The Adventures of Breezy and Spitz

Happy almost end of July! Wow, this month FLEW by, especially for our feathered friends.

As many of you already know, today was a very exciting day for the youngest chick, Spitz. He finally fledged! At 8:50 AM, Spitz took his first flight, but have no fear, he didn’t go far because he landed on top of the camera. Spitz didn’t stay there very long, then became more daring and flew all the way to our boatlift, where he/she rested for a few hours. One of the parents joined him to check in and make sure that everything was running smoothly. Unfortunately, we were not home to see Spitz’s return to the nest, but some of our faithful Facebook friends noted that he arrived home around 1:30 PM. Many of you also believe that there was a “stranger” on the nest today, but again, since we were not home, we did not see that drama play out. I can tell you that there have been strangers on the nest in the past, so it is very possible that a neighboring osprey took a pit stop.  Tom and Audrey are not very happy when intruders stop by, and usually chase off the unwanted visitor with gusto.  Here are some photos of Spitz’s great adventure.  Remember, you can click on each photo to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure:

Spitz's first flight.  Notice the prominent necklace (dark chest feathers)

Spitz’s first flight. Notice the prominent necklace (dark chest feathers)

 

Spitz

Spitz on our boat lift

 

Spitz and a parent around 11:15 AM

Spitz and a parent around 11:15 AM

 

Of course, we can’t forget about Breezy, who is also attempting to make headlines. Yesterday while we were eating breakfast, Breezy took off from the nest and dove into the water. A few seconds passed and then he resurfaced and slowly took off, much to our relief. We were somewhat confused, but we brushed it off and continued eating. About a minute later, Breezy took the plunge again. This time it got our attention and we watched as he continued to dive into the water and then resurface, each time struggling to get back into the air. We realized that these were, in fact, his inexperienced attempts to fish. Each dive took more and more energy from him. After five minutes and five heart-stopping plunges, he stopped and safely landed on our dock.  Fortunately for our resident menhaden, Breezy needs more practice before he can provide snacks for the family.  But he is really trying out his new found fishing skills, and it won’t be long before dinner will be served!

This past weekend, COM installed the three perches that I mentioned in the last blog. The main function of the perches is to provide an alternative landing spot for the osprey, because they thoroughly enjoy using our boatlift to hang out. The problem with their choice of hangouts is our boat cover becomes an osprey potty, which is very unpleasant for the humans who enjoy using their boat (us!).  Audrey was not happy with COM, and kept circling around making very loud alarm cries.

 

COM laying the bases for the perches

COM pounding in the perch bases

 

Audrey circling COM

Audrey circling COM

 

Keeping a close eye out for Audrey, who was circling overhead making unhappy noises

Keeping a close eye out for Audrey, who was circling overhead making unhappy noises

 

Another trudge out to install the perches

Another trip out to install the perches

 

COM installing last perc

COM installing last perch

 

Here is a family portrait taken a couple of days before Spitz fledged.  Guess who can be seen fussing?

Family portrait.  Spitz is yapping at everyone.  Are you surprised?

Family portrait. Spitz is yapping at everyone. Are you surprised?

 

Keep sending in your “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey” photos.  Here is this week’s winner:

 

Mr. Cooley watching from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Mr. Cooley watching from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

 

Thank you for contributing to my research, you guys are the best!  Please keep posting any sightings of fish coming back into the nest, with time and species if possible.

Adios Amigos,

Until Next Time,

Osprey Girl

 

They Grow Up So Fast

Good evening!  Congratulations are in order for one of our favorite birds.  Breezy took his first flight on July 17, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.  Remember, you can click on each photo to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure:

