February 18, 2013

Executive Director is invited guest at Israel seminar

Iain MacLeod attends worldwide seminar on ospreys 

Holderness, NH – The Executive Director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has just returned from a five day seminar in Israel. Iain MacLeod was an invited guest at the conference which was focused on Osprey migration and the use of satellite tracking technology as a tool for education. MacLeod joined other presenters from Scotland, England, Finland, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Basque (Spain), Germany, Holland, Palestine, Jordan and of course Israel.

Iain MacLeod speaks during conference.
MacLeod and his colleague Dr. Rob Bierregaard represented North America at the table. Bierregaard, who is a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina, has tagged more Ospreys with transmitters than anyone else in the world. More than 200 Ospreys have been tracked in North America.

The goal of the seminar was: To develop a coordinated international approach to integrate satellite tracking studies with education along Osprey migration flyways by:
  • Initiating links between researchers using GPS satellite transmitters on Ospreys
  • Identifying key education aims and objectives, relating specifically to bird/Osprey migration
  • Using new digital technology (websites/Google Earth/Skype/social media/webcams etc.) to link schools and other education establishments along Osprey migration flyways in a new and exciting way 
  • Discuss how the work can be extended to other species of birds, mammals and reptiles. 
MacLeod’s presentation focused on Osprey education programs that the Science Center has produced and his experiences with using Ospreys as a teaching tool.

Future plans include the creation of an international website where schools from North America, South America, Europe and Africa can share experience and learn about Ospreys where they breed and where they spend the winter. Ospreys which breed in New Hampshire migrate to South America and the Caribbean; Ospreys in Europe migrate to Africa. The use of lightweight GPS enabled satellite transmitters has revealed amazing new insights into bird migration and facilitated specific conservation efforts.

Conference attendees in Israel.
Here in New Hampshire, with funding from Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), the Science Center has been able to fit four transmitters on Ospreys in 2011 and 2012 to follow their migrations. Many people followed along last fall via MacLeod’s blog and maps on the Science Center website as Chip and Jill, two sibling youngsters from a nest in Tilton, launched on their first migrations. Young Ospreys make their migration solo and have to learn where to go and how to get there. Tagging and studies using coded leg bands have revealed a very high mortality rate in first time migrants. Neither Chip nor Jill survived their migration. Jill made it all the way to Brazil before being killed by a larger predator. Chip was blown out to sea off the Virginia coast and ended up hopping from freighter to freighter (all east bound) taking him hundreds of miles off course. After a week at sea, Chip ditched in the ocean just four hundred miles from the Azores; closer to Portugal than South America. Thankfully an adult male named Art made a successful trip to east-central Brazil and has been hanging out along the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers. This experienced bird (he is at least seven years old) will have migrated this route north and south more than a dozen times, returning to the same winter home in Brazil and returning to his nest on the Pemigewasset River in Bridgewater. In about a month Art will begin his northbound migration again; aiming to be back in New Hampshire by April 1. Anyone can follow along by going to the Osprey migration pages at the Science Center website http://www.nhnature.org/programs/project_ospreytrack. The Science Center has funding from PSNH again this year to tag four more New Hampshire Ospreys and follow their migrations.

Schools that want to get involved in the new international Osprey project should contact MacLeod at iain.macleod@nhnature.org.

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