Never Fear, The Date Draws Near!

Good afternoon from the still blustery, cold Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Since my last blog, we certainly have seen some nasty weather here at the secret location.  We went from hoping one of our feathered friends would make an early appearance to being oh so very happy that the platform is still bare.  I know many of you are watching, waiting, beginning to get nervous and a little worried about the fate of our beloved family.  Therefore, I have gathered some data on the dates our ospreys have returned since we have had our newest Audrey.  I hope these nuggets of knowledge will provide some relief over the next few days while we watch and wait.  This data was shared at the beginning of the 2016 season, but I thought it would be a good reminder that there is no need to panic just yet!

2009:  This was the last year of our first Tom and Audrey pair.  Tom showed up on March 22, 2009, and Audrey arrived on March 30 that year.

2010:  We were away on a spring break vacation from March 12-21.  The morning after we returned home, March 22, we observed a new Tom and Audrey already in residence at the nest.

2011:  This was the year for a St. Patrick’s day return for Tom, with Audrey only three days behind on March 20.

2012:  Tom arrived on March 21, but COM’s usually reliable notes do not reflect the exact day of Audrey’s arrival, which was sometime after Tom’s.

2013:  This was the first year of our partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the start of our blog.  Tom arrived on March 21 with Audrey not far behind on March 24.

2014:  Our first anomaly year, with Audrey showing up before Tom on March 22.  Tom took his good old time, and made his grand entrance on March 27.

2015:  We had a crazy start in 2015.  Audrey showed up first on March 16, followed by a brief one week visit from a dark stranger.  The visiting osprey showed up on March 23, and adult-rated osprey shenanigans occupied most of the week this Lothario was in residence.  Our Calico Tom arrived on March 30, and laid claim to his new mate.  The dark stranger moved on to more fertile, friendly grounds, and was not seen again.

2016:  Audrey was back very early last year.  The camera was scheduled to be put up on March 9, but she arrived back on the scene March 8.  After another early season of suspense and questions surrounding the arrival of a second osprey previously not seen, our Calico Tom finally showed up.  He took charge and reclaimed his woman on March 31 after a resounding aerial battle with the mystery osprey.

In my walks around the neighborhood, I have not seen any ospreys so far this year.  We have many active nests in our area, and none of the ospreys are back.  So at this point, I am not worried about Tom and Audrey returning.  Are you all feeling better now?  Get some sleep, it will be all right!

There have been many questions and comments posted on the Conservancy’s Facebook page, our blog and at the explore.org site.  While we wait for the return of Tom and Audrey, I thought this would be a good time to post some thoughts and insights in response to your questions and comments.  For some reason, the photos in this blog have reverted to posting at a small size, so please click on each one to enlarge for your viewing pleasure.

Swans:  Many of you have commented and posted photographs about our gorgeous tundra swans that grace the water around our nest.  In addition to being Crazy Osprey Man, COM is Crazy Swan Man from November, when the swans arrive at the secret location and March, when they fly north to their breeding grounds.  Our visiting flock of tundra swans usually numbers between sixty and seventy a day. A few years ago, some of our swans were banded and fit with satellite collars, and their summer home was determined to be in northern Hudson Bay, up near the Arctic Circle.  A general rule of thumb around these parts is that when the swans leave in March, the ospreys return.  COM feeds his swans daily when they are here, and when they see him walking down the dock, they take off in flight toward him to get to their daily ration of cracked corn.  The swans you see on the osprey camera are tundra swans, which are native swans.  They have a black beak, and have very loud calls.  The other swans that used to be seen around the Chesapeake Bay are mute swans.  They are non-native swans with orange beaks, who wreak havoc on the underwater grasses.  The mute swans were introduced to North America from Europe in the late nineteenth century.  They have been declared an invasive species due to their adverse effects on waterfowl and native ecosystems, severely reducing the density of submerged aquatic vegetation.  The mute swan population in the Chesapeake Bay was eradicated several years ago, and we haven’t seen any mute swans at our dock for many years.  The mute swans that would visit the secret location were very mean to the tundra swans (and would hiss at us), and although beautiful, we were not sorry to see them go.  We hope you have enjoyed watching the tundra swans swim by under the nest pole.

Some of our swans

 

Crows:  We have a plethora of crows in the area, and you may have noticed some of them sitting on the nest platform.  When our ospreys are in residence, the crows will hang around trying to mooch a free meal of unattended fish or scraps that remain in the nest.

 

Lots of crows waiting for a free meal

 

Infrared light source:  Once again this year, COM has spent a large chunk of his time trying to tweak our infrared light source for nighttime viewing.  He purchased a new light for this season, and we tried it out for a few nights.  Under the darkness of night, one of us would go down to the dock and try out different COM designed filters, while the other was stationed at our dedicated osprey camera computer monitor located on the second floor in COM’s office assessing the quality of the IR light using different parameters.  Communications between the end of the dock and the house were by cell phone.  I think the final product will be awesome for nighttime viewing this season.  From what we have seen so far, the IR feature is looking really good.

 

Unusually low tides:  The winds over the last ten days have really been howling.  When we have high winds from the northwest and a low tide,  sometimes the water will get blown out of the bay.  This usually occurs only during the winter months a couple of times a season.  Due to these high winds, a few days ago the swans could be seen walking around under the nest pole!  For those of you who observed this, it was quite comical to see the swans waddling around on their feet and not swimming by as their usual graceful selves.

High winds from the northwest and an unusually low tide=water blown out of the bay

 

Nest sticks:  I guess COM was feeling a little sorry for our ospreys this year, as for the first time, he placed a few sticks on the platform when the camera went up.  The platform is usually bare until nest building commences, but not this season. For those of you new to our nest, we have some of the luckiest ospreys around.  Every season, we gather the perfect osprey nest sticks, and put them in the backyard for the ospreys to use in building and maintaining their nest.  COM will tie various colors of construction tape to some of the sticks, and these marked sticks always end up in the nest.  Keep your eyes peeled during the season for the various color sticks that will appear.  You won’t see any green St. Paddy’s Day sticks this year as there are no ospreys around, but Easter is not far off!

COM’s supply of sticks

 

Roger:  Our resident scarecrow Roger, protector and defender of osprey nests, is resting comfortably in his winter quarters (the garage) until his services are needed.  He will make his appearance soon, and maybe we will give him a spring make-over (but maybe not, we will see).  Roger became one of the family after an attack at our nest by a Great Horned Owl last season, leading to the loss of one of our newly-hatched chicks and an unhatched egg.

Roger doing his thing. He looks like he is doing a little dance

 

Eagles:  There are three eagles that have been around since the fall, two adults and a juvenile.  They all spent a fair amount of time sitting on the nest platform, in the big trees two houses to the north of us, and flying around the area.  I don’t anticipate this will be a problem when Tom and Audrey return.  We will keep an eye out for a confrontation, but there is nothing we will be able to do if there is trouble between the eagles and ospreys.

The two adult eagles in the nest after the ospreys left but before the nest was knocked off

 

The two eagles after the nest was removed for the 2016 season

 

The eagle stands alone

 

A beautiful sunrise at the secret location during October 2016:

Mother Nature at her best-October 2016 sunrise

 

Remember, after a one season hiatus, comments are once again being allowed on our blog page.  Feel free to communicate with other camera watchers and blog readers at the end of each blog. Please follow the rules, which were posted in the last blog.

I hope I have soothed you about the return of Tom and Audrey and answered some of your burning questions.  Here’s hoping for some good news in the next few days!

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!

 

 

Sweet Sixteen

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:

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Com and Peter carrying the fourteen foot stepladder to the end of the dock. Peter is wearing his Chesapeake Conservancy osprey shirt!

 

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The stepladder is going into the water off the dock.

 

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COM has the cables down to the junction box. Note how gracefully he stands on one leg, sort of like our osprey

 

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Maneuvering the camera to go up the pole

 

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Getting closer-Don’t drop it now!

 

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Mission accomplished!

 

Audrey didn’t waste any time getting back to the platform after the camera was up:

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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!

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north

 

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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

 

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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.

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Audrey and the mysterious stranger on the nest

 

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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.

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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:

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Audrey is either looking at me for help or getting ready to get out of Dodge

 

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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.

 

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Time to try to dry off! Tom shaking out his feathers

 

Tom is enjoying a big menhaden on a rainy day:

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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

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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:

 

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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

 

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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!

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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:

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Craig comes back down to readjust the ladder, being watched by Audrey the entire time

 

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Chessie has been eating her Wheaties! What a wingspan!

 

 

 

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COM is waiting patiently for the package

 

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Craig gets stung by a jellyfish. Chessie is thinking it serves him right, and cheers on the jellyfish

 

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Chessie has been freed from the towel. From the look of things, I think Craig has held a bird or two in his day

 

 

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Craig hands the tape to COM.

 

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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.

 

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Audrey is watching Chessie trying to get her balance

 

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Yapping away on COM’s boatlift motor

 

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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:

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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.

 

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Tom in the scraggly stick tree

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chessie Chronicles-Part Two

Good evening from the sultry Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This hot, humid summer just doesn’t want to let go.  Our dear Audrey has headed south for her winter digs, so Tom and Chessie can’t be far behind.  The days are getting shorter, Osprey Girl is back at school and fall is just around the corner.  This will be my second-to-last blog for the 2016 season, with one more wrap-up blog after this one.

August has been a frustrating month for me here at the secret location.  I thought my trusty Nikon D7100 had been acting up, and short of sending it back to Nikon for repair, I was not sure what to do.  Since going to Windows 10, many of the photos I had taken appeared stretched out when I previewed them, and there was no rhyme or reason to which photos had this wacky appearance.  I went to post a couple of these weird, stretched out photos on the blog (so maybe one of you would have an idea of what was happening) and when I posted them, they look normal. Now I am thinking there is some kind of disconnect between the camera and my new Windows 10.  If anyone has an idea of what is happening, please contact me at Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com with your thoughts.  I am going to look around for a Windows 10 class, have any of you taken one that you would recommend?