First day of flight

First day of flight

Once he left the nest, Breezy landed on some rocks by the water one house to the north of us.  When ospreys take their first flight, they usually find a large stable place on which to land because their depth perception and balance have not completely developed yet.  Breezy rested on the shoreline for a while, but his moment of peace was quickly interrupted by our neighbor’s lawnmower.  Poor Breezy made eye contact with the loud frightening machine and then clumsily flew away.  We then lost sight of him until he returned to the nest later on in the day.  Many of our viewers were concerned because Breezy was away for a while, but similar to any teen with a new license, the last place he wanted to be was home.  He was probably somewhat disoriented and afraid.  After all, to make a perfect landing for the first time on the nest is no easy task.  Eventually, he made it home safe and sound.  It is now four days after his first flight and he is already a pro.  Breezy dives, turns, rapidly maneuvers, speeds up and slows down, basking in his new found freedom.  You can tell he is really enjoying himself, his flight appears joyful.  As for his whereabouts when not in the nest, Breezy has been spending most of his time in our neighbor’s tree to the north of us.  This is the same tree that Tom used last year to break branches off in flight to use in the nest.  Spitz is due at any moment to fledge and we will all continue to watch the camera like hawks.

Freedom-Day 2 of flight

Freedom-Day two of flight

Landing is still a bit shaky.  Who is watching from the tree?

Day three. Landing is still a bit shaky. Who is watching from the tree?

We have also been noticing more ospreys flying around and assume that other juveniles in the area are fledging.  COM plans to put the perches back up in the water, but unfortunately, the tides have not been favorable for his task.  Once they go in, I will post more pictures to show every one.  Just to keep things interesting, COM put out another marked stick, which made its way to the nest within 24 hours of being in the back yard.  Mrs. COM put one out last week, but it disappeared without making its way into our nest.  I guess another osprey is enjoying the decorative addition to his nest.

Family reunions are the best. Day four of flight (Sunday afternoon)

Family reunions are the best. Day four of flight (Sunday afternoon)

Lastly, I feel like a broken record, but THANK YOU for the help with the fish research project, I couldn’t do it without the help from all of the loyal viewers.  Remember to send in your photos for the “Where in the World Are Tom and Audrey” contest.  Here is one from last year:

Nurse Sue and friends watching from Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland

Nurse Sue and friends watching from Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland

Adios Amigos,

Until next time,

Osprey Girl

 

 

 

Super Night, Super Moon

Good evening, everyone!  As many of you know, last night was the super moon or perigee moon.  Super moons occur when the moon becomes full at the same time that it is closest to us in its orbit around Earth.  There was a super moon in June, and there will be another one in August.  It is very unusual to have three super moons in a row, so take advantage of this phenomenon and take a look on August 10.  Unfortunately, we were not home to watch the entire scene unfold, but did get home in time to snap a few photographs which I would love to share.  If you click on these two photos to enlarge them, you will see the light reflecting on osprey eyes, very cool:

 

Super Moon over the nest

Super Moon over the nest

 

Flapping under the Super Moon

Moonlight Landing

 

Many of you have asked how to tell the two chicks apart; hopefully these tips will help.  The darker baby is Breezy.  If you look carefully, his head and neck have more black than his sibling.  When compared with Spitz, you should be able to identify the differences.  Spitz has less black and more white on his head and neck.  He also fusses more than Breezy.  I am using “him”, “his” and “he” for convenience, and not because the gender of the chicks is known at this time.  We have asked Dr. Spitzer to give us his expert opinion, and will share it with you as soon as we know.

The Osprey Family-everyone is in the nest and someone is getting fed

The Osprey Family-everyone is in the nest and someone is getting fed

Yesterday, Audrey was attempting to shade Spitz from the sun, but despite their efforts, Spitz has gotten too big to be shaded.  If you were watching the camera around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, you would have noticed some triple head bobbing going on, sometimes right into the camera.  Breezy, Spitz and Audrey all participated in this event and it was pretty funny to watch.

A recent visitor to the end of our dock-is it time for happy hour?

A recent visitor to the end of our dock-is it time for happy hour?

We have been watching Breezy flapping and hopping, which has turned into flapping and hovering.  One of these times, he is going to be carried away by a gust of wind, and flight will start whether he likes it or not!  I will continue to keep everyone up to date as the excitement continues.

