In Case You Missed It The First Time, Don’t Miss Your Chance This Time!

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!

131 thoughts on “In Case You Missed It The First Time, Don’t Miss Your Chance This Time!

  1. Sunny and very windy with white caps below the nest with three intact eggs at this time!! Enjoy the ride ahead Ospreys Audrey and Tom and three to be! Adios from Cape Cod!🎢🎢🎢🎢

  2. Yes, it is very windy this evening on the Bay. You can notice the nest/pole shaking. I thought for sure an egg would hatch today. Oh well…The wind sometimes makes the camera go out of focus. Fran, the intruder might have been another osprey or other big bird (hmmn-Big Bird?!) that pointed danger to their home. Tom was VERY protective and might have been having an ariel fight overhead when he was off the nest. When Mrs COM or others are home they can observe these battles and sometimes photos them for us to see. Glad you liked my references to Mighty Mouse and Superman, Fran!

  3. Mrs COM–will these be viable eggs? They are so late in hatching? Today we honor all those who have died in service during wars or because of wars. Many remembrances of you.

    • For anyone living in or near the D.C. area there’s a new memorial on the Mall. I wasn’t aware of it until I learned about it while watching the annual Memorial Day Concert last night. It’s the National Memorial to Veterans Disabled for Life and it’s on a triangle next to the Botanic Garden. You can see a time lapse video of its construction on line. I subscribe to the Washington Post and I can’t recall a single article about it or its dedication in the fall of 2014.Somehow those heroes who returned to us so damaged seem to me the saddest……

      Which reminds me: I need to bring my flag in!

  4. The Memorial Day Concert was extraordinary. So much more than just a concert! The life stories we e amazing and inspiring. Such spirit! Our church has been working to support and encourage those who come home wounded. Their war goes on forever. We must not forget them or their families. I’ll have to check out that mew memorial.

  5. At about 8:05, Audrey stood up and nudged the eggs around very briefly. There was too much glare to see clearly. Definitely 3 eggs… but hope springs eternal! (Maybe one already has a little pip or two showing? Just not yet visible?) There is that old saying: “a watched pot never boils.” It’s starting to feel as though eagerly watched eggs take longer to hatch. Interestingly enough, the eggs in New Jersey and at Woods Hole have not yet hatched either… laid pretty much at the same time. Like others, I’m hoping there’s nothing wrong. Perhaps it’s just the first one that’s problematic. Two out of three, maybe? (The waiting is so hard. Surprising to find that you can get so emotionally involved!). Any word from Dr. Spitzer?

  6. 8:45 Audrey got up and nudged the eggs again… again it was a very brief time that she was standing (maybe 30 seconds)… again there was no clear view of the eggs. Hey, Audrey! What’s going on? Give us a peak

  7. Tom came and Audrey left. Still three eggs. But, the Falcons are beautiful, getting bigger every day. Barb does not mind showing them off!

  8. Just took a peak at the Falcon cam. Three babies huddled together while Papa (I think) stands on the ledge calling for Barb. Must be feeding time.

  9. 9:16. One of the funnier things I have seen on this nest. Audrey arrived, landing on the left side of the nest. She picked up a big stick and hit Tom squarely across the back with it. Wham! As you might imagine, Tom got up pretty quickly. Audrey was still holding the big stick. They played “tug of war” for a few seconds. Audrey let go of the stick. Then Tom picked up a stick and stood with it. Audrey picked up another stick and moved it firmly from one side of the nest to another. So there! Whatever that message meant in Osprey code, Tom decoded it and took off. Another clear view of 3 eggs. Audrey settled herself onto the eggs. Was that a bit of Osprey “acting out?” We know you’re tired of waiting, Audrey… but it’s not Tom’s fault!

  10. Hello from windy cape cod! Woods Hole Webcam–What a zoomed up picture of the nest with both parents getting soft bed ready I believe though can’t see newbie yet!🍼🍼🍼🍼

    • Maureen, where do you live on the Cape? We’ve been in the Washington area since the late forties and I’ve lived in Annapolis for sixteen years and people are amazed I’ve never been to Ocean City! Our feeling is why waste your time in O.C. when there is Cape Cod? We went up every year from the time my granddaughter was three until she was eighteen. We stayed in Dennis when she was little and then Yarmouth, near Sea Gull Beach.

