2014-07-24 / Outdoors

Lucky Bird Houghton Lake osprey part of tracking project

Story and photos by Thomas Reznich


BACK TO THE NEST DNR wildlife assistant Jim Pulling maneuvers the osprey chick around the edge of the nest as he returned the bird after it had been fitted with a transmitter. Anyone can track the movements of the bird, which was named Houghton Harvist, on the web at www.michiganosprey.org. BACK TO THE NEST DNR wildlife assistant Jim Pulling maneuvers the osprey chick around the edge of the nest as he returned the bird after it had been fitted with a transmitter. Anyone can track the movements of the bird, which was named Houghton Harvist, on the web at www.michiganosprey.org. Ornithologist Sergej Postupalsky was back on his ladder July 14, retrieving an osprey from a nest on a platform at the Houghton Lake Flats. The bird was to be fitted with a transmitter which will track its movements for the next few years. Postupalsky, 80, was working on the project with its sponsor, Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan (OWSEM), as well as personnel from the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division and the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Brian Washburn, a USDAresearch biologist, fitted the bird with a GSM transmitter, which works on the same system as cellular telephones. The device will record the bird’s position once every two hours, and transmit the data once every three days for the next few years. The unit, which weighs 30-grams (under 3% of the bird’s body weight) includes a solar powered charger.


COMING DOWN FOR A VISIT Postupalsky slowly makes his way down the ladder with an osprey chick in hand. Steadying the ladder are DNR wildlife assistants (left to right) Lynn Schrepfer and Jim Pulling. COMING DOWN FOR A VISIT Postupalsky slowly makes his way down the ladder with an osprey chick in hand. Steadying the ladder are DNR wildlife assistants (left to right) Lynn Schrepfer and Jim Pulling. Barb Jensen, OWSEM coordinator, said the bird on the Houghton Lake Flats is the most northerly of the six birds her group has fitted with the transmitters. Jensen said the osprey has been named Houghton Harvist, and that anyone interested in following the bird’s movements will soon be able to do so on the web at www.michiganosprey.org. She said the other birds in the study came from nests in the Southeast Lower Peninsula.

Donations of transmitters for the project, which cost around $4,000 each, were made by the Federal Aviation Administration (2), DTE Energy, the Huron Valley Audubon Society, American Tower Corp. and Lou Waldock of Howell. Jensen said that by providing continuous location information on the birds, researchers hope to find out what type of dangers they face in their travels. She said the other goal of the project is to spur interest in the birds, their conservation and to educate.


WELL DEVELOPED Postupalsky measures the bird’s flight feathers as it is steadied by DNR Wildlife Biologist Julie Oakes (left) and Barb Jensen of Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan (OWSEM). Jensen said the bird from Houghton Lake is the most northerly of all the birds OWSEM has fitted with transmitters. WELL DEVELOPED Postupalsky measures the bird’s flight feathers as it is steadied by DNR Wildlife Biologist Julie Oakes (left) and Barb Jensen of Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan (OWSEM). Jensen said the bird from Houghton Lake is the most northerly of all the birds OWSEM has fitted with transmitters. Jensen said it is especially important for young people to become involved, since they will be the next generation of protectors of the natural environment, including the osprey.


CHECKING THE FIT Washburn checks the fit of the GSM transmitter on the chick, making sure there will be room for growth, since the bird will carry the solar charged unit for years. CHECKING THE FIT Washburn checks the fit of the GSM transmitter on the chick, making sure there will be room for growth, since the bird will carry the solar charged unit for years. Postupalsky said that banding data has shown that ospreys from Northern Michigan frequently overwinter in Central America as well as in Northwestern South America. He said that Michigan birds have been found as far south as Northwestern Argentina.



SEWN ON Brian Washburn, a research biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture, sews together the teflon impregnated ribbons that hold the transmitter in place as Oakes holds the bird. Washburn came to fit the osprey with the transmitter at the Houghton Lake Flats from the National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky, OH. SEWN ON Brian Washburn, a research biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture, sews together the teflon impregnated ribbons that hold the transmitter in place as Oakes holds the bird. Washburn came to fit the osprey with the transmitter at the Houghton Lake Flats from the National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky, OH.

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