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Raptors under wraps; officials bag, tag 3 young ospreys

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published: July 4, 1998 12:00 AM

The five-week-old birds, the first trio of ospreys known to be born in Ohio, were about to take a trip down to earth to be banded, weighed and have their pictures taken. Waiting on the ground to receive the birds were state wildlife officials.

Steve Wilcox, an assistant wildlife management supervisor with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the Berlin Reservoir nest was only the second natural nest recorded in the state since 1913.

The first nesting pair arrived in 1995 in Jefferson County on the Ohio River. The Berlin Reservoir pair, which set up housekeeping atop a 345,000-volt power pylon in 1996, have had two young in each of their two previous seasons.

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With the parent ospreys wheeling and squealing overhead, Jacobs and Rennebaum, the First Energy high wire artists, wrapped the chicks' razor sharp talons in bandages, put them in a sack and sent them slowly down a rope to the ground one at a time.

"This is our third year" as osprey catchers, said First Energy's Dave Bauer, who was operating the rope from the ground. "We got some training with some eaglets at Meander Reservoir" near Youngstown.

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Once down, wildlife personnel unbagged the birds, applied leg bands and weighed them. A silver band on the right leg carries federal identification information. A black band with white numbers on the left leg identifies the birds as Ohio natives. Ospreys are protected by both federal and state laws. Wildlife Officer James F. Hill held the birds while Wilcox applied the bands and recorded information.

For the most part the three chicks endured the banding quietly, glancing about with brilliant dark amber eyes.

"This is the feisty one," said Jarrod Roof, Portage County's wildlife officer. He was holding the largest of the three chicks, which used its needle-sharp, black beak to worry Roof's leather-gloved finger while awaiting its trip back to the nest. Born just days apart, the three were visibly different in size, the largest weighing in at under two pounds.

Wilcox estimated the trio were about two weeks away from taking to the air.

The state wildlife division has been working to reintroduce ospreys to Ohio for several years. An additional nine chicks arrived Monday night from Long Island, N.Y. They and other chicks have been "hacked' or raised by human hand in nesting boxes around the state.

The osprey, primarily a fish eater, is the second largest raptor native to North America. Smaller than an eagle, it has a wingspan of four to six feet. The birds usually build a loose nest of sticks high in a dead tree, but power pylons are also attractive.

Among the observers were Dick and Peg Jordan, parents of Stark County wildlife officer Tim Jordan. The elder Jordans are from Lorain County and are enthusiastic birders. They drove down from their Lorain County home to see the banding.

Also on hand was Jim Kavelaris of Randolph, who is an official osprey observer for the wildlife division. Kavelaris has been watching the nest several times a week, noting the behavior of the parents, and now the chicks, and sending reports to the state. He's been keeping tabs on the birds ever since they arrived in Deerfield three years ago. The birds migrate to South America in the winters.

While summering in Ohio the birds catch and eat fish. Kavelaris said he saw the male osprey dive onto a fish a few weeks ago.

"He must have hooked into something bigger than he expected," Kavelaris said. "He couldn't lift it out of the water and he and the fish just took off across the lake. It looked like he was water skiing."

Wilcox said the young birds won't mate until they are about four years old. They are expected to return to near where they were hatched to set up their own nests. If that holds true, Berlin Reservoir may become the site of a thriving osprey colony.

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