Adios Amigos,

Until next time,

Osprey Girl

 

 

“You Should See The One That Got Away” -Tom

Wow, it’s already July 10th, I hope everyone is staying cool! I wanted to start by saying how much I appreciate your contributions to the citizen science research about the osprey’s fishing habits. The spreadsheets are starting to take shape and I can’t wait until we have our final outcome! If you could continue to monitor the fish with me, I would be very thankful.

Those of you on Facebook have probably seen pictures from the Great Give visit. The Great Give is a fundraiser for non- profit organizations in the Annapolis, Maryland area. The Chesapeake Conservancy participated in this year’s Great Give and the individuals who donated the most were treated to a private tour of Tom and Audrey’s nest. During the tour, two sticks marked with yellow tape were put out in the yard. By the morning, both sticks were in the nest and if you look closely to the right, one stick is still visible.

DSC_3913

Audrey guarding her nest.

I am aware that some of you are concerned about the well-being and nourishment of the chicks. We appreciate everyone’s concern for our feathery friends but have no fear, the chicks are well fed and doing fine. Even if the chicks were not being properly nourished, the best thing for the Conservancy to do is not interfere. We must let nature take its course, even if it is hard to watch.  Recent interventions have been made at other nests due to situations created by human actions.

DSC_3902

Fishing!

On that note, I would love to share this week’s excitement with all of you. This occurred yesterday at noon when Audrey was away from the nest. Tom brought a relatively large Menhaden back to the nest and sat there with the babies for a bit. When Audrey realized that there was food at home, she immediately returned to the nest, hoping to grab a quick bite. Tom was obviously not in the sharing mood and took off, fish in talons, to a dock two houses down. He returned a short while later with the headless fish, which was used to feed the rest of the family. Thanks, Dad. Keep in mind Tom must eat first, or no one eats.

DSC_3896

Tom’s lunch!

Breezy and Spitz continue their wing exercises, sometimes despite twenty mile an hour winds and looming thunderstorms.  Their flap-hops have started, which means first flight can’t be too far away.  Last year, the oldest chick, Chester, first took flight on July 19th, closely followed by her siblings, Essie and Ozzie.  In the not too distant future, Breezy and Spitz will be earning their own private pilot’s licenses.

Keep those entries for the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest coming.  One photo will be posted on each blog, and a grand prize winner will be awarded for the 2014 season!

Felix watching the ospreycam from Kent Island, Maryland

Felix watching the ospreycam from Kent Island, Maryland

Adios Amigos, Until Next Time,

Osprey Girl

Are We Feeling Better Now?

Happy last day of June! As you probably know by now, the naming contest was a success. Thanks to the 500 viewers who voted, the chicks finally have names! The oldest now goes by “Breezy” and the youngest is named “Spitz,” after Dr. Spitzer. Many of you seem to have been concerned about Spitz not getting enough food. The Crazy Osprey Family and the Conservancy assured you not to worry and let nature take its course. As we can all see, Spitz is thriving and appears to be well fed.  So we hope all of the camera watchers are feeling better now.

A lot of our viewers have posted questions on the Conservancy’s Facebook page. This seems to be a good time to address some of your questions and concerns:

What happened to the third egg?

No one in my family witnessed the removal of the last egg, as we were out of town on the day in question. This is an account sent to the Conservancy from a camera viewer.  WARNING:  THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE IN ITALICS IS RATHER GRAPHIC-PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK

Here’s what I just witnessed. I saw what was happening to the old egg. Audrey was calling loudly for food and finally got off the chicks. All calling for food. Chick #1 had his foot caught in the broken shell. Audrey went flying off but quickly came back with a small piece of fish which she mostly ate. She then went to the broken egg, picked it up and brought it to the side of the nest. I thought she was going to throw it into the water. However, what happened is she started eating what was inside. First it looked like gooey, sticky stuff (excuse my bad terminology). Then a small little chick was drawn out which she tried to eat. It was well developed with head, wings etc. Tried giving bits to the youngsters. It must have been hard to chew or she did not like it as it stayed pretty much whole. Finally, it dropped down far into the outer nest or water after several attempts of eating, dropping and feeding. She really did not like it when the chicks went to eat some.

 

When Tom wasn’t bringing many fish back to the nest, were there any eagles in the area?

Some of you have raised concern that the reason behind the lack of fish being brought back to the nest was related to eagles competing for the same food source. Although we do see eagles occasionally, we have not seen enough eagles to be a problem.

 

Tom on the camera

Tom on the camera

Where does Tom go when he is not at the nest?

Tom goes many places when he is not on the nest. He enjoys eating on our boatlift or on the electric box near the end of the dock. We also see him on neighbors’ docks and trees to the north and south of us. Sometimes he is standing on the camera, just out of your view.

Tom on our boat lift.

Tom on our boat lift.

 

One of Tom's favorite hang-outs.  He will frequently eat his fish from this electric box at the end of our dock

One of Tom’s favorite hang-outs. He will frequently eat his fish from this electric box at the end of our dock

 

Why is Audrey so vocal at times?

Most of the cries that we hear are food begging calls. We also hear defensive calls if there are other osprey in the area. If anyone goes onto our dock, Tom and Audrey let us know that they are not happy. Around 3 pm on Sunday, the ospreys were on high alert because our neighbor had his family visiting. There were a lot of children and adults on the dock and in the water making more noise than usual. Tom, Audrey and the chicks were all bothered by the visitors and were especially noisy. A couple mornings ago, an interloper landed on the nest and Tom immediately flew over and chased him off. There was a lot of osprey noise from Tom and Audrey while this was happening.

 

Tom on our neighbhor's boat. Looks like he has been here before.

Tom on our neighbhor’s boat. Looks like he has been here before.

Which osprey eats first?

It is crucial that Tom eats first. He is the sole provider for the nest and needs the most strength to continue to hunt for fish. This is why we frequently see half eaten fish being returned to the nest; Tom has already eaten his portion. Next to eat is Audrey. Without her, there is no one to protect the babies and the nest. The remainder of the fish goes to the chicks, Breezy and Spitz. It might appear that Breezy gets more food than Spitz, but it is common that the older and therefore biggest chick eats first. This should not raise any distress among our viewers. Yes, it is hard to watch, but that is nature. Breezy had been the bigger and the stronger of the two, so he was more capable of boxing little Spitz out of the way. But don’t worry; Spitz appears to be doing just fine and is catching up in size to Breezy. Over the past couple of weeks, we know that a lot of our viewers wanted us to get food to Spitz. The Conservancy and the Crazy Osprey Family have made a conscious decision not to intervene when nature is taking its course. Last year when Ozzie was caught in the fishing line, we decided to intervene because it was a man-made predicament, not something that would occur by itself in nature.

Remember to send your photos in for the Where in the World are Tom and Audrey contest. Here is our first winner:

 

Brites watching Tom and Audrey from Stayton, Oregon

Brites watching Tom and Audrey from Stayton, Oregon

Remember, you can click on each of the above photos to enlarge them.

 

Adios amigos, until next time,

Osprey Girl

The Return of Osprey Girl

Happy summer every one! Osprey Girl is back!  We have been closely following what has been happening in the nest, and reading everyone’s concerns about Chick #2.  Last year, Ozzie (who was Chick #3, and definitely the runt of the group), was picked on unmercilessly by Chester, the oldest chick.  It was really touch and go for a long time for Ozzie, who was significantly smaller and weaker than her older siblings.  We did not think she would make it, Dr. Spitzer didn’t think she would make it, but guess what?  She made it!!  So we know it is hard to watch Chick #2 get beat up and not get fed as much as Chick #1, but we feel confident that Chick #2 will be fine.  But sometimes Mother Nature can fool you, for the better or for the worse, so we will see.  The chick naming contest is in full swing, so be sure to get your vote in by the close of business on Wednesday, June 25.  Go to  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PWYVGJ2 to cast your ballot.  Tomorrow is primary day in Maryland, so it is a perfect day to vote.