  11. There definitely is one chick at Woods Hole. I had to wait quite a while to see it because Mom was playing games with what appears to be a stripped ear of corn. She kept moving it from one place to another and nibbling at it. As far as I could tell, the other eggs are still intact. Maybe our ospreys need a fisherman’s glove in the nest to start the birthing process(!).

  12. Tom flew in @ 4:15 with a fish (minus head) for Audrey. She took off with it pretty quickly! Still showing 3 intact eggs. Audrey seems very fidgety in the nest today. I noticed this behavior right before the first egg was laid. Hopefully, it is a sign the babies are coming soon. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  13. Just saw new baby Woods Hole-a beauty of a sight with the baby lifting head up to parent!🍻🍻🍻raise the glass huh!

  14. At about 5:10, Audrey stood up and allowed a clear view of the nest with 3 very much intact eggs. With a chick hatched on Cape Cod, I find myself (living in Maryland, I identify completely with our Chesapeake Conservancy nest) now suffering from nest envy.

  15. I watched the Woods Hole chick being fed and Mom eating a few bites herself with Dad standing by when suddenly he made his move and flew off with the entire fish! Mom looked a bit surprised but then went calmly back to sheltering the new baby and the other eggs. This nest is definitely the largest. Three chicks will not be the least bit crowded and won’t be stepping on each other’s faces.

  16. Whew! Took me a few days to catch on to this convo stream (thanks, Jane!). So glad I hadn’t missed the “big” (though quite small actually) event. Waiting….

  17. Parent Bird (I don’t know them apart yet) is obsessing over sticks on the nest. Leaving the eggs uncovered and moving the sticks back and forth. Makes me wonder if a) it is a sign something is about to happen b)Parent Bird is worried something is wrong and is trying to fix it 3)if Parent Bird is just readying the nest for the next chapter in family life.

    • Audrey’s feathers are more uniformly dark brown. Tom’s are mottled. That’s why his nickname is “Calico Tom”. She has a distinct white tale feather down the middle of her back but, as I’ve been looking at birds in other nests, I’ve come to believe that is characteristic.

  18. Another Comic relief, Audrey trying to straighten the nest moving twigs, some conking
    her on the head, having no luck trying to put them where she wanted them, looking around for
    Tom and in he flies pushing her over .. seeing the mess she has made starts to tidy things
    up, pushing twigs over the edge and tucking others out of the way then very gently, settles on his
    biggest responsibility,… Still no rain in Long Beach Ca. we are on restricted water use for gardens
    Sad, Sad, Sad.

    • I’m so sorry about the lack of rain, Joan. And then, look at poor Texas. They’re expecting still more later in the week.
      I saw a headline that said the makers of fake grass are making a killing.

  19. Have been watching the falcon cam a lot today…noticed the parents are leaving the babies alone a lot! Makes me nervous for them! Is this normal? One did bring a small bird today to feed them with, but both left shortly after, around 1:00, and I just tuned in and they are still not back (8;25pm0! babies are alone and it’s almost dark…will they be ok and do falcon parents do this often?

  20. Just before 8:45 p.m., Tom landed on the left hand post of the nest box. Made no attempt to sit on the eggs… just perched on the post. He seemed to be guarding Audrey and the eggs, watching over them from on high. I found myself hoping that there might have been a chick to guard. Just before 9 p.m., Audrey stood up and stood back at the edge of the nest. It’s getting quite dark, and after dark the image is in black and white… but there are clearly 3 intact eggs in the nest and no additional, smaller occupant. Alas!

  21. Started watching at 6:30 this morning. In the very early hours — as it is with the last bits of fading light at the end of the day — the image is in black and white; it turns to color around 7 or so. In the low lighting conditions, skmall details are hard to distinguish. So when there’s a “changing of the guard” at about 6:40, it’s not clear who’s arriving and who’s leaving. The “sitter” doesn’t get up immediately, but continues to have much to say. (the mobile app that works on my iPad has been without sound, so I’m guessing by the movement of beaks that it might have Audrey on the nest (her level of noisyiness is fairly distinctive… but it WAS clear that there was pretty vigorous calling-out before and after the 2nd Osprey landed. It was hard to discern the contents of the nest, but it looked as though one egg might have been separated from the other two. Wishful thinking?

