Good evening from the chilly Eastern Shore of Maryland! Thank you all for contributing to the Chesapeake Conservancy during the Great Give. The Crazy Osprey Family is looking forward to hosting our Grand Prize winner with a tour of the secret location after the eggs hatch. Stay tuned for details of this year’s baby osprey naming contest, which will be announced by the Conservancy in the near future.
We are starting to dry out after some incredible wind and rain late last week. With some help from our technical advisor (Osprey Girl), we are hoping to get some video posted in a few days of the Chesapeake Ocean. In the mean time, we are all waiting with breathless anticipation for the arrival of our first hatchling this week. Tom and Audrey continue their same routine. Audrey does most of the incubating, and Tom provides food and break time for Audrey. As you will read about and see later in this blog, Tom has also been busy defending the nest. Our soon-to-be osprey parents have become very proficient during shift change, and Tom doesn’t seem to mind taking over so Audrey can stretch her wings and grab a quick meal outside of the nest.
I am dedicating this blog to my dear husband, Crazy Osprey Man. The story remains to be told of how the Crazy Osprey Family’s Great Adventure started, but suffice it to say for now that Crazy Osprey Man’s moniker did not just fall from the sky. But for today, I want to give you some idea of what goes on behind the scenes before and after our ospreys arrive each spring and just how valuable Mr. Fix It (a.k.a COM) is to this entire osprey operation.
I guess it all really begins at the end: When the last of our juvenile ospreys take off for their winter digs in the fall, the old nest is removed from the pole platform. I know it pains many of you ospreycam watchers to see the tedious, exacting work of Tom and Audrey callously tossed into the bay, but there are reasons for the annual destruction of each season’s nest. One reason is to get rid of any parasites that winter over in the nest. It was so cold here this past winter that any remaining parasites probably would have become parasite popsicles, but be that as it may, the nest, complete with unwanted guests, was long gone before the really cold weather clobbered us. Another reason to remove the nest at the end of each season is so the nest doesn’t get so big and heavy from continued add-ons that it becomes too precarious for the size of the pole. While Tom and Audrey are here in residence on the Chesapeake Bay, we certainly would not want to see their home topple over during one of our ferocious Eastern Shore storms. So each fall, COM gets out his trusty fourteen foot stepladder and removes the empty nest by pushing it off the platform into the bay. This past fall, COM got lucky and his son climbed the pole and did the dirty work for him. For those of you who were watching, it really was dirty work because said son did not wear gloves while removing the nest and wiping off the platform with his bare hands. Yuck! I was a clinical microbiologist in a former life, and I shuddered while watching the bare hands doing their thing.
After the nest is removed, COM gets a little reprieve from osprey-related chores until late winter. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t busily scheming about how to make things better. This new osprey season was especially busy as the ice in the bay this winter bent our pole to the point that it needed to be replaced. As long as a new pole was going up, a new platform was built to take the place of the old platform, which was at the end of its life span. Some photographs of this undertaking were already posted in earlier blogs this season, but here are a few to remind you of all the hard work accomplished by COM and friends over the past few months. Remember, you can click on each photo to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure:
Our winter tundra swans on the offending ice. The pole is bending away from the camera, so you can’t see the tilt. COM feeds the tundra swans from November until they leave in March.
Our friends from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage jetting in the new pole. Their compressor fell out of the kayak into the 33 degree water, and delayed installation for a day. They were not happy.
COM and friends from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage building the new platform to the same specifications as the old platform-the temperature was in the teens
The new platform being installed by COM (on his ladder) and Phil from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage. It was really cold outside and in the water
Okay, so now we have a new pole and platform. The camera has to come out from its winter storage and go back to the top of the pole. First, it has to be tested to make sure it is functioning properly. That’s where our partners Earth Security and Skyline Technologies come into play. They were down on the dock freezing while waiting for COM to bring the camera down.
COM on his way to the dock with the camera and new high tech protective camera gear. What’s that white stuff on our lawn and dock?
Wading out to the pole with the camera. Brrr!
Mrs. COM baked a lot of fresh, hot muffins this winter for all of our friends who helped get the ospreycam ready for action. But COM was the leader of the Mr. Fix It brigade:
We have been having a hard time with the pole rotating around with the windage on the camera. In this photo, the pole has rotated around almost 180 degrees. COM braves the elements to fix it.
Now COM has to wade back to shore-the air and water were frigid
The pole is still continuing to give us problems with rotation. The old pole had been in place for many years, and was well worked into the bottom. During a very strong northwest wind a few weeks ago, the pole once again ended up oriented in the wrong direction. COM did his thing, and hiked out to the pole. On this occasion, the winds and low tide combined to blow water out of the bay, exposing the bottom. COM didn’t need his waders to go out to the pole and put it back in place, only a pair of boots. What he did need was to duck Audrey, who was not happy with his presence at the pole. She was dive bombing COM for much of the time he was working on the pole, and I was certain she would take a chunk out of his head:
COM on the way to fix the pole. No waders needed this time!
On the way out to the pole. Audrey was starting to get irritated.
Rotating the pole back into place.
Duck, COM! Here comes Audrey to take off your head for messing with her pole!
COM heading back to safety. He doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.
Back up the ladder. Another mission accomplished by Mr. Fix It
When we are home and able to keep an eye on what’s happening outside here at the secret location, there is frequently something new and exciting to see. A few days ago while I was at work, COM was looking out the window when he saw a goose family swimming by, complete with Mama Goose, Daddy Goose and seven goslings:
The Goose Family happily swimming by. They did not realize that danger was lurking near by
Tom noticed the goose family, and thought they were too close to Audrey and the incubating eggs. He came to the perceived needed rescue:
Tom in hot pursuit of the intruders
A bird battle ensued. COM told me it was pretty exciting:
The battle begins
Daddy Goose defending his babies from Tom
The fierce fight
Great photographs, COM! We are all glad you were home and looking out the window at the right time. There is good, and there is lucky, but there was a combination of good and lucky to be able to capture these birds in action, each trying to protect their own family.
We will leave you with a more peaceful image of Tom in our backyard checking out some sticks:
A peaceful moment in the backyard
So good bye for a few days. When next we meet, hopefully Tom and Audrey will be new parents!
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. Thank you!