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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Murphy Comes To Call

Good evening from the damp Eastern Shore of Maryland!  There has been quite a bit of excitement here at the secret location since my last blog was published. On April 11, the camera stopped working, and the malfunction couldn’t have come at a worse time.  We were waiting and watching for Audrey to lay her first egg, and certainly did not need Mr. Murphy hanging around ruining the view! Bright and early on the morning of April 13, I noticed that Audrey was hunkered down in her incubating position, and felt quite certain that an egg had been laid the night before.  The Explore folks had exhausted all their avenues to fix the camera, so a decision was made to have a local technician here in Maryland come out to take a look.  In preparation for a possible repair and rewiring of the system, COM obtained the necessary cable and had it all laid out in the yard ready for a repair.  He was not looking forward to bothering our osprey couple during the potentially critical egg laying time, but was prepared for any eventuality.  When the technician arrived, it didn’t take him very long to figure out that the problem was a loose wire inside our house, and not the camera.  A big shout out and many thanks to our technician extraordinaire, Brian Slota from Atlantic Control Technologies, who was able to quickly diagnose our problem and get the camera up and running in no time.  After Brian left, we told Mr. Murphy (in no uncertain terms) to get lost, and hopefully he will not be returning again this season!

As I am sure you have all noticed by now, there are three beautiful eggs being quietly incubated by Tom and Audrey.  The eggs were laid on April 12, 15 and 18, three days apart as expected and on Audrey’s typical schedule.  The one year she laid four eggs, the fourth one came a few days after the third, but did not hatch.  I am very excited and happy to have three eggs, and actually hope not to have another one.  Have you noticed that Tom loves to sit on those eggs?  Sometimes Audrey has a hard time getting him to leave!

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Tom is enjoying his incubation duties.

 

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Audrey’s break time is over and she returns to the nest. Tom is willing to give her another 15 minutes of breaktime.

 

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Tom is having a friend distract Audrey so he can remain on the eggs a little longer

 

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Audrey is on to Tom’s tricks, and tells him to get moving.

 

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Tom takes off, counting the minutes until he can come back and incubate the eggs again.

 

I am a regular lurker on the Explore comment section of the camera, and have been monitoring the comments and discourse that takes place.  A recurring area of concern seems to be the nest size, with many of you expressing worries that our nest is too small. To allay your fears, we have had the same size nest platform since our pole went up in 1995.  The platform is 24 x 24 inches, and the dimensions have remained the same for 22 years. Our osprey pairs have always successfully raised their families in the nest on top of that size platform.  We have lost chicks two times in those 22 years.  The first time was before we had the camera when two of the chicks became tangled up in fishing line brought back to the nest by Audrey, possibly having been attached to a fish that was caught.  You can read all the details of that incident in the blog that was published July 18, 2013, titled “Rescue At Sea #2-From The Annals of Crazy Osprey Man”.  That year, there were three chicks in the nest, and at the time of the incident, only one had fledged.  One remained in the nest, we were able to rescue one from the water, and the third drowned before COM was able to get out in the water and save it.  The only other time we have lost a chick was last season, when a Great Horned Owl attacked the nest at night.  The owl blindsided Audrey and knocked her out of the nest.  During the attack, one of the chicks was either grabbed by the owl or was also knocked out of the nest with Audrey.  One chick was not hurt, but the remaining unhatched egg was also damaged and did not hatch.  So we have never lost a chick due to the nest size.  Now, I am not saying the nest won’t get crowded at times, but relax, all you nest worriers, the nest is big enough for Tom, Audrey and the chicks-to-be!  Tom and Audrey will continue to add to the nest with sticks, grass (no moss in this nest) and other paraphrenalia, and it will be comfy-cozy for the entire osprey family.

 

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July 2015. In the nest you will see Tom, Audrey, Maine, Montana and a newly arrived juvenile from who knows where, E.T.  This was E.T.’s first day in his new digs. The whole family is perplexed, even E.T.   As you can see, there is plenty of room for all (same size platform as this year)

 

Another area of concern seems to be the lack of perches at the nest.  I wish I could take you all on a little magic carpet ride to see the lovely area surrounding the nest.  Natural and man made perches abound!  As the season goes on, I am sure there will be many photographs posted in my blogs of our osprey friends perching in and around the nest. Here are some of the places Tom and Audrey can be found perching.  When our chicks-to-be fledge, they will use some of the same haunts, and probably find some of their own. Some of the more common places Tom and Audrey like to perch when not visible on the camera are quite close to the nest, some are a little further away.  Here are some of the places our ospreys can be found on a regular basis.

