Outdoors blog

Osprey-viewing boat cruise set for Saturday

Two young, recently fledged ospreys hone their flying skills along the Spokane River in early August.

 (Dan Pelle)
Two young, recently fledged ospreys hone their flying skills along the Spokane River in early August. (Dan Pelle)

WILDLIFE WATCHING -- A boat-load of people will get a close-up view of wildlife biologists capturing and banding young osprey during a wildlife-watching boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday (July 13).

Space is limited, so sign up now for this event, which includes onboard presentations by osprey experts.

Make reservations through the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 415-0110.

Online reservations are planned, but the option is not yet posted on the Chamber's website.

Cost: $15 for adults, $30 maximum per family.

The trip will run from 9 a.m. –11 a.m.

Read on for more details about the cruise, the speaker and the birds.

Info from Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department:

The cruise will be leaving from the city docks at Independence Point. This is a change from previous osprey cruises due to construction near the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Parking is available about two blocks away past Memorial Field, and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum. 

Wildlife biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside a Lake Coeur d’Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known Wildlife Biologist and renowned osprey researcher Dr. Wayne Melquist will take young of the year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos. 

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts Beth Paragamian and Chris Buchler representing Idaho Fish and Game and the Coeur d’Alene Chapter of the Audubon Society.  They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species. The osprey is a fish-eating hawk common to northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers. 

Adult osprey along with the young of the year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America, and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched.

The University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population. 

To conduct this research, young of the year pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is gently applied to one leg and the 6-7 week old birds are safely placed back in the nests.

You may be wondering what the adult osprey think of the process. The adults take flight when the research boat approaches. They make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey and they can understand ‘osprey’ language. Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get out in no time flat.

The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secure…but sporting new leg bands. 

None of us know if having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.

Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s CdA Lake Management Team, and a Cougar Bay Preservation group.

The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Cooperators include The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Idaho, the Audubon Society and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. 




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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