I have two exciting events to share with you:

First, we are starting up the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.

For those of you who read this blog last year, the guidelines are the same. For the new viewers out there, I strongly encourage you to participate!  People from all over the world enjoy watching our ospreycam, and your fellow viewers would love to know where you are.

You can submit a picture of yourself watching the camera from where ever you are located on the globe. Winning photographs will be posted onto each blog. Please keep in mind that if you submit a photograph, there is a chance that it will be posted on the Internet and viewed by others.

Smartphones, IPads and laptops would be the best option to use, because they are easily portable. If you watch the camera from a desktop computer, you can take the Flat Stanley approach and print out a picture of Tom and Audrey to take with you on your travels.

Here is one of our winners from last year:

 

Jamie watching the ospreycam from the Channel 8 Traffic Center in Rockville, Maryland

Jamie watching the ospreycam from the Channel 8 Traffic Center in Rockville, Maryland

• You must be 18 years or older to submit a photo

• Try to submit a unique photo that specifically shows your location

• Send your photos to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com

• Please include a caption stating where you are and a first name

Second, I hope all of you have read the blog that announced my main focus this summer.  In addition to my blogs, I will be conducting a study alongside Dr. Spitzer that examines the fish being brought back to the nest by Tom.  When you see a fish being brought back to the nest, please note the date, time and your best guess as to the species of the fish.  The Conservancy has posted examples of possible prey in the following blog:

http://ospreycamerablog.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/osprey-diet-whats-on-the-menu/

This may turn out to be a difficult task due to the condition of the fish arriving in the nest.  I will be reviewing the camera tapes based on observations posted to the Conservancy’s Facebook page and our on-site observations.  Any help citizen scientists can provide would be appreciated.   I can’t wait to see the results!

I know many of you have been reading Mrs. COM’s blogs.  She has been posting photos of a handsome couple, and running her own unofficial contest to guess their identity.  Well, we had a winner last week.  Here is the third of four photos of this couple:

 

The human Tom and Audrey couple after whom our original osprey couple and the current osprey couple were named

The human Tom and Audrey couple after whom our original osprey couple and the current osprey couple were named

 

The lucky winner will be receiving an osprey tee shirt from the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Thanks for all of your guesses.

Adios amigos, until next time,

Osprey Girl

Throwback Thursday-A Visit To The Past #1

Greetings from the sultry Eastern Shore of Maryland!  As I sit here writing this blog at 12:21 p.m. on June 19, Tom is sitting on the boat lift with a large, still flapping menhaden, and Audrey is fussing at him from the nest to hurry up and eat.  He just took off from the lift, and Audrey followed from the nest so the kids are all alone for now.  Feeding time should commence in the not-too-distant future.  Whoops, he just landed in the nest with the noon meal, 12:24 p.m., and Audrey is letting him know she is hungry!

Well, it’s official.  Our egg statistics for 2014 can be added to last year’s list.  Going back to the blogs from Year One of Tom and Audrey’s Great Adventure, we found this one which summarized the egg laying/hatchling survival from our nest going back many years.  We thought you might enjoy reading this blast from the past, but first……………

GUESS WHO?

 

Second Chance to Win a Great Prize!  First Correct Guess Is A Winner!

Second Chance to Win a Great Prize! First Correct Guess Is A Winner!

 

Please enjoy this bit of Crazy Osprey Man’s Osprey Notebook History 101:

(First Published April 29, 2013)  Greetings from the Eastern Shore!  As we are sure you are all aware, shortly after the last blog was published, bemoaning the fact that we were now in wait and watch mode, we all had a huge surprise!  A fourth egg!  Crazy Osprey Man has been keeping careful notes since 1995, and this is the first time we have ever had four eggs in the clutch.  Hopefully Dr. Spitzer will treat us to some insider information regarding the rarity of a four egg clutch among ospreys. We will just have to wait and see if he is reading the blog.  We will share any tidbits he provides about our newest osprey adventure as soon as we get them.