 

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Tom sitting on top of the camera. He likes this perch. When he is up there, you cannot see him, but can usually hear his talons scratching away on the camera cover.  This photo was taken a couple of evenings ago when the sun was almost down

 

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This photo was taken last season of Tom on the camera, Audrey at the ready and chick checking out the world.  Mrs. COM must have been standing on one foot and drinking a glass of wine when she took this photo

 

Another perch used by Tom and Audrey is in the nest, but sometimes it is not visible in the camera view.

 

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There are two of these nest supports which may be used as perches. Tom is hanging out on one in this photo, and you can clearly see the other one to the right.

 

The house immediately next door to us to the south has a dock that is not used very frequently.  Both and Tom and Audrey like to sit on the pilings and enjoy a fish meal.

 

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Audrey is enjoying her sloppy seconds on the dock just to the south of us. Notice the yellowish, deeply notched tail on what remains of this fish. These characteristics are indicative of a menhaden, the most common fish eaten by our Chesapeake ospreys.

 

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Tom and Audrey on the dock immediately to the south of us. There are clam shells all over the dock, left there by the gulls who like to eat clams. There is also a substantial amount of bird poop on this dock, giving a new meaning to the term “poop deck”.

 

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Squawking Tom emulating Squawking Audrey in full voice. Stay away from my fish, you crazy photo taking woman! This photo is from last season, before the poop deck was cleaned. Nasty!

 

Another favorite perch is the swim ladder on the dock two houses to the south of us.  Our neighbors who own that house just purchased a new boat, and our ospreys have taken to sitting on top of it, much to our neighbor’s chagrin.  I will try to get a couple of photos when I see someone out there.

 

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Tom and Audrey together on the swim ladder at the dock two houses to the south of us.

 

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Tom enjoying a sunny day on the swim ladder

 

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This is another photo from last year showing a lovely little family getaway. This was as close as I could get with all three remaining in place.

 

Tom and Audrey spend a fair amount of time on various locations on our dock.

 

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Here is Tom on the boat lift. It’s not so bad when the boat isn’t in the lift (like now), but COM does not appreciate little osprey gifts (you know what I mean) when the boat is in the lift. These gifts are especially apparent when the dark green boat cover is in direct line with the gift givers. SPLAT!

 

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Look, ma, I can stand on one foot!

 

 

Another favorite spot is on the end of the dock, quite close to the nest pole.

 

 

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Here is Audrey on the electric box at the end of our dock. Many bloody messes have been made on top of this box. Good for the osprey, bad for the fish.

 

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This is how close the electrical box is to Roger, who is missing his lovely fedora after the big blow a couple weeks ago. We have the new hat, it just hasn’t made its way to Roger’s “head”

 

The ospreys use the electrical box to enjoy their fish meals.  And you know what sometimes happens after ospreys eat (the next photo is dedicated to COM, who really enjoys when I post these specialized action shots)

 

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Al least she is pointed away from Roger!

 

Audrey has had quite enough of Mrs. COM and that ever-present camera.

 

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I think it’s time to go…………………

 

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Might as well wash off my feet while I am here

 

The weird looking metal contraption in the above photos is all that remains of COM’s floating dock ramp.  Many years ago, we had a floating dock at the end of the permanent dock.  COM invented and built a ramp out of an old sailboat mast and some small pieces of dock wood.  The ramp could be raised and lowered as needed by the pulley system you see in the photo.  The floating dock and ramp are long gone, but the pulley system remains and is used as a perch by our ospreys.

 

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Audrey on the conveniently located perch.

 

Moving to the north, there are a few well-used perches.

 

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Looking north from our backyard. The closest tree, known as “the scraggly stick tree”, is in the yard directly to the north of us (next door). We refer to the furthest large tree as “the big tree two doors to the north of us”, another frequent hang-out. If you look closely, you can see another osprey nest on a pole in the water to the right of the big tree. The dock with the black boat is another frequent stop.

 

For those of you who have been with us for many years, you know I will frequently refer to the scraggly stick tree.  This tree is right next door to us to the north, and is right along the rip-rap.  It is one of the most favorite perches used by all of our ospreys, and you will see many photos taken in that tree.  The tree received its moniker because Audrey will frequently make fly-bys and break sticks right off the tree, and immediately take them to the nest without any stops.

