Because You Asked…..

Greetings from the Eastern Shore!  As we are sure you are all aware, shortly after the last blog was published, bemoaning the fact that we were now in wait and watch mode, we all had a huge surprise!  A fourth egg!  Crazy Osprey Man has been keeping careful notes since 1995, and this is the first time we have ever had four eggs in the clutch.  Hopefully Dr. Spitzer will treat us to some insider information regarding the rarity of a four egg clutch among ospreys. We will just have to wait and see if he is reading the blog.  We will share any tidbits he provides about our newest osprey adventure as soon as we get them.

We have been following the Conservancy’s Facebook traffic about the osprey camera, and have noticed some questions and comments regarding Crazy Osprey Man’s thoughts on the hatching and survivability of four osprey chicks.  In this blog, we will share some of our statistics about the number of eggs we have observed in the clutch each season, how many hatched and how many of the chicks survived to adulthood.  We won’t bore you with every single year, but will provide a good sampling (last 10 years) and some thoughts and comments.  So here goes:

2012-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived

2011-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 2 survived (This was a very sad year, we will discuss this one in detail in another blog while trying to fill the waiting and watching part 2)

2010-2 eggs laid, 1 hatched and survived

2009-2 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived (Yippee!  Good year!)

2008-2 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived (Ditto!)

2007-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched and survived

2006-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 2 survived

2005-3 eggs laid, 2 hatched, 2 survived

2004-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 3 survived (Yippee!  A very good year with the original Tom and Audrey pair, who were very experienced osprey parents by this time)

2003-3 eggs laid, 3 hatched, 3 survived (Ditto)

Please keep in mind when you are reading our blogs that we are not ornithologists and have no formal training in the ways of birds.  All of our comments and thoughts are based on 18 years of careful observation, both before and after Crazy Osprey Man installed our first camera, and reading we have done.  As you can see from the above data, out of a 10 year time period, only 40% of the time did all of the eggs laid hatch and all of the chicks survive to adulthood.  Additionally, only 60% of the time did all of the eggs hatch.  We don’t want to be Debbie Downers, but based on these percentages, we feel it is not likely that all of the eggs will hatch and produce chicks that will survive to adulthood.  But what if someone had asked us last week this time what we thought about the chances that Audrey would lay four eggs?  Based on all of our observations over the 18 years, we would have said no way!

Audrey's 2013 Clutch

Audrey’s 2013 Clutch

So we will keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to add the following data to our list for next year:

2013-4 eggs laid, 4 hatched, 4 survived  (Here’s hoping!!!!!)

That’s all for now!  Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man

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 today!  Thanks very much!

And Now The Hard Part Begins

Good evening from the Eastern Shore!  The wind is howling, the tide is incredibly high and the full moon is shining on the water.  It is so bright that we can see Tom sitting on the dock, specifically on the boat lift.  He has been spending the night somewhere around the dock, either on the perch that Crazy Osprey Man put up in the water just off the dock (more about the perchs to come), or on one of the pilings.  Now it seems that the boat lift will be added to Tom’s available sleeping quarters.  Audrey, of course, is snug and warm on her eggs in the nest.

In the next several days, we will try to take some photographs of Tom and Audrey’s digs.  We all have a long wait for the eggs to hatch, usually about five weeks from the time they are laid.  So our blogs may not be as frequent as they were during the hectic egg laying days.  But we will continue to let you know what is going on, and this will be the time for some anecdotal stories about some of our osprey adventures over the past 18 years of observing our Tom and Audreys, pre-camera and post-camera.

In the meantime, here is the promised second email from Dr. Paul Spitzer, which was sent to us on April 9, 2013 as a follow-up to the email we posted a couple of days ago:

“The female is larger and heavier:  Thus she guards the nest, makes the eggs, and has the mass to efficiently transfer heat during incubation and brooding.  The pair’s cooperative buildup of the nest structure lets her hunker down in bad weather and at night, to conserve her energy while keeping eggs/nestlings warm.  Currently (April 9) the nest is lined with fine grass, which suggests she will lay her first egg very soon.  There was a piece of sky-blue plastic, which may now be buried in the nest lining.  Ospreys often line their nest with a plastic bag, which suggests they have figured out the insulating and moisture-conserving value of sheet plastic.  How did that happen?:  Ospreys’ annual mortality rate is low, about 15%, and the survivor recruits a new mate.  Thus all kinds of accumulated learning gets transferred to the newcomer:  This is “Osprey Culture”, and the traditional annual nest site is the focus for this remarkable learning process.
Males are generally smaller in size than females, and they always weigh less (no overlap, based on a large sample I trapped years ago during my big Chesapeake osprey ecology study in the 1980’s).  The weight difference, male weight averaging 80-85%  of female weight, is greater than the size difference, resulting in the male’s much lighter wing loading.  This enables him to be the commuter, radiating out to prime fishing sites and toting fish back to the female and young in an energetically efficient manner.  During his hunt he gets wet, then shakes his well-oiled plumage when rising back into the air, but he is probably still too damp for a lot of egg incubation.  I see males incubating late on mild mornings in May, when drying conditions are good, ambient temperatures are favorable, and the female is ready for a well-deserved break.
The female has stockier legs to support her greater mass.  Some males’ legs look downright skinny, but of course they are very strong to withstand the impact with fish during the steep hunting dive, when four curved talons on each foot are driven into the unwitting fish.
At this nest the male has some buff feathers in his crest:  A unique marker enabling easy ID.  This can be seen in the still photograph above the cam.  Male plumage is usually a shade darker, which does not show in that picture. This may be due partly to the copious oil with which he anoints himself during frequent bouts of preening, billing it from a wick on the large oil gland at the base of his tail.
Females are darker on the breast, ranging from a fine necklace of dark feathers (which this female has) to a full bib.  Melanin pigments impart strength to feathers, so this may reduce wear during the female’s prolonged incubation duties and her breast contact with nest materials.
The photo clearly shows the subtle sexual difference in eye color.  The eye of the female in the foreground is lemon yellow, and that of the male behind her is gold.
Finally, sexual size and role differences result in a zone defense at the nest:  The more mobile male rises to chase Bald Eagles from the vicinity.  Year-round resident eagles are potential predators of incubating females and young, but male ospreys police them out the area when they return from the tropics.  This can result in spectacular chases on the rivers of the Chesapeake, where both species abound in spring.  The aggressive scream of the male osprey will alert you to these events.
Oh yes!:  I can’t forget the male’s spectacular courtship flights, in which he hovers and dives high above the nest while carrying a newly caught fish, calling all the while.  The fish flashes in spring sunshine as the male becomes an aerial acrobat.  Not surprisingly, mating often follows.
All of this is a remarkably fine-tuned and graceful evolutionary story, which the patient scientist reads in nature.”
Paul Randolph Spitzer, Ph.D.
Windy Hill on the Choptank River, MD
April 9, 2013

That’s it for tonight from beautiful Eastern Shore!

Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man


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 today!  Thanks very much!




Waiting and Watching-Part Two

Audrey has now laid three eggs!

Audrey has now laid three eggs!

Well, well, well!  Greetings from the Eastern Shore!  I just returned home from work, and there it was!  Egg #3!!  So Waiting and Watching-Part One has concluded and Waiting and Watching-Part Two begins!

Tom looks very much the the proud papa, sitting on a piling on the dock surveying his kingdom.  Audrey is hunkered down in the nest, now trying to keep three eggs and herself warm in the breezy and cool waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Conservancy folks are trying to get a photo of the three eggs, they will have to be quick, as Audrey is not up very often.  But I saw the three eggs with my own eyes a few moments ago when she was doing some housekeeping in the nest, and the tres huevos are looking good!  There is also a fair amount of paper in the nest, don’t know where it came from, but I do know it was brought there by an osprey!

This would be a good time to start sharing some of Dr. Spitzer’s observations and insights.  So here goes!!

From Dr. Spitzer in an email to the Conservancy on April 9, 2013 at 4:29 a.m. (his comments are in quotes-the baby blue plastic was gone the next day):

” It will be easy to provide a little guidance about what is going on at this nest. The three survey sticks with magenta day-glo tape (now mostly buried in the nest) and the current baby-blue plastic have been very entertaining for faraway me.  Ospreys are famous for including all manner of stuff in their nest.  Thus the objet trouve “found object” modern art joke.