  22. 7:07 Audrey returned. (There’s full color and better detail as the light of day increases. My hunch was correct about the earlier exchange of duties.). At the quick changeover, the eggs are clearly visible, just briefly. Nothing seems to have changed. Audrey fusses with the eggs and draws them closer to herself, making sure they’ll all be well under her I suppose. The day is young. Base on Mrs. COM’s calculations, it’s day 45 for the first egg. From what various sites report about Ospreys, the usual incubation period is from 35 to 43 days. Can it ever be longer than 43 days? The second egg was laid 3 days later, on April 15th, so I guess today is more or less day 42 for egg #2, and that would make it day 36 for egg #3 laid on April 21. (I’ve got so many question! “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” I’ve read just enough to know there’s so much more that experts DO know. So does the time of day matter in the counting. Are we counting days or hours? How does parental time off the nest affect the counting, if at all? These two were not so diligent about keeping the eggs covered at first, as several of us observed.). Sigh! I’m spending too much time watching and wondering.

  23. 7:36 Tom returned (Wow! That was fast!). He dropped off a bit of moss. Then he poked and nudged at Audrey for a full minute. She refused to budge. 7:37 Tom took off. Less than a minute later, Audrey stood up very briefly, looked down at the eggs, and then settled back down on them. Will I be able to tear myself away from this drama and leave for work by 8:15?

    • About 9:38a your time Tom on duty left nest for a while
      got a good look at eggs .. one looked like it might have
      a crack ..Audrey flew in and nudged that egg a little
      but then she settled down ???

  24. Okay. I’ve got to leave for work, but… Tom arrived at 8:17 with a fish. Looked like a whole fish, with head and all! Audrey immediately got up, took it from Tom and flew away. There was a long, clear view of the nest. One of the eggs seemed to be rocking a bit! Could this be the day?! I’ll just have to hold my curiosity until after noon… next time I’ll have access to the Internet. How shall I bear the suspenseful? God’s blessings to all, and blessings be upon our nest and all of its occupants!

  25. Morning from the Cape! The egg on the left looks a little shinier today when I just saw them😎

  26. Audrey just got up and fluffed around the eggs a bit, all still intact.
    Meanwhile, the falcon babies seem to be doing well, getting bigger every day.

  27. Audrey seems very agitated today. She has been frequently nudging the eggs and digging around them with her beak. Maybe she is getting anxious for something to happen, as we all are! Eggs are still whole as of this posting.

  28. There are TWO chicks at Woods Hole! They came out for a few minutes, begging for food, and Mom seemed to give them little bits of the nest while anxiously looking around hoping the pizza delivery man would arrive. It didn’t happen so she tucked them back.

  29. I missed the feeding while I was posting! Dad must have arrived just as I left. He waited a couple of minutes after they were finished eating and then left with the rest of the fish This is so much a matter of chance…….Obviously, we can’t watch constantly.

  30. Well, I have been watching since Audrey and Tom came back to the nest site this Spring (yes, it’s about time I spoke up!). At 6:02pm I clicked on the site, and the eggs were all by themselves! Audrey flew in at 6:03 – the whole time I was “willing” the babies to make an appearance while I was actually able to have a clear view. I just observed Audrey getting pelted by rain around 6:10pm. It almost looked hail-like, but with the temperature near 90 degrees it most certainly has to be water. It got pretty rough for a few minutes there. We all know water does not have to be frozen to be a force (thoughts with all in Texas and Oklahoma – Cali too!). She sat through it like a trooper, and by 6:16 the rain had stopped – it pretty much was the same here in central Maryland earlier. Audrey is being uncharacteristically quiet. My boyfriend just walked in from work “are you watching those birds again!” Dinner time – come on you chickadees! Regards to all the bloggers, I have been enjoying all your observations these past 2 months.

  31. I am so worried about Tom and Audrey’s babies! There is almost a 10 ten period between when they could and when they should hatch, and now they are two days late! It seems like everyone else (other Ospreys, & everyone else we’ve been watching) has been on time, is it possible as healthy as they all look and the great job that Tom and Audrey have been doing, that the eggs will not hatch? What would make that happen? This is making me ill with worry. I watched them almost all day today, and every now and again, both Tom and Audrey check on the eggs, changing babysitting often, as if they are so anxious. They seem that they are spending so much more time together, both fluffing and making the nest perfect. I’m to the point that when it gets too dark to see, it’s very difficult to lower the volume so we can sleep! I hate to even ask, but is there a time frame where you say…it’s not going to happen?:( To Sweet, Healthy, Parenthood our Tom and Aud!

