Father’s Day Revisited-A Blast From The Past

Good afternoon from the hot, humid and windy Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Wasn’t that some storm last night?  COM and I were at the Jimmy Buffett concert in Bristow, Virginia when the storm hit there.  Suddenly, the tornado warnings started chiming on everyone’s cell phones!  The lawn people were hustled off to the bathrooms and any other available shelter to wait out the rampage.  After the violent weather passed, a rainbow appeared over the lawn.  Jimmy came out and sang an impromptu “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” before announcing that the concert would be starting late due to the storm.  We called Osprey Girl and told her to listen for tornado warnings on the Eastern Shore and to get to the basement of a neighbor (who was with us at the concert) if necessary.  And not only did I have to worry about my human daughter, I was worrying about Tom, Audrey and the chicks.  Fortunately, all have weathered the storm and have gotten back to the daily grind of osprey life.  All’s well that ends well!

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been quite a bit of excitement here at the secret location since I last wrote (isn’t that an understatement!!!).  I am working on a detailed blog which will fill you all in on the activities of last Wednesday.  In the meantime, I found this blog that was published on Father’s Day two years ago.  There have not been many hits on this one, as it was published before the blog was accessible from the camera page.  But there is some great, useful information in this rerun that you should enjoy.  So while I am finishing up the blog about our fabulous new foster chicks, I thought I would squeeze in a rerun since it is Father’s Day.  As you read, remember that Chick #3, Ozzie (who turned out to be a female and was aptly nicknamed “Spunky Ozzie” by our camera watchers), survived a very rocky start and took off to her winter quarters later in the season. But first, before the next blog is published, a little tease of many photos to come, which will be very soon!   Remember, you can click on the photo to enhance your viewing pleasure.

Our foster chicks before they were placed in the nest

Our foster chicks before they were placed in the nest

Happy Father’s Day, Tom!  (first published June 16, 2013-our first year with the Conservancy)

Good morning from the warm, humid Eastern Shore!  It is a lovely day, even with the humidity. My thermometer is showing 77 degrees, partly cloudy and quite pleasant for outdoor activities.  The water is sparkling and there is lots of activity from recreational boaters.  The big excitement since our last blog involved egg #4, which has broken and is no longer visible.  Dr. Spitzer was right on with his prediction that the last egg would not hatch.  The exact fate of the broken egg remains a mystery, even with all of our modern technology and a bevy of dedicated nest watchers.  Once again, Mother Nature has had the last laugh!

Tom enjoyed a Father’s Day fish on our boat lift this morning before heading to the nest. This is not his favorite spot to chow down, so I guess he is mixing it up a little today.  The most popular spot for Tom to eat is on our neighbor’s dock, specifically on the top of the swim ladder on our neighbor’s dock.  As I write this, Tom is sitting on the camera and looking around for his next source of sustenance. He does spend most of his downtime on top of the camera. Keep in mind that it is of utmost importance that Tom eat his fill before anyone else, as without him to fish and bring food back to the nest, none of the others would survive.  Audrey must also eat her fill before the nestlings, for without her and Tom, the nestlings would not make it for long.  Tom has been an exemplary father to his little osprey family, so we dedicate this blog to Tom and all of the other fathers out there.

We had some communication with Dr. Spitzer a couple of days ago, and inquired about the types of fish upon which our ospreys feast.  Dr. Spitzer advised that according to Jim Uphoff, a Maryland DNR (Department of Natural Resources) biologist, menhaden are the most prevalent fish consumed at our site.  According to Dr. Spitzer, other types of fish that ospreys will eat in this area are catfish (3 species), white perch, yellow perch, oyster toadfish (marginal prey as they are very well defended) and needlefish.  He did not mention rockfish (striped bass to those of you who don’t live around these parts), although one of our astute Facebook watchers was sure he saw a rockfish brought to the nest today.