Ospreys reform their pair bond after spending the winter apart.  This pair is still cooperatively rebuilding their nest.  Eggs will come very soon, and the timeline on completion of the clutch (and all that hopefully follows) will be very interesting, and could perhaps be logged at the website.

It is easy to distinguish the individuals at this nest–one has buff in the white on the back of the head.  Also there are sexual differences, more marked in some pairs than others.  I’ll study this pair carefully in good light, and get back to you on that directly.  The roles male and female play in the breeding effort will be very different.  She will do most of the incubation.  He will do all the hunting for both of them, until the nestlings are very large.  In the current pair-bonding/cooperative nest-building/mating phase, he resumes provisioning her after their many months apart.  Thus you will hear her food-begging calls in the soundtrack.  Also, you hear guard calls when other ospreys (and also people) come too close.  Ospreys are fairly social with other ospreys, they form loose, exploded “colonies” when nest sites and food are abundant, but they do defend the nest site and a perimeter of variable size around it.

More soon–I’ll send you a series of notes.  Now I have to prep for my dawn loon watch.”

Paul Randolph Spitzer, Ph.D.
Windy Hill on the Choptank River, MD
April 9, 2013

Thank you, Dr. Spitzer, for providing your insight.  So all of you blog readers will have something to look forward to, tomorrow we will post his next email, which was sent later in the day on April 9, and was written after Dr. Spitzer spent some time observing the nest in good light.

That’s it for now from the beautiful, albeit cool and breezy, Eastern Shore!

Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man

Waiting and Watching-Part One

Good evening from the Eastern Shore!  We have spent a good bit of time this weekend on “Egg #3” watch.  The sun went down a little while ago, and there were still only two eggs in the nest.  We did have a couple of false alarms today, but they turned out to be errant shadows that our eyes were trying to make into an egg.  But alas, it was not to be.  We have titled this blog “Waiting and Watching-Part One” because once all of the eggs are laid, we will have “Waiting and Watching-Part Two” as we watch for the eggs to hatch, which will be a long wait!

We did have an interesting event today.  Tom came back with a fish, and decided to eat it at the end of our dock on top of the happy hour picnic table.  I am guessing that before any happy hours occur at the end of the dock, there will be cleaning of the picnic table involved.  While Tom was on the table trying to enjoy his lunch, he was joined by a group of crows.  The crows were swarming around him, the picnic table and the dock under the table looking to steal the fish, or at the very least, snack on bits of fish that ended up on the dock and not in Tom’s mouth.  Tom seemed unperturbed by his visiting friends, and munched away happily until he was full.

The usual course of events after Tom catches a fish is that he will eat his fill, always starting from the head down (we guess the good parts must be in the upper half of the fish).  He will eat the fish somewhere other than the nest, either on a neighbor’s dock, the perch mentioned in the previous blog or sometimes in a nearby tree.   Today was the first time we have observed him on the picnic table.  Tom will then bring the bottom half of the fish back to the nest for Audrey, who is now spending the vast majority of her time incubating her eggs.  If you are following the osprey camera, you will probably see Tom arrive with his leftovers for Audrey, and it will always be the bottom half of the fish (from the midpoint to the tail).  She doesn’t seem to mind, and is always appreciative of the meal.  You can hear her calling with delight when he is approaching with a fish.

In the coming days, we will be including some very interesting osprey facts and observations from Dr. Paul Spitzer, an ornithologist and osprey expert.  We have known Dr. Spitzer for many years, and have helped him in the past on another project which involved trying to provide suitable habitat for egrets who were living on a small island near our house.  Dr. Spitzer is a wealth of valuable information, and we are delighted (and very lucky!) that he is observing the nest and providing his thoughts. We will post some of his observations later this week.

So that is it for tonight.  Good night from our waiting room on the Eastern Shore.

Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man

The Nest Is Becoming More Crowded…..

