June 2017

Conservation efforts do not happen in a vacuum!

Linette Bernard, Feathers & Ink

On 20 May 2017 a diverse gathering of volunteers, community members, non-profit agency staff, utility company staff, and state and local conservation agencies came together to celebrate. What, you ask? One… the upcoming retirement of an Iowa DNR Wildlife Diversity Technician, and two… the establishment of nesting osprey in Iowa. This effort was assisted by the now retiring technician.

The depth and breadth of people in attendance at this day of celebration reminds me that conservation efforts do not happen singly, alone. Yes, I can do my part on my 7-acres, but if not for conservation efforts of others the impact is not as great.

Villages. It takes a village to raise a child to a responsible adult. It takes a watershed village to improve water quality. It takes a conservation village to reintroduce a declining or extirpated species to an area. Why take that effort? Success in species reintroduction or expansion only happens when appropriate, quality habitat exists. It just so happens that quality wildlife habitat is also good for us humans. Improved grasslands, wetlands, and waterways are all benefits. Read more about these Iowa (and Midwest) efforts:

Why is a village needed? In light of budget cuts, staff reductions, and the cooperation needed across the public and private sector, the village concept increases opportunities for success.

Osprey reintroduction is a perfect example of how many entities came together over the last two decades for the good of the effort and benefit of all. Osprey reintroduction efforts started in 1997 at Macbride Nature Recreation Area from efforts led by then Macbride Raptor Project Director, Jodeane Cancilla and her ‘osprey village.’

While each of the 12 release sites was responsible for building their hack tower, funding the released osprey, securing fish for the young osprey, plus daily feeding and monitoring the hack tower – the state-wide effort was assisted by a very passionate and persuasive Wildlife Diversity Technician, Pat Schlarbaum.

Each release site had a staff member or volunteer that led local efforts. There is no way that I can list all the groups and individuals involved… but here are some that were instrumental in releasing osprey at the Marion County hack tower (now multiply this by the 12 sites!):

    • Leachman Lumber donated supplies for hack towers in Marion, Polk, and Warren counties.

    • Jasper County Correctional Facility inmates built the tower that was at Elk Rock State Park along the shore of Lake Red Rock.

    • Many groups held fundraisers for the cost of each young osprey (funds went to the state natural resource agency where the osprey originated to support that state’s non-game efforts) including civic groups, individuals, and classrooms.

    • Minnesota Power conducted annual aerial helicopter survey (and is still doing so) of an osprey nesting-dense area to note which nest have two or three young. Necessary permits needed for this relocation effort are clear that at least one chick must remain in the nest so that the osprey parents complete a nesting season.

    • Minnesota Power lineman are the ones with the training and experience to ascend poles and retrieve the young osprey. Minnesota Power’s involvement in the project would not have happened without the buy-in and support from the company’s environmental scientist, Bill Fraundorf.

    • Volunteers and staff that drove to northern Minnesota (some to Wisconsin) to help with the osprey collection.

    • Raptor rehabilitation staff for medical exams and any needed treatments

    • Fishing derbies were held to supply the young osprey with food. Osprey primarily eat only fish.

    • Volunteers cut up fish and fed the young osprey daily, plus cleaned and refilled bath pans in the tower – every day of the week!

    • Volunteers documented the process with photos and videos – especially once the tower gates were opened and the young osprey ventured out and took flight.

Check out this Google Photos album of an ‘osprey village.’

At some release sites, the village came together several years in a row! As of the 2016 nesting season, Iowa had 23 active osprey nest territories.

The combined success of 23 active osprey nesting territories did not happen in a vacuum, but by the combined efforts of many. Work remains to be done to support an osprey population including volunteer nest monitoring through the Iowa DNR Wildlife Diversity Program.

Additional work can be done near each release site, and other appropriate habitats, to install nesting platforms to entice new breeding pairs. Water quality is always an issue to be addressed as osprey need clear water for increased fishing success. (If the water is so turbid that an osprey can’t see the fish, they will pick a better body of water to nest near!)

So now what? Our ‘head cheerleader’ will soon be retired, though I suspect he will still lend a hand as able. Who is going to now ‘speak for the osprey’ as the Lorax speaks for the trees? Who is going to cheer us collectively forward with our efforts and remind us of the importance of our work?

Other Google Photos Albums of osprey: