Two ospreys dead after tornado in Edgewater and an eagle nest damaged

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Fortunately no humans were killed as a result of the EF-2 tornado that hit Edgewater and Annapolis Wednesday with 125 mph winds, however the same can not be said for birds – in Edgewater, one osprey died from its injuries, another was euthanized because its injuries were too severe and an unoccupied bald eagle nest was damaged.

Those are just the birds that are known about.

The osprey that died almost immediately after the tornado was found on the sidewalk near PNC Bank on Solomons Island Road in Edgewater, directly across the street from an osprey nest.

A video shows the tornado approaching the same area with a juvenile osprey in the nest – it’s believed this might have been the same osprey that was killed.

Joshua Giles, of Solomons Island, was driving, saw the bird on the sidewalk, realized it shouldn’t be on the ground and stopped to help it.

Giles contacted Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center – she asked if he could bring the bird to me.

Full disclosure – I’m a volunteer bird of prey rescuer for Owl Moon Raptor Center and I live in Edgewater.

The bird was dead by the time it arrived at my house.

It was an extremely sad moment as Giles and I stood in my garage while I quickly examined the lifeless bird – it appeared to have impact injuries.

Shortly before Giles arrived, another call had come in for another osprey.

Just north of the first incident and on the north side of the South River bridge, Deborah Schneider, a homeowner in the Shadow Point neighborhood posted on Facebook requesting help with a downed osprey in her backyard. This neighborhood was also in the direct path of the tornado and had a lot of downed trees.

I was tagged on the post and I made contact with Schneider.

I told her I would respond as soon as it was safe to do so – torrential rain and wind were still an issue.

A lull in the storm allowed me just enough time to travel the one mile between my house and Shadow Point.

Schneider had originally told me to look for her mailbox with the address on it – she then realized the mailbox had been taken down by the tornado. She also provided me a pair of boots – neither of us had realized the extent of the damage in Shadow Point and I was wearing shorts and sneakers.

Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater immediately after the EF-2 tornado
Some of the debris we had to climb through to get to the osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Annapolis after the tornado.

With boots on and Schneider’s son, Gary Mitchell, leading the way, it took approximately 10 minutes to get to the osprey because of downed trees and debris in the way.

In a relatively unscathed corner of Schneider’s fenced backyard was the osprey. I quickly grabbed it and again, with the help of Mitchell, we climbed over downed trees and branches and got the the bird to my car.

Injured osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater after the tornado.
Screenshot from video by Deborah Schneider.
Donna Cole rescuing a downed osprey in the Shadow Point neighborhood of Edgewater after the tornado. Screenshot from video by Deborah Schneider.

Because it was unsafe for anyone to travel Wednesday evening, the osprey was transported by fellow volunteer, Angela Mitchell, Thursday morning to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, De.

According to Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State, “Unfortunately, both the radius and ulna were badly fractured near the carpal joint, and the bird was euthanized.”

She added, “Thank you for rescuing this bird – it would have died a slow, painful death in the wild. Sometimes the best we can do is relieve their suffering.”

With the amount of trees down in Schneider’s yard, it’s not surprising the bird had severe injuries.

Schneider said it took, “seven guys seven hours” to clean up the debris.

She said an eagle nest she can see from her backyard was also damaged – eagle nesting season is over for this year and they will have time to rebuild or relocate in advance of next year – if they survived.

Schneider texted she’s, “A little concerned that I haven’t seen or heard them since the tornado.”

This is a video of the tornado as it crossed the South River – the narrator said “I just saw the leaves blowing and the birds just kind of going haphazard … they’re all sucked into it.”

Backing up in time, Wednesday morning had started off fairly quiet, At 12:13 pm, I got a call from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research about an injured osprey in Queen Anne’s County. I knew I had a little time before the bad weather started to move in so I went.

I arrived at Piney Narrows Yacht Haven at 12:59 pm and quickly rescued that bird. I took it to the US-301 Bay Country Rest Area in Centreville, where I transferred it a Tri-State volunteer transporter who would transfer it to another volunteer transporter in Middletown, De., who would deliver it to Tri-State. Yes, these rescues/transports often require a lot of helping hands.

Donna Cole rescues an osprey at Piney Narrows Yacht Basin Wednesday before the bad weather. Courtesy photo.

I was in the car in Kent Narrows when I got the call from my daughter who told me she had just gotten the tornado warning.

I was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when I saw the tornado in the area of the South River – not far from my house. I called my daughter back to ensure she and our dog were in the basement and I stayed on the phone with her until I got home – I was panicked for her, but I didn’t tell her why or that I had seen the tornado and this was a horrible feeling.

From my house to Shadow Point is about a mile. From my house to the area of Annapolis that got hit badly is a little under two miles.

We were lucky we didn’t have damage/destruction, but others weren’t so lucky – here’s how you can help them.

Although I’ve been rescuing birds for over two years, I had, fortunately, not encountered any dead birds until this tornado. I wasn’t even sure what to do with the dead osprey that was brought to me – there is a protocol for eagles, but not ospreys.

I asked Shoemaker – she said to return it the wild, in the woods, where it can benefit other wildlife.

Every time I drive by the osprey nest on Solomons Island Road, I look for the ospreys – it was getting late in the season for a bird to still be in the nest and I’d comment to my daughter each time that it should be going south to its winter home.

On Saturday, I had emailed BGE’s Communications Manager Richard Yost, about that nest – when ospreys nest on BGE’s equipment, it’s can be dangerous for the birds and the equipment.

I also alerted Yost that the osprey guard next to the nest platform at the base of the northside of the South River Bridge was hanging down.

In other words, these birds mean a lot to me.

The osprey killed in the tornado was returned to the wild in the woods in my backyard.

As for the osprey I rescued in Queen Anne’s County before the storm hit, Smith emailed, “It had a large, single-barbed fishing hook embedded in the skin over the left wing, with fishing line wrapped around the wing and entangled in the primaries. There was some swelling of the soft tissues, but overall, I think it has a good prognosis.”

Fortunately there’s no shortage of news reports about tornado damage incurred by humans – those reports can help the National Weather Service classify the intensity of the tornado and can communicate how others can help those who suffered losses.

There is, however, a shortage of information about what happens to birds and other wildlife during tornadoes – I’ve now seen it.

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative/multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.

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