We have been following the Conservancy’s Facebook traffic about the osprey camera, and have noticed some questions and comments regarding Crazy Osprey Man’s thoughts on the hatching and survivability of four osprey chicks.  In this blog, we will share some of our statistics about the number of eggs we have observed in the clutch each season, how many hatched and how many of the chicks survived to adulthood.  We won’t bore you with every single year, but will provide a good sampling (last 10 years) and some thoughts and comments.  So here goes:

2012-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived

2011-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 2 survived (This was a very sad year, we will discuss this one in detail in another blog while trying to fill the waiting and watching part 2)

2010-2 eggs laid, 1 hatched and survived

2009-2 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived (Yippee!  Good year!)

2008-2 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived (Ditto!)

2007-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived

2006-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 2 survived

2005-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched, 2 survived

2004-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 3 survived (Yippee!  A very good year with the original Tom and Audrey pair, who were very experienced osprey parents by this time)

2003-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 3 survived (Ditto)

Please keep in mind when you are reading our blogs that we are not ornithologists and have no formal training in the ways of birds.  All of our comments and thoughts are based on 18 years of careful observation, both before and after Crazy Osprey Man installed our first camera, and reading we have done.  As you can see from the above data, out of a 10 year time period, only 40% of the time did all of the eggs laid hatch and all of the chicks survive to adulthood.  Additionally, only 60% of the time did all of the eggs hatch.  We don’t want to be Debbie Downers, but based on these percentages, we feel it is not likely that all of the eggs will hatch and produce chicks that will survive to adulthood.  But what if someone had asked us last week this time what we thought about the chances that Audrey would lay four eggs?  Based on all of our observations over the 18 years, we would have said no way!

So we will keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to add the following data to our list for next year:

2013-4 eggs laid, 4 hatched, 4 survived  (Here’s hoping!!!!!)

 

The official statistic for 2013 was 4 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 3 survived (you remember that drama, don’t you?).  So Chester, Essie and Ozzie will hopefully have two siblings to join them for fun and sun in South America this fall.

Remember, be on the lookout for the Conservancy’s chick naming contest.  The list of finalist names will be posted soon, so get your votes in.  Osprey Girl will be starting her “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest next week, so remember to watch the ospreycam while you are away this summer, and memorialize your viewing dedication in a photograph.  Details will be posted soon.

That’s all for now!  Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl

If you are enjoying the osprey camera and blog, please consider a donation to the Chesapeake Conservancy so they are able to continue supporting programs such as this one. Go to  www.chesapeakeconservancy.org today!  Thanks very much!

Osprey diet: What’s on the menu?

Hello Osprey observers! Our resident osprey biologist, Dr. Spitzer, is cataloguing Tom and Audrey’s fish intake and would greatly appreciate your help. When you observe Tom returning with a fish for the family, please post on Facebook the time of day and your best guess of the species and approximate size. Osprey Girl will then collect the information off of Facebook.

Fish species that you will likely see include:

Menhaden: A member of the Herring Family, the silvery, black spotted Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) primarily filter feeds for phytoplankton and zooplankton. They usually measure 4-8 inches, but may grow up to 15 inches long.  Easily distinguishable by their spots and deeply forked yellow tail.

Menhaden: A member of the herring family, the silvery- black spotted Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) primarily filter feeds for phytoplankton and zooplankton. They usually measure 4-8 inches, but may grow up to 15 inches long. They are easily distinguishable by their spots and deeply forked yellow tail.

White Perch: A small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back. It lives in fresh and brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. White Perch (Morone Americana) can be identified by their spiny, dark dorsal fins. They usually measure 7-10 inches long. Look for the pointed and forked grey tail.

White Perch: A small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back that lives in fresh and brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. White Perch (Morone Americana) can be identified by their spiny, dark dorsal fins and pointed, notched tail. They usually measure 7-10 inches long.

