The Princess Diaries-Part One

Good morning from the hot, humid Eastern Shore of Maryland!  The sultry days of summer are upon us as we continue our march toward the end of another fabulous osprey season here at the secret location.  My story of our favorite osprey family has gotten way behind, but there is no time like the present to start catching up.

My selection of available photographs has gotten ridiculously large, so I have decided to regale you with some shorter literary blogs with a plethora of photos.  As the title of this blog promises, Part One means there will be a Part Two, which in theory should follow closely behind said Part One.

I will start you off with one of the obligatory poop shots.  Tom enjoyed one of his daily constitutionals in the presence of some dastardly crows, who so far have turned out to be not so dastardly this year.

 

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Tom multi-tasking: pooping, eating and fending off hungry crows. What a guy!

 

Alas, we haven’t seen our beautiful Harriet in quite some time.  I like to think she has pulled an E.T. on us.  For those of you who weren’t with us in the 2015 season, we were visited by a recently fledged youngster who decided he liked the secret location better than his own nest.  E.T. stayed with us the rest of the season, and was quite the character.  So I am sure Harriet is somewhere not too far away, enjoying some different scenery and being pampered by a foster mom and dad like our E.T. of three years ago.

 

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Meghan and Harriet when they were known as Meghan and Harry. I must admit I am not sure who is who in this photo

 

Audrey is a really good mom, and remains ever vigilant:

 

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Audrey keeping her eye on Mrs. COM and the box around her neck

 

On Friday, July 13, we had the great honor of a banding visit from our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie.  Craig has been and remains one of the best parts of being the caretakers at the secret location.  One would be hard pressed to find a more pleasant, competent and resourceful addition to our osprey team.  As Meghan and Harry (soon to be Harriet) were consumed with their flapping and hopping, the time wasn’t far away when they would fledge.  Craig made it over in the nick of time.  He had two helpers from the Chesapeake Conservancy, Intern Stephanie and Intern Michael, along with our neighbor Drew and Mrs. COM (me!).  It was a beautiful day, if not beastly hot, and banding commenced shortly after Craig’s arrival.

 

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Craig and Intern Michael wade out to the pole with our faithful, really big stepladder

 

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Decisions, decisions. Where to put this gigantic ladder? Meghan and Harry have some ideas where they could put that ladder!

 

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Audrey is not at all happy with the emerging situation, and keeps a close eye on the events at the pole complex. As you might imagine, she was not quiet in her consternation

 

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In order to able to be able to reach the birds (and not poke his eye out), Craig removes some of the wayward sticks. Harry, in his last few minutes as a boy, is willing to help with the eye poking!

 

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Smile! Someone is taking your picture!

 

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It would appear that Craig has grabbed a few chicks in his day, with apologies to Mrs. Craig

 

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Someone is not happy! Check out that tail, must be some turkey DNA in there some where

 

 

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Harry seems resigned to his fate

 

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Craig is carefully preparing Harry for his trip back to the dock.  Harry looks like he really wants a piece of Craig

 

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If looks could kill, Craig would be in a world of hurt. Intern Michael is looking glad that Harriet is not looking at him

 

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Check out those beautiful wings!

 

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I think Craig may have held a bird or two in his career

 

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The bird formerly known as Harry is getting her bling

 

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Oh, my, check out Harriet’s mouth. She is looking to take a chunk out of Craig, who offers her a glove instead of his flesh

 

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Harriet gets blue tape on her band. Roger is waiting quietly in the wings in case he is needed

 

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Someone is looking a little cranky! (Hint: It is not Craig or Roger)

 

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The trusty glove is needed once again.

 

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Those are some big wings for a young bird!

 

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Audrey has returned to the nest to lend moral support to Meghan, who is hoping beyond hope that she isn’t next

 

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Audrey is quite happy that she knows how to fly, and off she goes (middle right of the photo just in front of the land)

 

In case one of the chicks decides to go for a swim, we have a rescue boat at the ready:

 

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Drew, Intern Stephanie and Archie at the ready (Hint: Archie is the only one not wearing a hat)

 

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Harriet is safely back in the nest. Next up-Meghan

 

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Craig has to remove some more sticks to get to Meghan. She is not cooperating and dancing all around the nest to avoid Craig invading her personal space

 

Craig and Intern Michael have had to move the ladder around several times to be in a position for Craig to grab Meghan.  She decides this would be a perfect time to fledge, but her wings aren’t quite strong enough yet and she ends up in the drink:

 

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This sure doesn’t seem like flying, thinks Meghan

 

Ospreys can float for a very long time, so Craig isn’t worried about Meghan.  In fact, he was kind of happy that he would be able to retrieve her for banding without too much more trouble.

 

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Splish, splash, Craig and Meghan are takin’ a bath!  You can see some of the sticks that Craig removed from the nest floating behind him

 

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Gotcha! More of that turkey DNA is kicking in, check out that tail (and the cool reflection)!

 

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There is no escaping Craig, this is not his first rodeo

 

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Out of the drink with precious cargo.

 

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That wasn’t nice, mister, now I am going to make you pay for my indignities!

 

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I do believe that is blood on Craig’s hand…….

 

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Someone is looking a little wet, how did that happen?

 

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The diversionary glove has made another appearance

 

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A great shot of Meghan’s eye. The orange will become more yellow as she matures

 

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As the banding commences, Meghan is still trying to get another piece of Craig

 

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Meghan’s turn to get a little bling. She looks resigned to her fate

 

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Yellow is a nice color!

 

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Let me at’m, says Meghan.  More blood, this time on Craig’s thumb

 

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Down the ladder they go, headed back to the nest

 

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The rescue boat is still on station. It was a very hot day, so Craig decides to give Meghan a little cool down before he puts her back in the nest

 

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Ah, that feels good, thinks Meghan. Maybe this guy isn’t so bad after all

 

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As Meghan gets closer to being back in the nest, Audrey is still very concerned and circling around. Intern Michael is holding some sort of device. What could it be?

 

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Meghan goes back in the nest. I don’t think Harriet looks too happy to see her. Do you think it is Craig she is not happy to see? Probably a safe bet!

 

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No mission would be complete without a COM device. This is COM’s homemade Osprey Camera Cleaning Device.  It looks remarkably similar to a boat hook with a squeegee attached to the end. You have to check out the body language on Meghan!

 

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Craig told us the banding was free, but the camera washing was extra. Well worth it, don’t you think?  Everybody’s a comedian!

 

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Like the good naturalist he is, Craig is recycling the sticks he removed from the nest. They went right back on our stick pile to be used again.

 

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Time to put away the big ladder and COM’s contraption. Please be careful with the Osprey Camera Cleaning Device, Intern Michael, it might be worth a lot of money some day!

 

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Audrey decides the coast is clear, and comes back to her girls

 

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Incoming!

 

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Back together again. Audrey, Meghan and Harriet, formerly known as Harry

 

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Intern Mike, Craig, Intern Stephanie and Roger hiding in the back. Mission Accomplished!

 

A couple of quick items before I close for now.  In years past, Craig has banded the young birds in a big plastic tub.  This year, the chicks were too big for Craig’s boxes, so he brought them up on the dock for banding.

Second item:  You may have wondered how the colors are chosen for the banded birds.  Not much to it, Craig shows me the choice of colors, and I pick.  I figured Harriet used to be Harry, so I would make him blue for (former) boys, giving us a good way to remember who is who.  Sexist logic, one might argue, but it is what it is.

I think that is enough for tonight, as the hour is late (actually quite early) and my bed is calling.  The Princess Diaries, Part Two should be out in about a week, so stay tuned!

Until nest 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royalty In Our Midst

 

In loving memory of the reporters killed on 6/28/2018 in a senseless attack on the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper, Annapolis, Maryland. May freedom of the press never be taken for granted in our country.

Gerald Fischman

Rob Hiaasen

John McNamara

Rebecca Smith

Wendi Winters

May their shining lights never be extinguished. 

 

Good evening from the steamy, hot Eastern Shore of Maryland!  I have had a serious case of writer’s cramp for several weeks, but you will be glad to know I am feeling much better now.  One minute we were waiting for our eggs to hatch, and now we are watching some serious wing flapping and hopping.  Here is a synopsis of the happenings at Tom and Audrey’s nest over the last several weeks, and some lovely photos for your viewing pleasure.

As you are well aware, on May 21 and May 24, our two remaining eggs hatched right on schedule.  Due to the timing of the hatches, our chicks were from the first and second eggs laid.  I know we were all hoping not to have a large age gap between our two chicks, and fortunately, that was exactly what happened.  After not having any chicks hatch last year due to a crow attack on the eggs, and only one surviving chick in 2016 due to a Great Horned Owl attack, there was a huge sigh of relief and lots of big smiles at the secret location, the Chesapeake Conservancy and from our faithful viewers around the world.

Let’s begin your viewing pleasure with a photo we took while out on one of COM’s many watercraft.  There has been a fair amount of discussion over the years as to why we take down the nest every year.  One of the reasons is that our little two inch pole would not be able to support a nest that kept growing and growing every year.  Tom and Audrey don’t seem to mind the nest removal, and build a beautiful new one every year.  Here is what a nest can look like if left to grow year after year.  It is located up a creek not too far from our house, and the photo was taken a couple of days ago.  This nest sure wouldn’t work on our pole!

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Now that’s a lot of sticks! I wonder if some of them have come from the prefab osprey nest materials supplied by the Crazy Osprey Family?

 

After the eggs first hatched, the chicks were visible from the osprey camera, but not from land.  Here is one of the first photos taken when both chicks were visible for my camera:

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One of the first days that two little heads were visible from land

 

You may have noticed a pulley under the nest platform.  This is a new addition to accommodate the logistics of raising and lowering the pole.  It is another one of Crazy Osprey Man’s (COM) cool contraptions.  He is quite the idea man, with the added advantage of being able to personally bring them to fruition.

I do read the blog and explore.org comments with some regularity, particularly to see what types of questions are being posed by our camera watchers.  There is always concern when the chicks are left alone in the nest, particularly when they were younger.  Not to worry, there is always a parent close by.  Tom likes to sit on the top of the camera pole and the cross piece that stabilizes the camera and nest poles.  He is really, really close to the nest action.  Audrey is never far away, usually just taking a little fly around the neighborhood to stretch her wings.  Just earlier this evening with no supervising adults at home, a crow started checking out the nest.  In a split second, both Tom and Audrey were on that crow with a vengeance. The crow, being of sound mind and body, decided it was time to move on and move on it did.

On June 11, there was great excitement at the secret location when Joel Dunn, President and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, was interviewed on a live television show for Maryland Public Television (MPT).  He appeared on Direct Connection With Jeff Salkin.  The day started out with miserable weather, rainy and windy.  Much to everyone’s relief, by the time of the broadcast the rain had stopped, and the sun was trying come out. If you go to the MPT website https://video.mpt.tv/video/monday-june-11-2018-yey9i9/, you can watch the segment.  The live camera shot was being broadcast, along with Joel answering questions from the moderator and live audience.  The chicks were just laying around, and Audrey was perched on the edge of the nest.  It was not especially interesting to watch until about eleven minutes into the segment, when Tom showed up with a whole fish, right on cue! Take a look, I think you will enjoy it.

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Live from the secret location! Joel Dunn, President and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, gets ready for his interview on Maryland Public Television.

 

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The cameraman getting focused on the nest.

 

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COM gets in on the action, checking out the equipment

 

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While the humans get ready for the interview, Tom watches the flurry of activity from the scraggly stick tree next door to the north

 

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It takes a large cast of characters to put together a live broadcast. Sure glad our lawn was looking good!

 

As the chicks have grown larger, it has become easier to see them through my camera lens.  Audrey has spent much of her time trying to shield the chicks from the relentless sun.  Tom has been living up to his nickname “Calico Tom, The Fishing Fool”. Here are some photos of what has been going on in our little osprey neighborhood:

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Audrey is multi-tasking, providing shade for her chicks while giving Tom an earful to hurry up with some chow

 

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A quiet moment on a brutally hot day at the secret location. Audrey is a really good mom shading her babies

 

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Tom is once again making a heck of a mess on the electric box at the end of the dock. Roger can’t even look at the bloody mess

 

 

 

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Calico Tom The Fishing Fool is looking really wet and bedraggled, complete with a wonky feather hanging off to the left. He looks kind of embarrassed to be caught in such a state

 

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Tom is on top of the camera pole preening and trying to get dry.  The wonky feather is still visible. Audrey continues her motherly duties, feeding her chicks and ignoring the bedraggled fishing fool

 

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Tom is still drying, Audrey is still feeding the chicks. One is chick is being fed while the other one is checking things out to the left of Audrey.

 

Here is a series of photos precipitated by Mrs. COM’s relentless stalking of poor Tom who is just trying to get a good meal for himself and feed his growing family:

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Mrs. COM spots Tom with his catch

 

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Tom has taken his fish and lands on the dock next door to the south

 

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Mrs. COM is really making me work for it today, thinks Tom as he moves on

 

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Now Tom has landed on our boat lift. You can see the tail of the big fish hanging down under the boat lift beam and in Tom’s talons. He is contemplating his next move and looking rather disgusted with Mrs. COM’s persistence

 

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The Fishing Fool is on the move again. Take a look at that monster fish, and part of it has already been consumed. Mrs. COM takes pity on Tom, and the pursuit ends (for now)

 

I have been amazed at the size of some the fish Tom has caught this season.  He is a fishing machine!

 

The chicks are becoming easier to see from the backyard and dock:

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A typical day at the nest. Tom is surveying his kingdom from the top of the camera pole, Audrey is feeding one of her chicks, and one chick is already in a food coma

 

Another day, another humongous fish caught by Tom:

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Tom is on the electrical box at the end of the dock. The fish has seen better days. Roger remains nonplussed

 

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Go, Tom, go! You can escape from Mrs. COM, just keep flying out over the water with your big, bloody striper!

 

 

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A good example of why this fish’s nickname is a striper (striped bass or rockfish in the Chesapeake). Tom in the scraggly stick tree with his catch

 

And yet another impressive fish snagged by our fishing fool:

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Tom has landed on our boat lift with a whole fish, which was still twitching. I don’t think this is going to turn out well for the fish

 

A short break from osprey and fish for a serene sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay behind our house:

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A bucolic sunrise at the secret location. The watermen get out before sunrise. This is a typical Chesapeake Bay workboat

 

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Close up of the sun’s reflection on the water at sunrise. Spectacular!

 

We have been experiencing some extreme weather conditions with dangerous heat and humidity.  I look out at the nest, and wonder how our birds can endure the relentless conditions:

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Bad hair day for Audrey. One chick is telling the other not to look, Mom is looking pretty scary.

 

Audrey is very attentive to her chicks and their surroundings.  When I approach too closely, she gives the warning call.  When the chicks hear Audrey’s danger voice, they pancake down into the nest with great haste, and are either barely or not at all visible:

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Chick hide-and-seek. Ready or not, here I come! See if you can spot the chicks after Audrey gives the warning call

 

Tom takes his role of provider very seriously:

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Wow, Dad, I want to be like you when I grow up. Meal arriving!

 

Another typical view of the nest from the end of our dock.  The chicks are growing fast:

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Audrey and her rapidly growing family

 

I have posted many photos in this blog of Tom The Fishing Fool and the reasons for his moniker.  Here is my favorite one for this blog:

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A new board on the poop dock next door to us to the south. Tom just can’t believe it’s me again.

 

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Is it my imagination, or is Tom starting to get his calico back? I have managed to chase him off yet again. Look at those beautiful feathers!

 

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Hmmm, I wonder for whom Tom is looking? Could it be that crazy woman with that big black box hanging around her neck?

 

Over the years, there have been many discussions between our neighbors as to the preferred water orientation for our homes in the community.  Some prefer the western view to capture the sunset.  We love our eastern view of the sun and moon rises.  Here is another reason why the eastern orientation gets our vote.  This photo was taken during one of our Full Moon Dock Parties, the hottest invitation in town!

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Moon rise reflection over the water at the secret location. As the moon gets higher in the night sky, the reflection will spread out until the entire surface of the water is glistening in the moonlight. The moon gets so bright, it casts shadows in our backyard. Cast your vote for the eastern orientation!

 

Tom has started spending more time in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  See if you can spot him in this photo:

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Believe me, he is up there! Look way, way up at the tippy top

 

Here is proof that he is really there:

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A closer view of Tom in the big tree. Can you say trespassing?

 

We haven’t heard much about our downstairs neighbors this year.  Our little sparrow family suffered the same fate last year as Tom and Audrey.  Their babies also met their demise by the actions of the dastardly crows.  Here is our entire family and one of the downstairs neighbors enjoying a happier outcome this year:

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Audrey is feeding one of her babies. Tom is surveying his kingdom. See if you can spot the downstairs neighbor

 

Audrey has sounded the alarm that Mrs. COM is approaching:

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The chicks have assumed their pancake poses. The downstairs neighbor has moved to safer grounds just under the nest.

 

Tom has maintained his vantage point on the high ground:

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Tom is on top of the camera pole keeping an eye on things. This is a great view of the camera

 

One brave chick decides if mom and dad can keep an eye on things, so can he (or she):

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One brave chick pops back up with no visible sign of the other one

 

A test of your attention to detail.  What can you see in this photo besides a nest and birds?

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Look closely and carefully now. A hint-check the right side of the nest

 

The second chick is still heeding the danger warning:

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I don’t think she can see me, thinks the pancaked chick. Wrong!

 

This chick is much more timid that its’ sibling:

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Great mother/offspring portrait. The head of the pancaked chick is just visible to the left of the other birds

 

Audrey is having a hard time swallowing something.  Chick #2 is being brave and has popped back up, but is still checking out the person at the end of the dock with the camera.  Chick #1 is checking out something away from the nest:

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What’s wrong, Mom?

 

COM thinks I am disgusting, but I don’t think I was able to capture nature at its’ finest in the last blog:

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A missed opportunity. This image was captured either a split second too early, or a split second too late. I know, TMI

 

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Like mother, like offspring. Maybe this is why Chick #2 had to get up and wasn’t being brave after all!

 

 

Another quick break from birds:

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My butterfly bush, which was a volunteer that sprouted up many years ago from a visiting bird’s calling card. Use your imagine.

 

Audrey is providing some shade, which doesn’t go as far due to the rapidly increasing size of the chicks:

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Someone is looking lovingly at mom, the other one is panting. They are both thinking, “What happened to our mombrella?”. We have had some some horribly hot days of late

 

One last photo of Audrey and her babies for now:

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A very nice photo of mom and her babies. This is one of my favorites in this blog

 

Tom is not physically in the nest very often, but is usually close by.  I was able to get a photo of Tom hanging out in the nest and then deciding it was time to go:

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A candid family portrait, with the kids not cooperating. You can see the very prominent dark areas on the back of their heads.

 

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“I think I see Moby Dick”, thinks Tom. Time to go fishing!

 

The much awaited naming of the chicks was finally announced last week.  A big welcome to Harry and Meghan!  These were my favorite names, so I was happy to hear the results.  Hopefully, we will be able to get the chicks banded in the next few days.  If we need to make an adjustment to accommodate the gender of the chicks, we can always welcome Harriet or Henry!

Harry and Meghan

Do you think we should tell them?

 

I leave you with one more sunrise.  Thanks for being patient with me!

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Sunrise at the secret location. Check out the starboard running light of the little boat in the lower left hand corner of the photo

 

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Maybe not as beautiful as some of the other sunrises I have posted, but it was very dramatic

 

The hour is late with an early wake-up for work looming.  Keep watching Meghan and Harry doing those flap-hops, as I call them, because fledging is not far behind!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain, Rain, Go AWAY

***ALERT-EGG IS PIPPING NOW-HATCH IS IMMINENT***

MONDAY 5/21/2018 12:15 A.M.

Good evening from the damp, rainy, cloudy, dreary Eastern Shore of Maryland.  This last week has tried the patience of man and bird alike, until the sun peaked out for a while today.  We hadn’t had a stretch of such miserable weather for quite some time.  All I could keep thinking about were the last two seasons.  Last year, during a spell of cold, rainy weather a week before the eggs were due to start hatching, Tom was not able to catch enough fish to keep Audrey satisfied.  Wrought with hunger, she left the nest, ostensibly looking for food.  While the nest was unattended, dastardly crows invaded the nest and destroyed the eggs.  In 2016, we made history at our nest.  Audrey disappeared for over twenty four hours.  Tom stayed on the eggs as long as he could, but eventually had to leave to catch a meal.  The three eggs remained unattended for seven hours in the steady rain when the temperature was 47 degrees.  None of the experts thought the eggs would be viable, but we made history when two of the three hatched.  What happened to the third egg in 2016?  You will have to keep reading to find out!

Before I continue, I want to get out a very important message from our dear partners, the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Tomorrow, May 21st, something huge is happening for them. They will be launching a 24-hour crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $100,000 to protect the nest that sustains us all: the Chesapeake Bay. This is a great opportunity to support the organization that brings you right up close to Audrey, Tom, and their chicks every year through the webcam. And thanks to a couple of matching donors, your gift will be quadrupled. Every $1 you give becomes $4! But the campaign is all or nothing; if Chesapeake Conservancy doesn’t reach their $100,000 goal within 24 hours, all donations will be returned. Visit charidy.com/ProtectTheNest between 3 pm May 21st and 3 pm May 22nd to participate in this much-needed initiative.

In the last blog, I summarized the egg laying dates since we have been partners with the Chesapeake Conservancy, starting in 2013.  Here is the rest of the story:

In 2013, our nest was occupied by our current Audrey (Audrey #2 at our nest), but a different Tom than we have today (Tom #2 at our nest).  Four eggs were laid on 4/17, 4/19, 4/23 and 4/25.  Three of the eggs hatched on 5/26, 5/29 and 6/2.  This would make the number of days from laying to hatching 39, 40 and 40.  The fourth egg did not hatch.

The 2014 season brought us three eggs on 4/15, 4/18 and 4/21.  The same Tom and Audrey were here as in 2013. Only two of the three eggs hatched on 5/24 and 5/27.  Days from laying to hatch in 2014 were 39, 39.

