A red-tailed hawk that suffered a wingtip injury and is now an education bird for Save Our Avian Resources is displayed by SOAR intern Savanna Judson. The bird is about 4 years old, and SOAR, based near Dedham, has cared for it about three years. SOAR began operation in 1999 and executive director is Kay Neumann, Savanna’s mom. The SOAR program drew a large crowd at Swan Lake’s outdoor amphitheater.
A red-tailed hawk that suffered a wingtip injury and is now an education bird for Save Our Avian Resources is displayed by SOAR intern Savanna Judson. The bird is about 4 years old, and SOAR, based near Dedham, has cared for it about three years. SOAR began operation in 1999 and executive director is Kay Neumann, Savanna’s mom. The SOAR program drew a large crowd at Swan Lake’s outdoor amphitheater.
April 24, 2013



The fundraising success of Carroll County Conservation's Earth Week Carnival on Saturday will allow Swan Lake State Park to host osprey chicks again this summer in the new hack tower near the Conservation Education Center.

Saturday's carnival, featuring games, prizes, food and educational programs held at the Conservation Education Center and outdoor amphitheater, was a runaway success, according to Conservation naturalist Matt Wetrich.

More than 650 people were on hand, including volunteers and children and adults participating in the event, says Wetrich.

"I was really happy with the turnout. I think it was our biggest yet," he says.

Volunteers included students, Kiwanis Club members, Conservation program supporters, a number of Wetrich's friends from Cedar Rapids and Ames, plus his parents from Fairfield.

"People from far and wide came to help," he says. "I'm proud of that. People believe in this, think it's a good thing, support it and want it to be a success."

That success apparently will enable Carroll County Conservation to bring in five osprey chicks, probably arriving in July.

The chicks will be old enough that they've imprinted with adult osprey but young enough that will be just learning to fly.

The hack tower east of the Conservation Education Center, has a screen that protects the osprey from predators and from falls. Wetrich says the hack tower is a kind of "pretend nest."

From the hack tower, the osprey will learn to fly and hunt fish. During that time, they will also be fed fish on the roof of the tower.

"The more they learn to go hunt fish, the less we will see of them," Wetrich says. "They will be learning the game of catching fish on their own."

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes osprey: "Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons."

Wetrich says that the location that osprey learn to fly is where they imprint as home.

"Once they take flight from the hack tower, we hope they will come back as adults and raise their families," he says.

He adds, though, they may return to make home anywhere within about 100 miles of where they nested.

After they've learned to fend for themselves, Wetrich says, the osprey will fly from here as far south as Argentina, where they stay next spring and finally return to this area when they're about 21/2 years old.

This will be the second year Carroll County Conservation has hosted a batch of osprey chicks at the new hack tower .

In addition to the hack tower, there's also a nesting platform - Wetrich says it's basically a pole with a few large limbs - at Swan Lake's northwest shoreline, and that has been a popular draw for wild osprey.

In fact, during an interview on Monday, Wetrich said he was viewing osprey flying at the park.

"We know Swan Lake is a good osprey spot because they come here and fish each spring, and we see some in the fall, too," Wetrich says.

Wetrich says the osprey chicks will be purchased from a wildlife biologist in northern Minnesota, and the project will be a partnership with Iowa Department of Natural Resources and SOAR (Save Our Avian Resources), which is based east of Dedham.