Rest Easy! No Ospreys Were Hurt During Technical Upgrades!

Good morning from the bright, sunny, warm and breezy Eastern Shore!  Tom is sitting on the camera, Audrey is busy feeding her chicks and all is well from the secret Ospreycam location.

Just a few quick notes this morning while we watch and wait for chick #3.  As I am writing this, there are creaking and bumping noises coming over the live sound feed on the camera.  You probably hear these sounds with some frequency and have wondered what is making those weird noises, which almost sounds like an old sailing ship creaking in the wind and waves. Well, these noises are from our good friend Tom when he lands and sits on the camera.  We posted some photographs in the last blog which showed the camera set-up in relation to the nest.  One of Tom’s favorite places to hang out is on top of the camera, and he just left there a few minutes ago after bringing breakfast to Audrey and the kids.

An interesting behavior you may want to watch for is when the adult ospreys are walking around the nest.  When doing this, the adult ospreys will usually curl in their talons, so as not to accidentally spear something that shouldn’t be speared, like an osprey chick or egg.  Talon spearing should be for fish only, and the adults do seem to look out for the little ones and eggs while walking in the nest.  We have observed this behavior since our first camera was installed by Crazy Osprey Man in 2002.

There was a question posted on the Conservancy’s Facebook page asking about a third osprey sometimes visiting the nest.  There are several other osprey poles/nests in our area, and we see different ospreys flying over quite frequently.  Tom and Audrey know when there is an outsider flying near their nest, and will sound the alarm quite vocally at any interlopers.  We have seen visiting ospreys fly down very close to the nest and attempt to land.  It doesn’t take long for the interloper to realize they are not welcome, and take off.  Sometimes Tom will even physically engage the interloper, and chase the unwanted osprey off.  As many, many ospreys have been raised in our nest during the 18 years we have hosted our friends, we theorize that the visitors may be adult ospreys that were just visiting their first home.  Dr. Spitzer’s research indicates that the offspring generally return to the area of the original nesting site. According to other reading we have done, the second summer after hatching is when the young adults will return to their old neighborhood.  So if you hear a lot of squawking and noise going on while Tom and Audrey are looking up, there is most assuredly an osprey visitor going by.  If you happened to be watching the camera earlier today, this was the case around 9:30 this morning.  We heard a lot of noise from outside (there is a 7 second delay in the camera transmissions after the live action occurs, so we hear what is happening before it is transmitted by the camera), and saw another osprey flying over.  From the subsequent camera transmission, both Tom and Audrey could be seen looking up and fussing at the passer-by.

One last thing before we close for today regarding the technical upgrades that were happening on Wednesday afternoon.  We appreciate everyone’s concern about bothering Tom, Audrey and the chicks, but please know these upgrades were happening inside the house and not at the nest.  The camera just happened to freeze at an instant when the chicks appeared to be by themselves, but they were not.  Audrey was right there, just not in camera view.  We have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to view our magnificent friends up close and personal for many, many years.  This osprey pair, and our original Tom and Audrey osprey pair who graced our nest for 15 years, are like family to us.  We would never do anything to harm or intentionally upset our little osprey family.  We are glad to be able to share our 18 years of observations and experience with all of the camera viewers out there, and hope the lives of our osprey family will bring you all as much joy, fun and amazement at the wonders of nature as we have had all of these years.

ALERT!  ALERT!   Just as we were getting ready to post the above blog, a seaplane landed right behind our house, and passed just behind the pole!  Both Tom and Audrey were in the nest at the time, and were looking at the visitor with some trepidation.  Tom made a great decision not to try to chase this rather large and loud interloper away, and stayed with Audrey in the nest, wondering what the mother of that bird had been feeding it.

Until next time,

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!

A Little Perspective In Photographs

Good afternoon from the partly cloudy, warm Eastern Shore.  According to the Conservancy Facebook page, there are ten times more viewers of the camera now than before the first egg hatched.  Everyone sure loves a baby!  Not much needs to be said today, as there are currently many more interesting events going on in the nest than can be put into words.  We thought we would give you some perspective on what is going on around the nest in photos:

View from back yard down dock-perch and pole

This is a view from the edge of our back yard looking down the dock facing southeast.  To the immediate right near the end of the dock, you can see the perch.  The perch is a little hard to see in this photo, but is directly to the right of the green covered canoe. When the fledglings begin to fly, Crazy Osprey Man will put out three perches to try and keep members of our osprey family off of the boats, picnic table, boat lift and any other potential osprey-free zones.  To the right of the perch, you can see the nest pole, with the camera mounted on the right of the nest.