Here is one of the photos that appears all stretched out on my photo previews.  I was going to use this one as an example of what the funky photos looked like, and when I posted it, voila!, the photo appeared normal.  I am stumped.  Anyway, this is our family before Audrey left, complete with some decorative nest trash.  What do you see that is unusual on the next two photos?  The answer will follow after the photos.

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Tom, Chessie, Audrey and a downstairs neighbor

 

The next photo is from the same series, and on my preview photos, it looked fine. Someone is making a lot of noise, and it is not Tom or Audrey.  Maybe I have forgotten how noisy some of our other young ospreys have been, but right now my vote for the noisiest youngster ever is Chessie. Check out the expression on Tom’s face, it is priceless.

 

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Do you ever shut your yap, Chessie?

 

The answer to the above question is that Audrey is on top of the camera, and Tom is in the nest.  This is an osprey position that is not usually seen at our nest.  Here is what we are more used to seeing:

 

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Tom back on top!

 

Here is another family photo.  All three of our friends are on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us:

 

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A little family getaway. This was as close as I could get with all three remaining in place

 

There has not been much activity at the nest, but there are many ospreys still in the area.  When Tom or Chessie is on the nest, they are quite aware of all the strangers in their midst.  The nest has been visited by some of these intruders, and we have had  several noisy, serious aerial battles between Tom and the unwanted visitors.  On a few occasions, we have witnessed one of the more bold intruders actually stealing sticks from our nest!  Quite the impudent marauding osprey, don’t you think?

Another mysterious occurence is that the infrared light that had been illuminating the nest at night and then stopped working appears to have started working again.  COM has ordered a new light, and was trying to figure out a way to mount it for the rest of this season.  He decided there was no way to reach the camera pole from the top of his fourteen foot step ladder without taking it down, so now he has a nice winter project to keep him busy during the cold months.

As you all know, Audrey has been an exemplary mom to all of her broods, and this year is no exception.  Here are some photos of Audrey and Chessie hanging out together shortly after Chessie fledged.  She was quite attentive to him after he left the nest.

 

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Mother and Son

 

 

This is another one of the photos that looked all stretched out in the previews (but posted normally), and was taken shortly after Chessie fledged.  I really like this photo.  You can clearly see the buff area on the back of Chessie’s head, his blue band and the incessant moving mouth.  Audrey is staying quite close:

 

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Chessie and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree

 

This photo was taken on one of those sultry summer evenings.  I had just gone out to check out my garden, and noticed Chessie and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree with a storm not too far away to the north.  Look closely to see Audrey:

 

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Audrey and Chessie on a beautiful summer evening

 

I have seen Chessie fishing, but haven’t personally witnessed him catch a fish.  I have seen him dive into the water on numerous occasions, but haven’t seen him come up with the goods. Tom continues to provide sustenance for Chessie, and does a fabulous job responding to Chessie’s incessant yapping for food.  In this photo, I guess Chessie must have wondered what had happened to the fish he had been eating.  Take a close look:

 

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I don’t know what happened to my fish, it was here a minute ago……

 

We don’t see much of Tom anymore, but he is certainly still around.  He seems to show up early in the morning and later in the afternoon to provide Chessie with a meal.

 

Audrey has never been one to like her picture taken, but I have managed to grab a few:

 

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Chessie and Audrey

 

Audrey was not happy about Mrs. COM taking photos close to the water, and decided to relocate:

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree

 

Audrey decided this was not a good place to make her escape, and decided the nest was a better option after all. In the meantime, Chessie had decided if Mom left, maybe he should also get out of dodge:

 

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What a wing!

 

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Audrey in flight

 

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Back to the nest she goes!

 

 

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Audrey arriving back at the nest. Chessie has vacated the premises

 

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Home, sweet home all to myself, thinks Audrey

 

 

Here is one of the other places Chessie has been seen hanging out in the neighborhood:

 

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Yapping away on COM’s boatlift motor

 

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Not much to grip on to!

 

It’s easy to tell that Chessie is really enjoying his freedom of flight.  He soars around, swoops up and down and just has a good old time.  I love to watch newly fledged ospreys figuring out just what they can do in the air!

 

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Chessie even yaps in flight, multitasking!

 

Here are a couple of photos taken this afternoon of Chessie in the nest, all by himself:

 

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Come on, Dad, where’s the beef? (For those of you who remember the old Wendy’s commercials)

 

 

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I’m over here, can’t you hear me?

 

 

The hour is getting late, so it’s time to wrap up for tonight.  If you have any questions, please feel free to post them on the Conservancy’s Facebook page, which I follow.  I will try to answer any questions you have in the final blog of the season, which will I will write when the nest is finally empty.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chessie Chronicles-Part One

Good evening from the quiet Eastern Shore of Maryland.  After a week of many violent storms here in Maryland, it is beautiful and calm at the secret location tonight.  On the night of our last Full Moon Dock Party, there was a terrible storm replete with booming thunder, incredible lightening and hail the size of quarters and larger.  I couldn’t bear to look at our osprey friends out there on the nest.  Since the infrared light source is not working, I only could get quick peeks whenever there was a lightening flash.  Tom was no where to be seen, but Audrey and Chessie were hunkered down weathering the storm.  COM and I ran out to pull the cars under the trees so the hail wouldn’t damage them.  A hailstone hit my foot, clad only in a flipflop, and it hurt!  I kept thinking about a hailstone hitting one of our ospreys in the head, and was really worried.  A great sigh of relief could be heard at the secret location at dawn the next morning when Tom, Audrey and Chessie were alive and well back at the nest.

Now that I have brought up the infrared light, let me tell you what has been going on.  As I am sure you have noticed, we lost our infrared (night light) a couple of weeks ago.  Due to the location of the light, it has been a problem to try and fix it.  COM, true to his name, has purchased a new camera with a built-in IR source.  His plan is to use that camera only for the infrared light source, and will try to get it up and running as soon as possible.  So stay tuned, hopefully there will be a light source for your night time viewing pleasure in the near future.

Another question that has come up on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page is regarding the gender of Chessie.  When Craig Koppie was here banding Chessie, he initially thought Chessie might be a female, but was not sure.  He was out here for a dock happy hour we hosted for the good folks at the Conservancy, then stayed for the Full Moon Dock Party (double party night on the dock).  After more careful observation, he is heavily leaning toward Chessie being a male.  So I am not sure which pronoun to use, maybe I will try to stay gender neutral!

My photography the past few weeks has been hampered by the very hot, humid weather we have endured of late.  When I go out to snap a few shots, the camera lens steams up from the transition between the air conditioned house and the lazy, hazy outside air.  I am not sure what to do about that dilemma.

My other big problem right now is that my computer died since the last blog was published.  I have a new PC with Windows 10, which I am trying to master.  Much to my chagrin, the new computer and my Nikon 7100 do not seem to like each other.  I cannot view thumbnail photos, which has been a nightmare.  If anyone knows how to solve my problem, please contact me at Tom_audrey_osprey @yahoo.com.

Roger continues to grace the end of our dock, and is now like one of the family. When Roger first made his appearance on the dock, every time I looked out the window, I would be startled by the figure who appeared to be making its way up the dock into my yard.  He is still getting the attention of Osprey Girl, who hasn’t yet gotten used to seeing the dapper Roger hanging out on the dock.

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Roger swinging in the breeze while keeping peace in the kingdom

The big excitement since the last blog was the day our Chessie took flight for the first time.  In the days leading up to the fledging, Tom and Audrey were spending less and less time at the nest, leaving Chessie to his (I am just using his this blog to keep things easier) own devices.  We are seeing less and less of Tom, who stops by with a fish with regularity, but does not hang out in the nest very often.  Here are some photos leading up to the big day:

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Tom, Chessie and Audrey in residence. Even though Chessie is a big boy, he still likes his mommy to feed him

As I was watching this exchange and snapping away, Audrey swallowed a very large piece of something long and slimy.  I think the delectable morsel got caught in her throat and she was having trouble swallowing it.  In the following photos, it first appears that Squawking Audrey is doing her thing when in fact, she is having trouble swallowing whatever piece of fish is stuck in her throat:

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Something in stuck in Audrey’s throat. Do you think ospreys know the Heimlich maneuver?

 

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Now Chessie seems concerned about his mom

 

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While Audrey is choking, Chessie is giving us a great view of his buff head and Tom is examining his toenails

 

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Audrey finally is able to swallow the offending piece of her snack

 

This photo has nothing to do with ospreys, but our butterfly bush (which grew as a volunteer) is a beautiful part of our yard along the riprap:

 

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Our beautiful butterfly bush gracing the waterfront

 

I have to look around to find Tom these days, and he is not usually in sight.  I found him one day on our neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south:

 

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Tom with his catch. He is eating his fill before taking the sloppy seconds to the nest

 

Tom was watching me approach his location.  He continues to be very camera shy.  Maybe he thinks I want his fish?

 

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Tom takes off with his fish as Mrs. COM approaches his location. Look at those striking feathers!

 

Tom flew right back to the nest with the bottom half of his fish.  Unfortunately, the camera was in the way when I took this photo of Tom landing in the nest:

 

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Tom landing in the nest with a fish snack for his family

 

Tom has delivered the fish to Audrey and decides to hang around for a while.  Chessie is eyeing up the fish:

 

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What are you waiting for, Mom? If you don’t want that, I’ll take it, thinks Chessie

 

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Audrey digs in while Chessie and Tom are occupied elsewhere

 

Something has gotten Tom and Audrey’s attention.  Chessie only has eyes for Mrs. COM, who is on the dock with a camera:

 

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Chessie tries to stare down Mrs. COM, who has been stared down by many other ospreys in her photography career

 

Okay, I couldn’t resist.  Another non-osprey photo of Mrs. COM’s quiet place, her garden:

 

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Mrs. COM’s garden looking good in mid summer

 

I don’t think anyone can deny what a good osprey mom our Audrey is, but she does need a break once in a while.  The scraggly stick tree in the backyard one house to the north of us is a favorite hang-out:

 

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Regal Audrey taking a break in the scraggly stick tree. She is on high alert as Mrs. COM approaches with the infernal camera

 

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Audrey heads back to the nest and her motherly duties

 

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Audrey arrives back at the nest where Chessie awaits

 

Photos of Tom, Audrey and Chessie all together in the nest are becoming harder and harder to capture, as Tom doesn’t stay in the nest very long.  Here is a series of photos when Tom returned to the nest.  Check out Chessie’s red eyes as compared to Audrey’s yellow eyes.  Added color is provided by COM’s marked sticks:

 

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This is a great example of the difference between an adult and juvenile eye color

 

When Tom does return to the nest, he frequently sits on top of the camera where the sound of his talons scratching the highly technical K-Mart trash can camera cover can be heard:

 

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Our Family

 

As I mentioned earlier, there have been many violent storms at the secret location this season.  Here is the sky over the nest as one of the storms was passing over and before it started raining:

 

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And the Weather Gods were angry!!