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us. You can see some of the broken ends of branches where Audrey has harvested nest sticks.

 

On further observation, Audrey is not alone in the scraggly stick tree.

 

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Two’s company, five’s a crowd! Hungry crows hoping for a hand-out.

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree, showing off on one foot

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Audrey fending off an intruder from the scraggly stick tree

 

 

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A photo from last summer after Chessie had just fledged, showing his first stop. This is what the big tree two houses to the north of us will look like when it is leafed out.

 

Other neighborhood birds also like the big tree.

 

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A regal bald eagle enjoying the view from the top of the big tree in early fall 2016 after our ospreys had left for their winter digs.

 

So as you can see, there are many, many perches in very close proximity to our nest.  There are plenty to go around, providing a variety of options for our feathered friends.  When our chicks fledge, COM will put out two or three perches right next to the nest for the newly flying youngsters.

 

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A previous photo of the perches COM will install when the chicks start to fledge

 

Here are some other recently taken photos that you might enjoy.  In the first one, Audrey is returning to the nest.

 

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Coming in for a landing

 

Tom notices that Audrey is back in residence, and decides to visit for a little afternoon delight.

 

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A quick pick-me-up

 

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This won’t take long, I’ll be out of your hair (read feathers) in a jiffy

 

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See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

 

I am not sure who Audrey is mantling for in this photo, so I guess it must be me!  I also like this photo because you can see Tom’s buff head.

 

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Get away from my fish, Mrs. COM and go get your own!

 

Roger doing the funky chicken (maybe funky osprey?)

 

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A cool dance move by Roger

 

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A great view of our downstairs tenants (on the right below the nest platform)

 

Some good news this season is that both Tom and Audrey seem to be tolerating my presence with the camera much better than in years past.  Our dear friend and osprey expert Dr. Paul Spitzer suggested that COM and I talk to our ospreys to get them used to us.  I have been sweet talking them and calling to them at every opportunity, and I am seeing a difference in how long they will tolerate me stalking them before they fly off.  We will see how long their benevolence lasts, but this may turn out to be a great photo-taking season.

 

One last observation before we end for today.  There have been observations and comments galore about “the stick”, the one that has seemingly been in the way for a couple of weeks.  Intervention is not an option for this stick, which was placed there by our ospreys and is part of nature.  Tom and Audrey will figure it out, and all will be well.

 

That’s it for today!  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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Good afternoon from the sunny, cool Eastern Shore of Maryland!  There has been a beehive of activity here at the secret location since my last blog.  The partnership between the Chesapeake Conservancy, Explore.org, the Crazy Osprey Family and Investigative Options, Inc. is up and running, and has generated much interest in our favorite Chesapeake Bay osprey couple.  A hearty hello to all of our new viewers, and welcome back to our faithful friends who have been with us in previous seasons.  I thought I would use this blog to update the action at our nest and address many of the observations made by our new followers.  I know you are all wondering when the first egg will be laid, so here are some quick stats from last season.  Audrey arrived on March 8 and Tom arrived on March 31, 2016.  The three eggs were laid on April 17, 20 and 23.  This year, Audrey arrived on March 21 and Tom arrived on March 25.  I will leave you to ponder possible egg-laying dates.  Maybe some of you can start an egg-laying pool!  Hopefully, these tidbits of information will assuage some of your concerns. So without further adieu, our 2017 blog season continues!

At 12:02 a.m. on March 21, an owl was observed sitting on the platform.  Although said owl was a beautiful bird, his/her presence caused some alarm in the COF (Crazy Osprey Family), as we lost a two day old chick and an unhatched egg to an owl early last season. We sent the camera stills to our favorite osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer and our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie, who each confirmed that our late night visitor was indeed a Great Horned Owl.  They both expressed concern about the presence of the owl after the incident last year.  So our Osprey Protector and Defender, Roger, came out of his winter quarters and took over his watchful duties.  COM (Crazy Osprey Man) was at the ready, and prepared Roger for placement at the end of the dock.  But before Roger was in residence, at 6:00 p.m. that very day, our dear Audrey returned to the secret location.  By the time Audrey was back, our swans were on their way north for the nesting season.

