She circled overhead as Melquist scrambled up a 24-foot extension ladder to the nest, where he found two chicks. Each youngster was promptly tagged with an aluminum band on its leg, identifiers that will help scientists track trends in the region’s osprey population.
“You can see the red eyes,” said Melquist, gently handling a downy chick. “When it’s an adult, the eyes will turn yellow.”
The chicks’ feathers looked a bit like Harris Tweed, with a light and dark pattern that helps camouflage them in the nest. When the birds reach adulthood, they’ll be dark brown, with a white head and chest and a black, bandit-like eye band.
At about 5 weeks old, the chicks already had impressive talons. Soon, they’ll be fledged and learning how to pluck fish out of the water.
Melquist has banded Lake Coeur d’Alene’s osprey for more than four decades. He started as a graduate student at the University of Idaho in 1972 and continued the work during a long career with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He’s retired now but isn’t ready to surrender his federal bird banding license. Full story. Becky Kramer/SR