 

After the storm passed, we were treated to a glorious rainbow:

 

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Somewhere over the rainbow……………………

 

As our 2016 season progresses, the downstairs neighbors have been busy raising their family in the basement apartment.  Their chirping can frequently be heard when the camera sound is working. Here are two of them:

 

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Audrey hears the downstairs neighbors. I think she wants to call the building superintendent to complain about the noise

 

Audrey and Chessie are both in the nest while the downstairs neighbors are having their party:

 

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A quiet afternoon in the nest interrupted by the noisy neighbors

 

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Chessie and Audrey both spot Tom return to the neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us

 

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Here is what Chessie and Audrey have spotted. They must think dinner is on the way, but not this time.  Tom took off right after this photo was taken

 

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Audrey and Chessie are watching Tom circle overhead

 

Audrey decides to take off after Tom and leaves Chessie unattended:

 

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Chessie is all alone, and Audrey is photobombing while enroute to give Tom an earful

 

 

 

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Audrey in flight

 

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Audrey is headed out

 

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Audrey lands on top of a large tree two houses to the north of us. Look way up high!

 

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A closer view of Audrey on top of the tree.

 

Audrey was not happy when I headed closer to her tree, and took off again:

 

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Audrey heads back to the nest, not wanting to hang around for another photo op by Mrs. COM

 

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Chessie watches his mom return to the nest

 

On Thursday morning, July 21, 2016, the big moment arrived.  With much grace and determination, Chessie lifted off into the great blue sky.  We all knew the day was close, and watched her exercise her wings for many days before the big event.  No one was home at the secret location to witness first flight in person, so we did not know in which direction Chessie had flown.  When I returned home, I walked up and down the waterfront searching for him.  I looked in all the regular places, as well as along the riprap and on docks where some of our fledgings have landed on their first flight in years past.  But Chessie was no where to be seen.  At around 2:00 p.m., I looked out the window, and saw an osprey way up high in the big tree.  I ran outside and put the binoculars on the bird, and much to my relief, I was able to see a blue band on the osprey’s leg.  Our Chessie was back!

 

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My first sighting of Chessie after he fledged, on top of the big tree two houses to the north of us

 

Shortly after I spotted Chessie, I saw Audrey fly over to the big tree and join Chessie.  I guess she was worried too!

 

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Audrey joins Chessie in the big tree. What a good mom!

 

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Audrey is watching Chessie trying to get her balance

 

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This isn’t as easy as sitting in my nest! How do you do this, Mom?

 

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Chessie is getting the hang of sitting on a small branch in a tree. Audrey remains near by for moral support

 

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Check out that blue band, like a beacon in the wilderness!

 

I was very, very happy to have found Chessie in the big tree, but I bet Audrey was happier!  Thanks for the blue band, Craig Koppie!

 

This is the first photo I have of Audrey in the nest by herself since her eggs hatched.  She looks kind of lonely:

 

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Something is missing, thinks Audrey. Where is my baby?

 

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Audrey is looking at something flying by. Could it be Chessie?

 

In the meantime, the pelicans are still hanging around the secret location:

 

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The pelicans are still hanging around, not a typical sight at the secret location

 

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The lighting was not very good, but you can see the sparklies that I like as the pelican flies by

 

Here are a few more photos of Chessie as he explores his new surroundings:

 

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Chessie has discovered the scraggly stick tree next door

 

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Chessie has learned how to hold on tightly in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Chessie has also discovered the crazy woman with a camera who likes to stalk ospreys

 

The next day, Chessie was flying around discovering all kinds places to explore.  Here he is in the big tree two houses to the north of us trying to hold on:

 

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How embarrassing! She’s taking my picture and I can’t hold on!

 

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This is not as easy as Mom made it look

 

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I have to get away from this crazy woman

 

Chessie had incentive to take off (me!).  And there he goes:

 

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Chessie in flight

 

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Chessie is getting further away

 

In the next several days, I will post “The Chessie Chronicles Part Two”.  I have many more great photos to share.  Hopefully, I will get my new computer figured out so I am not so frustrated!

Please remember to send in your entries for our “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.  Send a photo of someone watching the ospreycam to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com, and include your first name and from where you are watching.  Your photo will be published in the next blog.

Our views are rapidly approaching 500,000 with over 498,000 as this blog is written.  Get your guess in now as to which date we will go over the half million mark!  A great prize is in store for the winner.

That’s it for now, as the hour is late and wake-up is early in the morning.  So for now, 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Blue

Good morning from the hot, muggy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  We have had some very uncomfortable weather here at the secret location the past couple of weeks, and I always feel so badly for our ospreys during these brutally hot days.  There have also been some very heavy rain storms, replete with gusty winds, thunder and lightening.  Our big excitement since the last blog was the announcement of Chessie’s name, then the banding of our very feisty young osprey.  As you have probably noticed on the ospreycam, Chessie has been catching a lot of air during her training sessions, and is very close to first flight.  A couple of nights ago during a big storm, she was hovering up so high that I felt sure a big gust of wind was going to carry her away from the nest.  My heat was beating wildly watching the potentially harrowing situation unfold.  I was so worried that I had COM get his lifesaving gear ready and he put on his bathing suit in case we needed to initiate a rescue at sea!  Fortunately, Chessie came down in the nest, but we were really, really worried about her well being that evening.

I have decided to dedicate this blog almost entirely to Craig Koppie and Chessie, the stars of the recent banding.  Of course, COM will get Best Supporting Actor, and I will designate myself Chief Historian of the event.  I was at work the day Maine and Montana were banded last year, so was very happy to be present this time to memorialize the day. There are photos galore, so without further adieu, here is the story of Chessie’s banding in pictures and words.

A couple of weeks ago, as Chessie was getting bigger and bigger (quite rapidly, it seemed), COM contacted our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie and inquired about the possibility of banding our miracle chick.  As Craig tells the story, he took a look at Chessie’s tail, and decided he better get out to the secret location without delay before we had a fledging on our hands. On Monday, July 11, Craig came out with his bag of tricks, and the adventure started:

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Craig and COM prepare for the banding

 

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COM gets the ladder into the water while Craig changes into his water shoes

 

Audrey and Chessie are in residence, but Audrey is sounding the alarm and Chessie is keeping a low profile:

 

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Audrey is keeping a watchful eye on the preparations

 

As COM and Craig carried the ladder through the water to the nest, Audrey decided it was time to vacate the premises.  Since Chessie can’t fly yet, she was on her own:

 

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Audrey takes off leaving Chessie to her own devices

 

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Craig and COM are carrying the ladder out to the nest. COM is keeping an eye on Audrey, who is circling them while protesting loudly

 

Audrey was not happy with the intruders, and kept circling and making a series of loud, unhappy calls:

 

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Audrey in flight while keeping an eye on the intruders

 

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Audrey continues to circle while squawking loudly

 

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“Should l dive bomb them now or later”, thinks Audrey

 

Meanwhile, COM and Craig put up the ladder, all the while keeping an eye on the perturbed Audrey :

 

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COM and Craig keeping an eye on Audrey while putting up the ladder

 

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This looks like a good spot

 

A discussion ensued as to the proper placement of the ladder.  Audrey has continued to circle and protest:

 

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A very wet conversation. Maybe they should have talked about this before they got in the water!

 

COM goes back to the dock to retrieve a box in which to carry Chessie back for banding.  Craig remembered that one of the boxes had a hole in it and asked COM to check it out:

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Checking the box for holes. Another mission that could have been completed on the dock!

 

Satisfied that the box is intact, COM brings it out to the nest:

 

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Bringing the box out to the nest to transport Chessie back to the dock

 

With all the equipment in place, Craig started up the ladder.  Audrey is still very unhappy:

 

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Craig gets ready to go up the ladder Audrey is still circling and complaining loudly

 

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Starting up the ladder

 

Craig was almost there, but decided the ladder needed to be moved to be able to get into the nest safely:

 

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Hmm, something is not right

 

 

 

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Craig comes back down to readjust the ladder, being watched by Audrey the entire time

 

Once the ladder was readjusted, Craig started up the ladder again:

 

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Let’s try this again!

 

When Craig got to the top, he did some housekeeping around the nest so he wouldn’t get poked the eye.  Then it was time to find an osprey:

 

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Chessie is barely visible peeking out of the left side of the nest, but she can’t hide from the raptor biologist who has come to band her

 

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Going for the grab

 

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Gotcha!

 

Craig has Chessie by the legs.  Check out the wingspan on our little baby:

 

 

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Chessie has been eating her Wheaties! What a wingspan!

 

Now Craig had to gather Chessie up for a safe trip down the ladder and into the transport box:

 

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Craig prepares Chessie for the trip down the ladder

 

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Let’s see you try climbing down a 14 foot stepladder in the water with a very angry osprey in one arm

 

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Craig gets a good hold on Chessie

 

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Almost at the bottom of the ladder with the Best Supporting Actor waiting to do his thing

 

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COM is waiting patiently for the package

 

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COM and Craig are admiring the beautiful Chessie

 

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Craig gets stung by a jellyfish. Chessie is thinking it serves him right, and cheers on the jellyfish

 

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COM is being very careful with his precious cargo. Chessie is judging how close she needs to get to COM’s thumb to have a taste

 

Craig, Chessie and COM arrive back at the dock.  Craig climbed out of the water onto the dock to take the transport box from COM:

 

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Back to the dock. Chessie has taken a defensive stance

 

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Up on the dock goes Chessie

 

Time to band the osprey!

