Good afternoon from the sunny, brisk Eastern Shore of Maryland! We have had a very pleasant winter here at the secret location. With only one snowy day in January (which was on a Saturday and didn’t last very long), Mother Nature has been very kind to us. More about that in my next blog, but suffice to say, we are very happy not to have the expense and aggravation of having to put up a new pole and platform this year.
Better late than never, they say, so here is the much overdue wrap-up of our 2016 season, just in time for the 2017 season to begin. The camera is up and operational, and we expect it will go live this week. We have a new source of some funding this year, and I know you will be very happy with the camera image, including a new infrared light source. With that said, please enjoy a stroll down memory lane, back to February 2016.
We had a fairly pleasant winter in 2015-2016, with no new pole or platform needed. A welcome addition of an infrared light source for night viewing was installed on the camera mount by COM. Our good friend Peter Turcik from the Chesapeake Conservancy came to the secret location to help COM put the camera back up after it spent a peaceful winter in the garage. As we weren’t expecting any action back on the platform until around St. Paddy’s day, the camera was scheduled to be installed on March 9. However, much to our chagrin (and delight, of course), our first osprey showed up on March 8! I was home from work the day of the camera installation, and was able to photograph the series of steps required to put the camera back on the pole. You can take a look at the “Hello Ospreys, Good Bye Swans” blog, published 3/17/16, for the full series of photos. Here are a few photos to jog your memory about all the hard work it takes to get the camera operational each year:
Com and Peter carrying the fourteen foot stepladder to the end of the dock. Peter is wearing his Chesapeake Conservancy osprey shirt!
The stepladder is going into the water off the dock.
COM has the cables down to the junction box. Note how gracefully he stands on one leg, sort of like our osprey
Maneuvering the camera to go up the pole
Getting closer-Don’t drop it now!
Audrey didn’t waste any time getting back to the platform after the camera was up:
Did you ever feel like you were being watched?
As I previously said, our first osprey of the 2016 season was spotted on March 8, earlier than usual and a day before the camera was on the pole. There was much speculation about the true identity of this first osprey, as we had several early visitors those first few weeks. After many days of careful observation, we officially welcomed back our beautiful girl Audrey!
Audrey in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north
Audrey on the nest with a good view of the camera set-up. The infrared (IR) light is mounted just below the camera on the vertical support
Audrey picking up a prefab nest stick in the COF’s backyard
The drama started early in the 2016 season, as we had many early visitors to the nest platform. Many questions about gender, actions and intent of these avian visitors were posed by our astute camera watchers. The experts were contacted about the unusual activity we were seeing. Our dear friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, gave us a lesson in some of the fundamentals to successful nest building, two of the most important being the male bringing food to the female and engaging in cooperative nest building. We did not witness either of these behaviors until the real Tom (our beloved Calico Tom, The Fishing Fool) finally returned to his summer residence on March 31 after fighting an aerial battle with one of the earlier visitors. The “A Real Head Scratcher” blog, published 3/28/16, has more details about what was going on and many photos.
Audrey and the mysterious stranger on the nest
Audrey is asking Tom why they left warm South America to come to Maryland
Early on during the 2016 season, we experienced problems with the camera and sound, which was discouraging for everyone. The problems were fixed with help from the Chesapeake Conservancy and our other partners. During the time before the “And The Weather Gods Were Angry” blog, published 4/11/16, we experienced some very rotten, cold and windy early April weather, which was the cause of great concern. Tom and Audrey would take refuge in the trees, and would not be seen at the growing nest. This was a trying time for all! One morning, they were spotted on the riprap, trying to stay out of the wind. We hadn’t seen this happen before.
Tom gets closer to Audrey on the riprap. I was surprised they let me get close, although I was using a very long lens
April brought a very disturbing incident when a plastic bag Audrey picked up became wrapped around her leg, just before she was due to lay her first egg. Ospreys have a habit of bringing back all sorts of stuff to the nest, but the bag she found and brought back could have had disasterous consequences. Fortunately, Audrey managed to pick the bag off of her leg before she laid her first egg on 4/17/16. Her second egg was laid on 4/20/16. Check out “Patience Is A Virtue”, published 4/21/16, for the rest of the story and photos.
