Osprey's nest: Part II: What happens to Crash?

On Friday, I told you about the young osprey that crash-landed in our yard. It seems that after the parents took the nest apart, there was not enough room on the Wilma-topped Norfolk Island pine for the three siblings.

As my wife was force-feeding "Crash" pieces of trout filets from our freezer, along came Beverly Anderson on her twice- a-week tour of Goodland. She also travels to Isles of Capri and Marco Island in her work as a researcher for the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

For the past two years, she has been keeping track of osprey nests on platforms and trees in these three communities. Her data is added to that of other researchers who keep track of osprey nests on channel markers, mangrove and buttonwood trees along our waterways.

Ted Below, also from Rookery Bay, has been collecting and analyzing such data for 17 years under the auspices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Beverly took "Crash" to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, where it was checked by the vet. Rebecca Galligan, a wildlife rehab specialist, cared for it while it learned to fly in the Conservancy's flight cage.

Rebecca brought the juvenile osprey back and told us she force-fed it over three pounds of fish a day because it still did not eat well by itself. She recommended we put "Crash" near the tree that had supported the nest in hopes that the parents would come down and feed it.

Rebbecca Galligan, wildlife rehab specialist, took care of Crash at the Naples Conservancy Center and brought it back to our house for release.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX

Rebbecca Galligan, wildlife rehab specialist, took care of Crash at the Naples Conservancy Center and brought it back to our house for release.

So we put "Crash" on Linda's chicken coop under the pine tree, giving the exotic banties and silkies a chicken heart attack in the process!

By evening, "Crash" had flown off to parts unknown. We spent several days looking for it around Goodland but without success. The parents, meanwhile, kept feeding the other two juveniles who remained perched precariously on the pine tree trunk. Hopefully, they also fed "Crash" somewhere out in the mangroves.

For days I watched — and listened to — the two young ones learn to fly 30 feet from our bedroom window. They'd open their wings on windy days, scream at the top of their lungs and hang on for dear life to the tree.

At long last, one of them launched itself toward the water, misjudged the obstacles in a wide sweeping turn, hit some mangrove branches, recovered a few feet from the water and landed on a frond in a coconut tree, where it stayed for the next few days screaming.

The second of the flight-challenged youngsters took off for the open water, missed a landing on a very flexible mangrove branch and crashed in the moonflower vines on the bank of the lagoon behind the house.

I never knew that growing up osprey could be so tough. As for "Crash," I do know that not every nature story has a Hollywood ending.

Sometimes, like in a French film noir, you're left wondering.

Denis Blaise lives in Goodland. He is one of the captains on the Marco Island Princess and works as a guide- naturalist for Vantastic Tours, leading safaris into the Everglades.

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