Dr. Spitzer also had a comment about Chick #3 that I will share with you for informational purposes.  I quote Dr. Spitzer: “Whether the runt will make it may remain unresolved for quite a while.  Quite a drama.”  Dr. Spitzer has provided another chapter in his “Ospreys Explained” reports.  This one is about Osprey Population Dynamics.  It is longer than some of the others, so we will post it in two parts.  Here is Part One:

OSPREYS EXPLAINED,   by Dr.Paul Spitzer

 Chapter #5:     Osprey Population Dynamics, or “Life in the Osprey Garden”

 Ultimately, this is about the balance between reproduction (the “credit” side of the osprey ledger) and mortality (the “debit” side of the osprey ledger).  An increasing breeding population means ospreys are “in the black”, a profit of sorts.  A stable population is “break-even”, or non-profit.  A declining population is “in the red”, with a net loss of ospreys.

That’s what happened during the DDT era, when DDT and the related pesticide dieldrin snuffed out reproduction by destroying egg viability, and also poisoned some adult breeders directly, increasing the adult mortality rate (which is normally about 15% each year).  Local populations in heavily-contaminated CT and RI “crashed” at 30% annual decline, with almost no reproduction.  The Chesapeake was far more lightly and locally contaminated, so it fared much better, and was primed for the big osprey population growth we have recorded post-DDT.  The present-day Chesapeake is truly An Osprey Garden, with 3500 active nests.

Although stable, DDT eventually broke down in local ecosystems, and contamination was gradually reduced.  Then the fundamental question arose:  What level of reproduction is necessary for a stable population?  This break-even point is known as the  “Replacement Rate”:  It is a core concept in Population Biology, including that of human beings.  Several components of osprey life-history contribute to replacement rate.  They are known collectively as “parameters”, and some are easier to measure than others.  During the 1970’s, as osprey reproduction recovered, I undertook to make those measurements in the field, from the wild (but unwittingly cooperative) ospreys, combining them in a population model to estimate osprey replacement rate.  I did this with a decade-long field study on the remnant breeding population between New York City and Boston, which fell as low as 109 active nests in 1975 and 1976.  Pre-DDT, there were over 1,000 nests active in this region, where much DDT was used.  Today that population has mostly regained it’s numbers, and in some locales such as MA is far more abundant than previously (but see discussion of the “Gardiners Island Anomaly” that concludes this chapter).

 Osprey nests aren’t too hard to find on a populated coastline.  Every year I counted the active nests, and thus the total breeding population.  The 8-week nestling period enabled a total count of nestlings, with some help from volunteer Citizen Scientists.  (This participatory learning approach is in much wider use today.)  Most of the later counts were done by state nongame wildlife biologists (another innovation), with years of patient data collection.  “Reproductive Rate” is expressed as mean (average) number of young fledged per active nest (Y/AN), or “Productivity”. 

 These were blissful springs for a young biologist, with sea breeze in my nostrils.  I trudged over the firm peat of gem-like northern salt marshes, rode ferries to offshore nesting islands, ran ladders up high nest poles, ducked the talons of defensive female ospreys, trapped and color-banded breeders to measure their annual survival, color-banded entire regional annual “cohorts” of young, then watched with binoculars and telescope for their return as breeders later in the decade.  These measurements taken in nature required patience, accuracy, and sample size, because I submitted the population study in 1980 as my Ph.D thesis at Cornell University.  I had the privilege of directly living my work; as I have tried to do ever since.  I bonded intimately to that fine old historic post-glacial coastline, LI-CT-RI-MA, where various cultures of man have lived for millennia.  During a follow-up Chesapeake osprey study in the 1980’s I bonded to the Bay region; and I have now lived here for thirty years.  Study of living things gives benign and creative form to my own life.  And perhaps I have gained some ability to think like an osprey.

I estimated the replacement rate of both these osprey populations at 0.8 young fledged per active nest (0.8 Y/AN).  How did I get there?