 

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Audrey back at the platform. This photo gives you some perspective what the pole and platform look like from the dock.

 

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A closer look at Audrey resting quietly after her journey. She doesn’t rest quietly too often, she must have been really tired!

 

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A cold and windy day after Audrey arrived back. She was probably wondering why she left her winter digs so soon.

 

In order to protect Audrey, COM worked into the darkness to get Roger on duty.  He was deployed at 8:32 p.m. on that dark, cold, windy night!  Thanks, COM, your moniker is well-deserved!

 

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Roger back in action for the 2017 season.  Note the empty platform and camera in the background.

 

With the return of Audrey, the Tom watch was officially underway.  There was a brief osprey stop-over on March 23/24, with much discussion as to the identity and gender of the visitor.  Audrey had also disappeared, as the weather was not welcoming to our newly arrived bird.  At our nest, it is not unusual for Tom and Audrey to take a leave of absence during very cold, windy weather.  They take cover out of the wind, and probably hang out in more protected trees around the neighborhood and in near-by woods.  We checked all the usual hang-outs, but Audrey was not to be found.  On March 25, she returned to the platform without offering a clue as to her former whereabouts.  Maybe she had a feeling that Tom was in the area, for later that night, he arrived back at the platform after dark.  His identity was confirmed the next day during daylight.

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us the day after she arrived

 

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Tom in the big tree two houses to the north of us shortly after his arrival. The tree will look very different in a few weeks when it leafs out.

 

Now that our happy couple was back together, there were many questions posed by our newer viewers inquiring how to tell Tom and Audrey apart.  Sometimes this is not easy. Our first Tom and Audrey pair, who started out with us in 1995, looked completely differently from each other, and there was never any question about who was who.  Our current Tom and Audrey are a different story.  Audrey is a little bigger than Tom, and has a Phoenix-shaped black patch on the back of her head.  Tom has a buff patch on the back of his head, and has mottled-looking feathers. When he first arrived at the secret location in 2015, the mottling was more pronounced.  He was nicknamed “Calico Tom” by Dr. Spitzer, and that name has stuck.  Over the years he has been with us, the mottling has lessened, but you can still observe his mottled feathers when he is dry.  When wet, the mottling is harder to notice.  Don’t feel badly if you have trouble telling Tom and Audrey apart, even the Crazy Osprey Family isn’t sure sometimes!

 

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A beautiful photo of Calico Tom sitting on COM’s boat lift with perfect conditions to see the reason he was given his nickname by Dr. Spitzer. He is dry and the sun is at a perfect angle to capture his mottled look.

 

Over the next few days, there was much discussion about the lack of nest building and many questions about the removal of the existing nests from year to year.  We have always removed the nest at the end of the season based on input from our resident osprey experts.  There are two reasons for the removal of the old nest every year.  One is to prevent parasites from wintering over and infecting our birds in the spring.  The other reason is that the nest, if allowed to grow and grow, would get way too big and heavy for our little pole.  The pole is twenty one feet long, and is sunk six feet into the sand, making it fifteen feet off the bottom with an average of thirteen feet above the surface of the water.

 

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A really big nest on a boat lift right up the creek from the secret location. This nest would be way too big for our pole and platform, and is obviously not removed after each season.

I guess the owner of the above dock doesn’t get to use his boat lift very often!

 

Here are the remains of our nest after COM took it down last fall.  To remove the nest, he simply pushes it into the drink.

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Our 2016 nest forlornly floating off.

 

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There it goes……………

 

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Arrivederci, old friend!

 

After much angst and gnashing of teeth about the lack of nest building, a few days after Tom arrived BAM!, the nest building began in earnest.  It was a sight to behold!  We hope you all enjoyed watching the nest take shape with warp speed. Yet another advantage to removing the nest every year, I will add it to the list. But next year you have to give Tom and Audrey a little break.  After all, they just flew thousands of miles and needed a little R & R before commencing the build! This year, COM put a few sticks on the platform when he put the camera up to give you something to look at, but I don’t think he will do it again next year.  Now you know not to worry about the old nest being taken down, as Tom and Audrey (all of our Tom and Audreys) have built a spectacular new nest every year since we have had our pole starting in 1995.

