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Volume 40 Issue 3 • May 20-26, 2010
now in our 40th season

A Nantucket Native Returns

Many people have followed the epic adventures of Mr. Hannah, the Osprey radio-tagged on Nantucket in 2009, as he flew from Nantucket to Brazil then back again. Using state-of-the-art GPS technology, Dr. Bob Kennedy, Director of Natural Sciences at MMA traced his journey, measuring flight speed, altitude, and exact route.  Mr. Hannah has returned to Nantucket and is settling in to raise his family. The Nantucket Osprey tracking is a joint research project of the Maria Mitchell Association and the The Trustees of Reservations.

This year Dr. Kennedy and fellow Osprey researcher Dr. Rob Bierregaard of UNC Charlotte, planned to capture and track two new male Ospreys this spring.  Males are chosen to carry the devices because in addition to tracing the Ospreys’ migration routes, MMA Director of Natural Sciences Dr. Bob Kennedy and his colleagues are studying the hunting patterns of Ospreys while raising young.  During nesting season, males do the majority of hunting while the female incubates the eggs and cares for the young. Both sexes migrate south for the winter.

Mr. Hannah the Osprey

The MMA invited Nantucket schoolchildren to name the two new Ospreys. The winning suggestion from the Nantucket Elementary School came from Mrs. Davis's first grade class, who entered Señor Bones. They suggested Señor Bones in recognition of the fact that Nantucket shares its Ospreys with Spanish-speaking countries. Ospreys spend half the year (our winter) in South America. Señor Bones had his tracker placed on May 7 at the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

The process of capturing the Osprey and placing the trackers was done very carefully by ornithologists with great concern for the safety of the bird. The Osprey is captured and a small “backpack” transmitter is attached with nylon straps. The device weighs about an ounce and is roughly the size of a matchbox. After several minutes of ensuring the tracker is securely and comfortably placed on the bird’s back, the Osprey is released. It does not interfere with the bird’s ability to fly or hunt.

Upon capturing Señor Bones, it was discovered that he had a band (a simple, lightweight metal bracelet engraved with serial numbers placed on the leg of birds by scientists to monitor their movements.) Although metal bands do not contain tracking devices, data can be collected from birds that are recaptured or found after death. Dr. Kennedy has been banding young Ospreys on Nantucket for the past eight years. Dr. Kennedy checked the band numbers against his records and discovered that Señor Bones was a true Nantucket native: he was banded by Dr. Kennedy in 2005, the year he was hatched in a nest at the UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station.  Male Ospreys often return to the same area where they were hatched; female Ospreys typically nest further from their birthplace to ensure genetic variety in their young.

As for the second Osprey, Cyrus Pierce Middle School's Avery Elford, grade 8, suggested Optimus Prime. Although an attempt was made to capture Mr. Hannah and move his tracking device to a new Osprey (Optimus Prime), Mr. Hannah eluded recapture. No second attempt will be made so as not to interfere with Mr. & Mrs. Hannah’s incubation of their eggs. Mr. Hannah’s migration this year will give scientists insight as to whether Ospreys winter in the same place year after year. The name Optimus Prime will be given to the next Osprey tagged for this research project. The winners of the contest and their classmates will go on a field trip with Dr. Kennedy later this spring to place numbered bands on young Ospreys.


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