 

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Craig is getting his equipment ready out of camera view while Chessie plots her escape

 

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Chessie is getting braver and takes a look around

 

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Not one step closer, you crazy camera woman!

 

With all the equipment ready, Craig begins the banding process, which starts with getting ahold of an osprey:

 

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The flying hand of fate getting ready to remove Chessie from the transport box

 

When Craig took Chessie from the box, her talons were caught so the first order of business was to release her talons from the towel:

 

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Chessie’s talons are caught in the towel, so Craig carefully untangles her

 

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Someone needs a manicure

 

Now that Chessie has been freed from the towel, the banding can proceed, but not before feisty Chessie tried to take a chunk out of Craig’s hand:

 

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Chessie has been freed from the towel. From the look of things, I think Craig has held a bird or two in his day

 

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Take that, you brute!  Chessie goes for blood

 

Craig is nonplussed, and continues his mission.  The first step is to place the metal band around Chessie’s leg:

 

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The band goes around Chessie’s right leg

 

Next, the band is tightened:

 

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Tightening the band

 

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Making sure the band is on properly. Chessie is trying to read the number

 

Next, Craig enlists COM to help with the tape:

 

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Craig hands the tape to COM.

 

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Craig used bright blue tape for Chessie since Maine and Montana had yellow and red tape last year.

 

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Chessie really wants a piece of COM this time

 

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“I wonder if a piece of this one will taste better than the piece I had of the other one?”, thinks Chessie

 

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Doesn’t COM look like he is telling Chessie he is sorry? Not sure what Chessie is thinking, but I don’t think it is good!

 

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Check out Chessie’s pretty new Big Blue Band

 

Now it is time to get Chessie back into the nest, but not without a photo op first:

 

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COM, Chessie and Craig with Roger, protector of the nest. And a fine protector he is, indeed!

 

Chessie has really had enough of all this nonsense, and is ready to go back home.  She was none too happy being back in the transport box:

 

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Take me home now, please

 

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Chessie thinks there have been quite enough photos taken already, thank you very much

 

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Ready for the trip back to the nest

 

Back into the water they go, COM with the transport box, Chessie (who is just along for the ride) and brave Craig, with his camera clutched to his body to avoid the drink:

 

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Back to the nest they go

 

Meanwhile, Audrey has been back at the nest since the birdnappers left with her baby:

 

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Squawking Audrey sees the wagon train a comin’ and decides it’s time to get out of Dodge

 

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Oh, no, not them again.  Time to go!

 

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That baby of mine needs to learn how to fly

 

Craig spies another photo op, and since he has his camera, decides to stop and take advantage of the opportunity:

 

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There’s no time like the present to take a photo or two. Water, what water?

 

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The Three Musketeers arrive back at the nest. Audrey has taken up her circling and noise making

 

The careful process of placing the newly-banded Chessie back in the nest commences:

 

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Out of the transport box and back in Craig’s loving arms

 

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The ascent back up the ladder begins

 

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Slowly I turn, inch by inch…………

 

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Don’t look down!

 

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Craig steadies himself for the final push to the summit (how dramatic)

 

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Careful now, almost there!

 

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In you go, Chessie!

 

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Craig’s faithful companion is below, alert and at the ready, waiting for any signs of a problem

 

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Craig begins his descent from the summit. with his camera hanging precariously around his neck just waiting for the strap to snap

 

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Look who is still circling! Audrey is a faithful mother, but not a stupid one.  “They can’t get me here”, she thinks

 

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Chessie is on high alert, while Audrey photobombs Mrs. COM’s bucolic scene. The ladder is still in place

 

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“Please get that ladder away from me, it is making me nervous”, squawks Chessie

 

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Mission accomplished, and the equipment goes back to shore

 

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Audrey arrives back at the nest immediately after the ladder is removed

 

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Audrey and Chessie are both squawking loudly, hopefully saying “Home Sweet Home” in ospreyspeak

 

It’s hard to believe that the entire banding operation only took about fifteen to twenty minutes from start to finish.  I was so overwhelmed at Chessie’s beauty, she is simply a magnificent bird.  To my neighbors who I stood up for lunch, I hope you can now see why you dined without me at the last minute!

I have taken many more photos since the last blog was published, but will save those for next time as the hour is late.  Please remember to send in your entries for the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.  You may send them to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com, along with your guess as to the date our blog views will go over 500,000.  We are over 495,000 this week, so get your guesses and photos in to win a cool prize!  Here is our winning entry for this week.  After fooling with this photo for over an hour with my technical advisor (Osprey Girl), we are unable to get the photo oriented properly, so turn your head to view it (your challenge for today!):

 

 

PAS

Laurie watching the ospreycam from somewhere on Park Avenue South in New York City

 

As always, 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Good evening on this last day of June from our secret location on the delightful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This month seems to have gotten away from me, so I will try to make it up to you with double the photos this time.  There have been many changes in our little osprey family since my last blog.  As I was sitting at my computer working on the May 31st blog, unbeknownst to me, a great drama was taking place in the dark over the water behind our house.  I was joyfully writing about our history in the making, describing the events leading to the hatching of our miracle chicks. To my great horror early the next morning, reports were coming in on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page and by text to my phone of a large crash into the nest/camera around 10:00 p.m. the night before, and the demise of one of our little miracle chicks.  We did not hear the commotion as our windows were closed, and we keep the camera sound on mute inside of the house. COM reviewed the tapes from the previous night, with the events being visible due to his installation of an infrared light source at the beginning of the 2016 season. He was able to capture the shadowy, blurry image of a large bird swooping down on the unsuspecting Audrey, knocking her almost off the nest and causing the disappearance of one of our beloved, newly hatched chicks.  We have had some discussion as to whether the bird (probably a Great Horned Owl) snatched the chick or if the chick was knocked out of the nest when Audrey was blindsided.  The attack happened so quickly that it was impossible to tell from the video footage what actually transpired.  It doesn’t really matter how it happened, but our chick was gone and one egg remained unhatched.  A couple of days later, Audrey broke into the remaining egg, and consumed the contents.  A working theory on the third egg is that it was damaged in the attack and nature took its course.  A few very sad days here at the secret location, going from “the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat” in a very short time.  Will the drama at our nest never cease?

But life goes on, doesn’t it?  I am sure you have noticed that our remaining chick has grown by leaps and bounds, much more quickly than other chicks of a similar age that have been raised by Tom and Audrey in our nest.  It’s a spunky chick with quite a personality, and we are so thankful to have an only child this season. Calico Tom the Fishing Fool is living up to his name, and the fish just keep on coming.  In a few days, our chick will have a name after the voting closes at the Chesapeake Conservancy.  My vote was for Lucky, as it just seemed apropos for this year’s chick.  But the majority will rule in our democracy, and we will soon know what to call our baby instead of “the chick”.

Very shortly after the incident at the nest, the Crazy Osprey Family was contacted by Craig Koppie, our favorite raptor biologist.  He suggested that we put up a scarecrow to try and keep the predator away from our remaining chick.  You know that Crazy Osprey Man got his moniker for a reason, and off to the garage he went.  A couple of hours later and my only good hat gone (I didn’t have the heart to tell COM, he worked so hard on his project), we had a new family member.  Enter Roger:

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A view from the backyard of Roger in his original position with Tom hanging out on the boat lift

 

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Tom is keeping an eye on Roger, who doesn’t seem the least bit concerned

 

Notice the very clean boat cover in the above photo.  Please remember this clean cover for comparison in future photos.

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Suave Roger keeping things safe

 

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Roger, protector of ospreys, at his original location at the beginning of the dock

 

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Roger in his first location on the dock close to land

 

And of course, no scarecrow would be complete without night lighting, so Roger’s presence is not only felt but seen all night long!  Thank you COM for being the Crazy Osprey Man that you are!

When Craig Koppie first suggested that we try Roger as a possible defender against unwanted visitors, he suggested that we place him at the beginning of the dock.  As the days went on, a decision was made to move Roger from his original location out closer to the end of the dock nearer to the nest.  On the day of the big move, the Crazy Osprey Family was honored to have wonderful visitors, Maureen and Gene from Cape Cod.  Maureen has been a faithful camera watcher and blog follower from the start. Her witty lyrics to the tunes of some of our favorite songs and her continuing cheerful and positive attitude have made her a welcome addition to our little osprey family.  COM and I were delighted that she and Gene were able to join us for a fun-filled day at the secret location:

 

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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

 

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Gene, Maureen and COM enjoying a beautiful day at the secret location. COM has just finished relocating Roger to the end of the dock

 

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Roger in his new digs at the end of the dock

 

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Wider view of Roger at the end of the dock. Nobody will sneak up on his watch!

 

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Don’t tell Roger, but he has a stick up his rear end. Ouch!

 

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Roger is keeping a close “eye” on the nest. Or is the nest keeping a close eye on Roger?

 

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Roger doing his thing. He looks like he is doing a little dance

 

We are so happy to have Roger as part of our osprey family.  I guess we will never know, but he seems to have done his job to protect everyone at the nest.