Before the nest was started, you may have noticed a piece of aluminum angle iron on the platform.  There was some concern expressed about the safety of our ospreys with that piece of metal being exposed. COM installed it to keep the platform from deforming under the weight of the camera.  There were no sharp edges, and there was no chance that any birds could have been injured by the aluminum.  As soon as nest building began happening, the aluminum strip was quickly covered. Rest assured, we love our ospreys and would never do anything to cause them any harm!

The day after Tom returned, I happened to be home on another cold, wet afternoon and noticed him with a humongous fish.  It was so big, he had trouble carrying it and landed in the yard next door.

 

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Tom in the yard next door to the north. He had a hard time carrying his humongous fish, and landed in the grass. Note the buff color on the back of his head.

 

Tom was a little camera shy, and decided maybe he could carry the fish after all.

 

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Tom decides to take his chances and fly off with his prize fish. He landed on the dock next door to the north.

 

For those of you who are new to our camera, you will quickly learn that if Mrs. COM has a camera in her hand, she becomes a stalker extraordinaire.  Just a few steps closer……..

 

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Here she comes, Tom, get ready to move on!

 

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Yep, time to go!

 

Tom relocated to the dock two houses to the north of us.

 

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Maybe if I hide this fish, she will go away

 

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I don’t think hiding the fish worked, here she comes again.

 

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Getting ready to relocate yet again, darn it Mrs. COM

 

Off he went again, so I decided to let him eat his fish in peace.  This gigantic fish was identified as an American shad.  We usually see our ospreys eat shad early in the season before they migrate further north.  The majority of the fish caught and eaten by our ospreys during the season are menhaden, or alewife.  In the Chesapeake Bay, they are usually referred to as menhaden.  We will discuss fish later in the season.

 

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Audrey on the electric box at the end of the dock eating sloppy seconds. Roger is on duty, and looking very dapper.

 

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This tastes so good I think I will have another bite!

 

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I thought Roger was supposed to be a scarecrow. This crow doesn’t look too scared!  Maybe the crow knows Roger is really a scareowl.

 

Last Thursday, April 6, 2017, we had a ferocious storm blow through at the secret location.  There were tornadoes confirmed in Washington, D.C. and even closer to us.  We always worry about our feathered friends in such dangerous weather.  Our usually calm bay was whipped up into a frenzy.  Audrey hunkered down to ride out the storm.  Tom was nowhere to be found, probably hiding in the woods like a weenie.

 

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The Chesapeake Ocean

 

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Audrey is hunkered down riding out the storm. One of COM’s pink marked sticks is still visible in the lower left part of the nest.

 

The storm was fierce, but the nest held.  There was some damage, but it was mostly intact.  Windage on the camera caused it to rotate 180 degrees from its usual position.

 

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You can see some of the damage on the right hand side of the nest. Audrey is telling Tom to get moving, and either fish or do some nest repair. Tom is trying to ignore her. A pink and green marked stick are visible after the big blow.

 

The most damage from the storm was inflicted on poor Roger.  Here he is after the storm.

 

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Roger was pummeled by the wind and rain. His stylish straw hat was ripped off his head, and only a remnant remained.

 

COM retrieved brave Roger, and has taken him to the garage to be rehabilitated.

 

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Roger looking wet, dirty, bedraggled and hatless. His supporting stick has been broken off. COM is exhibiting the appropriate amount of concern.

 

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A bit of Roger’s old hat can be seen sticking up out of his “head”, which is an upside down gallon oyster container.

 

If you have been watching the camera even a little bit, I am sure you can’t help but notice that Tom and Audrey have been doing their best to make sure we have some fertilized eggs.  For the voyeurs in our midst, here is what their interludes look like from shore.

 

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Tell the kids to go into the other room, X-rated osprey photos. The camera is still in the rotated position.

 

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Wham, bam, thank you m’aam!

 

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The osprey equivalent of smoking a cigarette after their romantic interlude.

 

This photo gives you a perspective of the pole in relation to the water surrounding it.  It was taken just after the storm before COM was able to rotate the pole back into place.

 

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Audrey alone on the nest after the storm.

 

There has been discussion about perches at our nest.  I will discuss this in the next blog, as this one is getting way too long.  In the meantime, here are Tom and Audrey in the nest just after the storm.  You can see the damage on the right side of the nest.  Tom loves to perch on this nest anchor.

 

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Tom perched on one of his favorite places before the pole was back in position.

 

We had a very low tide a couple of days ago, and COM went out in the water and rotated the pole back into its original position.