Now to 2015, our most unusual season at the secret location.  Although we had the same Audrey, our Tom #2 did not return.  We had a couple of suitors show up that spring trying to win the heart (and other parts) of our lovely Audrey.  The first male that showed up was dubbed “The Dark Stranger”, due to his coloring and the fact that he had not been previously seen at our nest.  I guess the It’s Just Lunch date didn’t work out, because a week later, a new male showed up.  He was a handsome devil, with extremely mottled feathers.  Our dear friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, coined the moniker “Calico Tom”, who became our Tom #3.  This is the Tom that is at our nest today, but he has lost his calico appearance.  If you go back to the blogs from 2015, you will surely be able to discern from the photos how Tom got his nickname that year.

But the fun wasn’t over for 2015.  As Audrey patiently incubated her eggs well past their anticipated hatching dates, it became painfully obvious that none of the eggs were viable.  This was attributed to our young male not yet being fertile.  We were so saddened not to have any chicks, but Audrey continued to sit.  Now you must do some homework.  Your assignment is to read two of the blogs from the summer of 2015.  The first is titled “Who Said You Can’t Fool Mother Nature”, published on 7/9/2015.  The second assignment is to read “E.T. Phone Home”, published 7/23/2015.  If you are sitting there reading this blog, I absolutely guarantee you will be extremely happy to read those two blogs.  Bottom line:  None of the eggs from 2015 hatched.  But the teaser is that Tom and Audrey raised three lovely osprey babies that season.  Now how could that have happened if their eggs didn’t hatch, you may be asking?  Do your homework, and you will be rewarded with the answer!

So here comes 2016 and the start of our two year run of bad luck, with a little history making thrown in.  Audrey laid three eggs that season on 4/17, 4/20 and 4/23.  On 5/5, Audrey disappeared for over twenty four hours into 5/6, with Tom holding down the fort as best he could until he had to leave to find a meal.  The details of this incident can be found in “History In The Making”, published 5/31/2016.  Two of the three eggs did hatch, one on 5/27 and one on 5/29.  The number of days from laying to hatch were 40 and 39. Before the third egg had a chance to hatch, the nest was attacked the night of 5/31 by a Great Horned Owl, leading to the demise of one newly-hatched chick and the eventual destruction of the third unhatched egg.  For extra credit, read “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, published 6/30/2016.

Last year, our beautiful osprey pair laid three gorgeous eggs on 4/12, 4/15 and 4/18.  On 5/13, a mere four days before the hatching window would be upon us, crows descended on the unattended nest.  Two of the three eggs were destroyed, but the third appeared to still be intact.  Ultimately, the third egg turned out to be damaged beyond viability.  Sadly, for the first time since we have had a nest at the secret location beginning in 1995, Tom and Audrey did not have any chicks to raise.

After the loss of our chick and egg to the Great Horned Owl, it was suggested to us by Craig Koppie, a raptor biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, that we install a “scareowl”, sort of like a scarecrow, but for owls.  COM was on it, and Roger has been gracing the end of our dock since 2016 as Protector and Defender of young ospreys.  Roger has come out of his winter digs, and is back on patrol at the end of the dock.  By the way, Craig also co-authored “Inside An Osprey’s Nest”, which chronicles our 2015 osprey season and includes other fascinating osprey information.  The book may be purchased through the Chesapeake Conservancy’s website.

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Roger is looking a little raggedy this season. A new chapeau is in his future

 

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Here is Roger with the osprey complex in the background

 

Given the less than ideal weather conditions we have been experiencing at the secret location, Tom and Audrey have been exemplary parents-to-be.  Tom is earning his Fishing Fool moniker this season, and so far it seems that Audrey has not had to fish for her self.  Dr. Spitzer wrote a summary of what he calls “The Home Life of the Osprey”.  I asked permission to share it with everyone.   It is a fascinating summary of, well, the home life of the osprey.  Enjoy!

Good brief summary I just sent off to a friend.  This wasn’t learned in one season; or a decade.  But some of us are slow learners.       

Female and male have separate roles post-hatch.  She is heavier, stays dry and warms the nestlings in cold and inclement weather.  He is lighter and a bit smaller; so has a lighter wing-loading–efficient for hunting and toting prey in.  Of course he’s getting wet too.  He does incubate while she takes his prey delivery to a perch.  But throughout the whole 5 month breeding cycle, he’s the provider and commuter.  This begins with feeding her when they return from their separate tropical vacations.  And she does most of the egg incubation; always at night.  With their diving life-style, they don’t carry a heavy down layer.  We think this reduces the efficiency of energy transfer to their eggs; because their incubation period is exceptionally long, at least a couple days more than the Bald Eagle.

A lone male will initiate a nest.  A female will return to her traditional site, but not build cooperatively until she has a mate.  We think this is about logistics–he needs to know the spatial and temporal distribution of food resources.  He really buffers her from all that.  And after the young are flying–she often heads South pretty soon, an early migrant.  He by contrast will stay on for a few weeks, and keep feeding the young.  This also continues to bolster his learning curve about extracting fish from the local habitats.  These days, there is strong competition for quality nest sites, so the male may defend into early September, even if the nest failed.

“Your” nest may be close enough that you are familiar with the female’s food-begging call; which becomes especially insistent once the young hatch.  The male usually has a feeding perch within easy view of the nest.  There he waits for the fish to die, and consumes the head.  Thus the female and young are cued to feed, and their physiology is primed to immediately consume the partial fish the male brings in.  This is desirable for nest hygiene, so that flies and beetles have relatively little time to lay eggs on prey remnants and infest the nest.  We think this predictable, stereotyped behavior has been strongly selected over evolutionary time.

Late last May, I had one high-tide boat-borne afternoon of CT hatch check with friends.  I wasn’t doing the study in 2017, so the exotic novelty of these nest visits returned with a rush.  It was a chilly overcast afternoon, we moved fast and mirrored most nest contents from the marsh below, respecting the birds.  But at one nest I climbed a ladder and thrust my hand into the warm dry nest cup, where three hatchlings were clustered tight to stay warm.  Suddenly, it felt like entering someone’s cozy cabin or living room.  I had a real moment, and was reminded of the title of a ~1900 photo book about nesting ospreys:  “The Home Life of the Osprey”.

Thank you, Dr. Spitzer, for always letting us share your wealth of osprey knowledge with our camera watchers and blog readers.  We are so grateful to have you as an osprey expert in our midst!

This blog is getting long enough, so I will finish up with some photos that I have taken since the last blog was published.  The weather certainly hasn’t helped my endeavors, but here are a few for your viewing pleasure.

Tom has taken to using the cross piece that stabilizes the two poles:

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Tom has found a new perch

 

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A closer view. There is no escaping the camera of Mrs. COM

 

Tom and Audrey aren’t the only visitors to our pilings.

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Hmm, I kind of like it here, thinks Mrs. Mallard. She hasn’t been introduced to the traveling camera just yet.  Mr. Mallard has already relocated to the water.  He is visible under the dock to the right of the photo

 

COM is feeling badly that he didn’t install some type of perch at the very top of the new camera, as Tom used to frequent the top of the K-Mart trash can camera cover quite frequently in years past.  COM has already thought up a contraption to use next year.  In the meantime, Tom has figured out how to sit at the tippy top of the camera pole quite nicely.

 

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As dusk approaches, Tom decides to survey his kingdom

 

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I’m King of the World! (with apologies to Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson). No icebergs around these parts!

 

Audrey’s favorite off nest perches continue to be the electric box on our dock, the scraggly stick tree and the dock one house to the south of us.  Here are two of them.

 

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Audrey loves to eat on the electric box post. She is trying to ignore me

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us, which doesn’t have many leaves this year. At this rate, I am not sure how long the tree will be with us.

 

Audrey has been very patiently incubating her eggs.  Tom loves, loves, loves to take his turn on the eggs.  Sometimes Audrey has a really tough time getting him to leave.

 

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Tom heads back to the nest. Audrey is looking at him and thinking “And where is the fish? Do you really think I am going to leave here without a fish?  Guess again, buddy.”

 

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Audrey is asking (more like telling) Tom not to come back again without a fish snack. Tom is staring off into the distance while perching on one of the nest supports, and seems oblivious to her nagging

 

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“I just can’t do a thing with my hair (read head feathers)”, thinks Audrey

 

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Something has caught both of their attention. There have been many other ospreys in the area.

 

When not on the nest, Tom likes to frequent our boat lift and the scraggly stick tree.  He spends hours each day in the tree.  Here he is on the boat lift.

 

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Tom hanging out on our boat lift

 

I spotted this osprey feather in the yard today.  I should have put a scale in the photo so you could better determine the size.  If it is still out there in the morning, I will take another one with a scale.  Rest assured it was a really big feather (although I am not sure how one quantifies “really big” when it comes to feathers)

 

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Someone has lost a beautiful osprey feather.

 

Between leaving for work before the sun comes up and the lack of sunshine of late, I do not have a new sunrise photo to post.  But after a peak of sun today, once again the rain came.  Fortunately, it didn’t last very long, but came down with great intensity.  Here is the pre-rain sky.

 

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Building thunderhead before the brief but intense storm this afternoon.  One of the big trees that our ospreys use is on the right

 

It shouldn’t be very long now before our first hatch, depending on which two of the original three eggs remain in the nest.  We are well in to the hatch window for Egg #1, and at the beginning of the window for Egg #2.  So keep watching for that first pip!  By the time I write the next blog, we should have two new chicks in the nest.  Fingers crossed, everyone!

Please, please remember to make your contribution to the Chesapeake Conservancy during their crowdfunding campaign tomorrow, starting at 3:00 p.m. and running for 24 hours.  Any donation will be greatly appreciated.

Go to charidy.com/ProtectTheNest between 3:00 p.m. on Monday 5/21 and 3:00 p.m. Tuesday 5/22 to help them attain their goal and protect our magnificent Chesapeake Bay.  Thanks so very much!

Don’t forget to do your homework, there will be a quiz on the next blog!

 

Until next time, we remain,

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

 

 

 

 

Deja Vu All Over Again

Good evening from the fantastic Eastern Shore of Maryland!  It is finally starting to feel a little like Spring here at the secret location, with the promise of even warmer weather later in the week.  There is no doubt the humans and birds in the area are going to be very delighted to encounter some much deserved warmth and sunshine.  There certainly has been some eggcitement since my last blog, so here we go!

As the title of this blog suggests, Audrey presented us with three lovely eggs on the exact same dates as last year.  So in the words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again! Our first arrival was on April 12, the second on April 15 and the last egg arrival was on April 18.  These dates correspond to the very dates in 2017 when the three eggs were laid.  In 2016, Audrey’s three eggs entered the nest on 4/17, 4/20 and 4/23.  April 2015 brought us eggs on 4/12, 4/15 and a surprise after six days on 4/21.  Going back to 2014, our eggs were laid on 4/15, 4/18 and 4/21.  Our first year partnering with the Chesapeake Conservancy was in 2013, when Audrey laid a total of four eggs on 4/17, 4/19, 4/23 and 4/25.  This was the only year since we had a camera on the nest that we had four eggs.  I will discuss the hatching results in the next blog, have to keep you guessing!  Just a little hint, though-typical time from laying to hatching is 35-42 days, with the usual times on this nest being 39-41 days.  If you are inclined to do the math, we can probably expect our first egg to hatch between May 17-May 30.  Complicating the guessing game this season is the loss of one of our precious eggs. Since we don’t know which egg is now missing, our first hatch may be delayed.  We will just have to wait and see, but it is possible we are less than three weeks away from our first nestling!