After all of the excitement at the beginning of June, things seemed to have calmed down and osprey life is moving forward.  The little one has lost its down and is now starting to sport real feathers.  It is truly unbelievable to me how large the chick has grown in just a little over four weeks.  Tom and Audrey continue to be exemplary parents, and take incredibly good care of their baby.  Here are some photos of the daily lives of our favorite osprey family, all of which have been taken since the last blog was published:

 

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Tom on COM’s boat lift, which is one of his favorite places to hang out

 

Sometimes after Tom has been fishing, he will arrive back in the area looking very wet and bedraggled.  The top of the camera assembly is another of his favorite places, and turns out to be a great place to dry off:

 

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Sometimes when you can’t see Tom, you can hear him scratching around on top of the camera assembly

 

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Tom loves to sit on top of the camera. He is catching the breeze trying to dry his wings after a very wet fishing expedition

 

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Tom drying his wings on the top of the camera

 

When I am home, I usually keep one eye on whatever I am doing and the other eye wanders to the windows to try and catch a glimpse of a photo op.  Here is a series of photos of Tom after he caught a fish and took it to the neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us:

 

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Tom with a fish on our neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us

 

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Tom taking his fish and leaving. He doesn’t feel like sharing with Mrs. COM today

 

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Tom on the downstroke with a foot and a fish trailing

 

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Tom in flight with his fish, holding on with one talon

 

When you are watching the ospreycam, it is usually Tom who likes to sit up on the observation posts (actually the nest supports).  Once in a while Audrey likes to sit up high and enjoy the view from the top floor:

 

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Audrey on the viewing tower on one leg

 

In seasons past, I have posted many photos of our various ospreys sitting in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  For some reason, this year neither Tom nor Audrey is spending much time up that way.  Maybe it is because there is another osprey pair nesting very close to the big tree.  Earlier in the month, I observed Tom fly off to the big tree with a fish after I unceremoniously chased his away from our neighbor’s dock while trying to snap a few photos:

 

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Tom in the big tree two houses to the north of us with a fish with a deeply notched tail

 

Here is a wider view of the big tree.  You can barely see Tom sitting up near the top of the leaf canopy on the right side of the tree.  If you look closely, you can see one of the other ospreys who nest near the big tree sitting to the left of the tree on a piling.  Their nest is to the right of the big tree on a pole in the water five houses to the north of us:

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The big tree two house to the north of us. Tom is over to the right up near the top of the leaf canopy

 

Here are some photographs of Tom and Audrey in the nest.  It is hard to see the chick in most of the photographs, but he/she is starting to be more visible from vantage points on land and the dock:

 

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Tom and Audrey are checking something out. The chick’s head is visible between its parents and the nest support to the left of Tom and Audrey

 

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Good lighting and a bucolic scene with the sailboats on the horizon

 

I have been putting a lot of sticks out in the yard, and both Tom and Audrey have been picking all of them up:

 

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Not sure how some of those sticks are still hanging in there. One of COM’s marked sticks is barely hanging on near the middle of the bottom of the nest

 

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Two parents keeping a watchful eye

 

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Tom on his viewing post, Audrey close by and the chick is hunkered down

 

This is a quiet Father’s Day on the dock with Roger keeping guard.  The Full Strawberry Moon Dock Party was the next night.  Could anyone hear us howling?

 

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A quiet Father’s Day on the dock with Roger. It wasn’t quiet the next night with 25 happy howlers at the Full Strawberry Moon Dock Party

 

Audrey takes a little break from the nest to do her thing on the boat lift.  What is that white stuff on the formerly clean boat cover?

 

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Squawking Audrey on COM’s boat lift. “Hey, COM, that’s not my mess down there, go talk to Tom”

 

The chick is starting to be visible unless a parent sounds the alarm, then it flattens out and cannot be seen from land:

 

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The Happy Family-all three visible on 6/19/2016

 

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The chick flattens out when Mrs. COM is on the prowl with her camera and the alarm is sounded of an intruder in the area

 

The crows always seem to know when one of our ospreys is enjoying a fish meal near by.  As Tom enjoys his meal on our boat lift, a patient crow is waiting for sloppy seconds:

 

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Tom and a patient crow on COM’s boat lift. COM is not going to be happy when he sees that boat cover

 

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Tom decides if the crow left, maybe he should be thinking about moving on

 

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Tom arrives back at the nest with provisions

 

One of our many rainy days this spring:

 

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A dreary, wet day at the secret location. Tom is hanging on COM’s boat lift

 

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Tom on COM’s boat lift looking rather wet

 

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Tom leaves the area. All my fault!

 

Audrey and the chick sharing a quiet day at the nest. I must have been standing on one foot when I took some of these photos, they seem a little lopsided:

 

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Audrey and her offspring sharing a quiet moment at home

 

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Audrey gives the alarm call and the chick disappears from view

 

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Tom arrives back at the nest and the all clear signal is sounded

 

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After Calico Tom the Fishing Fool brought home dinner, Audrey feeds the young’n

 

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Tom and Audrey at the ready, but the chick just wants another bite

 

Audrey doesn’t leave the nest too often, but as the chick is getting bigger, she has been leaving for longer periods of time.  Even when she isn’t in the nest, Audrey is not far away:

 

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Audrey on COM’s boat lift, a rare visit

 

Tom has been taking some squawking lessons from Audrey:

 

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Squawking Tom emulating Squawking Audrey in full voice. Stay away from my fish, you crazy woman!

 

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Tom on the nasty poop deck (dock) next door to the south

 

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Tom checking out Mrs. COM and that darn camera

 

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When Tom took off with his fish, the crows moved in for the spoils on top of this piling

 

As I am sure you know by now, one of Tom’s favorite places is the swim ladder on the dock two houses to the south of us.  Our neighbors that lived there for over twenty years just moved at the beginning of June.  One of my first orders of business when I met the new neighbors was to explain that they may be seeing a crazy woman with a camera traipsing through their yard to take photographs of birds on their dock.  I very politely asked for permission to continue my pursuits, and they very graciously approved.  I am sure Tom would have much preferred that they said no trespassing, but Mrs. COM saved the day.

 

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Tom is hanging out on his favorite swim ladder, now owned by new, very nice and understanding neighbors

 

Sometimes staying vigilant and looking out the window really pays off.  As I was doing some dishes this morning, I glanced up and saw something very unusual for this part of Maryland:

 

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We heard the fishing is good in the Chesapeake Bay this time of year-a flock of pelicans flying over our osprey nest!!!

 

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Hey, this doesn’t look like Florida!

 

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Flying in formation, ready for the airshow

 

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Maybe the Blue Angels can adopt this new five “man” formation (sorry for the bad lighting, no choice)

 

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Getting ready to dive for breakfast

 

Pretty cool, huh?

Please remember to send in your photos for the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.  Send a photo of yourself watching the ospreycam from wherever you are.  Please include your name (first name is fine) and the location, and I will post it in my next blog.  Send your photo to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com. A winning photo will be selected at the end of this season with a prize to follow!

We are up to over 491,000 views of the blog since its inception in 2013.  Please send in your guess for the day we will have our 500,000th view!  A great prize will be awarded to the winning person!  You can send your guess to the same email listed above for the photo contest.

 

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William watching the ospreycam with his grandparents on Kent Island, Maryland

 

The hour is drawing late, and it’s time to close out another blog.  Remember to get your votes in for our chick’s name (it’s a Lucky chick, isn’t it-hint, hint!) on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History In The Making

Good evening from the incredibly beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Our seemingly never-ending streak of rainy, dreary days appears to have come to an end. It is a delightful evening here, with temperatures in the high seventies, low humidity, spectacular cloud formations and ospreys everywhere.  I was finally able to plant my vegetable garden, the purple wave petunias are nestled around the mailbox post and my deck planters are an array of color for the eye.  But the best part of all, according to Dr. Spitzer, is that we are all a part of history in the making!  On Friday, May 27, despite being left unattended for seven hours at forty-seven degrees in a steady rain, Tom and Audrey’s first egg hatched forty days after it was laid.  The first hatch was quickly followed two days later by the second hatch on Sunday, May 29, thirty-nine days after the egg was laid.  We are anxiously waiting  to learn the fate of Egg #3, and should know something definitive within the next few days.  So far, for the first two eggs, we are in the typical hatch window for our nest of 39-41 days, with June 1 being day thirty-nine for Egg #3.  Even the experts have been stumped by what has happened at our nest this season. And everyone is walking around with big smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts at the arrival of our miraculous chicks!  COM and I are also happy because Osprey Girl is home for the summer, and all is right with the world.

Here is a photo taken by Osprey Girl of the incredible sky early this evening, complete with osprey pole and nest:

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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

 

I wanted to say a few words about the camera and images that you see.  We have had the same good quality, mega pixel camera for the last three seasons.  Nothing has changed with the camera with the exception of the addition of an infra red light source which COM installed just before the ospreys returned this season.  He spent an inordinate amount of time at the end of the dock fooling with the infra red light source and camera before it was installed on the pole.  I helped him test the IR light source at night, trying many different combinations of filters, running back and forth to the house to observe the results on our monitors, making homemade filters out of plastic containers, and trying it all again and again.  We thought we had it right and the image looked good before Tom and Audrey returned.  But alas, once the IR source was mounted on the pole, and our friends returned from their winter vacation, the light was just a little too intense.  The camera is out of reach now, so nothing can be done to tone it down, but we will adjust it for next season.

The other issue is the quality of the images you see from the ospreycam.  Rest assured that we are producing the highest level of quality that is possible given the constraints of the system.  The camera is fine, but we are limited by the internet connection between the camera and the distribution point, which is not at our location.  The connection is limited by the upload speed of the internet service available coming down the road to the secret location, and is beyond anyone’s control at the Chesapeake Conservancy or from the Crazy Osprey Family.  In layman’s terms, the quality of the image you see is not a camera issue, but a bandwidth issue. (at least, that is how it has been explained to me, and as you know by now, I am somewhat technically challenged).

Okay, enough technical talk, back to the ospreys!  I witnessed something very comical the day that Chick #1 hatched.  Audrey was alone on the nest, and took off, leaving the newly-hatched chick by itself.  Oh phooey, I thought, here we go again.  Audrey took a loop around our yard, took one of her daily constitutionals, and immediately returned to the nest, not missing a beat!  What a good mom, she didn’t want to take a chance of soiling the nest with her new baby.  I had never noticed her do that before, and it was quite amazing to watch. I promise, no more poop stories or photos for the rest of this blog (well, maybe one).

