03/21/14 1:00pm
03/21/2014 1:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Cutch the osprey after he was captured at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue.

It’s about that time of year when all the part-timers make their way back to the North Fork — the Osprey, that is — returning from a sultry winter abroad.

Ornithologist Rob Bierregaard, who for 13 years has been tracking ospreys’ flight paths to learn about their southern migration patterns, has made it easier for lovers of the sea hawks to track their inevitable return, launching a new website with interactive maps that details their travels.

Mr. Bierregaard said ospreys are trickling their way up the east coast, with North Fork’s resident bird, North Fork Bob, expected to take off for his journey from Venezuela to the North Fork within the next week.

Mr. Bierregaard tagged North Fork Bob in early August 2010, who has been going strong ever since, he said in past interviews.

In past three years, Bob has left around the same time each March, on the 15th in 2011, the 20th in 2012 and the 21st last year, according to the website.

As learned from Cutch — an osprey caught and tagged behind the fifth hole of the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue — the aerial journey comes with its share of treacherous obstacles. Cutch managed to accidentally impale himself on a piece of a tree protruding from a pond last year, Mr. Bierregaard later found out.

To learn more about North Fork Bob, or any of the 23 other birds Mr. Bierregaard is tracking, and plan for their return, visit his website.

Ornithologist Rob Bierregaard is tracking the flight path of 24 birds, including North Fork Bob, who despite treacherous obstacles has returned to the area each spring since 2010. (Credit: www.ospreytrax.com)

Ornithologist Rob Bierregaard is tracking the flight path of 24 birds, including North Fork Bob, who despite treacherous obstacles has returned to the area each spring since 2010. (Credit: www.ospreytrax.com)

03/28/13 6:00pm
03/28/2013 6:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Cutch the osprey after he was captured at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue.

After their winter in southern climes, the ospreys have returned, with one notable and unfortunate exception.

Cutch, an osprey tagged by an ornithologist at the University of North Carolina with a GPS device and tracked on his long migratory sojourns for the past few years, vanished last fall. He made it as far as Colombia, South America, where he died while doing what osprey’s instinctively do, that is hunt for fish.

Cutch, so named because he was caught and tagged behind the fifth hole of the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, met his demise when he was accidentally impaled on a piece of a tree protruding from a pond on the Chico Mono Ranch, said ornithologist Rob Bierregaard, who for 12 years has been tracking osprey’s flight paths to learn about their southern migration patterns,. He started tracking North Fork ospreys in 2010.

Ospreys fly south during their first autumn, spending their winters as juveniles in the warmer climate and building up strength to make their way north to breed. They return to the same area every winter.

Cutch, Mr. Bierregaard’s latest tagged osprey, left Long Island on Sept. 10 and followed the East Coast to North Carolina. In just one day, Cutch covered 286 miles to reach South Carolina, and he reached Florida by Sept. 18. He then zipped thorough Cuba, bypassing the first of many threats, according to flight path information on Mr. Bierregaard’s website.

“In Cuba they have to avoid fish farms, which is tough,” Mr. Bierregaard said. “It’s like telling me not to go to the all you-can-eat buffet. Fish farmers are not keen on sharing their fish with osprey.”

Next Cutch crossed the island of Hispaniola, through Haiti to the Dominican Republic, and from there across the Caribbean. He made landfall in Colombia southwest of the Guajira Peninsula, South America’s northernmost point, by Sept. 27.

The map shows Cutch’s long final flight from the North Fork to the tip of South America in the fall.

On Sept. 29 Cutch’s signal stopped moving, suggesting his untimely demise, Mr. Bierregaard said.

“I zoomed in on the Google search, I could see the transmitter was at a building on the edge of a town in Colombia,” Mr. Bierregaard said. “I thought he was shot and someone took the transmitter.”

Mr. Bierregaard said he posted the details on his website, asking if anyone knew anything about the area.

“Someone figured out that it was the office of the Colombian Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said. “They had the bird and they emailed me pictures within an hour and a half of my sending the notice out.”

The osprey’s story was just beginning to get out, and it soon went national, making the evening news on Colombia television, Mr. Bierregaard said.

The news reported that Cutch’s death was originally thought to be an “assassination” but turned out to be an “accidental suicide,” the ornithologist said.

He called Cutch’s demise “a total fluke. We’ve had fluke accidents before, but skewering yourself on a submerged snag is a new one.”

Cutch, he said, “was pretty neat. He was a young bird that I believe had been born two years before.”

The bird is likely the offspring of the osprey he tagged in 2011 and named Tucker, Mr. Bierregaard said.

“He would have been Tucker’s young. He was hanging around the nest and the parents didn’t seem to be vicious toward him. He came back to the nest and that’s the behavior of a bird on his first year.”