 We need to return to discussion of fledging life-history (end of Chapter #4), and combine it with the very different roles of male and female breeders (Chapter #2).  The learning curve of fledging ospreys includes recognition of local nest sites, local habitat types, local prey species, fishing methods for those species, and handling methods for those species.  Catfish skulls, for example, are equipped with barbed, defensive spines that could potentially blind an osprey that fed too close to the head, or wound the feet of an osprey that held the catfish wrong.  When people ask me how ospreys catch catfish, I answer “very carefully”.

 Fledging male ospreys are going to be the providers of food for future breeding efforts, and their local learning period before their first southbound migration probably marks a critical beginning for their local foraging skills.  Females, by contrast, are going to be insulated from local resources by male provisioning  for needs to avoid inbreeding.much of future breeding seasons.  Thus it is not surprising that males tend to be “homebodies”, returning to breed in proximity to their fledging habitat.  Females are much more prone to dispersal, thus providing the gene flow that a healthy population

 How did I demonstrate the tight connection between male return and population dynamics?  First, I color-banded the limited young produced in CT and LI in 1972 and 1973, and scoped all active nests for the rest of the 1970’s so I could relocate them as breeders.  This also allowed me to quantify another absolutely critical population parameter:  Age at first breeding.  In that northern population, artificially depressed relative to resources, the commonest first breeding was at age 3 (the “mode”), the range I observed was ages 3 to 5, and the mean was 3.7 years of age.  Please remember this very important, hard-won data set.

 Certain biologists love to band nestling ospreys with the aluminum, numbered bands issued by the USFWS Bird Banding Laboratory at Maryland’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  They have done this passionately for decades, going forth late every spring to band the annual “cohort”.  These saturation banding efforts have yielded a windfall of population data and understanding, which I have been able to harvest.  Sometimes it’s enough just to see what percentage of breeders of each sex wear these bands.  Ospreys’ long pale legs, and their attachment to the nest, make this easy.  For example, in the spring of 2005 I returned to my northern “Ph.D.” population, now recovered from the old DDT days.  Biologists Gerald Mersereau and Henry Golet had banded 1,684 nestlings in CT (but none across the Sound in LI) during the 15-year period 1988-2002, and I wanted to have a look at the dispersal of the breeding survivors.  The highest nest density and core banding area is the Connecticut River estuary (70 nests).  There I found that 70% of the males I checked were banded (32 of 46), but only 28% of females (17 of 61).  Sampling to the south across Long Island Sound, only 10-30 miles away, I found only 3% banded males (1 of 31), but 16% banded females (7 of 43). 

Thank you, Dr. Spitzer for another fabulous report.  Although the camera is fascinating to watch, your insight and expertise add another whole dimension to our osprey experience!  The rest of Chapter #5 will be posted in the next blog.

That’s it for now.  Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers in our midst, regardless of your genus and species!

Until next time, we remain,

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl

Here is our next weekly winner in the “Where in the World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.  Keep those entries coming!  Please send your photos to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com

Tom watching the ospreycam from Thailand, even though it is hard to see the image

Tom watching the ospreycam from Thailand, even though it is hard to see the image

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!

 

660 thoughts on “Father’s Day Revisited-A Blast From The Past

  1. Lori/Bette, I might be wrong, but I thought from our early blog notes, that Old Tom was not rebuffed or returned late. I believe reading that Old Tom never made it back from South America. Mrs COM, did Old Tom ever show up?

  2. I’m certainly not an expert, but from what I have read Tom would have returned unless something happened to him. One of the greatest dangers is flying so far over open water from Florida and the return trip from South America. If he ran into a storm, he wouldn’t survive. Some get shot, some contract a disease, he may have run into a predator, an accident (getting tangled in something),……One thing we all agree on….We miss Tom. He and Audrey were awesome together.

    • Yes I agree with you Rob they were a good team, But
      have grown quite fond of Calico Tom.. He might be
      a little rough around the edges but I’ll bet Ole Tom
      wasn’t all that great in the beginning. It’s amazing
      how you can pick up on their different personalities

      • Joan I agree with you. I miss Ole Tom, but Calico and Audrey have done such a great job in raising the chicks.