  32. Chesapeake Conservancy posted earlier today on their FB page that the first two eggs may not hatch, that sometimes for new mates the eggs are not viable. Apparently the early drama and the change of mates may all factor in. It’s sad, I know but we have a few more days to hope and pray that they do hatch and the third egg is due to hatch any day also. They have been so good together from what we can see anyway, I’m so looking forward to watching them as parents, feeding and taking care of the young.

    • This is just too sad. I wonder, if NO eggs hatch, how Tom and Audrey will spend the rest of their summer? We are constantly imbuing them with human emotions. Will they feel like failures? Or will they just accept the fact that for this year, at least, there will be no babies. They really worked hard. It’s like a woman who carries a baby to term only to deliver it still-born.

      Tom was on the nest with Audrey when I last looked. Perhaps they are beginning to sense that all is not well. Or, who knows? Maybe we’ll wake up tomorrow to a chick!!! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

  33. 8:36 p.m. Audrey returned to the nest, where Tom had been quietly tending the eggs. He got up relatively quickly. We got a look at the eggs. Still very much intact. (I so relate to Coreygirl “willing” the eggs to hatch!) Interestingly enough, after about a minute, she got up and took a look at the eggs. Then she settled down onto them again. The light is fading, the colors are ebbing away. But hope springs eternal for us who are avid Tom-and-Audrey watchers! There’s tomorrow morning… at least there will definitely be a new sunrise.

  34. One last glimpse as the light fades. Audrey on the nest. Tom perched on the post to the left, watching over Audrey and the nest. No detail discernible in the dim light with all color drained away. But that’s the usual pattern at night. Reliable Tom. Steady, predictable Audrey. Nighty-night.


  36. 7:02 whoever was on the nest (I thought it was Audrey, though it’s sometimes hard to tell in the early morning glare… but guessing from Kathy’s very early post, it might have been Tom) Isimply got up and flew off. No exchange. He/she just flew off. The eggs look unchanged, but with the lack of definition it’s hard to say for sure. Praying for them.

  37. Oops. Forget to say that, in just under a minute, Audrey flew in and settled on the eggs after poking around for a bit. It was unsettling for those 30-45 seconds!

  38. Ref “Chesapeake Conservancy posted earlier today on their FB page that the first two eggs may not hatch, that sometimes for new mates the eggs are not viable.” I have been so worried about that possibility. Tom and Audrey have been so caring and attentive. To be honest, the eggs may not hatch…and that will be so disappointing…Hoping I am so wrong……But one thing is so inspiring, Tom and Audrey… they have not given up.

    • I am so hoping they will hatch, just love watching them grow! On another note, take a look at the Falcon cam, three so adorable chicks, eating and growing like a weeds!!! I can’t wait to see them in flight.

      • Tom is on the nest but cant seem to sit still. He’s been tucking the eggs and fussing with a stick in the nest. Got a good view of the eggs and as reported previously, no activity. Three whole eggs still there.

  39. In answer to Coreygirl I had been watching the Pittsburg Hays Bald Eagles
    and their eggs weren’t viable and the parents continue to come back to the nest
    and eat or spend the night and fluff up the nest .. I thought this might have
    happened due to the severe Winter .. Some morns the parent was so covered
    with snow that it looked like there wasn’t a parent on the nest. . But lets
    continue to have hope that the eggs will hatch and we can enjoy watching the
    babies develop into young rambunctious Osprey

  40. I witnessed something very funny on the Hellgate Osprey nest last night. Iris stood up and, glaring at the eggs, scolded them with a large squawk for several minutes. I’m sure she was saying,”It’s time, guys! This is getting old!”
    Things are tough all over in Osprey Land.

  41. This is curious. I just looked at the NJ osprey cam and one egg is just lying there by itself! I haven’t seen any sign of chicks. Is it possible Mom could know it’s not viable?

  42. I went back to the site to see if I was mistaken about the abandoned egg and Mom stood up. There are THREE chicks begging for food! Maybe Mom just felt that was a large enough family for one year.

  43. I was horrified to view what appeared to be nest empty of chicks. Could predators have done their dirty deed? Mom seemed calm, though, so I kept watching. Finally a tiny head appeared. Mom had covered them with a piece of plastic that had blown into the nest. Has she not read the cautionary message that says to keep plastic bags away from children?

  44. They’re fine They are being fed. Another piece of loose plastic seems to be obscuring the unhatched egg. New Jersey needs to pick up its trash! I’ll try to stop talking now! I’m monopolizing the site! It’s just that it’s so interesting…..

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