A fish dinner at Mono LakeJuly 10th, 2012 by Erica, Project Specialist
Last week I watched a family share a fish dinner at South Tufa. The mother pulled the flesh from the bones of the fish and then gently gave it to the babies, who not-so-gently shoved each other out of the way. When everyone had eaten, mom tried to get the babes to settle down to sleep. I couldn’t tell if a story was read or a lullaby sung, but the action stilled. When the light faded from the mountains, both parents were sitting with the sleeping young, safe in their nest on the tufa.
These fish-eaters are Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, and we are lucky to have them nesting at Mono Lake where they are easy to see. Osprey catch fish in their specially-adapted talons, which feature rough spicules that help them hold their slippery prey. They carry the fish facing forward to be more aerodynamic. Visitors often wonder what kind of fish we have in Mono Lake, and the answer is “none!” These birds, like many Americans, have elected to raise their young somewhere safe at the cost of a commute to “work.” They may fly five miles to the fresh water of Rush Creek or Grant Lake Reservoir for dinner.
Osprey first built a nest off Navy Beach in 1985, and in 1989 had their first confirmed nesting success. This population has been monitored since 2004, and California State Park biologists were out a week ago to count and band this year’s young. They confirmed a single chick in the nest offshore from the State Park Boardwalk at County Park. The Navy Beach nest has three nestlings, the Old Marina nest has three nestlings, and the re-used South Tufa nest has three nestlings! The new South Tufa nest has not been counted yet.
I hope many of you will have a chance to visit Mono Lake this summer and watch the Osprey as they feed their young and the juveniles practice flying and eventually fledge. You can join a free South Tufa tour daily at 10:00am, 1:00pm, or 6:00pm, or join the free naturalist-led bird walk at County Park on Friday or Sunday mornings at 8:00am. If you are a boater, please remember that you need to remain at least 200 yards from an active nest. Happy viewing!