 

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The pole is back in its usual position. Audrey is also in her usual position, the one with her mouth open squawking

 

Well, this blog has gotten long enough.  I still have lots of good information to pass on to you about various inquiries, and will continue answering some of your questions in the next few blogs.  I’ll cover such topics as where Tom and Audrey hang out when they are not in residence, perches, history of the nest and other fun facts that inquiring minds want to know.

 

A parting shot for now…………

 

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Sometimes you just get lucky. COM thinks I am gross for putting this photo in the blog. But it is nature in action, right?

 

Here’s hoping for a nest full of eggs for the next blog!

Don’t forget about the Chesapeake Conservancy’s 4th annual Welcome Back Osprey Party, to be held on Tuesday, April 25 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Maryland.  It will feature ornithologist and filmmaker Jacob Steinberg, who will talk about a documentary he wrote, directed and produced called “Osprey”.  For further information, please visit http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org.

Until next time, we remain,

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Fear, The Date Draws Near!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of our swans

 

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

 

Lots of crows waiting for a free meal

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

COM’s supply of sticks

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

The eagle stands alone

 

A beautiful sunrise at the secret location during October 2016:

Mother Nature at her best-October 2016 sunrise

 

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

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

Until next time, we remain,

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

 

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

 

 

Sweet Sixteen

Good afternoon from the sunny, brisk Eastern Shore of Maryland!  We have had a very pleasant winter here at the secret location.  With only one snowy day in January (which was on a Saturday and didn’t last very long), Mother Nature has been very kind to us. More about that in my next blog, but suffice to say, we are very happy not to have the expense and aggravation of having to put up a new pole and platform this year.

Better late than never, they say, so here is the much overdue wrap-up of our 2016 season, just in time for the 2017 season to begin. The camera is up and operational, and we expect it will go live this week.  We have a new source of some funding this year, and I know you will be very happy with the camera image, including a new infrared light source.  With that said, please enjoy a stroll down memory lane, back to February 2016.

We had a fairly pleasant winter in 2015-2016, with no new pole or platform needed.  A welcome addition of an infrared light source for night viewing was installed on the camera mount by COM. Our good friend Peter Turcik from the Chesapeake Conservancy came to the secret location to help COM put the camera back up after it spent a peaceful winter in the garage.  As we weren’t expecting any action back on the platform until around St. Paddy’s day, the camera was scheduled to be installed on March 9.  However, much to our chagrin (and delight, of course), our first osprey showed up on March 8!  I was home from work the day of the camera installation, and was able to photograph the series of steps required to put the camera back on the pole. You can take a look at the “Hello Ospreys, Good Bye Swans” blog, published 3/17/16, for the full series of photos. Here are a few photos to jog your memory about all the hard work it takes to get the camera operational each year:

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

 

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The stepladder is going into the water off the dock.

 

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

 

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Maneuvering the camera to go up the pole

 

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Getting closer-Don’t drop it now!

 

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Mission accomplished!

 

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

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Did you ever feel like you were being watched?

 

As I previously said, our first osprey of the 2016 season was spotted on March 8, earlier than usual and a day before the camera was on the pole.  There was much speculation about the true identity of this first osprey, as we had several early visitors those first few weeks.  After many days of careful observation, we officially welcomed back our beautiful girl Audrey!

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north

 

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Audrey on the nest with a good view of the camera set-up. The infrared (IR) light is mounted just below the camera on the vertical support

 

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Audrey picking up a prefab nest stick in the COF’s backyard

 

The drama started early in the 2016 season, as we had many early visitors to the nest platform.   Many questions about gender, actions and intent of these avian visitors were posed by our astute camera watchers.  The experts were contacted about the unusual activity we were seeing.  Our dear friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, gave us a lesson in some of the fundamentals to successful nest building, two of the most important being the male bringing food to the female and engaging in cooperative nest building.  We did not witness either of these behaviors until the real Tom (our beloved Calico Tom, The Fishing Fool) finally returned to his summer residence on March 31 after fighting an aerial battle with one of the earlier visitors.  The “A Real Head Scratcher” blog, published 3/28/16, has more details about what was going on and many photos.