After some initial tentative fish supplying, Calico Tom the Fishing Fool has once again proven himself to be an expert provider for the nest.  I especially love to watch the chicks pass out after their bellies (actually crops) are full.  Tom is sometimes hard to spot when he is not right at the nest or at one of his usual haunts.  But Audrey knows when he is on his way back home, and always welcomes her man with vociferous greetings!  If COM and I are on the end of the dock enjoying a little happy hour, we always know when Tom is approaching without ever looking for him.  Squawking Audrey leaves no doubt as to his approach, and is even louder (if that is possible) when he is returning with a meal.

You may have noticed that Tom and Audrey have been spending a fair amount of time defending the nest and trying to shoo off unwelcome passers-by.  There are a significant number of ospreys and nests in the neighborhood around the secret location.  The closest nest is five houses to the north of us, just north of the big tree.  There are two ospreys occupying that nest.  I am reasonably sure that one of them is the osprey that was hanging out at our nest early in the season before Tom returned, possibly an offspring that was raised in our nest.  When I go walking, there are ospreys everywhere.  I will ask Osprey Girl to take a loop around the neighborhood by water and count the active nests around our area.  I will report back on her findings.

It’s that time again!  The “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest is officially open!  Please send a photo of yourself or anyone else watching the ospreycam on any of your devices.  Send the photo, along with your name and from where you are watching.  I will post your photos on each blog.  At the end of the season, the contest winner will receive something cool from the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Not sure what your prize will be, but it will be cool!  Send your entries to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com and keep an eye out for your submission to be posted on the blog.

Speaking of the blog, the views continue to go up and up.  The total number of views since the blog inception at the beginning of the 2013 is season is rapidly reaching HALF A MILLION!  Wow!  We are over 485,000 views as of earlier today.  In that light, please send your guess as to which date the blog views will hit HALF A MILLION to the above email!  It will be this season, so get your guesses in.  If you are the winner, a cool prize will also be coming your way!  Make sure to include contact information in your email.

Here are some of the photographs that have been taken since the last blog was published.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

After Tom catches a fish, he will eat first.  The male has to be fed before anyone else to ensure the survival of any osprey family. Without Tom to bring home the bacon (fish bacon, that is), no one would eat very well.  As you have noticed, he will usually eat the top half of the fish, and bring the bottom half back to the nest.  Here is Audrey on the dock two houses to the south of us, on her favorite swim ladder with her fish snack:

 

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Audrey on the swim ladder with her sloppy seconds. I do believe she is squawking!

 

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Audrey: “Are you kidding me? Can’t a girl get a peaceful meal alone?”

 

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Audrey at the end of our dock. The crab pots will be in the water shortly

 

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Once again, Mrs. COM has gotten too close. Audrey does not stay to hear what I have to say

 

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Tom is on his observation post while Audrey incubates

 

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Tom is taking his turn incubating. Audrey is doing what she does best, squawking

 

Audrey is enjoying the tail end of her fish.  You can see the deep-notched yellowish tail, so this is a menhaden.  I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about poop, but this dock gives new meaning to the term “poop deck”:

 

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Audrey is sitting on a piling at the end of the dock just south of us. I’m not sure I would want to have happy hour out there!  Nasty!

 

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Audrey has that far off look in her eye

 

And off she goes!!!

 

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Escaping from Mrs. COM’s incredibly annoying camera. Cool reflection!

 

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Flying low

 

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Skimming the water

 

Guess who?

 

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Need I say more?

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree.  Guess how many fingers (talons, actually) I have up?

 

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Ah, that feels better!

 

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Who is trying to sneak up on me? I see you!

 

Audrey loves this swim ladder.  She frequently sits here while eating and to take a little break from the nest:

 

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How does she do that?

 

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If you look carefully, you can see Audrey’s left leg tucked up into her belly

 

Another favorite hang out of Tom and Audrey is the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us:

 

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Audrey is trying to decide whether to leave or stay

 

This is a good view of the infra red light source attached to the camera pole.  It’s the silver device mounted on the pole just under the covered camera.  Don’t you love COM’s fancy K-Mart trash can camera cover?

 

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Audrey is patiently incubating her eggs. At this point, we weren’t sure if they were viable. You can see one of COM’s marked sticks down in the nest

 

We have loved living on the water at the secret location for twenty seven years.  One of my absolutely favorite phenomenon is when the sun hits the water at a certain angle and the breeze is blowing at a certain speed.  If the two come together in just the right way, the entire surface of the water sparkles and twinkles until it is blinding.  I have dubbed this phenomenon “the sparklies”.  You can see just a few of the sparklies in this photo:

 

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Tom, his fish and two mooching crow friends on COM’s boat lift. Love those sparklies!!

 

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Mrs. COM has chased off the crows, but Tom could care less and just wants to enjoy his fish

 

This photo was taken the day that Chick #1 hatched, and shows the second feeding:

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Tom proudly sits on his observation post while Audrey feeds her newly hatched chick

 

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Tom is looking at Mrs. COM while Audrey continues to feed newly hatched Chick #1. This photo was taken from the end of our dock

 

 

Here is a series of photos of Tom and Audrey while Chick #1 is being fed:

 

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Arriving!

 

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Out of my way, woman!

 

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What’s going on down there?

 

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Dad is in the house!

 

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Are you going to eat that?

 

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Well, if you aren’t going to eat it, I’ll finish it

 

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Tom takes the left-over fish and flies away to enjoy it in peace

 

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Notice the deep-notched fish tail, probably another menhaden. Tom is heading to the dock south of us

 

 

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I wonder what Tom and Audrey are discussing?

 

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Tom, Audrey and an eavesdropping downstairs neighbor

 

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You watch for intruders from the North, and I’ll watch for intruders from the South

 

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These are the faces we will use to scare them off!

 

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Tom is finally enjoying the sun on COM’s boat lift

 

I hope you have enjoyed my latest batch of photographs.  The hour is getting late, and I have another early wake-up tomorrow.  So 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Noise

Good evening from the relentlessly soggy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Since I wrote the last blog, we have had rain in some form for the last fifteen days.  People (and ospreys) do crazy things when the weather is this dreary.  My purple wave petunias, destined to be planted around the mailbox, have taken up residence next to the back door, still in their plastic trays.  My vegetable plants, stirring up wistful visions of 4th of July tomatoes from the garden, are sitting on the deck with sodden feet, as the ground is too wet to plant anything.  The grass looks verdant and happy, as it grows with unabashed enthusiasm, but it is too wet to mow on a regular schedule.  And here I sit with the weather prediction of yet more rain to come.  I guess the weather gods are still angry!  But the extremely good news is that our Audrey is back, making more noise than ever.  The only good thing about all this bad weather is that we have to keep our windows closed most of the time.  This doesn’t stop us from being able to hear all of her squawking, however, it does keep the decibel level down to a dull roar!  But after our recent incident, I am so very happy to hear all of Audrey’s beautiful noise!!!!!

Since the last blog, we have had some excitement (isn’t that an understatement!).  The arrival of our third egg on April 23 was a happy day indeed.  I missed the blessed event, as I was enjoying my forty year college reunion with 29 sorority sisters in a Midwestern state known for its horses.  It was a most wonderful weekend for all of us sixty-somethings.  As far as egg laying goes, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief not to have a fourth egg this year.  The time from an osprey egg being laid until hatching ranges from 35-42 days.  In our nest, we seem to have a range of 39-41 days.  I’m sure you can all do the math, but here it is in black and white for your viewing pleasure:

Anticipated Hatching of Tom and Audrey’s Eggs 2016:

Egg #1 laid April 17, hatching range May 22-29

Egg #2 laid April 20, hatching range May 25-June 1

Egg #3 laid April 23, hatching range May 28-June 4

Now, the above dates are all based on the premise that these eggs are viable.  No one knows for sure what will become of them after our Audrey went missing in action for over twenty four hours, which leads us to the next story.

The sun rose on Thursday, May 6, 2016 to a very wet, cold and dreary day.  Tom was sitting on the nest, incubating the eggs, with Audrey no where to be found.  We checked all the usual places on docks and trees in the area, and there was no sign of her.  Going back over the video from Wednesday, May 5, she had departed the nest around 2:00 p.m., and did not return that day.  Here is the last photo of Tom and Audrey before she disappeared for over twenty four hours:

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Tom and Audrey about an hour before Audrey disappeared for over 24 hours. The downstairs neighbor is enjoying the view

 

A little over an hour after the last Audrey sighting on Wednesday, an adult Bald Eagle was seen sitting in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  This is one of the usual places that Tom and Audrey like to hang out when not in the nest:

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An adult Bald Eagle, enemy of the osprey, sitting in the big tree where Tom and Audrey like to hang out.  This is the same place the eagle was sitting when Tom was dive-bombing him the next day after our couple’s return

 

Tom sat on the nest and incubated the eggs for the rest of Wednesday, all that night and into Thursday morning, with the exception of nine minutes at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday night when he was off the nest.  At approximately 8:05 a.m. on Thursday morning, he took off and the eggs were left exposed to the elements.  At 9:00 a.m., the temperature was 47 degrees and it was raining.  It was so eerily quiet without Audrey’s usual begging calls for a meal. As the hours went on, we became more and more worried about the welfare of our osprey pair. There was no sign of either Tom or Audrey at any of their usual haunts until approximately 2:48 p.m., when Audrey returned to the nest from who knows where.  As unhappy as all of you were, evidenced by the comments on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page, you can only imagine how we felt here at the secret location.  It’s one thing to look at an empty nest through the camera lens, and quite another to be staring out the window at the driving rain and wind, with the pole and empty nest staring right back at you.  We have very large picture windows on the water side of the house, and there was no escaping that view, devoid of any sign of an osprey no matter where we looked.  I just knew something horrible had happened to Audrey, because I did not think she would ever leave her eggs unless she couldn’t get to them.  COM was a little more optimistic about Audrey’s well being, and thought she may be trying to protect herself and stay out of the elements.  I was already thinking about an obituary blog for Audrey, and was just numb thinking about what had happened to her.

