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Illinois hunting and fishing

An adult osprey and two chicks can be seen in the nest at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge Wednesday. Photo by Chris Young.

Osprey chicks almost ready to leave the nest

July 12, 2012 at 05:42 PM

The State Journal-Register

Two chicks are about ready to fledge from an osprey nest at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana.

The birds built a nest - basically a platform of sticks - on the utility pole near one of the refuge’s pumping stations.

Power was cut to the lines, and a 330-foot perimeter established to give the nest some privacy.

Ospreys are an Illinois state endangered species and refuge staff sought to offer them an extra level of protection.

Acting refuge director Robert Clevenstine said he observed the ospreys shielding the chicks from the heat during last week’s 100-degree temperatures.

“She had her wings outstretched just like a big sunshade,” he said. “All day long, just not moving, shading the chicks.”

This is the first known osprey nest on the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.
Ospreys are known as “fish hawks.”

They incubate 2 to 4 eggs, with the eggs generally hatching in 36 to 42 days, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

One to three young can be expected to first leave the nest (fledge) in 50 to 55 days after hatching.

The female generally handles the incubation duties while the male brings food - almost exclusively fish - to her on the nest.

Refuge staff established the perimeter around the nest in hopes the birds will return year after year.

Clevenstine said the challenge will be developing a nesting platform that would entice to birds to nest in a safe location, away from power lines.

Chautauqua currently is in the midst of drawing down the south pool, draining much of the water to allow wetland vegetation to grow.

Pump stations are used to help move water in and out of managed wetlands.

Clevenstine said he hopes the chicks fledge in time for a public celebration scheduled Aug. 8 so cars can travel on the levee (that passes by the nest site) to tour the refuge.

On that date, the Ramsar Convention is honoring the Emiquon Complex, including The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, as a wetland of “International Importance.”

The Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes will be honored with the same distinction.

Restored wetlands along the Illinois River have been attracting more waterfowl and other wetland-dependent birds including state-endangered species like the ospreys.

“It’s so far, so good,” Clevenstine said, looking through binoculars as the chicks poke their heads up above the rim of the nest.

“I’d like to see those little guys out fishing on their own.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

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