As luck would have it, Cutch’s father Tucker met a similar fate — he was killed after hitting a bus just a month after he was tagged in 2011, Mr. Bierregaard said. Tucker’s mate was able to raise Cutch solo.

Cutch was caught for tagging in the same fashion as Mr. Bierregaard’s other ospreys. He was tempted by a whole sea bass that researchers had put in a nest at the country club.

When Cutch dove to grab the fish, his talons became caught in what Mr. Bierregaard calls a noose blanket, fishing line and rubberized chicken wire.

“Once he was stuck in the nest, I put a hood over his head, and that actually calms him down,” Mr. Bierregaard said. “It takes me about 40 minutes to put on the transmitter.”

Mr. Bierregaard tagged his first North Fork bird, known as North Fork Bob, in early August 2010. Bob has been going strong ever since. Mr. Bierregaard said.

Bob hasn’t yet returned, but he’s on his way.

“He left five days earlier than prior years” said Mr. Bierregaard. “He left on the 15th and the previous years he left on the 20th. So my guess is he’ll be back around the first or second of April.”

See an account of Cutch’s last flight at http://www.bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/maps12/Cutch%202012.htm

[email protected]

03/13/12 1:00pm
03/13/2012 1:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Ospreys will have a nesting platform at Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic now that a group of volunteers have installed a new pole there.

Ospreys have places to nest on the North Fork now that a group of volunteers have installed new poles in the area.

Kate Fullam of the Southold-based Group for the East End said poles were erected Thursday near Main Road in Orient, Mill Road in Peconic and Vanston Road in Cutchogue.

“The osprey population has rebound since DDT was banned in the 70s, but now we really need to make sure there’s habitat for these animals,” she said. “We provide these nesting platforms for them so that they reproduce.”

Watch how the volunteer group install one of the poles at Goldsmith Inlet in the video below and read more about the project in the March 15th issue of The Suffolk Times.

 

02/24/11 8:00am
02/24/2011 8:00 AM

TIM PERRY PHOTO | A group of bird watchers claim they saw the their earliest-ever osprey returnee. North Fork Bob (pictured here ) is still in Venezuela.

Nature’s calendar brings most ospreys back to Long Island waters just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, but on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday nearly two weeks ago, a group of experienced bird-watchers believe they saw their earliest-ever osprey returnee.

Longtime Audubon Society birding group leaders Rick and Linda Kedenburg of Peconic took a group of 12 teenagers on a excursion to look for birds south of Cutchogue on the morning of Feb. 12. As they drove down New Suffolk Avenue, they saw the distinct form of an osprey resting its talons on a nest on a pole just east of the entrance to Downs Creek.

Linda said that she saw what birders call the distinctive osprey “headlight” of the bird’s white forehead when it turned to them head-on. She and Rick were certain it was an osprey after they watched it through their spotting scope for several minutes.

“He was just sitting there quite upright looking around,” she said. “We thought he was holding his territory, but he hasn’t been seen there again. He probably just found it a handy perch. Usually these birds go very far south for the winter. They’re known to go as far south as Brazil, but he probably wasn’t that far south.”

“He looked pretty bedraggled,” added Rick.

After about ten minutes during which Rick and Linda let the novice birders take a look at their strange sighting through the spotting scope, the bird took off and flew east along the coastline.

“And nobody’s seen it since,” said Linda.

Both birders were fascinated by the sighting of the bird they dubbed “Abe” in honor of Abraham Lincoln, and they began to research other winter osprey sightings on Long Island.

Rick said that the only other winter sighting he found was one reported in western Long Island on a Christmas bird count.

“They figured he was old and didn’t migrate south and was just trying to make it through the winter,” said Rick.

Though Abe’s whereabouts are now a mystery, North Fork Bob, an osprey tagged at another nest on Downs Creek last August, is still enjoying the late summer sun of Venezuela, where he’s spent the past three months fishing along the Ventuari River.

Rob Bierregaard, the ornithologist with the University of North Carolina who tagged Bob last year, said Abe will likely fare all right as long as he has access to open water for fishing.

“Occasionally, there are some real early birds,” he said. “The risk is that they can run into bad weather, but they get good first picks on territory.”

Mr. Bierregaard said that the biggest risk that early ospreys face is the possibility that the water where they fish at their summer grounds is frozen over. The risk is much greater for inland birds than for coastal species. He added that birds seem to time their returns based on an evolutionary instinct that tells them when the waters are frozen.

He guesses that the bird that the Kedenburgs saw was a male, since males usually return to their summer grounds to scope out nesting sites about a week before female birds return.

Mr. Bierregaard expects North Fork Bob to begin his trip home any day now, in time to return to Cutchogue for St. Patrick’s Day.
Bob’s return voyage is being chronicled at Mr. Bierregaard’s website: http://www.bioweb.uncc.edu/Bierregaard/maps11/bob2011.htm

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