Good afternoon from the beautiful Eastern Shore! Exciting happenings from the nest just a few minutes ago! Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man (the wife) is home from work today, and was observing the osprey camera as she was busy doing domestic chores in the kitchen. After having watched our osprey since the first camera went in many years ago, she is getting really good at observing osprey behavior. Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man noticed that Audrey was off the nest for awhile, sitting on a perch placed in the water near the osprey pole (more about that later). This is unusual, as when there are eggs in the nest, usually Tom or Audrey is right there to keep the eggs warm. When Audrey returned to the nest, she was acting very differently than normal and seemed agitated and unable to settle back on her egg. As Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man knew that a second egg laying was due to happen, she decided to watch the nest for a while to see what would happen. Audrey did not settle down on the egg as usual, she just sort of hovered over it. She shuddered, and sort of settled in, then was hovering again and shuddered a second time. Audrey was still having trouble settling, but in a couple of minutes, she stood up and voila! There it was, egg #2!!. In all of the years we have been observing the nest, this is the first time one of us has actually seen one of the eggs being laid. The time of laying was approximately 1314, or 1:14 p.m. Daylight Savings Time.

Audrey spent some time rearranging the nest, and is now settled down, keeping her two eggs warm. With a big storm predicted for later today and tonight bringing heavy winds and rain, we hope she can keep her eggs warm and dry. She has been a great mother in years past, so we know she will rise (or not rise, as the case may be) to the occasion.

Tom Audrey and 2 Eggs
More to follow soon!

The Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man

Greetings from the Eastern Shore!

Greetings from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the home of Tom and Audrey, our resident osprey.  If you are reading this blog, you are most likely also viewing our osprey nest on the Chesapeake Conservancy website.  There is a lot that goes on around the nest that is not visible from the camera.  We have decided to try and give the camera viewers some insight as to what is going on around the nest that is not visible to you.

As background, our first osprey pole was erected on March 21, 1995.  We know this exact date because since the pole was erected, Crazy Osprey Man (fondly named by his wife) has been keeping detailed notes about our resident osprey.  The same day the pole originally went in, an osprey was observed on the platform.  Two days later, nest building commenced by the original Tom and Audrey pair.  This pair raised chicks every year until 2009 (1-3 chicks yearly), when the original Tom and Audrey did not return.  You might ask how we knew these were the same osprey pair, but they each had very distinctive markings, and were easy to identify.  As the typical life span of an osprey is approximately 15 years, we were very sad they did not return, but knew it was inevitable. The first camera was installed in 2002.  There will be more to follow about that great endeavor over the next few blogs.  For now, let’s just say it’s really nice to have the Conservancy involved.

In 2009, the new Tom and Audrey appeared around St. Patty’s Day, as osprey usually do.  The osprey return every spring around the same time the tundra swans are leaving.  As these osprey were probably a young pair, and maybe even offspring of our original Tom and Audrey, they were not very proficient at nest building for the first couple of years.  The poor nests during this time were rather sparse, but still did the job.  This year’s nest is a thing of beauty, enhanced with prefab sticks.  You may have noticed three sticks in the nest with pink survey tape attached.  Our Tom and Audrey are very lucky osprey, and certainly have picked the right spot to build a nest.  Every spring, Crazy Osprey Man carefully places specially selected sticks, cut to the appropriate length, in the backyard.  He usually ties tape to some of the sticks to track their use.  This year, we were able to identify three of the marked sticks in the nest.  As nest building continues, these sticks are more difficult to see, but if you look closely, you may still be able to see a little pink ribbon attached to some of the nest sticks.

We will continue to update you with “News from the Nest”, and include some historical information and stories about osprey incidents in years past.  The blog will also contain observations and comments from Dr. Paul Spitzer, noted ornithologist and osprey expert who is also watching Tom and Audrey via the webcam.  Certainly the big excitement this week is the laying of the first egg, which we noticed about 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 17.  We expect to observe one or two more eggs in the nest over the next few days.  Keep your eyes open, and maybe you will be the first to spot egg number two!!!

Until next time, Crazy Osprey Man and friends.

Launch of Osprey Blog

Welcome to the Osprey Camera Blog, where you can learn more about the daily lives of Tom and Audrey – osprey building their nest, and life, on the eastern shore of Maryland. The blog will be updated regularly, so be sure to check back!

The Osprey Webcam is streamed through the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Wildlife Outreach and Education Program. Special thanks to Skyline Technology Solutions, who is managing the video stream, Earth Security Electronics, who installed and set up the camera, Investigative Options Inc., for maintaining the camera, and the Shared Earth Foundation.