the pair and their little one on camera last week for the nature center.

"We saw those pictures of the baby, and it felt like being a grandma," said Sandy Fulcher, acting director at Hartman Reserve Nature Center. "It is exciting after all of these years to see a baby."

For eight years since 1998, the birds have been brought to Hartman Reserve in hopes of attracting a nesting pair back to the Cedar Valley. The birds were banded so they could be tracked if or when they returned to the state. In general, many of the birds do not survive the flight south to the Amazon, but in 2003 a Hartman bird was found nesting at Saylorville Lake. Hartman is one of several parks that participated in the project. This summer was the first that the birds were not released.

Pat Schlarbaum, with the Department of Natural Resources wildlife diversity, said this nest is one of six nests in the state. At least four have successfully produced offspring.

"We are so pleased the Friends group, who has been working so hard, now has a successful nesting pair. We hope that provides some uplifting energy for other efforts," Schlarbaum said. "These birds are so fun to watch. When they fish, they really just drop out of the sky and grab the fish by their talons and sometimes go completely underwater. ... It's a jubilation to watch them."

Anne Duncan, Hartman's development coordinator, said this bird's return is right on schedule. On average, osprey return to their original nesting area within five years of release. Usually the birds seek out high perches near water, but not this time.

This bird, his mate and their baby have taken up roost on a cell phone tower off Iowa Highway 57 heading into Cedar Fall

"They are definitely protecting that baby from other animals. None can climb up a metal structure," Duncan said.

Representatives from I-Wireless, which owns the tower, said they will do all they can to keep the birds safe. Fulcher said the birds are protected in Iowa, and anyone caught harming them could face charges.

Fulcher is unsure how old the young bird is, but said those looking to catch a glimpse better do it soon. Usually, osprey young take flight on about day 53. The birds likely will begin spending less time at the nest in early August and should begin migrating south no later than October. Once the young bird leaves the nest, Fulcher said the best place to spot the birds will be near the Valley Park Hacking Tower and Alice Wyth Lake.

This successful nesting means the birds likely will return next year. Usually the birds would return to their first nest, simply adding on to make it bigger and better, but Fulcher said that could be a problem if the tower needs repairs and the nest must be removed.

Duncan hopes the birds will continue to nest in this area, maybe finding a little more natural setting for their next home, and even bring other birds back to the Cedar Valley.

"It's very satisfying to see the hours and hours of volunteer work and veterinarian hours finally pay off," Duncan said. "I've only been here one year, and I couldn't wait to see them come back. I can't imagine how all the volunteers felt."

Contact Emily Christensen at (319) 291-1520 or emily.christensen@wcfcourier.com.

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