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 www.chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!