After the third egg was laid on April 18, the rate of Tom’s sexual escapades (copulation is such a technical term) slowed down considerably, but did not completely stop.  Here is one of his last attempts to have his way with Audrey.

 

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INCOMING!

 

In addition to eggs showing up in the nest, there was a plethora of other objects that made their appearance in April.  One of the more concerning ones was a plastic water bottle, probably brought back by Tom.  Fortunately, it didn’t remain very long and was carried off by the wind, hopefully to a place where someone found it and had it recycled.

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We hate to see these types of items show up in any kind of nest, especially here at the secret location

 

A wad of some type of black matter was the subject of much discussion a couple of weeks ago.  COM and I took several good looks on our dedicated osprey computer monitor, which has incredible resolution. We determined it was a piece of filter cloth from our rip-rap, the structure that protects our shoreline from erosion.  When rip-rap is being installed, a layer of  filter cloth is laid over the bare earth that has been exposed, before any rocks are put in place. This will keep the dirt in place, but allows water to flow through.

 

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This is the top of our rip-rap at the interface of the stone revetment and our backyard lawn. The filter cloth has become visible over the years as the lawn has been exposed to the elements and eroded.

 

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This is most certainly what was brought back to the nest, and not monofilament fishing line (at least not this time)

 

I had a discussion with our dear friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, and he told me that ospreys bring every sort of “stuff” into their nests.  He suggested putting out a little dolly, so we may have to sacrifice one of Osprey Girl’s old Barbie Dolls to the osprey gods.  It might be kind of creepy, though, so I will have to rethink that one.  Sorry, Dr. Spitzer, you have had some incredibly good osprey ideas over the years, but this might not be one of them.

There have been a few comments on the Explore site asking about how high the nest and platform are above the water, as sometimes it appears from the camera view that the nest is very close to the surface of the water.  Have no fear, the nest is well-protected from the waves.

 

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Plenty of room between the nest and the water. Tom and Audrey should be safe from any Chesapeake tsunamis!

 

Have you noticed how much Tom likes to incubate those eggs?  Sometimes after he takes over incubating duty, after bringing Audrey a fish or just giving her a break, she has a very difficult time getting him to leave when she returns.  When either Tom or Audrey is in the nest incubating, you can see it very clearly in the camera view.  However, from land, sometimes it is hard to tell if anyone is home, as evidenced by the above and below photos.  The incubating osprey sits very low snuggled into the nest.

 

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Is anyone home?

 

If you watch the camera with any regularity, you can’t help but notice that Audrey is, shall we say, quite vocal (that is an understatement, to be sure!).  There is a thirty second delay in what is happening in real time, and what is going out over the internet for your viewing pleasure.  We haven’t had an abundance of warm, window-opening weather yet this season, but when the windows and doors are open, we hear Audrey’s enthusiastic vocals in real time, then again thirty seconds later.  She also likes to start her sweet calling (yeah, right) before the sun comes up, shattering our early morning peace and quiet.  But this is a small price to pay to have our beloved osprey family right behind the house.

It has been brought to our attention that the sound from the camera is somewhat erratic.   This is a brand new camera and set-up this season, and we are trying to work all of the bugs out of it.  Unfortunately, with the eggs now being incubated, we are not able to approach the nest to try and troubleshoot the sound problem. Unlike our last camera, the new one has two-way sound.  This means that we can hear what is going on at the nest, and whoever is on the nest is able to hear us if we choose that option.  We are hoping that the two-way sound feature will be useful in keeping the crows away if the nest becomes unattended like last season.  I will discuss what happened last season in my next blog.  I am trying to keep this one happy and upbeat, and what happened last season was anything but happy or upbeat.

One of the real advantages to living here at the secret location is to be able to see Tom and Audrey when they are off the nest.  Our camera operators, including Crazy Osprey Man (COM to you newcomers), have done a wonderful job trying to locate our favorite osprey couple when they are not on the nest.  When COM and I are home, which is sporadic, we keep a lookout and try to move the camera to the location of the action.  This is another feature of our new camera, PTZ, or pan tilt zoom, which has proven to enhance everyone’s viewing pleasure.  Thanks for helping us out, camera operators!

So where are Tom and Audrey when they are not in the nest?  Guess what, you are in luck, because I will now answer that question in photographs!

One of Tom and Audrey’s favorite hangouts is what I have nicknamed “the scraggly stick tree”.  This is the tree right along the rip-rip of our next door neighbor’s house directly to the north of us.  In years past, Tom and Audrey would swoop down and snap a stick off this tree in flight, giving the tree a rather scraggly look, hence the name. COM’s stick locker has lessened the destruction brought upon the poor scraggly stick tree, since there are always a few sticks readily available in our back yard, sometimes even marked with colorful construction tape. But between Tom and Audrey, there is usually an osprey sitting in the scraggly stick tree a few hours of the day.

 

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Here is the scraggly stick tree, complete with Tom, half a fish and a dastardly crow sitting down low, willing Tom to drop his fish. Please try not to get seasick looking at this photo, I must have been distracted by something really amazing (probably not, just messed up)

 

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Tom is giving Mrs. COM the hairy eyeball, or should I say the feathery eyeball, or should I say the fishy eyeball?

 

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Tom is wondering just how close I will get before he has to take action. We can tell how close he got to the fish, which would be really close.

 

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Okay, that was close enough and action has been taken by Tom. I normally wouldn’t include a blurry photo, but it was too cool to leave out. I call this a quantity over quality photo!

 

One evening, just at dusk, I noticed Tom in the scraggly stick tree.  What really caught my eye was a rather large half a fish clutched in his talons.  The next two photos aren’t that great, because the light was fading fast, but I think you will get the idea. Now that’s a fish!

 

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You don’t need great light to see the blood trickling down this really big fish

 

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Tom wasn’t in a sharing mood, so he takes his bloody fish and departs with one foot holding the fish, and one foot remaining aerodynamic

 

 

Audrey also enjoys hanging out in the scraggly stick tree.

 

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Another purposeful stare from an osprey, only this time it is Audrey.

 

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Audrey looks like she means business. I am beginning to think I’m not wanted.

 

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Trying to avoid confrontation, Audrey decides it is time to move on.

 

The dock right next door to us to the south is a regular stop, but not as frequent as a couple of the other perches.  In the past, I have referred to this location as the “poop dock”, as opposed to the “poop deck”.  The house is for sale, so I think an eager realtor has recently had it pressure washed. As there is plenty of room on this dock, it is not unusual for Tom or Audrey to have company when enjoying a fishy snack.

 

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Maybe if I ignore them, they will go away, thinks the osprey. The gulls, however, remain hopeful.

 

The next series of photos began at the poop dock.

 

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If it’s not the crows or the seagulls, it’s Mrs. COM and her stupid camera, thinks Audrey.

 

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Audrey is looking quite grumpy. I am warning you, Mrs. COM, if you don’t stop right there, I am going to leave…..

 

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Audrey leaves, and relocates to the scraggly stick tree, a short flight to the north, still clutching her fish.

 

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Are you going to make me move again? This is getting on my nerves.

 

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Audrey has relocated yet again, way up to the top of the big tree two houses to the north of us. I feel sorry for her and go back home. She still has her fish.

 

One last scraggly stick tree photo for this blog.  I have a feeling I caught Tom either pre or post poop…….

 

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Tom either feels better or is about to feel better.

 

 

It’s a good bet that on a daily basis, either Tom or Audrey will usually make it to our neighbor’s dock swim ladder, two houses to the south of us.

 

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A very high tide surrounds our neighbor’s dock. This is a very frequent roosting location for Tom and Audrey, sometimes even together at the same time as seen in the last blog.

 

This is another photo taken around dusk.  I looked out, and there was Tom on the swim ladder with a good size fish.  Although the lighting is bad, I heavily cropped the photo and tried to lighten it so you could get a look at the blood on Tom’s legs.

 

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Good night for Tom, bad night for the fish, ignore the tilt.

 

 

No trip around Tom and Audrey’s neighborhood would be complete without their frequent visits to our dock.  There are lots of good places to relax, and since COM’s boat and Osprey Girl’s boat will be back in their lifts this week, there are soon to be more.

Here is our dock without any power boats or ospreys.  Roger will be in residence sometime this week.  For those of you who are new to the secret location, Roger is our resident scarecrow who functions as the protector and defender of our nest.  More about him next blog!

 

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Very high tide at the secret location.  The grass is starting to get green, yippee!

 

Here is Tom on COM’s boat lift, sans boat.

 

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Look, Ma, one leg!

 

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I thought I was being stealthy, but apparently Tom has discovered my presence

 

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Oh, my, look what the wind and water have done to my feathers!

 

The buff on the back of Tom’s head is more easily seen when his feathers are ruffled.

 

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It’s very subtle, but you can definitely see the buff coloring on the back of Tom’s head.

 

Audrey likes the grip on Osprey Girl’s boat lift.

 

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Audrey is giving Mrs. COM the stink eye while holding on to the paltry piece of fish that Tom brought to her. I think she needs to be mad at him, not me.

 

 

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A good view of the feathering under Audrey’s eyes, a good way to tell her apart from Tom.

 

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A little bit closer look at the white space under Audrey’s eye. Tom has more black under his eyes, but still only a subtle difference.

 

 

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Tom on the boat lift. Just another day in osprey paradise!

 

Tom’s day in paradise was disrupted by Mrs. COM and her camera coming closer.

 

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Come on, Mrs. COM, can’t you just give it a rest? Tom in flight, escaping you know who.

 

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Tom in downstroke, headed to a more private haunt.  Check out the reflection, you know I love my reflections!

 

I will leave you with a couple of sunrise photographs, both taken the morning of April 24, 2018.  The light changes very rapidly as the sun rises, producing some incredible vistas.  I couldn’t decide between these two, so you are stuck with both of them.

 

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Sunrise to the southeast at the secret location-April 24, 2018

 

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Sunrise due east at the secret location-April 24, 2018

 

Stay tuned for the next blog when I will talk about eggs hatching, our friend Roger and if you are lucky and I am in the mood, how it all started twenty three years ago at the secret location.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And This Is How You Build A Nest-Tom and Audrey Come To Town

Good morning from the confused Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Mother Nature cannot decide if it is winter or spring!  There certainly has been a lot of excitement here at the secret location since our last blog.  Our beloved Tom and Audrey have returned to their northern summer home, and how delighted we are to have them back.  As you already know by now, Audrey returned on the evening of March 18, with Tom close behind the next morning.  We are all waiting with bated breath for our first egg.  Last season, Audrey laid three eggs.  The first one arrived on April 12, the second one three days later on April 15 and the huevo final on April 18.  So keep your eyes glued on your computer screen, we could be welcoming our first orb of delight at any moment.

The weather certainly hasn’t been cooperating since our feathered friends have returned.  We have experienced cold, rainy, snowy, windy weather so far this alleged spring, with little in the way of the sunny warmth for which we all yearn.  The weather folks are predicting some warm, sunny weather by the end of the week, hopefully just in time for some good egg laying and fish catching!  Patience is a virtue, so it is said, and now we just watch and wait.

While we are on pins and needles, I thought I would continue where I left off in my first blog of the season.  After a long winter of watching our pole precariously bent over from the relentless ice this past winter, it was time to prepare for the new season, new camera and new pole (actually poles).  The preparations began with new wiring for the upgraded camera.

