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As La. floodwaters rise, crews save osprey chicks

Janet McConaughey of AP reports from Cow Island Lake, La.: Cindy Ransonet stood tiptoed atop the small boat's cabin and pulled an osprey chick from the nest of a bald cypress tree.

Janet McConnaughey / AP

Tour guide Kim Voorhies of Lafayette, La., giving a day to rescuing osprey chicks in nests too close to floodwaters from the Morganza Spillway, hands a chick to licensed bird rehabilitator Cindy Ransonet of New Iberia, La., on March 17, 2011. Cow Island Lake in St. Martin Parish already was about seven feet above its usual level, and Voorhies said alligators had eaten chicks from lower nests. The water was still rising, and Voorhies' father, who got federal approval for the mission, said it would bring the nest into alligator reach at the crest. (AP Photo/Janet McConnaughey)

As parent ospreys circled overhead and shrieked, the licensed Louisiana wildlife volunteer lifted the chick gently from the messy, four-foot-wide nest of sticks and handed it to the boat's operator. Rehabilitator Donna Gee then banded it and placed the bird in a plastic portable kennel.

The rising waters unleashed in parts of Louisiana by the opening of the Morganza spillway, to protect New Orleans and Baton Rouge from Mississippi River flooding, has sent people and wildlife searching for higher ground while leaving birds such as the osprey chicks at risk.

Janet McConnaughey / AP

Cindy Ransonet hands an osprey chick to the driver of a boat that took Ransonet and another wildlife rescue volunteer to nests in danger from rising floodwaters in the Atchafalaya Basin on March 17. Although the nests were five to seven feet from the waters of Cow Island Lake at the time, the lake was expected to rise another four to seven feet, putting them in easy reach of alligators.

In recent days, bird rehabilitators have swooped in and rescued osprey chicks and eggs from this lake in the Atchafalaya Basin. A guide who usually shows them to tourists and photographers got federal approval, saying the nests would soon be under water or in reach of alligators.

The group hopes to return the chicks when the floodwaters recede, part of various efforts to rescue animals injured or threatened by the floods.

Janet McConnaughey / AP

An osprey chick too young even to sit up is weighed at the home of wildlife rehabilitator Donna Gee of Youngsville, La., on March 17. Gee and licensed rehabilitator CIndy Ransonet collected 13 chicks and three eggs March 13 and 17 from nests that they considered likely to be overtaken by floodwaters or to come within alligator reach when the nearby Atchafalaya River crests.

Read the full story and see more images of the floods in our slideshow.