So what does the Crazy Osprey Family do when the going gets tough?  All together now, we ask the experts!  We contacted our osprey experts, and here are a couple of thoughts we received from them while Tom and Audrey were missing and the eggs were laying bare:

Dr. Spitzer’s comments:

We don’t really know much about vulnerability of osprey eggs to prolonged cooling early during incubation.  So once again you may be extending Osprey Science.  Of course, if they do resume incubation you will have to wait until term for Proof of the Pudding.  Then do as last year if necessary.

Julie Zickefoose, in  her recent book “The Bluebird Effect” (Houghton Mifflin, available via Kindle for $10, which may not do justice to her splendid artwork) has an excellent chapter on her long-term work with Tree Swallow nests.  In rotten weather, these (largely) insectivores may abandon incubation for several days–then resume under more favorable conditions, with continuing egg viability.  This book also has an excellent osprey chapter.

Of course this is an epic run of rotten weather.  Generally ospreys just hunker down for that long incubation, despite their recent return from the tropics.  Early bad weather doesn’t appear in egg viability data as a problem, as far as I know–I am copying three long-term osprey colleagues (Poole, Scheibel, and Bierregaard) on this.  There is general agreement that prolonged wet, cold weather post-hatch does substantially depress nestling survival.  But little nest abandonment (that we know of) under current, albeit rather arduous, incubation conditions.

Dr. Bierregaard’s comments:

Sounds to me like something happened to Audrey. Has she been seen today? 18 hours on the nest for a male is very strange. 

 I’ve seen birds off of eggs in really miserable, cold, rainy, windy weather for at least 2 hours and all eggs hatched. Ospreys have a very thin down layer and females do not have brood patches, so Osprey eggs never really get all that warm under incubating adults. I believe this explains their very prolonged (38 days or so) incubation period, which is about a week longer than similar sized raptors—a real outlier on the curve.

Good luck!

Of course, our dear friend and raptor biologist Craig Koppie has offered to help find foster chicks for our nest again this year if we suffer a repeat of last season’s failure to hatch.  I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So the waiting and watching begins yet again here at the secret location!

This rotten weather has made for some terrible conditions for taking photographs, but you know I cannot resist.  So here are some photos for your viewing pleasure, all taken since the last blog was published, most with terrible lighting.

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Audrey sitting in the scraggly stick tree. She will sit here sometimes after finishing a fish while Tom tends the eggs

 

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Audrey in a stare-down with Mrs. COM. She has been letting me get a little closer of late.

 

Tom has taken a liking to sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree:

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I can’t do a thing with my feathers in this rain, thinks Tom

 

I was taking a few nice photos of Audrey in the nest when Tom decided to take a swing by the nest:

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Osprey Photobomb!

 

Tom also likes to spend time on our neighbor’s dock two house to the south of us.  One of the spots where he likes to perch is the boat lift:

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Tom perched on my neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us.

 

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It’s Tom’s turn to have a stare-down with Mrs. COM

 

Mrs. COM has gotten a little too close for Tom’s liking, and off he goes:

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Tom captured in flight as he makes a mad dash to escape from Mrs. COM and her infernal camera

 

This photo isn’t centered very well, but neither was the photographer as I was spinning around trying to capture the action:

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Calico Tom, the fishing fool

 

Tom headed back to the nest:

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On approach to the nest during the escape run. Audrey is ignoring him

 

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Arriving! The downstairs neighbor doesn’t seem too concerned

 

Over the last four years, I have discussed Audrey’s raucous utterings (a nice way to say loud, obnoxious, continual squawking).  As I have mentioned in the past, when the windows are open during the nice weather (what’s that?), we have to mute the sound on our osprey watching computers in the house.  There is a seven second delay between what is happening in real time, and when those sights and sounds are broadcast over the internet. So we hear every squawk in stereo, first coming from the outside in real time, then on the computer, hence the muting inside.  It’s enough to drive a person crazy, but I will never, ever complain about that beautiful noise again!

Here are a few photos of Squawking Audrey (Donald Trump’s nickname for her):

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Squawking Audrey doing her thing in the nest

 

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Squawking Audrey, probably complaining about the sun being in her eyes during the one bit of good weather we have had in the last 15 days

 

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Squawking Audrey making her presence known from our neighbor’s swim ladder. She is probably squawking at Mrs. COM this time

 

Here is a fun series of photos during a shift change, featuring Tom and once again, Squawking Audrey:

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Audrey arriving back at the nest after finishing her fish. Tom looks pretty comfortable and is not looking like he wants to leave

 

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They both see something. What could it be? A lady with a camera, perhaps?

 

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Squawking Audrey living up to her moniker

 

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Tom has had enough, and decides to let Audrey have her way. See ya later, Audrey!

 

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Ah, mine, all mine, thinks Audrey, as she settles back down on her eggs

 

We have been seeing a lot of wet ospreys in the last couple of weeks:

 

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Wet Audrey on a dreary day sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Wet Tom trying to dry out on our boat lift. This is during the same bit of decent weather when Audrey was complaining about the sun in her eyes.

 

Here is another series of photos featuring Tom on our boat lift, one of his favorite haunts:

 

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Wet Tom perched on our boat lift. Check out those talons! I’m glad I’m not a fish when Calico Tom the Fishing Fool comes calling!

 

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Time to try to dry off! Tom shaking out his feathers

 

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After shaking out his feathers, Tom stands on one leg. This is probably as close as he has ever let me come to him

 

The final series of photos for this blog shows what Tom does with a fish after he catches it and before he brings the back half to Audrey.  The fish is a menhaden, which has a very deep-notched yellow tail (although this tail is rather bloody).  When I first noticed Tom in the scraggly stick tree with his fish, he must have just landed.  The fish was still intact and flapping furiously against Tom’s strong talons.  Although it was really unsettling to watch, the photo op was too good to pass up:

 

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This is shortly after I noticed Tom sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree with his fresh catch

 

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The fish continued to flap furiously as it was being eaten alive! Nature can be brutal

 

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Dinner is served

 

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Tom is getting a better grip on his prey

 

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Multitasking-Eat and poop while your photo is being taken

 

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Another big bite. By this time, the flapping had slowed down considerably

 

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This is a good view of how Tom eats the fish from the head down

 

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It takes a long time for Tom to eat his fill

 

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Taking a little break from the fish, who by this time had stopped flapping (much to my relief)

 

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Tom is still looking wet, probably from a combination of fishing and the weather. This was as close as I got to him, as I wanted Tom to eat his dinner before the weather went south on him

 

Last night, during a brief respite from the rain, COM and I went out on the end of the dock for a quick happy hour.  Our dock happy hours have really been curtailed due to the continuing inclement weather.  While we were sitting there, Audrey, who was sitting on the nest and being reasonably quiet for her, started raising a ruckus.  We looked around, and noticed Tom very close to the nest, but about two hundred feet in the air.  As we watched, he came diving down, crashed into the water and snagged a pretty big fish.  We hadn’t been able to catch Tom in the act of actually catching a fish this year, so we were thrilled to witness the Fishing Fool at his best! When Tom flew off with his meal, that really got Audrey going in full squawk mode with her beautiful noise.  So much for our peaceful few minutes on the end of the dock with a glass of wine and some cashews!

I will leave you with a photo from the last full moon.  I had just returned home from my nine hour drive after the reunion weekend.  The moon was so beautiful shining on the water and nest, I dropped my suitcase on the deck, and ran to get the camera.  It’s not the best photo ever taken, but wasn’t bad for a quick shot in the dark:

 

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April 2016 Full Moon at the secret location

 

Time to wrap up this blog, for it is now the wee small hours of the morning, and wake-up (once I go to sleep) is just around the corner.  Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl (soon to be home for the summer-yippee!)

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patience Is A Virtue

Good evening from the finally Spring-like Eastern Shore of Maryland.  After being able to write the last two blogs during the light of day, I am back to authoring my blog at night.  And what a great night it is!  After patiently waiting for the first egg to be laid, Tom and Audrey now have two!  The first was laid very late on the night of April 17, and the second egg was laid around dinnertime on April 20.  This is a little later than last year, when Audrey laid her first egg on April 12 and her second one on April 15.  It remains to be seen how many eggs will grace our nest over the next few weeks.  We certainly know that Tom has given his all to fertilize all these eggs.  He has been an enthusiastic donor of osprey sperm to be sure!  So we just need to have a little more patience before we have the final egg count.  Ospreys will generally lay 2-4 eggs in a clutch, usually 2-3 days apart with an occasional outlier.

 

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Tom making his sperm donation. A different view than you are used to seeing

 

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As copulation doesn’t last long in the osprey world (the old quantity over quality school of thought), I was able to snap a couple of photos before the opportunity was over

 

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Tom and Audrey smoking a cigarette after their interlude (ha, ha, not really kids). Tom loves the high ground

 

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Tom is finished with his pre-fatherly duties, and takes off to the north

 

Typically, osprey eggs will be incubated for 5 to 6 weeks, or 35 to 42 days.  In our nest, the most common incubation period has been 39-41 days.  As the eggs are laid in intervals, they will also hatch in intervals.  But we are getting way ahead of the game!  By the time the next blog is published, we will know what the egg count will be for the 2016 season.  Then the waiting will really begin!

 

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This is what Audrey looks like from our backyard while in the nest incubating her eggs. You can see how low and deep she snuggles down in the nest

 

There never seems to be any shortage of drama in this nest, does there?  The big excitement since the last blog (other than our 2 new eggs, of course) was the plastic bag that Audrey brought back to the nest.  She managed to get the bag tangled around one of her legs, much to the consternation of all of us.  Here are some photos that were taken shortly after the bag was noticed:

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It was one of those windy days when Audrey brought the bag back to the nest. Before it was attached to her leg, the bag kept blowing in her face

 

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“What the heck is this thing” thinks Audrey, looking quizzically at the bag

 

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Audrey seems a little annoyed at the bag as she tries to get it in place for use in the nest

 

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Right in the middle of the bag drama, Tom decides to bring Audrey the bottom half of a fish. What’s a girl to do? Fly to a piling with bag and fish. The bag is now firmly wrapped around her leg.

 

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You can clearly see the bag handle wrapped around Audrey’s left leg.

