Wild Wednesday … Birds Around the Mill

I started this post last June, but never finished it. Better late that never. Here are just a few pictures of our birds that make their home at the Mill. It defies conventional wisdom that so much wildlife makes it home at an industrial complex and thrives. It’s all about the habitat.

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Wood Ducks.

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Wild Turkey Hen

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Great Blue Heron

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Black Pheobe

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Cattle Egret

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Blackbirds on a pole stack.


Wild Wednesday … Ospreys of Oroville

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Osprey nest overlooking Lake Oroville.  I really love this nest. It’s such a classic. 

I haven’t posted much about our local ospreys this year, so here’s a teaser. They had an excellent year. Nearly all the local nests were occupied with fledglings. There will be more posts to come. 

Wild Wednesday …Osprey Update


One of the remaining osprey keeps watch from a nearby oak tree.

The surviving ospreys have seemed to rally this week after the helicopter incident I blogged about last week, Wild Wednesday … A Death In The Family. For most of the week only one young osprey was in the nest. It occasionally left, but would return later. It sat in the nest calling for food.


The young osprey waits.

After a few days, I saw the second young bird return. Then both called.

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The other young osprey awkwardly comes in for a landing.


Waiting patiently for breakfast.

Eventually, I saw the parent osprey. She came in with a fish for the young birds, but didn’t give it to them. She flew to the edge of the tower and started calling the fledglings. When the youngster moved toward her, she lifted off and flew up river. She was training her young fish hawks.

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She brings in a fish for teasing her youngsters into following her. Her behavior has inspired my confidence in their future success.

After examining the photos I took of the dead osprey, I’m pretty sure it was the male bird that was struck by the helicopter blade. Now, mother osprey soldiers on. No news yet on the Fish and Wildlife warden’s investigation.

Wild Wednesday … A Death in the Family

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This osprey put it all on the line defending its young, and paid for it.

Sorry, no wildflowers this week, only a sad story.  If you’ve followed my blog for a while you may have seen some of my posts about the ospreys that nest and raise their young on a large electrical tower at our mill site. The tower, perched near the Sacramento River, overlooks prime fishing habitat. These birds are practically mascots for our operation. Almost without fail ospreys raise two offspring in the tower nest every year and have done so for decades.

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The osprey family 2015, just a week before the tragic incident.

However, a week ago last Monday, while in our office we heard the sound of a low-flying helicopter. This isn’t unusual except for the helicopter wasn’t just flying over. It was lingering. I strained to look out my window to see the helicopter, but it was just out of sight on the north side of the office. My window faces west. Then I saw an osprey buffeted by the rotor wash being blown off to the southwest. Next, a large bird wing fluttering to the ground outside my window. That got me out of my office and headed for the north end of the building. When I made it outside, the helicopter was gone. One of our foresters, our lead research scientist and her assistant met me. Our scientist was extremely agitated and told us the helicopter had struck one of the ospreys. As we walked out into the parking lot, the mill superintendent walked out from the opposite side and yelled to us. Then he reached under one of the pickups and pulled out the body of the dead osprey. He informed us that a number of the mill workers had seen the incident and were just about in tears. Fortunately, our research scientist got the aircraft identification numbers.

The osprey was cut to pieces defending it's nest.

The osprey was cut to pieces defending its nest.

She recounted to us how the ospreys became agitated because the helicopter hovered so close to the nest. All four birds were at the nest, both parents and two offspring. The parents took off and were responding defensively. One of the birds began diving on the helicopter trying to drive it away from the nest. On its fourth pass at the helicopter, it was struck by the blades, severing both wings and plummeting to the ground.

talons, osprey

California Fish and Wildlife was contacted and a warden responded. He collected the remains and took statements. We are awaiting the results of the investigation.

I’ve been watching all week, hoping to see the three remaining birds at the nest. So far I’ve only seen two return, but most of the time there’s just one. Both of the offspring can fly and they come and go to the nest. Our biggest concern is that the young are unable to fish on their own. Hopefully, the remaining parent will be able to keep the youngsters fed and that this helicopter incident doesn’t result in three dead ospreys. I’ll keep you posted.

If you want to see the previously osprey post just click on the osprey tag below and they’ll come up.

Romantic Osprey Triangle

He was waiting for a girl. It didn’t take long for her to show up either. He arrived on February 28th, which appeared in the post, Spring Wings. She returned March 3rd, but there was a surprise.

As I drove around the log deck, the nest tower came into view. I saw two birds on the nest tower. Upon closer inspection, it looked like a third bird in the nest. When I got to the office parking lot, I could see only see two birds. 

The two birds kept looking at each other, calling all the while. I thought, I may be here in time to catch the magic moment. The bird closest to the nest took off and did a flyby to the other bird. I knew we were getting close now. Then I saw wings flap in the nest. There WERE three birds!  I wasn’t witnessing the dance of love, but instead, two boys fighting over a girl.

Click on the pictures to enlarge the images. Watch the drama unfold!

Spring Wings!

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I first saw him last week, out back behind the mill.

I was pretty sure it was our male osprey on the snag behind the mill last week.  Then right on schedule our boy was back at the nest on Friday morning.  Last year he arrived on February 26th.  This year he showed February 28th.  Now he begins his vigil, as he waits for his mate to arrive.

Osprey, wildlife, sawmill, photography, nature

Back for a new year at the nest. He scans the horizon for his mate.

When the osprey arrive, I know that Spring is knocking on our door.  A few early flowers are blooming and the frogs are singing at night.  The little birds chase each other around the trees and buds are swelling.  We are finally getting some significant rain.  We may have a normal Spring after all.

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That fish is looking nasty!

You can see all about the nesting season 2013.

