Michigan ospreys move south for winter

Osprey watch group keeps eye on local birds

SOUTH LYON, Mich. - A large tripod rises from a lake at Kensington Metropark, supporting the fat branches of an empty nest.

The ospreys have left for their annual migration south, but Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan is still able to keep a close eye on the birds.

Three of the raptors are wearing solar powered, one-ounce transmitters.

"One is in Cuba, one is in Venezuela, and another is in Southern Florida near Miami," said Barb Jensen, coordinator for Osprey Watch.

Colored lines on her computer show the precise route of each osprey, plus their daily wanderings in warmer climates.

Ospreys are known as the "ultimate fishers."

"They can dive up to three feet to capture prey. They are the only raptor that dives into the water," said Jensen.

Eagles only skim the surface. Both birds were devastated by the chemical DDT, which was banned in 1972. The DNR reintroduced ospreys into Kensington in 1998. Jensen has volunteered from the beginning.

"The goal was 30 pairs by 2020," said Jensen. "Last year we had 38 pairs in Southeast Michigan alone."

She could never have imagined that cell phone towers would become an integral part of the birds' comeback. 32 of the pairs are nesting on top of the towers.

Jensen says the corporate community has been a key partner in the project. The transmitters were donated by DTE Energy and American Tower Corporation.

The three ospreys will not return to Michigan until 2015. Older birds will arrive here next March.

Through the efforts of Jensen and many others, ospreys will be a Michigan mainstay for generations to come.

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