HOLDERNESS — Two New Hampshire Ospreys are sporting hi-tech backpacks that will allow researchers (and the public) to follow their incredible 3,000+ mile migrations. Lightweight, GPS-enabled, solar-powered satellite transmitter backpacks use interactive web-based technology to allow near real-time virtual tracking of Ospreys as they migrate from their nests in New Hampshire to South America and back.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (SLNSC) launched Project OspreyTrack in 2011 with financial and logistical support from Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), the Jane B. Cook 1983 Charitable Trust and the Science Center's own Innovative Project Fund. This year, additional funding has been provided by The Meredith Bay Colony Club in Meredith.
The project is led by Iain MacLeod, SLNSC Executive Director. MacLeod has studied Ospreys for more than 30 years and has monitored the growing nesting population in the Lakes Region since 1997 in collaboration with NH Audubon and NH Fish and Game.
"This project will allow us to track these birds continuously for three or more years and is part of a larger New England-wide project spearheaded by Dr. Richard (Rob) Bierregaard, a distinguished visiting research professor at the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina," said MacLeod. "Bierregaard has been studying Ospreys on Martha's Vineyard for 40+ years and holds extensive experience using this satellite tracking system. After 14 years, and more than 80 birds tagged, his project is providing much-needed data revealing migrational differences among Ospreys and helping pin down where threats to the birds lie," added MacLeod.
Logistical support this year was also provided by Bridgewater Power Company, J.Jill Distribution Center in Tilton, and Donovan Tree Experts. Chris Martin, a conservation biologist from NH Audubon, is a key project advisor.
On August 12, MacLeod and Bierregaard fitted transmitters onto two youngsters. A male named Tilton was tagged at a nest in the town of Tilton. Tilton's father, Donovan was tagged in 2013 at this nest and spent his winter in Venezuela. "It will be interesting to watch any overlaps in the migration routes of father and son," said MacLeod. Tilton began his migration on August 19 and is now in New York. Donovan is still at his nest feeding Tilton's sister.
The second chick was tagged at a nest in Bridgewater. This bird, named Bridget, is the daughter of Art, an adult male who carried a transmitter in 2012 and 2013, and is a one-year-removed sister of Artoo and Bergen, two male chicks that were tagged at this nest in 2013. Artoo is currently in Brazil hanging out on a small lake near the Amazon. Bergen also made it to Brazil last year but died in February.
Bridget left New Hampshire August 21 and was in Massachusetts by the end of the day.
The Osprey - sometimes called the "fish hawk" - is a large fish-eating bird of prey - the only raptor in the world to feed exclusively on live fish. Bierregaard's studies have shown that Ospreys are still shot while migrating through Cuba and Haiti - usually at fish farms - and at their wintering grounds in South America. Hurricanes in the Caribbean are also a major threat to the birds.
To follow the latest updates on this Osprey project and follow the NH tagged birds, visit: http://www.nhnature.org/programs/project_ospreytrack.
You can also follow MacLeod's Osprey Tracking Twitter feed at @OspreyNH.