    • NANCY, THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDING TIME, THIS MORNING, WOW THEY HAVE SOME MORE DARK FEATHERS COMING RIGHT ALONG, NEST GETTING FULL, AND AUDREY HAS BUILT IT UP, AND ADDED MAYBE MORE , SEAWEED, FOR SOFTNESS, THEY ARE SPREADING WINGS, AND LOOKING ALL AROUND THIS MORNING !!! ROB, AND JOAN, I MISS THE OLD TOM HE WAS DEPENDABLE, BUT WE WILL HAVE TO DO WITH WHAT WE HAVE, AND PRAY HE WILL CONTINUE ON AND GET THESE TWO TO ADULTS, WHEN THEY CAN FISH FOR THEMSELVES. IT IS AWESOME, AND SCARY !!

  3. Something just landed on the cam…Audrey and babies looking up and right into the camera! They are so beautiful this morning! I suspect it may be Tom on the cam, hopefully he brings food!

  4. Now I know I’m crazy and think about our Osprey way too much….I was sweeping outside and there are lots of small twigs and branches from all the storms and all I could think was how nice a few of these would be for the nest. I’ve lost it!!! Have a great day everyone.

    • Lillie – I hear you! As I am walking my dog I come across sticks and twigs and think the same exact thing. Then I remember I live in Howard County!!! 5:45pm now, and Audrey and the babies are eating. Hey doubters ~~~~ Calico Tom is doing a great job! These babies came on board exactly 3 weeks ago to the day – June 17th. Does anyone see how much larger they are now!!!!

  5. Just noticed CC posted the link to vote for the chicks names, I voted for Annie and Oliver! It was hard because I also like Chessie and Peaky. I tried to copy and paste the link but this format will not allow, I’m sure Mrs. Com will post it soon.

    • From the Conservancy website Chesapeake Conservancy
      It’s time to help name the osprey chicks! Vote for your favorite name combination here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ospreynames. The deadline for voting is Wednesday, July 15th.

      Many thanks to our Osprey Club members for their great name submissions this year!

      • I voted for Annie and Oliver….great names…but I had hoped for “Koppie” who rescued them. Thanks Koppie for turning such a sad situation into the beautiful Osprey family that we get to observe and is so precious.

      • Hi Rob, are you aware that Mr. Koppie received his kudos for helping the little male falcon in Baltimore when he was frail and then returning him to the nest? They named him Kopie! 🙂 🐣

    • FORGOT TO TELL YOU, LOVE YOUR CHOICE OF NAMES , TOO CUTE !!I HAD TO HONOR MRS COM’S THOUGHT PROCESS, AS SHE HAS MADE THIS ALL POSSIBLE FOR US, AND THEY ARE GREAT CHOICES !!!
      SPEAKING TO YOU LILLIE !!! JOAN, THESE BABIES ARE GROWING BY THE SECOND, AND IT TRULY IS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE, SOON YOU WILL SEE FEATHERS !!! THEY ARE FULL TO THE TOP, CROPS STUFFED !!! THANKS ROB, FOR THE WEB SITE TO VOTE !!

  6. Last week both babies had a light stripe down their backs
    now it is very noticeable that the older baby’s stripe is gone
    and the younger still has his/hers ,, Babies seemed full and
    moved to the other side of the nest Audrey wasn’t finished
    feeding them and with some difficulty took the fish and moved
    over closer to them .. To them this is every day life but to
    me it is such a learning experience and I am grateful for it.
    Mom Falcon is on the ledge again. No sign of babies .. The
    least they could do is to say good by to us!!

  7. BABIES ARE REALLY HOT, BUT BEGINNING TO TALK SOME, MOM ON AND OFF THAT NEST !!! BUILDING UP I GUESS !! GOING TO RUN ERRANDS, SOMEONE DOCUMENT NEXT FEEDING IF YOU WILL !!! TKS HOT ONE HER IN NC !!! MUGGY !!

