Good morning from the fabulous Eastern Shore of Maryland! Life has been busy, busy here at the secret location with graduation parties, New Student Orientation, shopping for dorm necessities and unfortunately, chasing the almighty dollar at work. I have finally had a chance to go through our photos and amaze you all with our next blog.
As promised, I will now regale you with a most heartwarming retelling of the events of Wednesday, June 17, 2015 here at the secret location. After it became painfully obvious that our eggs were not viable and would not hatch, Dr. Paul Spitzer, our dear friend and osprey ornithologist, suggested that we find a foster chick to place in our nest for Tom and Audrey to raise. A flurry of activity ensued between the Chesapeake Conservancy, Craig Koppie, raptor biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Crazy Osprey Family. Mr. Koppie had been involved with a situation on Poplar Island involving a pair of ospreys who had been attempting to build a nest on a piling where the barges pulled in. Poplar Island, which is located in the Chesapeake Bay, is currently being rebuilt by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers using clean dredged materials from the Chesapeake Bay’s approach channels to Baltimore, which is located approximately 30 miles to the north, north/west of Poplar Island. The pair of ospreys in question would try to do some nest building, and the nest would be knocked off by the barges. This situation kept repeating itself until one day when the female laid two eggs on the piling. The nest consisted of a few sticks laying on the piling, certainly not an ideal place to incubate and raise osprey chicks, especially with barges coming and going all day and disturbing the nest.
Koppie and other wildlife biologists decided to remove the eggs and place them in a foster nest where a female osprey was already incubating three eggs. There are twenty five active osprey nests on Poplar Island, and it was not difficult to find a suitable foster mother to incubate the eggs. The Chesapeake Conservancy contacted Mr. Koppie, who works as a raptor biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It seemed that our mutual situations would be a great fit to solve his problem of potentially having too many chicks in one nest and our problem of not having any chicks in our nest. He checked the nest in early June, and determined that four of the five eggs had hatched, and two of the chicks needed to be relocated to ensure the survival of all four young. Now a suitable day to transfer the chicks to our nest had to be identified. Mr. Koppie wanted to wait for a day that was not sweltering hot, and preferably wanted to place the chicks early on a cool morning when they were ten to fourteen days old.
On June 16, 2015, Mr. Koppie, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists Peter McGowan and Robbie Callahan, visited the foster nest and saw that the four chicks were doing well. A decision was made to remove the two chicks with the greater weight and body condition to become foster chicks in Tom and Audrey’s nest here on Kent Island. I am sure the adult pair at that nest were probably happy to have two less mouths to feed! Tom Collins from Kool Ice & Seafood Company, Inc. in Cambridge, Maryland donated fresh menhaden so Mr. Koppie would be able to feed the foster chicks before they were placed in the nest on Wednesday morning. Apparently, ospreys will not eat fish that have already been frozen. Mr. Koppie fed the chicks at around 10:00 p.m. that night.
Wednesday morning, June 17 arrived, clear and refreshingly cool, a perfect scenario for the chick transfer. Mr. Koppie and his associate, Teena Gorrow from Salisbury University, arrived at the secret location along with a reporter and photographer from Hearst Broadcasting. He took the chicks out of his bag, and placed them on our deck table while getting ready.
Here was our first meeting with our new foster chicks. Remember, you should click on each photo to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure:
Like most babies, they didn’t stay awake very long:
This is one of my favorite photos of our new chicks, such an artistic shot!
I’m sure our babies were quite perplexed at the series of events that brought them to our deck table:
Everyone got to snap lots of photographs:
COM and I got to hold our new friends. Osprey Girl was happy to take photos, and didn’t have any desire to hold the young ospreys. .
And then the transfer began. First, Mr. Koppie and COM got their equipment together to go out to the nest. COM had already set up his giant stepladder. I manned the video camera, and Osprey Girl memorialized the events of the day with our super duper Nikon:
Audrey was on the nest, wondering about all the commotion. Tom was nowhere to be found:
Then the trudge through the water began. Fortunately, the tide was not too high that morning:
As COM and Mr. Koppie approached the nest, Audrey, who had gotten out of dodge when the gentlemen started out toward her, reappeared. Look closely, and you will see her approaching them. She is to the right of the nest just at the junction of the water and land:
Mr. Koppie went up the ladder with his bag, which held a container to retrieve two of the eggs. He had made a decision to leave one egg in the nest so if Tom and Audrey did not take to their foster chicks immediately, they would still have the urge to sit on the egg and would remain at or near the nest to facilitate bonding with the new arrivals:
In the meantime, Audrey was not far away and was not happy:
The first thing that Mr. Koppie did was to remove two of the eggs. He placed them gently into a container so the eggs may be examined at a later time to try to determine why they did not hatch:
Meanwhile, Mr. Koppie’s faithful companion, Crazy Osprey Man, was waiting patiently with his precious cargo:
Mr. Koppie brought the bag containing the eggs down, and carefully brought the bag containing the chicks up the ladder to begin the transfer. Audrey is still noisily protesting and not leaving the area:
Check out Mr. Koppie’s right hand!
After both chicks were successfully placed in the nest, Mr. Koppie took some photos:
Literally within seconds of Mr. Koppie and COM heading back to the dock from the nest, Audrey arrived back at the nest:
After both foster chicks were safely in the nest, back on shore there was more work to be done:
Craig Koppie being interviewed by Sally Kidd, national correspondent for Hearst Television’s Washington News Bureau:
You can watch the video feed from the ospreycam of Mr. Koppie making the transfer at “Tom & Audrey’s Osprey Adoption” on YouTube.
It was so much fun to watch Audrey come back to the nest after the chicks were placed. She landed and kind of looked casually down into the nest, then did a double-take and looked again with some confusion. Being the consummate mother, she settled right down into the nest and began caring for her new babies. Mr. Koppie was ecstatic! He sure loves his birds and a success story. Look closely and you can see a small head:
I am sure you are wondering where Tom was while all of the excitement was going on. So were we! But not very long after things settled down, the proud father returned, only he didn’t know he was a proud father until he looked down in the nest:
After a few angonizing hours, everyone was fed, and life with chicks at the nest began for another season. And weren’t we all delighted at such an incredible outcome?
So that is our osprey adoption story in a nutshell!
I have some great photos for the next blog, and will attempt to answer many of the questions that have been popping up from our faithful camera watchers and blog readers. In the meantime, make sure you vote for your preferred pair of names for our babies. Please go to https://surveymonkey.com/r/ospreynames to vote for your favorite!
Until next time, we remain-
Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl
Here is our latest winner of the “Where in the World Are Tom and Audrey” contest:
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://chesapeakeconservancy.org today. Thanks very much!