Pole and Picnic Table

This is a view from the end of the dock toward the southwest.  You can see the infamous happy hour picnic table (complete with a little “gift” from one of our bird friends-a reality photo) and the nest pole.  Tom is sitting on top of the camera.

View of Eli's dock

This view has the same southwest orientation as the previous photo, but shows our neighbor’s docks where Tom will frequently hang out to consume his fish in peace and quiet, away from Audrey’s harangues.

tom on camera audrey in nest

This photograph is also oriented from our dock to the southwest.  Tom is sitting on top of the camera, where he has spent most of his time today when not out fishing.  I guess he is keeping an eye on things to make sure Audrey is doing a good job, which she is.  You can see Audrey sitting on the nest. This is a good view of how the camera is oriented looking down into the nest.  You can see the camera is on an arm mounted to the nest platform.

Tom at sunset on electrical box

This photograph is from a couple of days ago around sunset.  Tom spends most evenings and overnights at the end of the dock on this box, which contains some of the camera and electrical equipment.  This view is to the southeast from our backyard.

So that’s it for now from the beautiful Eastern Shore!  If you have any questions about what we are observing, or would like any specific photographs taken, please post on the Conservancy’s Facebook page.  We monitor the Facebook page frequently, and would be happy to respond to any requests.

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 for helping out!

Marital Discourse Or Are Osprey Couples Very Different From Human Couples?

Good afternoon from the grey, humid and windy Eastern Shore!  Well, we are almost there!  According to Dr. Spitzer’s information regarding osprey eggs, the eggs are most likely to start hatching tomorrow or Saturday.  We have observed in years past that when the eggs start hatching and there are babies in the nest, Tom and Audrey will sometimes stand on the edge of the nest and peer down into it.  They seem to be thinking “Wow, look at that, we did it!”  So if you see both of them standing on the edge of the nest and looking down, keep your eyes on the computer screen!

A quite humorous event has prompted this latest post.  Tuesday evening, as we were sitting on the end of the dock at the picnic table, enjoying a delightful spring evening with a glass of wine and some nibblies, there was quite a lot of noise coming from Audrey.  We looked up, and Tom was flying back to the nest with the bottom half of a fish.  He landed, held on to the fish, and Audrey kept squawking and squawking.  This noise kept up for a couple of minutes. We guess Tom grew tired of listening to her complain, so he flew off to enjoy some more of his catch in peace and quiet on the next door neighbor’s dock.  She continued with her loud complaints and begging, and soon Tom returned to the nest with the now smaller piece of fish.  The piece of fish was exchanged, Tom settled in on the eggs, and Audrey took off to a piling at the end of the same neighbor’s dock.  As she was coming in for her landing, she dropped the fish into the drink!  Crazy Osprey Man and I shouted at the same time “Oh, no, she dropped it!”.  We expected her to try to retrieve the piece of fish from the water, but it was probably too close to the dock to be able to maneuver.  She sat there for a moment, looking down and started bobbing her head back and forth like an irritated person.  She sat there with the head bob going for another couple of minutes, deciding what to do about this unfortunate turn of events.  Audrey then turned her back on Tom, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her plight.  She sat there on the piling with her back turned to him for about 20 minutes.  We were chuckling and watching her the whole time, and decided she was pretending to eat the fish so she wouldn’t get a load of c**p from Tom about losing his catch when she returned to the nest.  Eventually, she returned to the nest, and immediately started fussing at him again, presumably to get out there and start fishing because she was still hungry!  The entire incident reminded us very much of the interactions between some human couples, hence the name of this blog.

As we finish out our waiting and watching, don’t forget to get in your vote to name the osprey chicks!  Remember, only one vote per person.  Please go to to cast your vote!

That’s it for now from the beautiful Eastern Shore!  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!

Everything You Wanted To Know About Osprey Eggs, But Were Afraid To Ask!

Good afternoon from the cloudy, warm and humid Eastern Shore!  Everything here is status quo.  Tom continues to fish and hang out.  He has been spending most nights on a piling at the end of our dock, which has been verified visually and by the many little “gifts” (if you know what I mean) he has left on the end of the dock beside the piling.  This is physical evidence of Tom’s night time residence, and definitely not circumstantial evidence!  Tom had three hungry crow friends hanging around the piling yesterday while he was trying to enjoy a fish, but they appeared to go away hungry.  He was also chased by a very brave (and some would say not too bright) mockingbird as he was flying around, and appeared to be annoyed with the bothersome intruder.