  8. I am amazed that the last egg is still intact after all of this time and activity in the nest. The foster babies are growing so fast. FYI, two out of three osprey chicks at Wolf Bay in Alabama are now fledgelings!

    • Wolf Bay babies are flying out of the nest except for one, however, they’re still taking their feedings on some pretty good size fish. Haven’t seen the baby falcons in quite awhile and hoping they’re doing all right. I really miss watching the baby falcons grow, but not the daily carnage of baby birds being devoured. C’est la vie! The baby osprey are getting so big, just wondering if they’re going to be as big as the Wolf Bay baby osprey. If so, they’re going to need some more “wing space.” : ) It’s a hot day in Winston-Salem, NC, don’t ya just love summertime? Sure beats those ice storms! Happy birdy watching, all!

      • PS………..One of the osprey babies has taken up sitting on the “egg.” Hysterical……….

  9. Well its raining again and Audrey is chirping
    and the Eeeggg is back in sight… Hoped it was
    buried and forgotten by Miss Audrey. .its really
    coming down by the sound of it. It just isn’t
    fair you get all the rain and here in Long Beach
    ca. we can’t even measure the few drops we
    have had this year

  10. The water is dripping off Audrey’s beak and the
    babies have crouched under her all look miserable

  11. To Joan in Long Beach, CA……. It seems to be feast or famine when it comes to rain. Here in Maryland, we set a record for rainfall in June and it has still been pouring most days in July so far. I wish we could send you some rain.
    My yard is beginning to look like a mushroom farm!

    • There are some nasty looking mushrooms out and about in my neighborhood in Howard County, Maryland !!! 6:12pm Audrey is out shopping for sticks.

  12. With all due respect to the COFamily, I still think Maine and Montana are very suitable names for such a year.

  13. THANKS EVERYONE FOR ALL THE UPDATES, BEEN BUSY OUT THERE. I HAVE BEEN OFF ALL AFTERNOON, AND GLAD TO HEAR THEY HAVE EATEN AGAIN AROUND 5, WHICH MEANS THEY SHOULD EAT AGAIN SOON.

  14. I too, voted for Maine and Montana. Mostly as a tribute to the struggles of our feather friends. I have noticed quite a build up of the nest rails here. It’s lovely to see the protective nature of our Audrey. These two look healthy and happy and I couldn’t be happier that they were given fosters to raise and care for. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful.

  15. Hi All and Mary… yes I saw one of the chicks sitting on the EGG last week too, so cute. I thought the Egg was buried yesterday but I bet Audrey dug it up again, that certainly is one tough Egg!
    Hello Barbara, I’m so sad about what happened to the Maine and Montana chicks although I have not followed those nests, it’s just terrible! They may still wind up with those names, the voting process is going on now, did you vote?
    Have a lovely evening everyone, gotta get back to watching my Osprey Family.

  16. Oh Golly I think Audrey just brought in the biggest mess of twigs
    Clubbing the babies thought one was going over the side couldn’t
    keep watching… Going back for more hope it is in place and all has
    calmed down

  17. I saw it Joan, it was huge and with branches going to every direction. I was a nervous wreck too, thank goodness Audrey finally got it under control the babies were bopped in the head a few times. During the process she stood directly on top of the egg and it’s still intact.

  18. Yes, that big stick was painful to watch. Chicks were trying to help her to no avail. She’s still not happy with where it finally landed (kind of in a vertical position). She’s not the best at arranging the furniture but God love her, she gives it her best.

  19. I THINK THEY ARE GROWING SO FAST,SHE IS AFRAID THEY WILL GET OUT. SHE OVER DID IT, TONIGHT WHAT A MESS, AND YOU’LL I SAID I WOULD TRY SO HARD NOT TO MENTION THAT ~~~~~~~EGG ~~~~~~~~IT JUST WILL NOT GO AWAY !!! LOT OF NOISE FROM MISS AUDREY RIGHT NOW !!!

