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Ospreys make a comeback in Orange County


Ospreys, birds of prey once threatened by hunters and the pesticide DDT,  have begun to spread their wings — and domain — in Orange County. A female osprey reared on a  platform in Upper Newport Bay recently hatched a chick at another specialized platform a few miles away in Irvine.

Experts say this is a positive sign for a species that for decades had no known nests in Southern California. The ospreys have been watched over locally by a group of dedicated conservationists who are just now understanding the species' breeding patterns. "Now we have an idea of how far they might go from their nest," said Scott Thomas, vice president of the Sea and Sage Audubon Society, an Orange County chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Thomas was one of the conservationists who temporarily removed the chick from its nest for a recent "banding" ceremony, in which a rubber band was attached to the bird's leg for tracking purposes. "They're really special birds," he said, "and at that age, they're pretty easy to handle."

Based on the chick's size, biologists believe it to be female — although they say it was too early to tell. Its mother was born in Newport and then nested with an unknown male in the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary near UC Irvine.

Experts say it's typical for female ospreys to nest after three years, often in the same place or near where they were hatched. In this case, that was just five miles away — up an estuary and along a freshwater stream.

Last summer, wildlife experts at the Irvine Ranch Water District, which owns and manages the preserve, built a 40-foot-tall nesting platform. They added a few branches to get the parents started, Thomas said. The birds soon moved in.

Scientists were able to identify the female because she had a band around her leg from the Newport nest, which sits on Shellmaker Island. She was born there in 2008 on a platform built by Russ Kerr, a local naturalist, and representatives from the Department of Fish and Game.

It took more than a decade for them to entice ospreys to that platform. At first it was bare, and then they learned that the birds like to see a few branches. The first chicks were hatched on the platform in 2006.

Ospreys prey on fish in saltwater or freshwater. Some believe that the birds were competition for fishermen in the early 20th century and fell prey to hunters. Then, after World War II, many succumbed to DDT.

Thomas said the conservationists' next step may be to attach radio transmitters to the ospreys. That's expensive, but it will enable better tracking and monitoring of the birds.

--Mike Reicher

Photo: An osprey couple tend to their offspring. A chick recently hatched at a man-made platform in Irvine.  Credit: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

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I was walking by The Cove in La Jolla after breakfast yesterday (Sun., Feb. 27, 2011) and heard a long, shrill screech. Startled, I looked around to see what could've possibly made such a sound. My wife and son pointed up to a huge bird perched on the light pole above the lifeguard tower that overlooks The Cove. I'm from Idaho and have seen Osprey numerous times, especially whenever I travel through Island Park on the way to Yellowstone. You can see dozens of the big birds perched in pine trees on the banks of a lake or along the Snake River. They will sit and watch for hours before finally swooping from their perch to pull a trout or salmon from the water.

However, I've never seen an osprey in S. Calif. And I was shocked to see one in La Jolla. It was pretty cool. After visiting the Audubon website, I learned that there are a small handful of mating pairs of the birds in S. Calif. and that they're starting to make a comeback. Very cool.

There are some great pics people have posted of the La Jolla osprey. Check out the leopard shark this guy caught near the Cove. Big fish. Bigger bird.

An osprey nest has been occupied for at least the last several years at near Paramount Ranch in Malibu. They fish in nearby Malibou Lake

I saw an Osprey on Friday Sept 24 over West L.A. it was being harried by a White Tailed Kite. It was a first for me to see either of those birds. I was amazed by the size of the Osprey, it looked like a small plane compared to the Kite, which was considerably smaller but still quite large. It was amazing, I am so glad I stepped out of the office at that precise moment.

I walk every day early in the morning, about 6:00 AM, in Chino Hills. I see an Osprey almost daily hunting in a remote area. It has been in the same vacinity for about 6 months. I have not spotted a nest, but I will try to do so in the near future.

The only other time I have seen one was when I was fishing at Silver Lake in the Sierras and one came along and just scooped a fish off of the water, held it in its talons and took it away. What a sight! I have also seen Perigrin falcons in Yosemite- they dive like fighter planes.

My family and I were on the Headlands/Selva Road beachhead trail recently and we were treated to an Osprey flying and screeching overhead.
They are really a magnificent sight to see and we are glad they are making a comeback in this area.
Recently moved here from northwest Ohio, and the Osprey population is making a significant recovery in that region. We would sight two nesting pairs hunting there frequently in spring and fall.

I used to do construction in south Florida The sea eagles as they were called used to build nests on the of the cranes,we would just let them be and get another crane,it was very cool-when the chicks hatched and flew off we all cheered 'cause it was family,they used to get snakes from the everglades and bring them home for the "kids"---yum yum

We've seen several Ospreys hunting in the Bolsa Chica Preserve in Huntington Beach in each of the last several years.
I've never seen any other raptor with anything like their diving attack--beak and both talons held almost together in the front.
One passed beside me, quite near, in a full and successful dive, and the noise and ferocious appearance really startled me .
The only other place I've ever seen them hunting myself was in Antiqua in the Leeward Islands in the Caribean.
Tim McAuliffe

These are incredible raptors and wonderful parents for their young. It's so great that they have made a strong comeback thanks to the researchers and biologists who have tirelessly studied them.

I am in touch with some researchers on the east coast. The Osprey are migrating all the way to South America right now. It's amazing they can make it that far and back in the spring. Of course, not all do.
Cheers, DeeDee Gollwitzer

Last winter I saw an Osprey catch a fish on the shore in front of the Dana Point Headlands. It was awesome. The bird held the fish with its talons, even as waves hit the bird (in a few inches of water). The bird managed to slowly work its way up the shore out of the water, then it took off flying.

There is also a banded Osprey that hangs out near the Aliso Creek golf course next to PCH in Laguna Beach.

I was jogging along the LA River last week opposite Griffith Park and was startled by a large bird diving into the water after something. I'm not a birder but noticed the distinctive facial pattern and have been trying to identify it. After reading the article and several comments, I'm sure it was an Osprey. The LA River is an amazing place to see a wide variety of birds.

There is at least one Osprey nest on the LA river that I've seen. Its near a large strand of palms in the riverbed near the east bank north of where the 5 crosses the river in Frogtown. I believe its on a power line tower. Its a gorgeous bird who I hope is in a rebound in Southern California.

Just the other week, I was driving in Irvine (near the UC) and I saw one of these amazing birds perched on a street light - I don't think I've ever been so surprised! Thanks for this article, that makes more sense what one was doing here. Glad to see these creatures spreading out again!

I live on a boat in south Bay San Diego and have seen at least 3 different Osprey nests in the past 5 years. They truly are magnificent birds to watch hunt/fish. Their song is a high pitched whistle, and you can hear them calling each other from the tops of sailboat masts. Along with the Blue Herons, these birds are very special to our ecosystem. Remember that everything drains to the ocean, so be conscious and tread lightly.

I've only seen one Osprey on the L.A. River. This May I was riding across from Griffith Park and saw one sitting on a wire that crossed the river. I stopped and watched it for a long time because I was surprised to see it. It was obviously not a hawk and intrigued me. Hope they keep their numbers growing.

I have seen Ospreys catch fish in the back bay, and carry the fish up to this platform. It's awesome to see this in person. Congrats to the Dept. of Fish and Game!!


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