2016-03-31 / Nature

NATURE

Familiar Friends Return
By Jack Kelly


The piping plover pair feeds at Third Beach. The female has a visible leg tag bearing the letters KNK. The piping plover pair feeds at Third Beach. The female has a visible leg tag bearing the letters KNK. The osprey pair that has nested on the cell tower at Toppa Field for the past 10 years has returned for another season. The female arrived first on March 18, and the male followed on March 25.

The two raptors seemed surprised that the nest they built and maintained together for a decade was gone. It had to be removed last fall when utility crews needed room to make necessary repairs on the cell tower. However, it appears the ospreys are building a new nest on the tower platform. The male has been observed cutting branches from nearby bushes and trees with his powerful bill and carrying the material to the site.

The birds’ human neighbors are relieved to see the two large raptors return and are recounting their encounters with the male as he gathers nesting material. One neighbor was walking on Merton Road when he emerged from a privet hedge with a large branch and flew directly over the onlooker’s head displaying his five-foot wingspan.


The male osprey flies toward the tower with nesting material. 
(Photos by Jack Kelly) The male osprey flies toward the tower with nesting material. (Photos by Jack Kelly) “I could feel the downdraft of the air from those massive wings. It was quite exhilarating,” the unidentified pedestrian said. Another neighbor expressed her relief that the pair had returned, saying softly, “It wouldn’t be spring without them.”

While the pair is busying themselves with building a new nest, they are also indulging in courtship routines and preparing for this year’s brood of young. The male was observed performing the “fish dance” over the nesting area with a fish held in his talons. After his elaborate aerial maneuvers, he presented the fish to his mate as a gift of affection.

Third Beach was the site of another reunion with old friends, as a pair of piping plovers that successfully nested on the beach last year returned for another season. This pair has been monitored as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Rhode Island and University of Massachusetts at Amherst continuing cooperative study.

The female of the pair was captured long enough for a nanotransmitter to be attached to her body, as well as a leg tag bearing the letters KNK. The transmitter, designed to fall off after a few months, gave biologists a chance to map the migratory route and wintering region utilized by this endangered species. This data is collected by a series of antenna stations located along parts of the East Coast, similar to the one at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The pair will soon choose a nesting site amid the rocks, shells and sand of the beach dunes, where they will continue the cycle of life.

Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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