 

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Audrey can multi-task with the best of them. Poop, eat fish and maneuver a plastic bag wrapped around your leg.

 

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Audrey is either looking at me for help or getting ready to get out of Dodge

 

Tom did seem concerned about Audrey’s plight.  He brought her the fish and she took off with it and the bag. Tom tried to get close to Audrey while she was attempting to eat the fish with the bag attached to her leg.  He landed on the ground near the piling, which is unusual to see:

 

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Tom on the ground close to the piling where Audrey is eating her fish.  He seems to know that something is not quite right

 

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Another photo of Audrey with the bag attached and fish. It was not a flimsy plastic grocery bag, but a heavier duty, larger bag from a retail store

 

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Audrey has had enough of Mrs. COM stalking her, and takes off with her fish and the bag firmly wrapped around her left leg.

 

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Audrey landing back at the nest still trailing the bag.

 

After a fitful day and night for all of us, human and avian, Audrey managed to pick at the bag until she got rid of it.  All’s well that ends well, I guess!  But we did have some nervous moments until the coast was clear.

I have been working many odd hours the past few weeks, necessitating early departures from the house, like at 4:15 a.m.  When I leave under cover of darkness, it is not under cover of silence.  There is nothing like the sound of a squawking, hungry female osprey (not naming any names here) in the wee small hours of the morning.  We are probably not the most popular people on the street when our neighbor’s bedroom windows are open at night!

Our downstairs birdie neighbors are also back.  The sparrows who live in the basement apartment under the nest have been busy flitting around stealing bits of grass from Tom and Audrey’s stash.  They are a cute little addition to our viewing pleasure, don’t you think?

After what seemed to be a slow start, our Calico Tom seems to be retaining his fishing fool status.  The interesting thing is that neither COM or I have seen Tom actually catch a fish this season.  He always shows up with the back half of a fish for Audrey, but his whereabouts while obtaining his delectable delights remain a mystery.  Tom must have a hidden fishing hole somewhere near the secret location.

 

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Audrey with a tender fish morsel at her favorite dining spot, the electrical box at the end of our dock

 

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Digging in

 

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Yummy, this is one of my favorite pieces!

 

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While Audrey was enjoying her free meal, Tom was keeping watch from the boat lift

 

Here are a couple more photos for your viewing pleasure.  All of the photos in this blog were taken since the last blog was posted:

 

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Audrey on the electrical box after finishing a fish meal. Notice she is standing on only one leg

 

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Our beautiful Tom and Audrey in the late afternoon sun before the first egg was laid

 

I want to take a moment to thank you all for continuing to follow our blog and watch the ospreycam.  Comments may now be posted on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page.  In case you were wondering, we have almost half a million views of the blog since its inception in 2013 with over 91,000 viewers from all over the world.  I will keep you up to date on our numbers as the season continues.  In the next blog, I will let you know where some of our viewers are watching from around the world.

The hour is late, so I will end for now.  Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM 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!

 

 

 

And The Weather Gods Were Angry

**  Notice  **

While we appreciate the overwhelming support, enthusiasm and interest in Tom and Audrey, as well as this blog, it has reached the point that we do not have the time or resources required to maintain the comment section. We hope that you understand and continue to enjoy the webcam and the opportunity to see these iconic birds up close and personal. 

 

Good afternoon from the cold, windy, rainy, sleety, snowy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I feel like we are in a time warp back to February.  It has not gone unnoticed by most of you that we have had less than stellar weather for the beginning of our 2016 osprey season.  The winds over the past ten days have been relentless.  It is truly amazing that our faithful ospreys have been able to build such a beautiful nest given the adverse conditions they have had to face.  The weather prediction for tonight is for more subfreezing windchills and ferocious winds.  Hang in there, Tom and Audrey!  It is April after all, we are bound to get some true Spring weather shortly, aren’t we, Mother Nature?  Pretty please, Mother Nature, with sugar on top?

Since I last wrote, some of the head scratching has stopped, but not all.  Our wonderful Calico Tom has made his way back to the secret location.  He defended his nest admirably during an aerial battle on March 31, and chased off the mysterious stranger.  Audrey seemed happy to have her man back, and the couple got down to some serious nest building and egg fertilizing.  The nest has really come a long way since Tom has returned.  Little by little, it has grown and been lined with grasses and other soft stuff, ready for some egg action.  COM has put out dozens of sticks, some of which have been scooped up and some of which remain laying in the wet grass, waiting for their moment in Osprey Architectural Digest.  A newly-taped red stick was plucked from the backyard for the nest on April 8 and is in full view for the time being.

Speaking of the nest, there has been some discussion of late in the blog comments about our annual nest removal at the end of each season.  This action was recommended to us by osprey experts, and we have heeded their advice ever since we have had a nest at our location starting in 1995.  There has never been a problem with a new nest being built.  There are two reasons for the old nest removal.  The first reason is that the pole and platform could not withstand a nest that continually grew bigger and bigger.  The bigger the nest, the more windage and chance for damage.  You may have seen photographs of very large nests that have gotten bigger and bigger for years, or even seen some in person.  There is a very large nest on the southwest side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge just as you start over from the toll plaza.  Our little pole and platform could not remain upright with a nest that size.  The second reason for removing the nest annually is to help control the parasite population that would have access to our osprey family.  Our pole and platform have provided a suitable nesting site for over twenty years, so we will continue to remove the nest at the end of each season.

There has also been some discussion in the blog comments regarding our pole and platform.  Since the original pole went up in 1995, we have replaced the pole and platform three times.  Two of the three replacements were in back-to-back years, 2014 and 2015. We had to replace the poles and platforms due to ice and wind over the winter that damaged the pole in 2014 and took the pole down entirely in 2015.  If you go back to the early blogs from those two seasons, there are many photos of the pole and platform being replaced at the beginning of those two seasons.

As with the last blog, I have been writing this one during the day, which is unusual for me.  I have had the opportunity to look out the window as I write, and have run outside a few times to snap a few photos for you.  Tom and Audrey have been spending a lot of time together today.  They have been a very cute couple to watch:

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Tom and Audrey hanging out on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us

 

 

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A close-up of Audrey on the swim ladder shown from afar in the last photo

 

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A close-up of Tom from the same far-off photo

 

A little while later, Tom and Audrey left that location, and moved over to our dock.  Audrey had a piece of fish that Tom had brought her:

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Tom (on the boat lift) and Audrey (on the electric box) on our dock. He is not letting her out of his sight today

 

As I was walking through the kitchen later in the afternoon, my eye caught something outside that I had never seen.  Sometimes I feel like some of my photos are repetitious, but this was a new one on me:

 

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Long view of Tom and Audrey together on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us

 

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Audrey is asking Tom why they left warm South America to come to Maryland.  He looks a little sheepish, knowing he had three more weeks in the warm sun than Audrey, who came back early to start working

 

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Tom doesn’t have an answer for her, and decides to keep his mouth shut. They both look cold and wet

 

Many of you have been wondering where Tom and Audrey have been spending their time during this bout of very unusual nasty spring weather.  The below photos show an unusual place for them to hang out.  I noticed them out there right after the start of this windy period:

 

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This is the first thing I noticed when I started looking around for Tom and Audrey on a very cold, blustery spring day

 

I tried to get a little closer with the camera:

 

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I quietly approached, and was able to get closer to them

 

After a while, Tom decided he wanted to be closer to Audrey:

 

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Tom gets closer to Audrey on the riprap. I was surprised they let me get close, although I was using a very long lens

 

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Audrey is trying to tell me something. I’ll bet it wasn’t nice

 

Audrey loves to sit in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us, usually up near the top.  During this cold windy spell, she has been sitting way down in the bottom of the tree, something I had never seen before:

 

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Audrey sitting way down low in the scraggly stick tree

 

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A closer view of Audrey low in the scraggly stick tree

 

This is where Audrey usually sits when in the scraggly stick tree:

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree up near the top having a stare-down with Mrs. COM

 

Audrey always looks so regal at the top of the scraggly tree:

 

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Audrey is such a regal osprey!

 

Tom has been bringing Audrey some delicious cold fish meals.  Here she is on our boat lift with her morsel:

 

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Audrey on the boat lift with a snack

 

It is not unusual when we have strong winds from the north or west and a low tide to have the water blown out of the bay and leave us with an exposed sandy bottom.  With the very cold weather, sometimes the bottom will freeze.  This is the water behind our house a few days ago, not a typical spring phenomenon at the secret location:

 

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The water has blown out and left us with an exposed bottom and caused some freezing.

 

The nest is really starting to look good.  Tom and Audrey have been working very hard on it.  Here are some photos of the nest from the backyard:

 

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Tom and Audrey in the nest. Some of the first marked sticks are visible at the bottom of the nest

 

 

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Tom decides to move to the nest support in case he needs to make a quick getaway

 

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Tom is on the support keeping a close eye on Mrs. COM. Audrey is nonplussed

 

You would think Tom and Audrey would be used to me stalking them by now.  They seem to be getting better, but I am still an unwelcome intruder:

 

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Tom and Audrey minding their own business. This is a great shot of Tom’s buff feathers on the back of his head

 

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Let’s see how close Mrs. COM can get before someone relocates

 

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That was close enough for Tom. He makes a hasty departure, leaving Audrey alone on the nest. You can see why Dr. Spitzer nicknamed him Calico Tom!

 

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Audrey is all alone on the nest. Did you have to chase him off, Mrs. COM, he just got here!

 

Well, I think that is enough for today.  I hope you have enjoyed the new photographs which were all taken since the last blog was published.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the high wind and freeze warnings expire quickly, and we all (human and avian) can enjoy some warm Spring days really soon!

Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl

 

It’s not too late for members of the Osprey Club to register for the Welcome Back Osprey gathering on April 19, 2016 from 4:00-6:30 p.m. at Pusser’s Caribbean Grille, 80 Compromise Street, Annapolis, Maryland.  Speakers will be Craig Koppie and Teena Gorrow, who will be talking about their soon-to-be published new book featuring Tom and Audrey.  Please go to http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org for details.

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.  Thank you!