Audrey with the plastic bag wrapped around her leg. This was very hard to watch:
Audrey is either looking at me for help or getting ready to get out of Dodge
Our beautiful Tom and Audrey in the late afternoon sun before the first egg was laid
The third egg was laid on 4/23/16, and then late April and early May brought more than 15 continuous days of rain at the secret location. On Thursday, 5/6/16, everyone began to notice that Audrey had not been seen since the day before. COM went back over the recordings of the nest, and determined that Audrey had left the nest at 2:00 p.m. on 5/5, and had not yet returned. Tom had taken over the incubating duties just after Audrey left, and sat on the eggs all through the night of 5/5, until he also left at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. At that time, there were three eggs in the nest, the temperature was forty seven degrees and it was steadily raining. Once again, the experts were contacted about the fate of the unattended eggs, and the news was not encouraging. Audrey returned to the nest at 2:48 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, without a word as to her whereabouts during the time she was missing for over 24 hours. After Tom and Audrey had raised two foster chicks (and E.T., of course!) in 2015, plans were put into place to look for foster chicks in the likely occurance that the unattended eggs didn’t hatch. Take a look at the blog “Beautiful Noise”, published 5/12/16, for the rest of the story.
Time to try to dry off! Tom shaking out his feathers
Tom is enjoying a big menhaden on a rainy day:
Tom is still looking wet, probably from a combination of fishing and the weather. This is as close as I got to him, as I wanted him to eat his dinner before the weather went south on him
Squawking Audrey, probably squawking about the sun being in her eyes during the one bit of sun we had in the last 15 days
On 5/27/16, after being exposed to forty seven degree weather in the pouring rain for seven hours, our first egg hatched 40 days after it was laid The second egg hatched two days later on 5/29/16. Dr. Spitzer said we were making history once again at our nest. He did not know of any scientific studies about ospreys that addressed what had happened at our nest. Our infrared light source was working well, although some tweaking was needed as the light was a little too intense. All seemed right in our little osprey world. “History In The Making” was the name of the blog that was published on 5/31/16.
Gorgeous sky the last day of May 2016. Audrey is in the nest with Chick #1 and Chick #2. Tom is chilling somewhere in the neighborhood
Little did I know that while I was writing and published that blog, a tragedy was in the making right outside at the nest. Reports were coming in that an unusual loud crashing noise had been heard on the camera at around 10:00 p.m.on 5/31, and that Audrey was quite agitated. We checked the nest at first light, and our greatest fears were realized. Only one chick and the unhatched egg remained in the nest. COM checked the camera footage from Tuesday night. The noise that was heard was caused by a large dark shape, probably a Great Horned Owl, that had attacked Audrey from behind, causing her to be knocked off the nest. During the attack, one of the chicks either fell out of the nest with Audrey or was snatched by the owl. Audrey sat on the remaining egg for a couple of days, then ate it, with the theory being it had been damaged in the attack. Our joy at having three eggs laid with two being hatched under such extreme conditions were dashed. Our faithful osprey experts were once again consulted. Craig Koppie suggested that we place a scarecrow on the dock to try to repel any future attacks. Those of you who have been following my blog for the past four years know that nothing makes COM any happier than a good, challenging project. Out to the garage he went, and a couple of hours later emerged our new friend and Protector of Osprey Chicks, Roger:
Roger, protector of ospreys, at his original location at the beginning of the dock
A few days later, during a visit from our dear Cape Cod osprey lovers and friends Maureen and Gene, COM relocated Roger to the end of the dock:
Roger has been relocated to the end of the dock to be closer to the nest. Maureen and Gene from Cape Cod have stopped by for a visit
Roger doing his thing. He looks like he is doing a little dance
June also brought a rare sighting for us in the middle Chesapeake Bay, pelicans!
We heard the fishing is good in the Chesapeake Bay this time of year
Check out the blog “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, published 6/30/16, for some fun reading.
We had a brutally hot July 2016, during which time our osprey chick was named Chessie by our loyal camera watchers. On 7/11/16, Chessie received a beautiful new blue band from Craig Koppie. The blog “Big Blue”, published 7/19/16, is dedicated to that day, with lots of great photos from the banding process. Here are just a few of many:
Craig comes back down to readjust the ladder, being watched by Audrey the entire time
Chessie has been eating her Wheaties! What a wingspan!