The Maryland state fish, the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), is a large, predatory fish with dark stripes running across silvery-metallic sides. Striped bass inhabit the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries year-round and will usually grow to 20 inches in length.  Look for the stripes!

Striped Bass (Rockfish): The Maryland state fish, the Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), is a large, predatory fish with dark stripes running across silvery-metallic sides. Striped bass inhabit the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries year-round and will usually grow to 20 inches in length. Look for the stripes!

Oyster Toadfish:  A characteristically “ugly” fish with large bulging eyes, whiskers, and a scale-less flattened body. Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau) live in shallow oyster reefs throughout the Chesapeake Bay and will grow up to 12 inches long. Look for the rounded tail.

Oyster Toadfish: A characteristically “ugly” fish with large-bulging eyes, whiskers, and a scaleless flattened body. Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau) live in shallow oyster reefs throughout the Chesapeake Bay and will grow up to 12 inches long. Look for the rounded tail.

Catfish

There are six species of catfish in the Chesapeake, and telling them apart may be tricky. If you see one,  just list “catfish.” It may be one of the following:

Channel Catfish: A fish with a smooth greenish-grey body, whisker likes barbels around its mouth, and a silver-white belly. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) live in fresh and brackish rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay, and will usually grow to about two feet long. Look for its spots and rounded anal fin.

Channel Catfish: A fish with a smooth, greenish-grey body, a silvery-white belly, and whisker likes barbels around its mouth. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) live in fresh and brackish rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay and will usually grow to about two feet long. Look for its spots and rounded anal fin.

Blue Catfish: Often confused with the channel catfish, the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) is a large, smooth-skinned fish with a slate blue body and whisker-like barbels around its mouth. It was introduced to the region in the 1970s, and is now considered an invasive species. Adults will usually measure less than two feet. They will be more silver looking in color with no spots and a straight anal fin.

Blue Catfish: Often confused with the channel catfish, the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) has a large, silver-blue, smooth skinned body and whisker like barbels around its mouth. It was introduced to the region in the 1970s and is now considered an invasive species. Adults will usually measure less than two feet. They will have no spots and a straight anal fin.

Think you see something else? Check out the Chesapeake Bay Program’s field guide. Remember, Tom will often eat portions of the fish (especially the head) before returning to the nest. This could make the identification process a little more difficult. Observe away and remember to please only post your findings on Facebook!

[Images courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.]

Day Forty Two and Counting

Good evening from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland. It is a beautiful evening, clear and cool. As I am sure all of you have observed on the ospreycam, two of our eggs have hatched, and the third one is getting way overdue. Just as a recap, the first egg was laid on April 15 at 7:11 a.m., the second egg was laid on April 18 at 7:00 a.m. and the third egg was laid on April 21 at 8:08 a.m. Egg Number 1 hatched on May 24 at 5:31 a.m. and Egg Number 2 hatched on May 27 at approximately 9:00 a.m. There is video footage of both hatchings on the Conservancy’s Facebook page. I know you can all do the math, but so you don’t have to put on your thinking caps, the first two eggs each took thirty nine days to hatch. It is now Day Forty Two since Egg Number 3 was laid, and things aren’t looking so good for a third chick. According to Dr. Spitzer, our resident osprey biologist and good friend, it is not likely at this point that the third egg will hatch. But in his own words, Dr. Spitzer said “But give it a bit longer”. After all of the drama last year with Ozzie, I am not sure we want a third chick at this late date. It would be so much smaller and weaker than the other two chicks that it might have a hard time thriving. But as we saw time after time last year, Mother Nature has her own plans, and we will see what we will see!

COM pulled out his handy dandy osprey notebook for me, and here were our statistics for last year’s eggs: Eggs were laid on 4/17/2013, 4/19/2013, 4/23/2013 and a surprise egg on 4/25/2013 (the first time since we have had our camera that we observed four eggs). The first three hatched on 5/26, 5/29 and 6/2, respectively. Hatch times were thirty nine days for Egg Number 1, forty days for Egg Number 2 and forty days for Egg Number 3. Although we all anxiously watched and waited, Egg Number 4 never hatched, eventually broke in the nest and disappeared. I don’t know about all of you, but I will be both disappointed and relieved at the same time if Egg Number 3 doesn’t hatch.