And now for the great news!  Dr. Paul Spitzer has provided a wonderful treatise (maybe not quite a treatise, but almost), which I have named “Everything You Wanted to Know About Osprey Eggs But Were Afraid To Ask” (my name, not his!).  It is a wonderful overview of, well, everything you ever wanted to know about osprey eggs with some additional osprey information included at no extra charge (a joke, Dr. Spitzer!).  Please enjoy while we continue to wait and watch!

Paul Spitzer, report #3:  The Osprey’s Marvelous Eggs

 Birds lay eggs:  That’s how they make more birds.  Many of us are greeted by those eggs each morning at breakfast.

 Every spring, for a month or so, the osprey population’s entire annual reproductive investment lies warm and protected in their big stick nests:  “Nest Eggs” indeed!

 Because osprey nests are prominent and fascinating to human beings, we have learned much about the ecology and aesthetics of their beautiful eggs.  The “clutch size” ranges from 2 to 4, and roughly 80% of Chesapeake females lay 3 (the “modal clutch size”).  It is known from banding studies that a 2-egg clutch reflects a young female, a first-time breeder.  4-egg clutches are associated with food-rich nesting areas:  We shall learn why.

 A three-egg clutch takes about 6-7 days to complete; a 4-egg clutch probably 8-10.  The Eastern Bay Osprey Cam has allowed precise documentation of this timing; even in one case the time of day the egg was laid.  Incubation begins with the first egg, so the eggs hatch in sequence.  Marked eggs typically hatch in 37-38 days.  This “incubation period” is even longer than that of the Bald Eagle, at 35 days.

 Once the egg hatches, the nestling will take about 7-8 weeks to reach its first flight, and will remain dependent on parents to catch fish for a variable period thereafter.  So this is a reproductive commitment of 4 months; well over 4 if we count the initial spring return from the tropics, courtship, and cooperative rebuilding of the nest. Although these traditional nest sites are markers for food-rich habitat, there is no way breeding ospreys can completely predict the food regime or the challenges of weather for 4 months.  Thus they and many other species have evolved “Brood Size Reduction”.  If food is limiting, and weather turns very cold and rainy, the sequential hatch protects the older, more vigorous young from starvation.  This process can occur well into the nestling period, up to week 3 or even 4.  In places where the food regime has weak years, such as Gardiners Is., NY, many broods are reduced to zero.  Chesapeake food is generally available:  Particularly in the great tributary rivers and creeks sheltered from extreme weather, fledging broods of 2 and 3 young are common.  That is the history of the Osprey Cam nest.  Fledging 4 young requires a very rich food regime, and a very vigorous male supplier of fish.  Sometimes it is seen in the early colonization of what will become a great osprey colony; such as Smith Is., MD, and Martha’s Vineyard, MA, in the 1970’s.  So large broods are a predictor of potential population growth, given adequate predator-proof nest sites.

Now, let us turn to beauty and recent ecological history.  Osprey eggs are typically the size of a “jumbo” chicken egg, ranging in weight from about 65 to 80+ grams.  Words fail me as to how beautiful they are.  Watching Osprey Cam, one sees the russet glow of the 4-egg clutch.  This particular clutch is very cinnamon.  Others are rich browns, and some have a white to cream-colored background covered with dots and swirls as dark as mahogany.  There are also spots and flecks shaded delicate lavender.  Clutch-mates tend to have some artistic consistency, but there is enough variation that one wants to admire each entire clutch as an avian work of art.  Toward the end of the incubation period, gentle polishing and weathering have sometimes reduced the eggs’ appearance to old scuffed shoes.  But—aha!—the life within is about to make its appearance.

 The stunning beauty of osprey clutches was not lost on the old naturalists.  And there was the gamesmanship of climbing to nests, mostly in high trees in those days; or low but way out on isolated marshes and beaches (still true in portions of the Chesapeake).  The 19th Century saw the hobby of egg-collecting, or “oology”.  There was even a little journal devoted to it, “The Oologist”, although this appears preposterous from our modern conservation perspective.  The 20th Century result was museum cases full of dusty old blown-out eggs.  Osprey eggs were among the great prizes, so they are well represented in these curio, throwback collections.