  20. 8:30pm Mom is feeding the kids….wonder what type of fish it is? The meat is red versus the usual white I normally see. I’m hoping for Maine and Montana myself….. everyone get voting! 🙂

  21. TOM BROUGHT A GINORMOUS FISH, DON’T KNOW WHAT KIND, BUR HAVE SEEN THIS RED MEAT BEFORE, SHE HAS STUFFED THEM AGAIN, AND IS ENJOYING A LOT FOR HERSELF AS WE SPEAK . THEY ARE LAYING DOWN AGAIN, FAT AS EVER. GOING BACK TO CHECK, NEST IS HARD WORK, SHE IS HUNGRY !!

  22. 8:38 pm. That’s a big fish! It’s so nice of Tom to remove the head before delivery. Does he eat it? yuck! I see that Audry always eats the tail when she finished feeding the chicks. I’m obsessed with watching them. 👀

  23. I voted for Maine and Montana, too, knowing I was throwing my vote away. Annie and Oliver are certain to win. I just felt I had to pay some small tribute to five little chicks who never had a chance.

  24. MARY, MOST TIMES TOM EATS THE HEAD BEFORE DELIVERY, BUT NOT ALWAYS, IT APPEARS THIS LARGE FISH HAS STUFFED ALL, AUDREY, HAS EVEN GIVEN UP, AND THERE IS FISH LEFT. SHE NORMALLY WILL NOT LEAVE ANY. GOOD JOB, TOM !! EVERYONE FULL AND HAPPY, AND SLEEPY !!! AWESOME !!~YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR OBSESSION !!! TRUST ME WE ARE ALL ADDICTS !!! INA GOOD WAY !!~~

  25. Thanks for the info Karhy. I would love to watch him eating the head just to see how he does it. They are so amazing.

  26. Another beautiful sunrise at the nest today! Babies in middle of nest resting, Audrey looking on! I too voted for Maine and Montana for names.

  27. Alabama osprey cam has all three fledglings in the nest this morning, squawking and looking towards the sky! Mom can be seen flying nearby, over the water, possibly fishing to bring a fish back to the nest. Or maybe that’s dad doing the fishing? Another beautiful morning at Wolf Bay too! Long Island cam this morning, Gracie working on nest, babies resting, looking fat and happy; nest looks much better.

  28. The sunrise is so gorgeous right now over the nest, Audrey and babies looking on and preening, makes me wish I were in that nest with hem right now! 🙂

  29. There are ospreys nesting at Downs Park, not far from where I live. Whenever I see them catching fish, they seem to always start eating the head first. Not to go into gory detail, but maybe it is to make sure it doesn’t flop around so much. That could be a dangerous situation in the nest!
    Sorry if I upset anyone, but nature does things for a reason.

    • Hi June- I too have asked that question! Mr/Ms. Ospreycam, if you see this question, could we find out how the other two are doing? I hope they are doing well! 🙂

  30. WHEN THE ADULT OSPREY EAT A FISH, THEY EAT IT ALL , I GUESS IT IS EASIER TO FEED THE BABIES, IF IT IS GONE, SO THAT MIGHT BE INSTINCT, I REALLY DON’T KNOW. I HAVE SEEN TOM BRING THEM WITH THE HEAD, AUDREY CAUGHT ONE THE NIGHT YOU KNOW WHO DID NOT COME HOME, AND STARTED WITH THE HEAD, WHICH SHE WAS FEEDING TO THE BABIES ALSO. I WOULD THINK CIRCUMSTANCES DICTATE, AS WITH LIFE, IN ALL SITUATIONS . HAS ANYONE SEEN ANY FISH DELIVERED THIS MORNING ??????????

    • HI KATHY; I WAS CHECKING ON THE LITTLE ONES AND I DON’T SEE ANY POSTS SINCE YOU POSTED AT 11;25AM.

      • Hi Donna, there is a new post started. I believe if you scroll down just past these posts, there is a list, you want to click on the very top one. “Mother Nature” in the name. I hope this helps. 🙂 oh and make sure you check the box to notify, just below the words ” post comment” then you will get an email to verify that you want to follow the blog.

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