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Audrey and the mysterious stranger on the nest

 

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Audrey is asking Tom why they left warm South America to come to Maryland

 

Early on during the 2016 season, we experienced problems with the camera and sound, which was discouraging for everyone.  The problems were fixed with help from the Chesapeake Conservancy and our other partners.  During the time before the “And The Weather Gods Were Angry” blog, published 4/11/16,  we experienced some very rotten, cold and windy early April weather, which was the cause of great concern.  Tom and Audrey would take refuge in the trees, and would not be seen at the growing nest. This was a trying time for all!  One morning, they were spotted on the riprap, trying to stay out of the wind.  We hadn’t seen this happen before.

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

 

April brought a very disturbing incident when a plastic bag Audrey picked up became wrapped around her leg, just before she was due to lay her first egg.  Ospreys have a habit of bringing back all sorts of stuff to the nest, but the bag she found and brought back could have had disasterous consequences.  Fortunately, Audrey managed to pick the bag off of her leg before she laid her first egg on 4/17/16. Her second egg was laid on 4/20/16.  Check out “Patience Is A Virtue”, published 4/21/16, for the rest of the story and photos.

Audrey with the plastic bag wrapped around her leg. This was very hard to watch:

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

 

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

 

The third egg was laid on 4/23/16, and then late April and early May brought more than 15 continuous days of rain at the secret location.  On Thursday, 5/6/16, everyone began to notice that Audrey had not been seen since the day before.  COM went back over the recordings of the nest, and determined that Audrey had left the nest at 2:00 p.m. on 5/5, and had not yet returned.  Tom had taken over the incubating duties just after Audrey left, and sat on the eggs all through the night of 5/5, until he also left at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning.  At that time, there were three eggs in the nest, the temperature was forty seven degrees and it was steadily raining.  Once again, the experts were contacted about the fate of the unattended eggs, and the news was not encouraging. Audrey returned to the nest at 2:48 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, without a word as to her whereabouts during the time she was missing for over 24 hours.  After Tom and Audrey had raised two foster chicks (and E.T., of course!) in 2015, plans were put into place to look for foster chicks in the likely occurance that the unattended eggs didn’t hatch.  Take a look at the blog “Beautiful Noise”, published 5/12/16, for the rest of the story.

 

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

 

Tom is enjoying a big menhaden on a rainy day:

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

 

 

 

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

 

On 5/27/16, after being exposed to forty seven degree weather in the pouring rain for seven hours, our first egg hatched 40 days after it was laid  The second egg hatched two days later on 5/29/16.  Dr. Spitzer said we were making history once again at our nest. He did not know of any scientific studies about ospreys that addressed what had happened at our nest.  Our infrared light source was working well, although some tweaking was needed as the light was a little too intense.  All seemed right in our little osprey world.  “History In The Making” was the name of the blog that was published on 5/31/16.

 

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Gorgeous sky the last day of May 2016. Audrey is in the nest with Chick #1 and Chick #2. Tom is chilling somewhere in the neighborhood

 

Little did I know that while I was writing and published that blog, a tragedy was in the making right outside at the nest.  Reports were coming in that an unusual loud crashing noise had been heard on the camera at around 10:00 p.m.on 5/31, and that Audrey was quite agitated.  We checked the nest at first light, and our greatest fears were realized.  Only one chick and the unhatched egg remained in the nest.  COM checked the camera footage from Tuesday night.  The noise that was heard was caused by a large dark shape, probably a Great Horned Owl, that had attacked Audrey from behind, causing her to be knocked off the nest.  During the attack, one of the chicks either fell out of the nest with Audrey or was snatched by the owl.  Audrey sat on the remaining egg for a couple of days, then ate it, with the theory being it had been damaged in the attack.  Our joy at having three eggs laid with two being hatched under such extreme conditions were dashed.  Our faithful osprey experts were once again consulted.  Craig Koppie suggested that we place a scarecrow on the dock to try to repel any future attacks.  Those of you who have been following my blog for the past four years know that nothing makes COM any happier than a good, challenging project.  Out to the garage he went, and a couple of hours later emerged our new friend and Protector of Osprey Chicks, Roger:

 

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

 

A few days later, during a visit from our dear Cape Cod osprey lovers and friends Maureen and Gene, COM relocated Roger to the end of the dock:

 

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Roger has been relocated to the end of the dock to be closer to the nest. Maureen and Gene from Cape Cod have stopped by for a visit

 

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

 

June also brought a rare sighting for us in the middle Chesapeake Bay, pelicans!

