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This Week’s Creature Feature: Harriet the Osprey’s Odyssey

Neither goose nor hurricane can stop this migrator

photo by Craig Koppie / USFWS U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Robbie Callahan holds Harriet before her release.
     This spring, a pair of ospreys returned to a webcam nesting platform in Baltimore’s Masonville Cove.
     The ospreys, named Frederick and Harriet by osprey cam followers, are determined birds. In 2016, a pair of Canada geese took over their nest. Frederick and Harriet built a nest at another platform and laid eggs, but cold, wet May weather caused them to abandon it.
     Again this year, the pair came back to their platform only to be pushed out by a pair of geese. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed most of the nest material, forcing the geese to move on. Frederick and ­Harriet returned to build their nest and raise two chicks.
     On July 10, Harriet was captured and fitted with a satellite transmitter to track her movements. The transmitter, which has a visible antenna, was comfortably and securely attached by a harness onto Harriet’s back.
      Osprey begin to migrate to South America in September. Most Chesapeake osprey spend colder months from Venezuela to as far south as Paraguay and even Argentina. The satellite transmitter helps biologists learn more about bird migration and allows Harriet’s fans to watch her annual journey.
     So far, it’s been a harrowing flight. She left Baltimore on September. 7. On September 10, Harriet was along the coast of Georgia about 50 miles south of Savanna and 150 miles northeast of Hurricane Irma. Multiple transmitter readings show how she waited out some of the higher winds before resuming her flight.
     By September 16, Harriet had flown approximately 1,126 miles in 10 days with the satellite tracker locating her at Boot Key, Florida. With Hurricanes Jose and Maria potentially in her path, she again waited out the weather in Florida.
     Still going strong, Harriet reached Agramonte, Cuba, on September 23, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on September 28 and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on October 3. Between October 11 and 30, Harriet was hanging around Puerto Rico, having flown 2,200 miles.
     Next she embarks on the most dangerous leg of her migration, flying over the Caribbean to South America — almost 500 miles of open water. But she has likely made this journey before, so she has experience instead of landmarks to guide her.
      The Maryland Port Administration funds the osprey webcam and tracking project.
     Follow Harriet at facebook.com/FWS.ChesapeakeBay.
–reprinted from Bay Journal