COM is waiting patiently for the package
Craig gets stung by a jellyfish. Chessie is thinking it serves him right, and cheers on the jellyfish
Chessie has been freed from the towel. From the look of things, I think Craig has held a bird or two in his day
Craig hands the tape to COM.
COM, Chessie and Craig with Roger, protector of the nest. And a fine protector he was, indeed!
For the rest of July 2016, we were all waiting for the big moment when Chessie would first take flight. During the wait, we were having all sorts of technical problems, making it difficult to take photos and write a blog. The very hot, humid weather was causing my camera lens to fog up every time I went outside to take photos. In addition, on the advice of our computer guru, I switched to Windows 10, which wreaked havoc on my ability to download and use photos in the blogs. Extreme frustration prevailed in the Crazy Osprey Family household. COM was quite perturbed when the infrared light source stopped working, as there was no way to fix it until the camera came down in the fall after all of our osprey family headed to their winter digs. But our problems melted away for a little while when Chessie fledged on 7/21/16.
Audrey is watching Chessie trying to get her balance
Yapping away on COM’s boatlift motor
What is different about this photo?
In the above photo, Audrey is sitting on top of the camera, and Tom is in the nest. This was the opposite of their usual positions.
This is one of my favorite photos from the 2016 season, taken in July:
Somewhere over the rainbow……………………
More photos and escapades of Chessie may be found in the blog “The Chessie Chronicles Part 1”, published 7/31/16.
Alas, our 2016 season was coming to an end. Our dear Audrey departed for her winter quarters in South America. It wouldn’t be long until Tom and Chessie began their arduous trip to warmer climes. Mysteriously, COM’s infrared light source began working again. Another season of wonderful osprey adventures was almost over.
Tom in the scraggly stick tree
Chessie and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree
“The Chessie Chronicles, Part 2”, published 8/31/16, will fill you in on the rest of the season.
Our 2016 season totaled over 100,000 blog views, bringing our total views to date since the inception of the blog in 2013 to well over 500,000. The camera was viewed from over 70 countries all over the world. In May 2016, Tom and Audrey starred in a National Geographic television show “United States of Animals”, as part of the Nat Geo Wild series. In October 2016, our dear friend and raptor biologist, Craig A. Koppie, along with his co-author Dr. Teena Ruark Gorrow, published “Inside An Osprey’s Nest”. Through incredible photographs and words, this book tells the story of our 2015 season, starring Tom, Audrey, Maine, Montana and E.T. It is available to purchase through the Chesapeake Conservancy website.
Before I end our Sweet Sixteen, I have some great news to share. Last April, a very hard decision was made to stop allowing comments on our blog. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the comments, as well as the camaraderie that was developed through these interactions. It was sad not to have the comments, and something seemed to be missing. After careful consideration and some cajoling by yours truly, it was decided that we would start allowing comments again. To ensure everyone’s enjoyment of the blog, some rules are being put into place for guidance in posting comments. It is unfortunate we have to do this, but our only two options are not allowing comments or following the below rules.
Osprey Camera Blog Comment Rules
No stalking or harassing another person, dominating a conversation, discouraging participation by others, or mocking, baiting, bickering, taunting or belittling others.
No submission of comments that may be considered abusive, defamatory, disrespectful, illegal, offensive or disparaging.
Comments should be limited to topics discussing ospreys, osprey nests, other birds, subjects relating to the blog, Chesapeake Bay, nature, etc. Limited comments about personal matters will be permitted, but long missives about someone’s personal life should not be posted.
The moderator of the blog reserves the right to remove/disapprove any comment for any reason, without having to explain these actions.
Anyone continually ignoring the above rules will be banned from future comments without further explanation.
Thank you for your understanding and complying with the rules. We are trying to have the blog and comments remain a wonderful experience to be shared by all. If the rules don’t work out, comments may be permanently banned. I am very excited that the comments are returning, so please try hard to be good!
That’s enough for now! Get ready for another fascinating season with Tom and Audrey. Who knows what drama will prevail this year? Welcome back!
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://chesapeakeconservancy.org today. Thanks very much!