You all know by now that our blogs are intended to supplement what you are seeing in the nest. We have been watching our camera since 2002, and much of what can be seen is sometimes rather repetitive, but at the same time, exhilarating. On May 23, COM and I witnessed something we had never seen in the past twelve years of camera watching. There were a couple of comments on the Conservancy’s Facebook page about this incident. For those of you who didn’t have the good fortune to be watching, a rather large, dark and fuzzy looking creature, quite dead, made its way into the nest. We didn’t see who brought the offending detritus into the osprey’s sanctuary, but I am guessing it was that jokester Tom. As I was watching the ospreycam, it appeared to me to be a large piece of some sort of deceased mammal, as I thought I could see the ruffling of fur in the breeze. I kept my eye on the computer while I was conducting my domestic chores. Tom returned to the nest, and as I was watching, he grabbed the unknown organic matter with his talons and beak, and dragged it to the edge of the nest. When he got it almost to the point where it was ready to fall into the drink, he took a good hold of it and flew off to the electric box on the end of our dock. This is one of Tom’s favorite places to enjoy a good meal and I bet he was looking forward to filling his belly with a delectable treat. I put our super duper 30 power, tripod mounted Swarovski binoculars on the unknown mass, and lo and behold, it was some sort of bird (the feathers were a clue), not a mammal. Tom sat there a moment, tore a bloody piece out of the bird and attempted to eat it. Can you say cannibal? But when he got a good bite and tried to swallow, he shook his head and smacked his beak several times. The piece of Uncle Bird fell out of his mouth, and fell into the water. Not to be deterred, Tom tried again. Same results. A few shakes of the head, a few smacks of the beak, and the disposal of the Uncle Bird nugget. Tom looked like a little kid who had taken a bite out of something he didn’t like and spit it out! I had to laugh out loud, it was really, really funny to watch him. I don’t think he could figure out what the heck he was trying to eat, but he sure knew he didn’t like it! After a few tries, he took off from the electrical box with his former treasure, flew over the dock, dropped the unsavory dead bird right on it and kept going until he reached his favorite tree. I’m not sure how ospreys get a bad taste out of their mouths, but if there was a way to do it, I am sure Tom was trying to figure it out. I sent COM down to the dock to remove the unwanted meal, and into the drink it went. The crabs should have enjoyed the tasty morsel if Tom didn’t.

Dr. Spitzer has a scientific request for all of you camera watchers out there. He would like to keep track of the number and type of fish that Tom is catching and bringing back to the nest. Most of the fish that are being caught are menhaden. If anyone sees a fish (or part of a fish, as is usually the case) being brought back, please keep track of the time. Identifying the type and number of fish being caught would be of great interest to Dr. Spitzer, so please post your observations on the Conservancy’s Facebook page, and we will get the data to Dr. Spitzer.

The Chesapeake Conservancy will be having an osprey naming contest, but are waiting to determine the final number of chicks to be named. Check on their Facebook page for further details.

I will leave you with one of my favorite photographs from last year. This was taken after one of our famous Full Moon Dock Parties. If you would like to read the whole story, please go back to my blog dated June 25, 2013-A Very Special Evening With Our Very Special Osprey Family. You can click on the photo to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Our osprey nest in the full moon-June 2013

Our osprey nest in the full moon-June 2013

Oh, but one more. A surprise photo. Guess who?

Guess who?

Guess who?

I will be posting a different photo of this lovely couple in each of the next few blogs. First person to correctly guess the identity of our mystery couple will get a good prize, I just don’t know what it is yet!

Until next time, we remain

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl

If you are enjoying the osprey camera and blog, please consider a donation to the Chesapeake Conservancy so they are able to continue supporting programs such as this one. Go to http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org today. Thanks very much!