 

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COM is feeding the new cable out to Jesse, our electrician extraordinaire

 

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Jesse is a manly man, and braves the very cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay to run the new cable and wiring

 

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Wires and cable were everywhere, but Jesse was concentrating on the job at hand

 

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When there is a job to be done concerning all things osprey, COM is never far behind

 

During the winter, when there is activity at the end of the dock, it usually involves feeding our swans.  They were quite confused by all the commotion, and were hanging around hoping for a free meal.

 

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The swans are perplexed, but don’t want to wander off in case the top comes off of the corn container

 

Meanwhile, back on the dock, Jesse and COM continue the task at hand.

 

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Jesse is happy to be out of the water and out of the waders. COM is standing by (actually kneeling by) to lend a hand

 

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Jesse has a helper

 

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Tools of the pre-osprey trade

 

 

Meet Peter, our adopted stray. Osprey Girl gave him his name due to the white tip at the end his tail, as in Peter Cottontail. We think he is actually a dog in cat’s clothing.

 

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Peter is trying to help. If only he could learn how to use a shovel

 

The swans are still hanging around waiting for a handout.

 

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The swans are waiting in their usual feeding zone. Patience is a virtue, even for swans

 

The next big project was to remove the old, bent pole and replace it with two new poles.  We needed two poles this season, one for the nest platform and one for the new spiffy camera.  The new camera weighs over twice as much as the old one, and COM’s old system of supporting the camera wasn’t sufficient to support the weight of the new one.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was still playing with us.  Shortly after the extremely low tides we experienced and chronicled in the first blog, the moon, tides and wind blew all of the water back in to the bay and then some.  Here are some photos that compare the water depth over a couple of days.

 

Our dock during the extreme low tides

Our dock during the extreme low tides

 

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Our dock a couple of days later

 

Some more low tide/high tide comparisons:

 

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A view to the south along the rip-rap. You can see the typical water line on the rocks

 

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View to the south during the high tides

 

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View to the north during the low tides

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View to the north during the high tides

 

In order for the old pole to come out and the new poles to go in, the water could not be above 18-24 inches.  Our ospreys were due back very soon, and the high water just wouldn’t go away.  Nerves were getting frayed at the secret location.  Phil and Dean from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage were on call for when the water returned to normal.

After a few days, the call was made to Phil and Dean.

 

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The old bent pole had to be jetted out of the mud

 

You can see the old pole was bent at the bottom from the ice over the winter and had to be replaced

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The water was barely low enough to get the job done

 

One of the new poles was waiting on our deck, and the other arrived with Phil and Dean.

 

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One of the new poles and a sleeve to hold it up.

 

Now the new pole needs to be jetted into the bottom

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Dean is pushing the sleeve into place

 

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The equipment for jetting in the pole is in the kayak.

 

The job of installing the new poles took two days due to the uncooperative water depth. We love Phil and Dean of the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, who come through for us year after year.  Thank you once again, gentlemen!

 

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Phil and Dean, our pole and platform heroes!

 

Once both poles were in, the new camera and equipment had to go up.  Our new camera, which was provided by the Explore.org folks, has pan/tilt/zoom capabilities which allow us to view our birds when they are not on the nest.  Here is the final product, quite a bit different than last year.

 

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Not a thing of beauty, but the results have been fantastic. The piece of metal between the two poles provides support and allows the poles to move together

 

Alas, the coming of the ospreys meant the departure of our graceful, beautiful, noisy swans.  A large flock took flight, but there was still a small flock hanging around, as well as some migrating swans who were just passing through the Crazy Osprey Family bed and breakfast.

 

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A large flock of our swans took to the skies on their way north to their breeding grounds. Good bye, safe travels and we will see you in November!

 

COM still had work to do to get everything ready for the arrival of Tom and Audrey.

 

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COM readies the equipment for the arrival of Tom and Audrey

 

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Tools, cable, more tools, electrical stuff (technical term) and COM’s ever-present waders

 

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Tidy operable equipment makes COM happy. It was really cold out there!

 

The poles and equipment were put in place just in the nick of time.  On Sunday, March 18 at around 7:00 p.m., we looked out and saw an osprey on the new nest platform.  Could it be Tom or Audrey?  The lighting was very poor, but I quietly moved outside toward the pole with my trusty Nikon.

 

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An osprey arrives at dusk. Who could it be?

 

The next morning began with a spectacular sunrise.

 

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Sunrise at the secret location on Monday, March 19, 2018

 

Much to our delight, a few hours later, another osprey arrived on the nest platform.

 

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They’re baaack!!!

 

The welcoming committee was next to arrive.

 

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Here comes the Welcome Wagon!

 

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A peaceful scene as Tom rejoins his Audrey

 

After careful observation, it was determined that we indeed had welcomed back Tom and Audrey to the secret location.  Joy!!  But two days later, our newly arrived couple had to be wondering why they had left their warm winter digs when on March 21, we received almost a foot of snow at the secret location.

 

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Tom is hunkered down on the platform. Audrey was hiding out from the storm. I can’t imagine what was going on in his head

 

Fortunately, the snow only lasted a couple of days.  Audrey returned to the platform, and nest building commenced.

 

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The start of a nest

 

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I need to move this stick

 

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That’s better

 

Everyone needs a little break.  Tom and Audrey decide to relax on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us.

 

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Taking a break from household chores

 

Nest building continued, and the first of COM’s marked sticks made their way to the nest.

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Two marked sticks are visible, with one barely hanging on. It stayed like that for days

 

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Still a few swans hanging around and still a marked stick hanging around.  A view of the nest complex from a different angle

 

Along with nest building comes baby making.  Tom and Audrey wasted no time in getting down to business.

 

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More nest building

 

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Bring a stick…

 

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…Get a quick(y)

 

 

Here are some photos of what has been happening around the neighborhood.

 

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It’s not easy to get your balance on top of this little perch. Why don’t you try it if you think it’s so easy!

 

Audrey is eating sloppy seconds, and has gotten a chunk on top of COM’s electrical box.  Yuck!

 

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Audrey on the electrical box, a favorite place for her to eat sloppy seconds

 

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What’s going on up there?

 

It’s a full house at COM’s stick locker.

 

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COM’s stick locker with a teeny bit of snow that is still hanging in there

 

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My first poop photo of 2018! How special! How disgusting!  How juvenile!

 

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Beautiful, stately Audrey in the scraggly stick tree. Good view of the white patch under her eye, one of her identifying features

 

COM tries to think of everything when it comes to our ospreys.  He had a great idea for a “T” on the top of the new camera pole, but unfortunately didn’t think of it until after the pole was up.  You can rest assured that next year, there will be a modification to the top of the nest pole.  In the meantime, someone has figured out how to sit on top without the modification.

 

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It will be easier next year, we promise!

 

Another break from osprey nooky and nest building on the swim ladder.

 

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Sure wish I had a Bloody Mary, or is that a Bloody Fishy?

 

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A cropped close-up of our favorite osprey couple

 

If one is good, two is better.  Poop Shot #2 for the 2018 season.  Stop it, Mrs. COM!

 

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Audrey must be feeling better now

 

 

The dangling marked stick hung in there for quite a while, much to everyone’s surprise.  The nest is looking really good after only a couple of days.  And can you believe how rapidly they have completed their cozy nest?  Amazing!

 

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AP (Advanced Placement) nest building. This is how you do it!

 

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Fly-through stick collecting. COM took this photo, not easy to do

 

The next series of photos are of Tom on the electrical box, and leaving the electrical box due to a crazy woman with that camera stuck around her neck.  Take a good look at the coloring under Tom’s eyes while you are observing these photos.  The reason will become apparent in a moment.

 

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Tom minding his own business on the electrical box when Mrs. COM sneaks down the lawn. How many legs do you see?

 

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Tom decides it’s time to leave

 

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Think I’ll head to the scraggly stick tree, good hiding over there

 

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Ah, she can’t get me over here. Finally some peace and quiet

 

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But wait, I am not alone. Oh, darn. We just won’t look at the camera

 

There has been much discussion on how to tell Tom and Audrey apart.  This is not an easy feat.  Our very first Tom and Audrey pair looked completely different from each other, with Tom having a very black face and head, and Audrey having just a little sliver of black on her head.  They could be instantly identified and differentiated from each other.  This Tom and Audrey pair has become more and more difficult to tell apart as our Calico Tom has lost his calico.  Here are a couple of hints you can try to use to figure out who is who.

 

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Audrey

 

The above photo is Audrey last year.  Notice the white patch under her eye which breaks up the black mask.

 

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Tom

 

The above photo is Tom last year.  The black continues all the way under his eye.

 

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Above are Tom and Audrey together.  Tom is on the right, Audrey is on the left.  Use the markings under their eyes to tell them apart.  Very subtle, but there is a difference.  This photo is from last year.

 

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The above is a new photo from a couple of weeks ago, Tom is on the right, Audrey is on the left.  Tom has a very faint buff patch on the back of his head that is best seen when his feathers are ruffled.  The white patch under Audrey’s eye is quite noticeable in this photo.

 

Okay, your turn.  Identify the ospreys in the below photo:

 

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You should now be able to identify which osprey is Tom and which is Audrey. Remember where they are sitting

 

Here are some more photos from the above series:

 

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Someone has decided that Mrs. COM has gotten too close and leaves. Who is it?

 

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Back to the nest she (hint) goes

 

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She (hint) arrives back at the nest, thinking Mrs. COM can’t get her now. Wrong!

 

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Her partner decides he (hint) doesn’t feel like being the apple of Mrs. COM’s eye (camera eye), and also decides it is time to move on

 

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Leaving!!!

 

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Arriving!!!!

 

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I need to line this up just right

 

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Who’s on top? GIANT HINT

 

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Can’t a guy and girl get a little privacy around here? Can you tell us apart now? GIANT ENORMOUS BIOLOGICAL HINT!!!!!

 

COM witnessed quite a spectacle a few days ago while I was at work and he was lucky enough to be home at the secret location.  He heard a bunch of commotion, and looked out to see Tom and Audrey chasing an eagle.  Grabbing the camera, he began taking photos from inside.  The quality of this photo is not great, but you can clearly see the eagle on the bottom and two ospreys on top trying to chase the eagle away.  Go away, eagle, leave our ospreys alone!

 

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Ospreys on top chasing away eagle on bottom

 

The hour is late, and duty (read work) calls in the morning.  When next I write, there should be some very good news to explore.  But before I close, two last things.  First, I want to give a big shout out and thank you to two of our faithful watchers who both happen to be from Germany!  Thank you, Uta, for your help and guidance.  Thank you, Poppy, for all of the incredible work you do keeping us informed on the explore Chesapeake osprey page.  You are both such huge assets to all of us who love our ospreys!

Lastly, a phenomenal sunrise photo from last week:

 

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Thank you, Mother Nature!

 

Until next time, we remain,

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

 

If you are enjoying the osprey camera an 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey Teaser

Good morning from the delightful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This will be short and sweet, with another real blog to be posted later this week (hopefully).  I am running out the door to work, but was just too excited to let this one slip by this morning.  Last night at 6:58 p.m. DST, an osprey returned to the nest platform.  After careful consideration, I was ready to say that our dear Audrey had weathered all the storms, and was back with us here at the secret location.  I went upstairs to get in the shower and took a quick glance out the window.  Much to my amazement, there were two ospreys on the platform!  One of them is Audrey, and if you watch/listen to the camera, you will be sure that Squawking Audrey, in full voice, has returned!  I need to get a good look at the new arrival, but he took to his nest support post quickly, so I am getting a good feeling our little osprey family may be back together again!