 Now we have two twists of fate that no one could see coming; the sort that make human life so interesting and humbling.  The stable, bioaccumulating organochlorine pesticide DDT, rightly hailed as a wonder chemical for tropical in-house control of malaria, elimination of human body lice, etc., had unintended effects on certain predatory birds at the end of long food-chains:  It thinned their eggshells and killed the developing embryos.  Impacted species included the Osprey, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Brown Pelican.  Ignorant, misguided broad-scale application of DDT for ecosystem mosquito control and agriculture devastated all of these species in the eastern US.  When I began my Ph.D. osprey population studies in 1968, I found dented eggs collapsing under the weight of the incubating birds.  Eggshell thinning was a “biomarker”, the sort of thing prized by toxicologists:  But such a clear, measurable signal is often impossible to find in nature.  Thus the “great DDT experiment” became a paradigm in environmental toxicology, and those healthy but obscure old pre-DDT eggs languishing in museum storage became the “control” evidence.  After DDT was banned by the Federal government in 1972, the subsequent recovery to abundance of the impacted “bioindicator” bird species completed this unintended but beautifully documented experiment.

 As a result, the use of various chemicals in the environment has been subject to much more advance screening, scientific monitoring, and regulation.

  Paul R. Spitzer, Ph. D. 1980 Cornell University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Windy Hill on the Choptank River

May 18, 2013                 


Thank you, thank you, Dr. Spitzer, for your enlightening information!  Until next time, good bye from the 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!

Fun Facts To Donate By……….

Greetings from the beautiful Eastern Shore, where waiting and watching continue!  We only have time for a few fun facts today, but a little is better than nothing!  After you read the fun facts, please take a few minutes to go to the GREAT GIVE website (see yesterday’s blog) and make a donation, large or small, to the Chesapeake Conservancy!

Fun Fact #1

On April 28, 2013, Diane Heim asked a question on the Conservancy’s Facebook page about a loud noise that seemed to be bothering Audrey while she was sitting on the nest.  This mysterious noise was a lawnmower accompanied by a weed whacker.  She was probably annoyed because the mowing and weed whacking was going on at the riprap, which is only about 50 yards from their nest pole.

Fun Fact #2

You may be hearing some loud chirping emanating from the nest that is obviously not coming from the ospreys.  There are sparrows that like to hang out under the nest and flit around.  They are not visible from the camera, as they congregate under the nest.  Dr. Spitzer is also wondering about the sparrows, and has promised to do some research to try and figure out why we have had these little visitors every year.

Fun Fact #3

The shadow you see on the nest in the late afternoon is cast by the camera.

Fun Fact #4

The camera is mounted on an arm attached to the bottom of the nest platform, allowing the camera and nest to move at the same time.  This cuts down on the amount of movement the viewer sees through the camera.

Fun Fact #5

The camera is oriented to allow an upwind landing by the osprey returning to the nest, with the least amount of interference in the osprey’s landing pattern.  As the prevailing winds during the majority of the time the ospreys are in residence are from the south/southwest, the camera sits on the south/southwest side of the nest to allow an upwind landing from the north/northeast.

Fun Fact #6

Whichever osprey is sitting on the nest (usually Audrey, but sometimes Tom) usually faces into the wind.

That’s it for now from the beautiful Eastern Shore.  Please take a few minutes to go to the GREAT GIVE website and make a donation to the Chesapeake Conservancy for a chance to name one of Tom and Audrey’s chicks.  And don’t forget, the largest donor during the 24 hour GREAT GIVE will have a private tour of the nest while the chicks are learning to fly!!  You will get to meet Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man in person, with a few surprises thrown in!  Please donate now, the GREAT GIVE ends at 7:00 p.m. this evening!

Want to name the osprey?

GreatGive.FINALwebBeen watching Audrey and her eggs? Feel like the osprey have become your family? Hoping to name one of the chicks? Well now is your chance! Announcing the OSPREY CHICK NAMING CONTEST during the GREAT GIVE!

Today is the start of the GREAT GIVE – a 24 hour giving marathon from May 15 at 7 pm through May 16 at 7 pm. This is your chance to support all the great work the Chesapeake Conservancy is doing. While you may know them best for the osprey cam, the Conservancy works on projects all across the Chesapeake Watershed.

The Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed, conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources, and encourage the exploration and celebration of the Chesapeake as a national treasure. Learn more about the Conservancy here.

This year, the Chesapeake Conservancy will be thanking each person who donates during the 24-hour GREAT GIVE event by inviting them to submit a name for Tom and Audrey’s chicks! Complete your donation (please schedule your donation for “on a giving day”), and you will receive an email from the Conservancy asking for your name choice. Imagine naming an osprey chick for your favorite place on the Bay or a loved one!

From all names submitted, ten names will be included in a public vote on our Facebook page. After all the chicks have hatched, we’ll announce the winning names. They will be posted on our website, and on our Facebook page.

AND, to top it all off, Mr. and Mrs. Crazy Osprey will take the donor who makes the largest contribution on a private tour of the nest, when the chicks are learning to fly! It will be a great opportunity to see Tom, Audrey, and their chicks up close at an exciting time!

