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Osprey mystery solved — father killed after contacting hydro line

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
June 27th, 2014

Dad was found dead with a fish in his talons.

The mystery of what happened to the male osprey so many have come to know from the Nelson Hydro/Columbia Wireless nest webcam west of Nelson was solved Wednesday when the body of the bird was found in a deep ravine.

“Yes, we’re relieved,” said Nelson Hydro line manager Doug Pickard. “It’s never a good feeling when you don’t know what happened.”

“He had a nice sized fish in his talons,” he said.

Pickard said they now know the bird had a run-in with a high-voltage power line that caused the power outage at 5 a.m. in the Grohman area on (Friday) June 20. 

This brings to an end the chat line rumours that the reason for the loud bang heard in the audio of the webcam was gunshot.

But the father’s death brought another set of problems.

Traditionally the father is the fisher and the mother feeds and protects.

Working with a local bird biologist, Nelson Hydro determined that the remaining two chicks in the nest would likely die of dehydration if left unfed.

With the verbal approval of Fish and Wildlife, Nelson Hydro decided to supply fish to the nest via a bucket truck after dad had been missing for three days. Within a couple hours the chicks were well fed.

“She (the mother) didn’t care if the fish were cleaned or not.

“At this age the chicks are highly susceptible to predation and it’s a fair distance to the lake,” said Pickard.

“We’re in some ways responsible for this guy’s demise. If the birds don’t make it, it won’t be because we didn’t try.”

Pickard said the crew would put fish near the nest every two days until the chicks and mother are able to fish for themselves. 

The webcam site has had nearly 210,500 views since it went online in May. The educational factor is part of the reason Pickard said they would keep up the feeding every two days.

“There is a learning from all this. It has brought a heightened awareness and respect for the birds. They’re something special,” he said.

The decoy pole upon which the birds began building the nest last spring was erected with a pallet and bracing at the top for a nest to be built upon in the spring of 2013.

Shortly after the pole and nesting platform were placed, the ospreys put the structure to use and constructed their nest, safely away from the existing energized pole.

It was believed that the new pole would provide a safe location with the same advantages as the power pole but with none of the associated hazards.

That didn’t prove to be the case for these osprey parents. But Nelson Hydro is hoping that two other nesting poles they are building in the Harrop/Procter area provide a safer nesting spot.

Three chicks were born to the pair, one chick died in the nest. Now with the father gone, viewers will see first hand how the mother handles the hardship of raising two chicks alone.

Raptor specialist Bill Dove said that in some cases the female would fish. And although the osprey are “fairly bonded”, pairs can “divorce” leaving the female on her own.

“They don’t normally divorce when they have a successful breeding season,” he commented. “But divorce happens, infidelity happens.

“He is driven in the breeding season. His hormones are raging to feed the birds in the nest and her hormones are raging to protect the birds in the nest.”

To see the footage where the accident happened, go to the Nelson Hydro/Columbia Wireless link and can to the time 1:17.20. The male osprey is standing with a fish in his tallon, then leaves the nest. The sound of a bang startles the female.

 

 

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