Sorry I don’t have more time this morning, but wanted/needed/excited to get this photo posted for your viewing pleasure.

Welcome Home

Welcome Home!!!

But now I need to leave you and answer the call of the Almighty Dollar!  I will be back in touch later this week.  Doing the happy dance!!!

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!

Out With The Old, In With The New

Good afternoon from the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This is your long lost friend, Mrs. COM, back in blog writing mode.  It’s been a while since I checked in with you, but I am back!  The loss of our eggs to the crows last year put me in an osprey funk, and I apologize for my lack of communication.  There is a beehive of activity out on the dock and in the yard today, so I am energized and ready to go for 2018, our sixth season with the Chesapeake Conservancy, second season with Explore and our sixteenth year of having our camera up.  So without further adieu, here we go for 2018!  Welcome back!

As I sit here and write, Crazy Osprey Man and Jessie, our electrician, are out back busily running new cable to support the new and improved camera that will be going in this week.  More about that in the next blog.  In the meantime, I thought I would start off this season with some photos from last season and this winter.

When I last wrote, Tom and Audrey were empty nesters in the true sense.  After the loss of their eggs in May, just before they were due to hatch, they spent a lot of time together for the rest of the season.  Here they are on COM’s boat lift deciding what to do for the rest of the day:

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Do you think COM will be mad if we both poop on his boat?

 

After the weather warmed up in the spring, Tom decided to live up to his fishin’ fool reputation, and continued to provide fish for Audrey the rest of the season.

 

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Tom in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us. He was working on a good size fish

 

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Another catch on a different day. You can really see the difference in the tails of these two fish

 

There was a little bit of excitement in June, when a yellow bag became stuck in the nest.  To the best of our observation, it looked like a bag that used to contain produce, like onions or citrus:

 

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Flying the yellow flag. Looks a little windy at the secret location!

 

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Look, dear, the interior decorator was here while we were gone!

 

The lazy, hazy days of summer were upon us in July:

 

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Happy 4th of July!

 

Tom continued to bring home the bacon (fish bacon):

 

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Dinner is served

 

Tom wasn’t the only one fishing around the nest:

 

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An Eastern Shore waterman crabbing at sunrise not too far from the nest

 

Despite not having any chicks to raise, Tom and Audrey continued to enjoy their summer digs:

 

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A peaceful summer day at the nest

 

The summer slipped away into autumn.  Tom and Audrey left their summer home enroute to warmer winter climes.  We were quite worried about their well-being when a hurricane came sweeping through their migration path in September.  No way to predict their fate while flying through the tempest, we will just have to wait a couple more weeks to see if they return safely.  With autumn and the departure of our feathered friends, it was time to take the camera down from the pole so it could spend the winter on the dock spying on our tundra swans.

 

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COM and our friend Peter from the Chesapeake Conservancy take the gigantic step ladder out to the pole

 

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This looks like a good spot

 

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Well, maybe not. This looks better

 

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What do you have down your pants, COM?

 

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COM must have found what he was looking for in his waders, and up the ladder he goes. COM goes up, nest comes down!

 

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Bye, nest!

 

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All that work, sorry Tom and Audrey

 

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One of COM’s pieces of construction tape is still visible floating off

 

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COM is still fascinated by something in his waders

 

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Now the camera and mount have to come down

 

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After a slow, steady trip down the ladder, COM passes the camera off to Peter

 

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The junction box for the camera wiring needs to come inside for the winter

 

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COM carefully unhooks all of the wires

 

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With all of the technical equipment detached, the slow wade back to the dock begins

 

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This is a good close-up of the camera encased in the highly technical K-Mart trash can cover. The infra red light source is to the left of the camera mounted to the support

 

With the camera successfully down from the nest pole, now the long wait for Spring had officially begun.  COM installed the camera on the dock so our viewers could enjoy the tundra swans that visit us every winter. These lovely birds show up in November, and leave around St. Patrick’s Day.  We host a flock of forty to sixty swans each winter, with more stopping by during spring migration to the north.  If you take a look at the calendar, our swans will be leaving us very shortly. We will miss their grace and beauty, but maybe not their raucous noise!

January was an extremely cold month for the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  The Chesapeake Bay was almost frozen over, which does not happen very often.  Icebreakers were brought in to keep some of the major channels open into Baltimore and Annapolis.  Here at the secret location, the swans and geese adjusted to a different surface, especially when COM was feeding them.  Here are a series of photos depicting some icy winter scenes:

 

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The ice did a number on our pole. It is bent, and not just leaning, so will need to be replaced. The swans seem nonplussed with the ice.

 

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The swans seemed to be able to find the little bits of open water so they could still go for a swim.

 

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I like the reflections of the swans in the icy water

 

Sometimes I just can’t decide which photos to put in the blog, so I decided to put in a few extra.  Hope you don’t get bored with all of the icy swan photos:

 

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This photo is really cool! The reflections of the swans make it look like they have really long legs.  This is one of my favorite swan photos.

 

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Check out the tracks in the slushy ice (and of course the reflections)

 

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The grey necked swans are the juveniles (more cool reflections)

 

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The tide is coming in, and the ice is breaking up. Aren’t the swans beautiful?

 

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Last icy swan photo (for now!)

 

Thanks for indulging me on the icy swan photos!

 

A winter sunrise at the secret location:

 

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The sun hasn’t broken the horizon yet

 

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Here comes the sun, little darling (with apologies to the Beatles)

 

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The swans are a little closer to getting their morning rations. Mrs. COM is out with her camera bright and early. COM won’t be too far behind with the corn

 

We have seen lots of bald eagles around the neighborhood this winter, to include adults and juveniles.  This is the first time I have seen two juveniles together at the same time.  I apologize in advance for the terrible quality of this photo, but it was a dreary day with really poor lighting.

 

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Two juvenile bald eagles in the big tree two houses to the north of us

 

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Time to go, says the juvie eagle

 

The Canada goose population here at the secret location was quite large this year.  In the next couple of photos, the swans and geese share a peaceful coexistence:

 

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Swans and geese share a little patch of open water on a cold, snowy day

 

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Find the goose standing on one leg (this is an easy one)

 

The ice finally broke up, and the swans were happy to be able to fly and swim, without having to waddle:

 

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Ah, open water as far as the eye can see, think the swans

 

The juvenile swans with their grey heads and necks are quite prominent in this next photo.  Look closely and see if you can spot one of the swans taking a chunk out of one of his buddies:

 

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Find the mean swan in this photo

 

You may have heard about the big wind storm that occurred on the East Coast last Friday, March 2, 2018, and quite a storm it was.  The northwest winds were gusting to almost seventy miles per hour here at the secret location.  The combination of the severe winds, coupled by a full moon with accompanying tides, caused extremely low water in the bay.  Here are some photos at the secret location:

 

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Our dock, where Roger will be residing very soon. Our boats are put away for the winter, much to COM’s chagrin. Check out the crab pots which have blown off the dock. This view is looking to the northeast from our back yard

 

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This is the infamous scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us. The view is to the northeast

 

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This is the really big tree two houses to the north of us, where our ospreys love to hang out

 

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Another view to the north. Where has all the water gone, long time passing? (apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary)

 

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The docks are high and dry.

 

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A view to the north along the rip-rap. There will be no fishing today!

 

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No waders needed today to work on the pole!

 

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One of my favorite phenomena, the sparklies (my word), are quite visible in this photo

 

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A view to the south along the rip-rap. You can see the typical water line on the rocks

 

COM still fed the swans when the water was blown out of the bay.  We don’t purposefully feed the geese, but there is no way to keep them away.  You can see the corn on the exposed bottom in this photo:

 

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Swans and geese share a morning snack, compliments of the Crazy Osprey Family

 

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Just a group of waddling swans

 

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The four geese in the front of the photo look like they are running to catch a bus!

 

I will leave you with three spectacular sunrises at the secret location:

 

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The sky looks like it is on fire

 

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Winter sunrise at the secret location

 

Winter sunrise with swans

A bucolic winter morning

 

So that’s it for the first blog of 2018.  I know there weren’t many osprey photos this time, but I hope you enjoyed some of the happenings around the secret location in the winter.  Stay tuned for the next blog, which will be out shortly to chronicle what goes on behind the scenes to get ready for the return of Tom and Audrey.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together

Good evening from the incredibly magnificent Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Wow, what a gem of a late spring day we have had here at the secret location.  We delighted in sunny weather and enjoyed light breezes with temperatures in the mid 70’s.  The weather couldn’t have been any nicer for a spectacular June day on the sunny Isle of Kent.  The only thing that could have made it better would be a chick or two, but I am sorry to report there are no signs of that in the immediate future.

When I wrote my “What A Difference A Day Makes” blog, I had no idea how aptly named it would turn out to be.  What a difference a day did make, so sad.  Our third and final egg turned out to be nonviable, almost certainly due to the brutal crow attack earlier in May.  At the time I wrote that blog, there was still hope for a hatched chick, as the final egg was in the nest with Audrey, who was in incubation mode, assisted by Tom as the back-up incubator.  The fishing was good, the nest was well-maintained and the optimism was palpable. The condition of the third egg has made a big difference in possible outcomes at the nest this year.  When we received our two dear foster chicks in June 2015, Audrey was still sitting on three nonviable eggs, and the eggs were being tended around the clock.  In deciding whether or not to place the foster chicks with Tom and Audrey that June, the nest fidelity created by those eggs was a big determining factor in allowing the placement.  Losing nest fidelity this season is not a positive piece of the foster puzzle.  But it’s not over til it’s over, although the chances for a foster are slim at this point.

Tom and Audrey are still very close by the nest when not actually in it.  I have been observing a very interesting phenomenon.  Our loyal osprey pair has been spending a significant amount of time together in some of their usual solo haunts. Take a look!

 

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A couple of photos of Tom and Audrey together in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us

 

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Something has caught their attention, and it doesn’t appear to be Mrs. COM (but probably is)

 

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Togetherness on the electrical box at the end of our dock. They both look a little damp

 

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Audrey is doing what she does best, squawking at Tom. Roger is probably glad he doesn’t have ears. Tom seems to be thinking “If I ignore her, maybe she’ll go away”.  So much for togetherness

 

My new neighbor with his new boat is probably doubly unhappy about the state of his boat covering.

 

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Such a handsome couple. I was waiting for a double poop shot, but received no cooperation

 

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Mrs. COM has caught someone’s attention!

 

If one boat is good, two boats are better:

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Tom and Audrey add an artistic touch to another neighbor’s boat.

 

Let’s go for the hat trick!

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We don’t want to leave COM out! His boat has such a nice dark green cover

 

In the end, there is nothing like home sweet home:

 

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Tom on his favorite nest support with his faithful mate near by with her yap shut for once. The nest looks so good, makes me so sad

 

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Tom still on one leg thinking “I knew it was too good to last, there she goes again”. Roger, save me!!!

