Published DateHOLDERNESS — "Art, " the adult male osprey whose comings and goings have been tracked for the past year by Iain MacLeod, executive director of the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, has returned from a leisurely winter in Brazil, and reunited with his mate on their nest in Bridgewater where the pair — one of 16 in the Lakes Region — is raising a brood of three chicks.
A year ago "Art" was fitted with a solar-powered tracking device, which relays his location, altitude, speed and direction hourly between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. via satellite. in September, he set off on his annual migration, a 5,000 mile flight down the east coast and across the Caribbean Sea to the Amazon Basin. Reading the signals he received, MacLeod concluded "Art" was on vacation, whiling away his days alone fishing, sunning, fishing, preening and sleeping. "He has a much smaller territory in the winter in South America than in the summer in New Hampshire," he said. "About four square miles compared to 200 square miles."
"Art" started for Bridgewater on March 15, covering as much as 270 miles a day, and arrived on April 10, when he was met by a gaggle of reporters and photographers. Writing on his blog, MacLeod recalled hearing his whistled call then seeing his "skydance," a series of swoops and tumbles to mark his territory. He lit on the nest, turned his back to his mate, assuring her he posed no threat, then together they flew to a perch, preened and mated. "After following dots on a map," MacLeod said, "it was a real thrill to see the live bird again."
Three eggs appeared in the nest eleven days later and on May 27 "Art" became a father. Since then he has fished the waters between Sky Pond and Livermore Falls, visiting the familiar haunts of last year.
Meanwhile, MacLeod has planned to affix transmitters to two chicks in August. Last year, "Chip" and "Jill," brother and sister who were hatched in Tilton, failed to survive their first migration, the fate of about half of young ospreys. He explained that the birds who survive their first migration spend two years in South America, and return on reaching sexual maturity. Between migrating and maturing, he said only one-in-five ospreys return to reproduce.
MacLeod said that the "Project Osprey Track," undertaken in partnership with Richard "Rob" Bierregaard of the University of North Carolina and funded by Public Service Company of New Hampshire, has compiled an extensive data base on the behavior of adult ospreys, while learning relatively little about young and juvenile birds. He said that the migration, undertaken at the height of the hurricane season, takes a heavy toll.
Given the long odds of surviving to maturity and the cost of the transmitters, MacLeod said that originally they had not intended to track chicks again this year, but with funding available decided to try again to unlock the mysteries of childhood and adolescence. He said that two chicks, most likely from breeding pairs on the Seacost, near Hampton, would be captured and fitted with transmitters. "We're hoping for better luck this year than last," he said.