Forestry Friday … The Critical Period

Critical Period means the time of year when the special timber operations practices set forth in these regulations are required to minimize nesting disturbance to a species of special concern.

-California Forest Practice Rules

Forestry, Northern Goshawk, goshawk, protection

This Northern Goshawk fledgling was ready to take me on.

Species of Special Concern include Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Northern Goshawk, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcon.  Species of Special Concern are not the same as Threatened and Endangered Species.  T and E species rise to a much higher standard of protection.  They are protected under rules originating from the Endangered Species Act.  

When a nest site of a Species of Special Concern is identified in a timber harvest plan area, a buffer zone is established around it.  The buffer zone sizes differ according to the species.  The critical period is based on the nesting season for that particular species of bird.  No timber harvesting is allowed within the buffer zone during the critical period.   After the critical period, harvesting can take place, but the nest trees are always retained.  There are limitations as to the type of harvesting that can take place in the buffer zone, such as no clearcutting is allowed.  The harvesting practices allowed in the buffer zones are tailored to each species. depending on their needs.

The Northern Goshawk fledgling in the picture was discovered after my crew and I stumbled onto a nest tree.  We were marking trees when one of the guys came and informed me he saw a “great big bird in a nest.”  When we went to investigate, I could see right away it was a Northern Goshawk fledgling, and there wasn’t one, there were two. 

The young birds were branching.  This is when they hop from branch to branch strengthening their wings before they have mastered flight.  We stopped marking and began moving away from the nest.  One of the Goshawk parents was nearby but moved away from us.  This was a relief because Goshawk parents are well known for attacking people that are too close to their nest.  This usually happens when the chicks are very young.  Apparently, they are less protective when the chicks are older.  We watched the young birds from what we thought was a safe distance, so as not to spook them.  Then, one of the youngsters glided out of the nest to a branch in a nearby tree.  Its sibling, not wanting to be left alone, followed.  Only this bird wasn’t as advanced in its flight training as the first.  It glided downhill and smacked straight into the trunk of a white fir tree and tumbled to the ground.  I told the crew, “Oh my God, I think we just killed it.”  Fortunately, it popped up on its feet, screeching all the while.  

I sent the crew to mark timber in a different area.  Then, with my camera in hand, I headed down the hill to check the condition of the young Goshawk.  It was mad as hell and ready to give me what for. Otherwise it was okay.  I took a few pictures and backed off to let it calm down.  I knew, at this age, it would be able to hop its way back up the trees to safety.   The parents weren’t far away and would tend to it.

For the Northern Goshawk the buffer zone is twenty acres and the critical period is from March 15 through August 15.  The forester who prepared the timber harvest plan knew the Goshawks were living in the plan area.  He protected their nest tree, by making it a no harvest area.  However, the uncooperative goshawks had decided to move out of a perfectly good nest and build a new one in the logging unit.  We were the first to discover the new nest.  As a result, a new twenty acre buffer zone was established around this nest and none of the trees we marked in the area were harvested. 

osprey, sawmill, forestry

This Osprey was behind the sawmill last week. It might be our boy from the nest tower.

The buffer zone for the Osprey is 5 acres and the critical period is from March 15 through August 15. 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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Golden Eagle

If harvesting is done with a helicopter, they can operate no closer than one quarter mile of the nest tree.  This is true for Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk and Osprey.  Peregrine Falcon get a one half mile buffer.

The Great Blue Heron, also known as "The Fly Up The Creek".

Great Blue Heron

The herons and egrets have a 300′ buffer around nest trees.  Their critical period goes from February 15 through July 1.

Golden retriever, Blitz, pheasants

Blitz says, her critical period is pheasant season.

The Empty Nest….Not Quite

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Osprey portrait in pen and ink.

The osprey family has been quite busy lately.  The young birds have been practicing for their first flight.

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The young osprey in training.

The parents had been flying around the tower trying to entice the fledglings to take wing.

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This is how it’s done kids.

Then the heat came.  We had seven straight days over 108 and it peaked at 116.  It was way too hot in the nest tower!

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Trying to assume a cool position in the tower.

This was the incentive to motivate the young osprey to fly.  After the first day of extreme heat, they fled the tower.

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The osprey nest was finally empty.

Down along the river in the shady oak trees is where they took refuge.

Osprey, fledgling, nature, wildlife, photography

This is much better than roasting in that steel tower.

When the heat settled down, back to the tower they went. After, being in the tree I thought they might not return to the tower.  As it turns out they weren’t entirely ready to give up the nest.

Osprey, fledgling, nature, wildlife, photography

The nest tower is still home.

They still want to roost there at night, and they know this is where they get fed.  They are like teenagers that still depend on mom and dad.

Osprey, fledgling, nature, wildlife, photography

When it’s time to eat, they tell their parents in no uncertain terms.

The parents seem to debate each other whose turn it is to take care of the noisy offspring.  They rarely go into the nest anymore unless they are dropping off a fresh fish meal.

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I fed them last time!

Our Growing Osprey Family

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The Fledgling.

The osprey chicks don’t look much like chicks anymore.  They are nearly fledglings.

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Feeding the babies.

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Parent brings a fish.  They have grown fast and eat the fish on their own.

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Careful where you stand while taking pictures.

Projectile poop keeps the nest clean.

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Sorry, didn’t see you there, hehehe.

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Wing exercise is important preparation for that first flight.

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The osprey parents are constantly flying in and out with fish.

We hit a hot spell a little while back, 109 F one day and 111 F the next.  Osprey will fluff up their feathers and pant like a dog in the heat.  When it gets that hot one of the osprey parents will stay in the nest and shade the chicks.

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It’s been hot here!

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It’s really hot on the tower.

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This hot neighboring osprey shades it’s babies.