 

Tom doesn’t have anything over Audrey in the one-legged department:

 

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Aargh, matey! I must have been a pirate’s parrot in a previous bird life. All I need is an eye patch

 

Calico Tom The Fishing Fool has been living up to his name:

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Enjoying a fish snack on another favorite haunt, the swim ladder two docks to the south

 

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The lighting isn’t very good for photos, but Tom can see his fish just fine

 

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Back to the nest with my fish, get that crazy woman away from me!

 

 

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Audrey grabbed the bottom half of the fish, and got out of dodge while the gettin’ was good

 

This photo makes me smile:

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Is anybody in there?

 

Another fish bites the proverbial dust when Calico Tom The Fishing Fool comes to call, and another visit to the swim ladder:

 

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What do you think of these wings, Mrs. COM? Bet you can’t catch me!

 

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Not impressed? Well, watch this…………….

 

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Tom has had it with Mrs. COM, takes his fish and heads north to be alone

 

As I mentioned earlier, today was one of the prettiest days we have had this spring at the secret location.  I woke up to a retching cat around 5:00 a.m., and happened to look out the window at a lovely sunrise.  Although I could have easily turned over, closed my eyes and let nature take its course outside, I decided to make you all proud.  I was a vision of loveliness in my pink robe and flipflops on the end of the dock.  I am sure the watermen who were out crabbing were blinded by my ethereal presence.  You can decide whether or not you want to thank Felix for coughing up that hairball at 5:00 a.m.

 

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Sunrise at the secret location on Sunday morning, June 4th

 

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Do you think the waterman has his binoculars trained on me?  If not, he’s missing his opportunity to gaze upon my pink robe

 

Tom was out fishing, as he frequently does early in the morning.

 

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You’ll have to take my word for it, this is Calico Tom The Fishing Fool with his morning breakfish

 

Audrey was patiently waiting for her share of breakfish:

 

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Audrey on the nest just after sunrise

 

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Waiting for the fish delivery man early on Sunday morning

 

 

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I don’t think the waterman was paying any attention to my pink robe, he had crustaceans on his mind

 

As I was leaving the dock, I noticed a friend observing me from Osprey Girl’s boat davits:

 

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One of the tree swallows that lives in the bluebird house in my garden

 

Mother Nature has not been kind to us the past couple of osprey seasons, but especially mean this year.  I guess we have to take the good with the bad, what choice do we have?

Here is the good:

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Wow, just wow!

 

Before I close, I want to comment on the situation at the Severna Park nest, where the littlest chick is being pecked by an older and bigger sibling, and doesn’t seem to be getting as much food as the other chicks.  For those of you who were with us during the 2013 season, you probably remember that we had the same situation with our youngest chick, Ozzie.  We were all sure that Ozzie would succumb to the lack of food and attacks from siblings.  I also wrote a couple of blogs that addressed the situation.  But in the end, Ozzie thrived and lived to fledge with his siblings.  He was also the subject of Ozzie’s rescue, when he became tangled in fishing line and was freed by COM.  Dr. Spitzer discussed the third chick problems in the blog “Reflections”, published on June 5, 2013.  There are also other references to the third chick, who was eventually named Ozzie, in several other blogs from the 2013 season, which are available in the archives.  Take a look at some of the blogs, but particularly “Reflections”.  Remember, our Ozzie made it, so keep your fingers crossed for the Severna Park third chick!

That’s it for tonight.  I will keep my camera handy, and for your viewing pleasure, will memorialize what Tom and Audrey are doing as empty nesters.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What A Difference A Day Makes

Good afternoon from the once again rainy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  What a miserable, wet spring it has been here at the secret location.  Before I sat down to write this blog, I took a look at the last blog, which was published two days before the initial crow attack on the nest which destroyed two of our eggs and a second attack the next day which has left the third egg’s viability in question.  There was so much hope and anticipation in that blog, which included the hatch windows for all three eggs, and the promise of chicks by the time this blog was written.  What a difference a day makes…………..

So here we are, closing in on the end of our hatch window for Egg #3.  I am sure many of our faithful camera watchers remember the 2015 season, when Tom and Audrey sat faithfully on their three eggs for weeks past their viability date.  A season which went from sadness to great elation with the fostering of Maine and Montana, and the arrival of our bad boy, E.T.  What a season it was!  Last year while sitting on her three eggs, our Audrey disappeared for twenty four hours during a very cold, wet and windy spring day.  Tom did the best he could to incubate the eggs, but he also needed to leave the nest to eat.  The eggs remained unattended for 7 hours when the temperature outside was 47 degrees and a cold rain fell.  For all of the details, take a look at the blog “Beautiful Noise”, published 5/12/2016 and “History In The Making”, published on 5/31/2016.  Of course, after the first two miracle chicks hatched last year, our nest was attacked by a Great Horned Owl, which resulted in the death of one of the chicks and damage to the remaining egg, which never hatched.  Our beautiful Chessie became the only child, thrived with all of the undivided attention, and took off to warmer climes in the fall.  We just can’t seem to catch a break the past couple of years, so thanks for hanging in there with us.

Where do we go from here?  Why has this happened?  What caused the change in behavior from our faithful Audrey and Calico Tom The Fishing Fool?  The questions are many and the definitive answers are few.  I am not a trained raptor biologist, just an observer of Nature and our nest going back more than two decades.  My unsubstantiated opinion is that the terrible weather conditions caused some or most of our problems earlier in May.  Above all, adult ospreys have survival instincts that supersede protecting the nest and eggs.  They must take care of themselves first, so if Tom wasn’t supplying enough fish to sustain Audrey, she had no choice but to go fishing for herself.  Tom may not have been able to catch enough fish to feed himself and Audrey due to the wind, rain and crummy weather, so he had to take care of himself first.  There were many days that I would see him with a fish, eating in the scraggly stick tree or a near-by dock.  I was sure he would bring part of the fish to Audrey, but each time, he finished the meal himself, much to my chagrin.  I go back to Craig Koppie’s statement from my last blog:  Anything in Nature is possible.  Since those days earlier in May when Tom no longer deserved his Fishing Fool moniker, and Audrey inexplicably left her eggs unattended for what seemed to be an interminable length of time, the conditions at the nest have made a remarkable turn-around.  I would wager to say that Tom and Audrey are back to their former selves. Tom is catching fish for all at a tummy-filling rate, and Audrey is as attentive to her remaining egg as we are used to seeing.  The nest has taken back its beautiful shape and size, and is lined with soft nesting materials just waiting to cradle new chicks.  As we wait for the fate of the third egg, other options are being considered with no decisions having been made.  So keep watching, keep commenting and hang in there with us for now.  The wild ride this season may not be over yet!

With the editorial out of the way, on to more pleasant topics.  I was in sort of an osprey funk for a while after the crow attack, but am getting back in an osprey frame of mind.  To reward your patience while I was incommunicado, here are some photos I have taken since the last blog was published.

 

First, some photos of the villains in this ever-changing saga:

 

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The weekend of the crow attacks. A villainous, murderous crow taking advantage of the nest devoid of adult ospreys

 

 

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While the crow was in the nest, Audrey was eating on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us, but seemed to notice the unwanted nest visitor

 

 

A couple of days later, Tom was observed eating a fish on the electrical box at the end of our dock.

 

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Tom is trying to enjoy his catch

 

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Tom gets ready to take another bite, but seems a little distracted

 

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Something has caught Tom’s eye (beside Mrs. COM and the ever-present camera)

 

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Here is the “something” that has caught Tom’s eye.  Roger is beyond embarrassed, and is blaming his new hat on the crow’s seeming nonchalance in sitting directly on top of a scarecrow

 

The crows are very wary and very smart.  The crows are in trouble, however, because COM has a new mission.  You should know by now that when COM has a mission, there is no stopping him.  Crows be warned, COM has you in his sights!!!!

 

While Tom and the crow were trying to ignore each other, Audrey was quietly incubating her remaining egg.

 

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Audrey in the nest, hoping everything would be back to normal

 

A little while later the same day, Audrey was taking a break in the scraggly stick tree next door to us to the north.

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree, finally enjoying some sunshine. Sunshine on her shoulders makes her happy (with apologies to John Denver)

 

Audrey didn’t feel like messing with Mrs. COM that day, and off she went

 

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Audrey wasn’t in the mood for Mrs. COM and her camera, and skedaddles back to the nest

 

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Settling back in to the nest, but still keeping an eye on the crazy woman with the infernal camera

 

Remember in the last blog when I couldn’t choose between two photos, and decided to post both of them for your viewing pleasure and input?  Well, guess what, I had the same dilemma this time.  (By the way, I spent some time researching “dilemma” vs. “dilemna”. I have used the proper spelling, but I’m afraid that hasn’t always been the case prior to today)

 

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Option #1-Audrey in the scraggly stick tree- head on view

 

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Option #2-Audrey in the scraggly stick tree-profile

 

So, which do you like?  Option #1, or Option #2?

 

The weather gods have not been kind to us so far this season.  We have seen the following behavior in the past, but it is still rather rare to see either Tom or Audrey sitting on the rip-rap or near the ground close to the shore.  They will usually only sit there to get out of the wind.  Here is one of those windy days:

 

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Audrey sitting on a piling close to shore with her fish to stay out of the wind

 

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Audrey decides to head out a little further from shore to put some distance between her fish and Mrs. COM.  She is now being buffeted by the wind, and her head feathers are askew. The waves are rockin’ and rollin’

 

 

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Facing into the wind-she knows her head feathers will look better in the photos

 

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Back to the nest and hunkered down against the wind. Audrey looks nice and cozy

 

 

There has been much discussion of late about Tom’s fishing, first the lack of it and now the return of the Fishing Fool.  Here is some photographic proof of the return of our beloved Calico Tom The Fishing Fool:

 

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My first glance out the window, so I grabbed the camera and made my way outside

 

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A striped bass (also known as rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay) big enough to feed a multitude of osprey families. Take a look at how much of the head is still on the fish

 

 

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Oh, no, I know she is stalking me again.  Next stop in an attempt to elude the pesky Mrs. COM, a piling on the dock next door to the north of us.

 

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Notice that a fair amount of the fish’s head is now consumed

 

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Time to move on, that woman just won’t leave it alone

 

 

A different kind of bird that is very popular with the Crazy Osprey Family.  Guess where COM and Mrs. COM spent their Saturday night last weekend?

 

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Parrothead just sounds like a lot more fun than Ospreyhead, more colorful, too!!

 

 

Okay, back to the ospreys.  Here are some photos from yesterday and today to wrap up for now.

Tom and Audrey love the scraggly stick tree next door to the north, probably the place where Tom spends the most time.  He is sitting out there right now, looking quite wet.  Here is Audrey yesterday, drying off after a shower:

 

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Audrey is drying off in the scraggly stick tree

 

 

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Ah, that feels better!

 

 

Some of you have commented about seeing this lovely little family swim by in the camera view:

 

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Our resident Canada goose family

 

 

We know Tom is back to normal because he has been hanging out at one of his favorite haunts:

 

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Tom surveying his kingdom from the top of the camera cover. Audrey looks like she wants to say something, but has decided to keep her yap shut for once

 

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Group scratch!

 

Here are the final few photos that were taken today, including one of my favorite photos of all time.  You know I have taken thousands of photos in the five seasons we have been with you, so this is going to be good!  Sure hope you like it!