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We heard the fishing is good in the Chesapeake Bay this time of year

Check out the blog “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, published 6/30/16, for some fun reading.

We had a brutally hot July 2016, during which time our osprey chick was named Chessie by our loyal camera watchers.  On 7/11/16, Chessie received a beautiful new blue band from Craig Koppie.  The blog “Big Blue”, published 7/19/16, is dedicated to that day, with lots of great photos from the banding process.  Here are just a few of many:

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

 

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Chessie has been eating her Wheaties! What a wingspan!

 

 

 

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COM is waiting patiently for the package

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Craig hands the tape to COM.

 

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

 

For the rest of July 2016, we were all waiting for the big moment when Chessie would first take flight.  During the wait, we were having all sorts of technical problems, making it difficult to take photos and write a blog.  The very hot, humid weather was causing my camera lens to fog up every time I went outside to take photos.  In addition, on the advice of our computer guru, I switched to Windows 10, which wreaked havoc on my ability to download and use photos in the blogs.  Extreme frustration prevailed in the Crazy Osprey Family household. COM was quite perturbed when the infrared light source stopped working, as there was no way to fix it until the camera came down in the fall after all of our osprey family headed to their winter digs.  But our problems melted away for a little while when Chessie fledged on 7/21/16.

 

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Audrey is watching Chessie trying to get her balance

 

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Yapping away on COM’s boatlift motor

 

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What is different about this photo?

In the above photo, Audrey is sitting on top of the camera, and Tom is in the nest. This was the opposite of their usual positions.

This is one of my favorite photos from the 2016 season, taken in July:

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Somewhere over the rainbow……………………

More photos and escapades of Chessie may be found in the blog “The Chessie Chronicles Part 1”, published 7/31/16.

Alas, our 2016 season was coming to an end.  Our dear Audrey departed for her winter quarters in South America.  It wouldn’t be long until Tom and Chessie began their arduous trip to warmer climes.  Mysteriously, COM’s infrared light source began working again. Another season of wonderful osprey adventures was almost over.

 

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Tom in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Chessie and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree

“The Chessie Chronicles, Part 2”, published 8/31/16, will fill you in on the rest of the season.

Our 2016 season totaled over 100,000 blog views, bringing our total views to date since the inception of the blog in 2013 to well over 500,000.  The camera was viewed from over 70 countries all over the world.  In May 2016, Tom and Audrey starred in a National Geographic television show “United States of Animals”, as part of the Nat Geo Wild series.  In October 2016, our dear friend and raptor biologist, Craig A. Koppie, along with his co-author Dr. Teena Ruark Gorrow, published “Inside An Osprey’s Nest”. Through incredible photographs and words, this book tells the story of our 2015 season, starring Tom, Audrey, Maine, Montana and E.T.  It is available to purchase through the Chesapeake Conservancy website.

Before I end our Sweet Sixteen, I have some great news to share.  Last April, a very hard decision was made to stop allowing comments on our blog.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy the comments, as well as the camaraderie that was developed through these interactions. It was sad not to have the comments, and something seemed to be missing.  After careful consideration and some cajoling by yours truly, it was decided that we would start allowing comments again.  To ensure everyone’s enjoyment of the blog, some rules are being put into place for guidance in posting comments.  It is unfortunate we have to do this, but our only two options are not allowing comments or following the below rules.

Osprey Camera Blog Comment Rules

No stalking or harassing another person, dominating a conversation, discouraging participation by others, or mocking, baiting, bickering, taunting or belittling others.

No submission of comments that may be considered abusive, defamatory, disrespectful, illegal, offensive or disparaging.

Comments should be limited to topics discussing ospreys, osprey nests, other birds, subjects relating to the blog, Chesapeake Bay, nature, etc.  Limited comments about personal matters will be permitted, but long missives about someone’s personal life should not be posted.

The moderator of the blog reserves the right to remove/disapprove any comment for any reason, without having to explain these actions.  

Anyone continually ignoring the above rules will be banned from future comments without further explanation.

Thank you for your understanding and complying with the rules.  We are trying to have the blog and comments remain a wonderful experience to be shared by all.  If the rules don’t work out, comments may be permanently banned.  I am very excited that the comments are returning, so please try hard to be good!

That’s enough for now!  Get ready for another fascinating season with Tom and Audrey.  Who knows what drama will prevail this year?  Welcome back!

Until next time, we remain,

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

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