Clear Lake still waiting for nesting Ospreys to return


Statewide re-population efforts are taking off


by Marianne Morf

“If you build it, they will come.”  

That’s what they said about Iowa’s Field of Dreams.  But seven years after nesting poles were readied to attract ospreys, Clear Lake is still waiting to attract its first nesting pair.  

“The volunteer support and stewardship of Ospreys released at Clear Lake was phenomenal,” said Pat Schlarbaum of the Department of Natural Resources wildlife diversity program.  “The patience of your Osprey volunteers is being tested, but the future bodes well for nesting Ospreys at Clear Lake.”

Clear Lake and Red Rock Reservoir are two release sites that have not generated nesting Ospreys yet.  Meanwhile, according to Schlarbaum, the Iowa and Cedar River valleys are turning into a pretty decent osprey territory. More birds and nests are noticed in northwest Iowa, as well. 

Nesting platforms, mounted on 30-foot utility poles, are now in place at more than a dozen sites provided by utility crews from Alliant Energy.  The wooden platforms, with a few ‘starter limbs’ lashed into place are within openings in the tree canopy, visible to nest-shopping ospreys.

“What we’re trying to do is to bring ospreys back…especially in eastern Iowa,” explains Alliant spokesman Justin Foss. “Before settlers came, they were in Iowa. They’ve disappeared since. (With the) platforms, when the birds come in the spring, they will have a place to call home.”

The plan is for birds hacked (introduced to an area, to eventually grow and fly) or hatched around eastern Iowa…to take over the platform and surrounding river territory, as they mature and nest.

Not a lot was known about Iowa ospreys, as early wildlife surveys were established. They are a bird of big waters. And in Iowa, we didn’t have much of that; outside the border rivers and the natural lakes in northwest Iowa.

“The native tribes; the Dakotas, Yankton, Omahas told of ospreys in northwest Iowa. They were nesting there,” assures Schlarbaum.  “Now, the large reservoirs--built in last 50-60 years--are big draws.”

Ospreys are recognized by the mostly white undersides of their wings, but with black ‘elbow’ feathering.  They know how to put on a show, too. 

“They will fly a few hundred feet in the air, see a fish, and go down maybe 40 miles an hour, under water and grab the fish in their talons; come up and fly away,” describes Foss. “That makes them very unique birds.”

  Schlarbaum says 10 young osprey will be ‘hacked’ in Iowa this year.  Placed in large shelters, they are fed and monitored by humans before being released to fly and imprint on their new territory. Still, the ‘net’ gain is aided by natural reproduction.   The fledglings are released in such a manner they imprint on their new surroundings. After three or four years, surviving ospreys should return to Iowa as adults and begin nesting.  

“We released 19 birds last year; but know of 27 young,” notes Schlarbaum.

Schlarbaum is quick to point out that restoration - Read More Via e-Edition

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