Rescue At Sea #2-From the Annals of Crazy Osprey Man

Good morning from the hot, hot, hot, humid Eastern Shore of Maryland. The weather the past few days has been bordering on unbearable. Sitting here at my computer in my delightfully air conditioned home makes me feel even worse for our feathered friends out there in the elements. I am looking out the window as I write, and keep hoping for a few clouds to pass over to give our osprey family some respite from the blazing hot sun.

There has been much Facebook traffic regarding the highly anticipated first flight, and some of you have been absolutely certain that a chick has been missing from the nest at times. Here at the secret location, we have the decided advantage of having a much broader view of what is happening around the nest. We also have some great 30x binoculars which allow us different views of the nest from various locations around the house and yard. From our many vantage points, none of the babies have taken flight yet. Although at times you haven’t been able to see all three from the camera angle, we have checked the nest when there has been a question as to how many occupants are present. All three have been in residence each time we have checked. Due to our enhanced views, we even had the Conservancy contact us yesterday to have us check on everyone. We promise to post something as soon as there is first flight!

I hinted in the last blog of a possible second rescue at sea story. As the title of that blog was Rescue At Sea #1, our clever readers probably (and correctly) surmised there would be a Rescue At Sea #2. Patience is a virtue, so please enjoy the true tale of our second rescue at sea:

The date is sometime in mid-July, the year is 1999, the time is early evening. We had three chicks that year from the original Tom and Audrey pair. According to Crazy Osprey Man’s notes, only one of the babies had started to fly by the evening in question. I have a vivid recollection of the very high tide, wind and waves as I looked out the kitchen window. When a person lives on the water and is able to observe all of the varying conditions around them, you become very attuned to something that doesn’t look quite right. As I was cleaning up from dinner, I glanced out of the kitchen window, and something didn’t look quite right. I quickly realized that there were three ospreys flapping around in the water near our nest pole, and they were in distress. After a panicked call to Crazy Osprey Man, I put the binoculars on the trio and saw one adult and two babies. Much to my horror, it appeared that they were tangled in something and unable to free themselves.

By this time, Crazy Osprey Man had raced down the dock, grabbed the wire crab net and jumped into the water. When he got to the flailing ospreys, only two were still visible on the surface. He scooped the young osprey up in the net, and started back to the dock. COM quickly realized the adult was attached to the young one, all tangled up together in monofilament fishing line. The adult was flapping hard, and managed to break free and fly off with fishing line still attached and hanging down. Remaining in the net was one very scared, wet, tired and bloodied young osprey, entwined in the fishing line. At Crazy Osprey Man’s direction, I ran up to the house and retrieved a large bucket to bring down to the rescue site. COM transferred the scared bird to the bucket, and was able to cut away the fishing line that was tangled around the bird. Sometime during the struggle in the water, the fishing line had cut the chick, and it was bleeding around one of its wings.

Okay, faithful readers, now what? We have a young osprey that needs to get back to the nest, which sits twelve feet above the water. There are two adult ospreys circling the area that are not happy with the situation at hand. One baby has already been lost at sea. We do not know if the third baby is still in the nest or was pulled from the nest with the other two. The water is about four feet deep, with heavy wind and waves. So our plan of action was put into place.

Living next door to us at the time was a family with two teenage boys. I ran to their door and explained the situation. Fortunately, both boys were home and willing to help in the rescue. Crazy Osprey Man ran into the house, and came back with a ladder. He was now wearing a long, heavy jacket, a pair of hockey gloves and a hat (anti-osprey gear). COM and the boys got in the water with the osprey-containing bucket and ladder. As they waded over to the nest pole, they had to keep an eye on the adult ospreys who were circling the area and making unhappy cries. The boy’s mission was to hold the ladder up to the pole, but not let it rest on the nest. This was not an easy task given the weather conditions at the time. Crazy Osprey Man’s mission was to climb the ladder with the osprey bucket, and place the baby back in the nest. All the while, I was standing on the dock with the crab net and a variety of other implements if needed during the rescue. COM climbed the ladder in his full anti-osprey outfit, and was greeted by a very scared young osprey flattened down in the nest. We all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that chick #3 was still in the nest, and hadn’t drowned with his/her sibling in the melee. The rescued baby was placed back in the nest, COM climbed back down the ladder, and the three heroes waded back to shore.

The next day, we were able to determine that it had been Audrey that was tangled in the fishing line. Our theory as to how this incident happened is that Tom brought back a fish that still had fishing line attached, and left it for Audrey and the kids. As you have seen from watching the camera, at this age, the babies and mom are all actively involved in the feeding process. Two of the babies and Audrey must have gotten tangled in the line. When Audrey flew off, the two young ospreys were pulled out of the nest by the fishing line. Their combined weight must have pulled Audrey out of the air, and all three ended up in the water. We don’t know how long they had been in the water when spotted, but it couldn’t have been very long. This is a true lesson for all of you fisherman out there to be very careful with your fishing line. Make sure to dispose of it properly. Here is a device that may be used for fishing line disposal. The directions to make one are on line:

PVC fishing line recycling container

PVC fishing line recycling container

Over the next couple of days, Audrey could be seen pecking and pulling at the fishing line that was still attached to her. She managed to remove it, and did not seem to suffer any ill effects from her ordeal. Both remaining young osprey learned to fly, and left our area at the appropriate time later in the summer. This was an experience we hope never to witness again, but if it does happen, we will be ready to spring into action!

Our winning photo for this blog is from our very own Gramps Rothe, the unofficial King of the Order of Osprey Watchers on the Conservancy’s Facebook page:

Gramps Rothe watching ospreycam from his sun porch overlooking the woods at Hallmark Woods, Gambrills, Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (near Crofton).

Gramps Rothe watching ospreycam from his sun porch overlooking the woods at Hallmark Woods, Gambrills, Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (near Crofton).

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 http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org today. Thanks very much!