 

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One of Mrs. COM’s favorite photos ever! What do you think?

 

 

In the next series of photos, Tom is headed back to the nest and arrives with a fish:

 

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Back to the nest with a snack for Audrey. He has already eaten the good parts

 

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Bringing home the (fish) bacon, dear!

 

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Audrey didn’t waste any time taking off with her gift from the sea

 

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Tom in his man-cave while Audrey has left the nest and is eating on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us

 

 

Here is a unique sunrise on the morning of the initial crow attack.  Somber, but beautiful, sort of like the feelings we all had later that day:

 

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A sunrise fitting for the unsettled mood we were all about to experience later in the day. A portent of things to come. Sort of fitting, and a little eerie, don’t you think?

 

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, our dear friend and videographer extraordinaire, Uta, captured a fascinating moment a couple of days ago.  A cownose ray was swimming by the nest, and Uta was able to capture the image and post it on Explore and the Chesapeake Conservancy website.  The cownose rays make their way to us in the late spring every year to mate and have their young.  I will try to get some photos of them sunning themselves near the surface of the water when the weather warms up.  Great job, Uta, we so appreciate everything you do for us!

 

So that’s it for today.  I have actually finished a blog while the sun is still up, not about to come up, rather unusual for me.  Feels great!  As I leave you, Audrey is incubating quietly in the nest, Tom is in the scraggly stick tree, the pouring rain has finally stopped and tomorrow is another day.  We are all waiting anxiously to see what the next few days and weeks will bring to our Tom and Audrey and their adoring public.  Fingers crossed, everyone, for a positive outcome for all!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puzzling Perplexing Possibilities

Good morning from the finally sunny Eastern Shore of Maryland!  After days of rain, clouds and ferocious winds, we have finally had a couple of beautiful sunny days.  Unfortunately, rain is forecast to start later today and continue through Saturday, with some heavy rains expected.  Birds and humans will start to grow moss between their toes!  But Sunday is supposed to be beautiful, how fitting for a Happy Mother’s Day for all of the mothers out there, human and avian!

Speaking of the weather, I am sure you have noticed that that wind speed indicated on the camera view doesn’t seem to correlate with what you are observing at the nest.  You would be correct, the actual wind speed is frequently way higher than the posted wind speed. COM is working with the explore folks to identify a weather station in the area that more accurately reflects the conditions here at the nest.

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Squawking Audrey on a dreary day in the scraggly stick tree with a stormy sky (reminiscent of Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick) in the background

 

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The scraggly stick tree is in bloom, adding to the light green patina of pollen enveloping anything and everything in the neighborhood, inside and out

 

While we are on the subject of weather, here is Audrey on the nest hoping the rain will stay away:

 

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Gathering clouds over the secret location. This is a good view of the infrared light source directly under the fancy camera cover (K-Mart trash can). Audrey is hunkered down waiting for a meal and incubating her eggs

 

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Tom and Audrey on another rainy day. Check out the downstairs neighbor returning home on the right!

 

There have been three major issues looming over us since the last blog.  I will attempt to address them all.  Here goes……………

First and foremost, I know you are all waiting with bated breath for the hatching of our first egg.  The range of hatching osprey eggs is 35-42 days after they are laid.  At our nest, the typical range has usually been 39-41 days.  I know you can all do the arithmetic, but as a quick guide, here is what we are looking at:

Egg #1-laid April 12, range of possible hatch dates May 17-24

Egg #2-laid April 15, range of possible hatch dates May 20-27

Egg #3-laid April 18, range of possible hatch dates May 23-30

So there you go, we are getting close!

 

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Audrey looks like she might be counting the days to her first little bundle of joy

 

Issue #2-Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom!  Where the heck have you been, buddy?  It did not go unnoticed that Tom’s typical behavior seemed to have altered over the last week or so. His usual moniker, Calico Tom the Fishing Fool, seemed to need a revision.  Although we have the advantage here at the secret location of seeing what goes on around the nest as well as in the nest, we were also puzzled and perplexed.  Tom’s presence was sparse, and he wasn’t seen at his typical hang-outs. When he did show up at the nest, it was usually without a fish.  This unusual behavior also caused Audrey to catch her own fish, leading to the crow incident.  For those of you who missed it, Audrey’s tummy must have been growling, and she decided to take matters into her own talons and go fishing.  The eggs were left unattended, and an obnoxious crow decided he felt like an egg snack.  The crow started pecking at one of the eggs, causing Audrey to come barreling back to the nest to protect her potential offspring.  The fate of the injured egg is unknown at this time, so we will see what happens during the hatch window.  The pesky crows are everywhere and are quite bothersome.  In addition to bothering the ospreys, they have taken baby birds out of our bluebird house.  COM has modified our two bluebird houses with homemade devices to deter the crows from their nefarious sojourns.

 

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Tom on the left, crow on the right waiting for the spoils

 

There was also some speculation that perhaps we had another osprey visiting the nest that was not Tom.  One of the reasons it was thought that was a possibility was the seeming lack of the buff color on the back of this osprey’s head.  We were also perplexed at that observation, having noticed the same thing.  What was puzzling was how Audrey treated this possible third player, she did not seem bothered at all to have the bird there.  It looked like Tom, but the lack of the obvious darker patch was puzzling and perplexing. I saw Tom a couple of times eating big fish in his usual places, but he wasn’t bringing any to Audrey.  Something just seemed off.  I knew what I was observing, but I did not know the answers to the questions being posed.  As in the past, when something is troubling at the nest, the Crazy Osprey Family calls in the experts and a call was placed to our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie.  I explained my observations, and my puzzlement. Here is a synopsis of my lengthy chat with him:

Anything is possible in Nature.

That about covers it all.  The bird in question could have been a returning juvenile from previous years at our nest, but probably not from the past two years since those three birds were banded.  It could have been Tom, and we just couldn’t see the buff due to the weather.  His fishing could have been off due to the turbid water caused by all the wind and rain.  He could have been taking refuge from the elements, etc., etc.

Anything is possible in Nature.

Thank you, Craig, for being there when we need you!  You are always the voice of reason, and we are so glad to have you as a mentor and friend.

 

Issue #3 has been the various camera malfunctions.  Believe me, no one likes having these camera issues.  We are all doing the best we can to correct problems when they happen.  We are in a transition year with the switch over to being one of the explore cameras, and everyone is learning.  Bear with us, we are all trying very hard to make this a wonderful experience for everyone.  Think positive, not negative and we will all get through these learning curves together!  Thanks so much for your patience and understanding.

 

I have taken a bunch of photos the past two weeks, and will finish the blog with some of them.

 

Here is a series of photos of Calico Tom the Fishing Fool, taken on May 6:

 

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A delightful meal in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us on a yucky day

 

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I would admonish my daughter if she took a bite this big

 

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I guess this piece was a little slippery (rain or blood or general muck), he dropped it!

 

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Plenty more where that came from…

 

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In between bites

 

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Ready for another chunk of Chicken of the Sea

 

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Thinking about fleeing from Mrs. COM

 

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Nah, think I will stay and chow down a little more

 

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Okay now, Mrs. COM, you are coming into my comfort zone

 

Tom and Audrey have allowed me to come much closer to them this year than in years past.  Dr. Spitzer told us to talk to them, which we have been doing.  I really do think it is working, they seem much less bothered when we are around them this year.

I had another close encounter with Tom, but this time, he decided to move on when I got close:

 

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Tom with a rather large fish in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Not paying much attention to me yet

 

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You looking at me?

 

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Getting closer. He is starting to realize I am not going away

 

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Well, maybe just one more bite

 

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Okay, I have had enough of you, Mrs. COM

 

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Tom and his fish relocate to the big tree two houses to the north of us

 

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She’ll never find me way up here in this big tree!

 

We have other visitors in the neighborhood besides those that fly:

 

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A furry friend exploring near our big step ladder. Don’t let the eagle see you down there, you tasty morsel

 

Speaking of eagles, over the last two weeks, we have seen Tom and Audrey chase off an eagle that has been in the area a couple of times.  There is definitely an eagle pair living near by, we think across the street in the woods.  They are probably busy with their own young ones, as we haven’t seen them as frequently as we did over the fall and winter.

Some of you have been wondering about our dear scareowl, Roger.  He is back on duty, still kind of scraggly and dirty from his ordeal in the storm, but sporting a new chapeau:

 

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Roger on duty at the end of the dock. Stay away, you murderous owls!

 

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Roger, our protector and defender of ospreys big and small

 

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How do you like my new hat? Spiffy, don’t you think?

 

As Audrey has been spending the vast majority of her time incubating, we don’t see her out and about so much these days.  She hasn’t been getting equal time in the photograph department.  I spotted her on the poop dock a couple of days ago, and wandered next door to memorialize her visit:

 

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Does it look like something is missing? Yes there is, a leg!

 

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The second leg is now down for a quick getaway

 

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I think she likes me, hasn’t flown away yet, but I am further away than it looks in this photo

 

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Audrey relocates to the top of the piling.  Look ma, I can balance on the other leg, too!

 

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Audrey figures Tom has had enough time at the nest, and decides this is good time to vacate the piling

 

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Incoming!

 

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Everyone’s home for a minute

 

Tom has been relieved of egg duty (although he really likes egg duty), and decides to visit our neighbor’s new boat two houses to the south of us:

 

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Tom leaves the nest and heads south

 

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Flying low, cool reflection

 

 

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Almost there

 

Here is the new boat, without poop producing ospreys.  The swim ladder where Tom and Audrey like to perch is visible to the left of the boat and the two dock chairs.  The poop dock is at the end of the dock in the foreground:

 

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Poop dock in the foreground and sparkling new boat one dock down to the south

 

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Poop dock and one of our COM modified bluebird houses next to my garden. Our neighbor’s new boat and the swim ladder are visible to the right

 

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Tom at his destination, demonstrating why he is not welcome on top of my neighbor’s new boat

 

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Caught! Please let me stay!

 

Tom then flew to COM’s boat lift on our dock.  Unfortunately, he didn’t choose the best place for a photo, but boys will be boys.  The two two photos are similar, but I couldn’t decide which one I like best, so decided to use both of them:

 

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Tom on the boat lift, Option #1

 

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Tom on the boat lift, Option #2

 

So which is your favorite?

Tom is not feeling like humoring Mrs. COM, and continues to the north, where he makes a stop on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the north of us:

 

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Tom has continued on to the north, trying to get some alone time

 

This swim ladder is one of Tom’s favorite haunts:

 

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Tom on the swim ladder on the dock with the new boat two houses to the south of us. Both Tom and Audrey like this perch

 

It’s so good to see Tom back at the nest with more regularity.  He likes to stand on the nest support:

 

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Tom and Audrey together again

 

 

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“Reunited and it feels so good” Audrey is singing to Tom (somehow I don’t think these are the lyrics she is singing)

 

This will give you some perspective of the nest pole in the water:

 

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Can you see another pile of COM’s prefab sticks? Look closely

 

Well, it is 2:44 a.m. on Thursday morning, and I have to leave for work at 6:45, so I think it is time for a wrap.  Tom and Audrey may be parents again when next we meet. I will leave you with a glorious sunrise here at the secret location.  Someone has been getting up early, guess who?

 

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Sunrise at the secret location. Thank you, Mother Nature!

 

Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man (COM), Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man (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!