Learn more and donate on their GREAT GIVE page. You can pre-schedule your contribution NOW to enter this contest, or wait for it to open at 7pm. Donate, and you’re automatically entered.

Support the Chesapeake Conservancy during the GREAT GIVE and help ensure a lasting ecological and cultural legacy for the Chesapeake Bay.

Warning! Some Sad Content Contained in the Following Blog!

Greetings from the grey, windy Eastern Shore!  As promised, we will be blogging some of our interesting osprey history from the secret ospreycam site while we are all waiting for Tom and Audrey’s eggs to hatch.  It’s been business as usual at the nest and surrounding area.  Osprey activities have included fishing, eating, incubating and hanging out around the dock, other people’s docks, trees, perch, boat lift and in the nest.  We have seen Tom and Audrey sitting on the eggs, but the vast majority of the time, it has been Audrey doing the sitting and Tom “bringing home the bacon”!  When Tom brings Audrey the bottom half of the fish, she will take it from him, eat it somewhere other than the nest, and return back to her eggs.  Tom sits on the eggs while Audrey is enjoying a break from her motherly duties.

There have been a couple of questions posted on the Conservancy’s Facebook page after the last blog, which listed statistics for the past ten years of egg laying, hatching and chick survival in our nest.  Some answers and comments follow:

A question was asked as to when our current Tom and Audrey pair started raising families in our nest.  Our first year with the new Tom and Audrey pair was 2009.

Another question asked what happens to the eggs that do not hatch.  There is a pretty simple answer to that one:  One day the egg is there, and the next day it is gone.  We have never observed what actually happens to it.  We have two possible theories on the demise of the unhatched eggs.  Crazy Osprey Man thinks the adult ospreys can sense that the egg is not going to hatch, and push the egg out of the nest, but we have never actually observed this behavior.  Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man theorizes that the unhatched egg is not viable, eventually breaks in the nest, the broken shell is not visible and eventually disintegrates.  We also have no proof of that theory. With the new high quality camera, maybe we will be able to better figure out what really happens to the unhatched eggs.  But we hope that won’t happen this year, and that all four eggs will be visible until each one hatches into a new little osprey chick!  So that covers the eggs that don’t hatch question.  We need Dr. Spitzer to help us out on that one!

Finally, and hardest to answer (emotionally), a response to the last question asking what happens to the chicks that hatch, but do not survive to adulthood:  Two seasons ago, three eggs were laid, and we were very happy when all three hatched.  We theorize that the eggs hatch in the order they were laid, so not all hatch at the same time (we need Dr. Spitzer’s input on that theory as well).  We have observed that the first egg to hatch typically results in a chick that starts eating and growing before its siblings.  The chick from the second egg to hatch will be a little behind the first one, but the third to hatch will be quite a bit behind the first and second hatched chicks.

That was the scenario two years ago when all three eggs hatched.  As we watched over the next couple of weeks, two of the chicks thrived, but the third did not.  Two of the chicks received lots of food from Tom and Audrey, but the third one hardly received a good meal.  When a fish is brought back to the nest by Tom, sometimes he will tear off  pieces of the fish and pass them to Audrey, who then passes each piece to whichever open mouth is closest to her. If the piece is too large for the chicks, she will just eat it herself.  Sometimes Audrey will take the fish and do all of the feeding herself.  The stronger, bigger chicks are the pushiest, and are able to get their mouths closest to the chow wagon.  As the days passed two years ago, the two chicks that we think hatched first became bigger and bigger, but the third chick did not grow.  It became weaker and weaker, and tried desperately to get some food.  We watched the events unfold, and rooted for the small chick to get in there and eat.  At the same time, we begged Audrey to feed the little one, but to no avail.  It was so heartbreaking to watch the little one get weaker and weaker, and eventually give up trying to get food as the other two were growing stronger and bigger.  We couldn’t bear to watch the inevitable unfold before us.  Then one day, the little one was gone.  It was really hard to watch, we wanted to get in there and feed the little one.  But that is nature, and survival of the fittest has been with us since the first creatures inhabited the earth.  So we would rather the eggs not hatch at all than to have to watch one or two of the chicks slowly waste away.  But some years, all of the chicks get their fair share of fish.  They catch up with each other in size and strength as the days go by, and soon all learn to fly.  We will just have to wait and see the fate of our four eggs this year!

So that’s it for tonight from Crazy Osprey Man and Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man.  Next blog we will give you a little history of how our osprey camera came to be, with some photos of Tom and Audrey’s surroundings outside of the nest.  Happy Waiting!


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!