Good evening from the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. The time has come to say our final good byes for our second season with you, our faithful blog readers and camera watchers. From the very beginning this past winter with a new pole and platform due to the very cold, icy winter, snow on camera installation day, the return of Tom and Audrey, egg laying, egg hatching/not hatching, growth, bullying, flight, fishing, migration and everything in between, we have come full circle. The pole and platform are bare, their solitude only broken by the occasional visiting bird. Our tundra swans are back in full force, and COM continues his early morning trek out to the cold dock to feed them their daily ration of corn. Osprey Girl has all of her college applications submitted, and we check the mailbox daily with breathless anticipation of the first acceptance letter (if the Director of Admissions at the University of Maryland or University of Delaware happens to be out there reading this blog, please give her application some careful consideration-she would be a fabulous addition to your school!). I have decided to end the season with a recap of highlights from this year. Remember, you can click on each photograph to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy it!
February 2014: Oh, my, what a cold winter. The frigid temperatures and ice did a number on our pole, and a new one had to be installed. While we were at it, the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage recommended a new platform. With temperatures in the teens, COM and our friends from the Heritage built a new platform to the same specifications as the old one, and installed a new pole to hold the new platform:
March 2014: With the anticipated return of Tom and Audrey drawing near, it was time to install the camera on our new pole. We had lots of helpers on a snowy day in March. Mrs. COM baked delicious (if I don’t say so myself) muffins from scratch many times during the winter work to feed our wonderful volunteers. And the moment we were all waiting for-a very tired osprey returning from winter digs:
The new pole caused a lot of consternation due to the fact it was not firmly entrenched into the bay bottom. Windage on the camera would cause the pole to spin around, and the camera view would be altered. COM spent many hours wading/trudging out to the pole to readjust it and try to rectify the problem:
April 2014: This was a prime month for nest and strength building after Tom and Audrey’s long trip back from their winter homes (they spend the winters apart). After nest building, of course, is egg-laying. Audrey laid three eggs this season on April 15, 18 and 21. The Chesapeake Conservancy hosted a “Welcome Back Osprey” social with guest speaker Dr. Paul Spitzer. A good time was had by all! Tom continued to be a good provider for Audrey before and after their clutch was safely in the nest:
The new pole was still not holding, and COM went out on a very low tide to rotate it back into place and try to secure it. Audrey was not happy with the intrusion, left the nest and was about to dive-bomb COM:
April also brought a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. Dr. Rob Bierregard was tagging Eastern Shore ospreys with solar-powered transmitters for his study of osprey migration. The Crazy Osprey Family was invited to the tagging operation, which involved trapping male ospreys (one unlucky female was at the wrong place at the wrong time and managed to end up in the study) and fitting them with the transmitters. It was an all-day event, and we had pizza at one of the sites for lunch. Here is a photo of Dr. B having his lunch. Nothing really special about sitting down having pizza for lunch, but in his lap is a birdie straight jacket containing a very unhappy female osprey:
And I got to hold an osprey!
May 2014: May is generally a quiet month in the lives of our ospreys, at least until the arrival of the chicks. Fish, eat, incubate and repeat. One day COM was home, looked out the window and was able to capture a battle between a goose family and Tom, who thought the goose family had gotten a little too close to his incubating mate. This was the excitement for May, until, of course, we welcomed Breezy and Spitz into the world on May 24 and May 27:
A few more bucolic scenes from peaceful May:
Tom waiting for happy hour on the end of the dock. I guess over the years he has observed lots of fun at this table, and thought he might get in on the action:
Audrey incubating her clutch:
As we have discussed in other blogs, Tom is the primary provider of sustenance for his family. After he catches a fish, he will eat first, then bring the remainder back to Audrey. Here are two photographs of Tom-one of him returning to the nest after eating his fill, and another of him taking off from the electrical box with a partially eaten fish in tow:
June 2014-With the arrival of our two new additions, who were eventually named Breezy and Spitz at the conclusion of the Chesapeake Conservancy’s naming contest, more nest sitting was in Audrey’s future:
Enjoying some time out of the nest on a beautiful late spring evening:
After only being able to see the chicks in the nest through the camera, two little heads were finally visible from shore through the hand-held camera lens. The youngsters are about a month old in this photo:
July 2014: The next order of business was learning how to fly. As I am sure you all remember, one of our chicks was a little ahead of his sibling in that department:
Feeding time at the nest-everyone is home:
It feels really good to get out of that nest and away from Spitz!
How do I look on this boatlift? Mom and Dad taught me how to do this:
Osprey version of the Blue Angels:
We probably didn’t need three perches!
July also produced three of my favorite photographs of the 2014 season. The first is a moonlight landing under the July Super Moon, taken by COM:
The second and third are photos that COM took with some spectacular clouds in the background:
August 2014: Ah, the lazy, hazy days of August. On the agenda was honing up flying skills and juveniles learning to catch their own fish in preparation for the September migration.
But maybe we did need two perches!
The fishing lessons and practice started paying off:
September 2014: With September comes migration, and fond farewells to our feathered friends. Audrey and Breezy were the first to leave, but Tom and Spitz extended their Chesapeake vacation for a little while longer. Spitz remained in the area the longest, and we were starting to get anxious about wanting her to get moving before the weather got bad. Although we had no official confirmation from Dr. Spitzer (Spitz’s namesake), based on my somewhat limited experience, I decided Spitz was a girl and Breezy was a boy. She hung around way longer than I would have liked, but leave she finally did. Believe it or not, I saw an osprey flying behind the house one day last week in late November! Hopefully he or she can make it to some warmer climes in the very near future. We also had two more entries for the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest:
Our grand prize winner for this year’s contest was Rachael, who was watching the camera from the airport in Helsinki, Finland!
The 2014 osprey season had another contest to guess the identity of a mystery couple. Here is the final photo of the human Tom and Audrey, after whom our ospreys were named:
October 2014: Even with Tom, Audrey, Breezy and Spitz off to their winter digs, the nest still saw some action in October. Here are some of our visitors:
A spectacular October sunrise:
November 2014: Our final month of the 2014 season! We had some visitors in the big tree three houses to the north of us, from where we have posted many photos over the past two years:
Those of you who have followed our blogs know that in addition to his osprey addiction, COM takes on a new persona after the ospreys leave. He is CSM for the winter (Crazy Swan Man). Here is a beautiful image he captured after feeding “his” tundra swans a couple of weeks ago. The perches were taken down later that day:
The last official act of the 2014 season was removing the nest and camera. The nest is removed every year to lessen the possibility of parasites wintering over and to reduce the winter windage on the platform and pole. But long before the nest came down, COM made sure there would be plenty of prefab sticks for next year:
Last week, COM and one of his sons removed the nest and took down the camera for the winter. The folks at the Chesapeake Conservancy posted a video of the nest removal, which may be seen on their Facebook page. This is all that is left of the 2014 nest:
So it ends for 2014. The Crazy Osprey Family would like to thank the Chesapeake Conservancy, Skyline Technology Solutions, Earth Security and the Shared Earth Foundation for allowing us to be part of this remarkable experience. But most of all, we want to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of the camera watchers and blog readers out there. Osprey Girl asked me to thank you for helping with her fish study. Your positive feedback and love of our ospreys make all of our hard work worthwhile. We look forward to sharing the 2015 season with all of you. May you all have a wonderful, joyous, safe, happy and healthy winter, and we will see you again in the spring.
Until next time, we remain-
Crazy Osprey Man (COM), Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl
If you have enjoyed the osprey camera and blogs, 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. Thank you very much!