A Real Head Scratcher

Good morning from the soggy, but now sunny, Eastern Shore of Maryland!  It’s quite unusual for me to be sitting here in the light of day writing the blog, it usually happens in the wee hours of the evening.  I actually stayed up all night before the last blog was published, trying to get it finished before we left on a two week trip to Florida.  I was not successful in my mission, but did manage to get most of the photos uploaded so I could finish up at a remote site.  So it is kind of fun to be sitting here, looking at the nest and writing about the latest happenings.

Crazy start again, isn’t it?  I know all of you are just itching to know what’s going on.  There have been so many questions posed to us, but guess what?  We are just as much in the dark about the beginning of the season as all of you!  So for those of you who have been with us before this season, what does the Crazy Osprey Family do when there are questions?  Call in the experts!!  Our dear long time friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, is down at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Apalachee Bay, Florida conducting his annual spring loon migration study.  It’s hard to catch up with him at times, but we were able to connect last night while he was eating his Easter dinner at an Indian restaurant in Tallahassee.  You gotta love Dr. Spitzer!  Between bites of his dinner, I explained to him in detail what has been going on here at the secret location.  Here are some of his thoughts:

Dr. Spitzer said it is possible that the mysterious stranger is a returned young from a previous year, since this is the current Audrey’s seventh season with us.  According to Dr. Spitzer, we know very little about that possibility because there have not been enough banding studies conducted to be sure.  He speculated that because Audrey has been tolerating the visitor so well, a returned offspring could be here.  Dr. Spitzer said, and I quote, “Once again we are making scientific history at your nest”.  He discussed some of the behaviors that are fundamental to a successful nest pair.  Two of the biggies are that the male brings food to the female and the pair engages in cooperative nest building.  We really haven’t seen either of those two things happening.  Audrey has been self-feeding and building her own nest. I told him how early Audrey had arrived (yes, I do think it is Audrey, but am still waiting to see what happens), and when the two Toms had appeared on the scene last year.  Dr. Spitzer said this is also a head scratcher for him, but it is still early in the game and our Tom from last year may still be making his way here.  He will check on his laptop to see what he can observe, but he does not have reliable WIFI coverage where he is short of parking in a public library lot.  We left it that I will contact him again in a week with any new details, and he will see if he can figure out what is going on.

Now, last Saturday morning, I observed an osprey pick up one of COM’s backyard, prefab nest sticks, and take it back to the nest on a pole in the water a few houses to the north of us, close to the big tree where our ospreys like to sit.  I have been watching to see where the mysterious stranger goes when it leaves our nest, but had not been able to observe it go anywhere but in one of the nearby trees or disappear from sight.  As I have been sitting here writing, I have been keeping an eye out the window on the nest.  I just, I mean just, got up when I saw the mysterious stranger leave the nest and fly off to the north.  And what did I see?  The stranger landed in the other nest!!!!  I have texted Dr. Spitzer and asked him to give me a call when he can to tell him what I just saw, and see if he has any thoughts on that one!  So our current situation is far from over, stand by once again!  Could our mysterious stranger be Ozzie, Essie, Chester, Breezy or Spitz, one of the chicks from 2013 or 2014?


Audrey picking up a prefab nest stick from the COF’s backyard


I know the situation with the camera and sound has been frustrating to you so early in this season.  Believe me, no one is any more unhappy about the problems we have been having than the Crazy Osprey Family and the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Rest assured that everything is being done to try to make this a wonderful viewing season, so your patience is appreciated.  Let’s all try to keep this a positive experience for everyone, and keep the complaining and negative vibes away from the blog comments.  Quit picking on us, we are doing the best we can!!  If you have any concerns, you can reach out to the Conservancy on their Facebook page, they do not monitor the blog comments on a regular basis but are quite good at responding quickly on social media.

A few comments on some questions that have been posed:

When we have some of our cooler evenings this time of year, our osprey will take cover for the night in protected trees.  So if you don’t see someone on the nest at night, they are comfy cozy out in the woods somewhere near their nest.

Over the years, our experience with early nest building has been that the returning birds will usually rest for a few days before commencing their task.  It’s a long way from South America to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and those birds are tired!

You may have observed some sticks in the nest with brightly colored construction tape tied to them.  We put out sticks in our backyard for the ospreys to use as prefab nest building materials.  COM (Crazy Osprey Man) will sometimes tie tape to a few sticks so we can see our sticks in the nest.  We started with some orange tape this year, followed by some green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The green ones didn’t get picked up until after St. Paddy’s Day, so they are officially Spring sticks.  The new yellow ones were to complete the Easter basket look, and I think we can all agree are quite festive.  As the nest building continues, the marked sticks will get buried in the nest and not be visible until COM puts out some new marked sticks.

Here are some photos I have taken since the last blog was published.  It’s been kind of dreary here, so some of them aren’t great.

Audrey on the electrical box at the end of the dock:


Audrey on the electric box enjoying a quick snack. Her bothersome crow buddies are waiting for the spoils.



Yum, yum! I hope COM doesn’t see the bloody mess I am making on his box.



Please leave me alone, can’t you see I am trying to eat?


Sunrise at the secret location on Thursday, March 24, 2016:


Sunrise-March 24, 2016



Our flag at sunrise-COM has it lighted so Old Glory can fly all night




Audrey on the nest with a good view of the camera set-up. The infrared (IR) light source is mounted just below the camera on the vertical support



Audrey and the mysterious stranger on the nest



Audrey and the mysterious stranger hanging out on a dreary day



The Odd Couple



Audrey landing in the big tree two houses to the north of us



Audrey in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north



Audrey leaving the scraggly stick tree. Someone got too close again, who could that be?


A nice photo of Audrey in the scraggly stick tree:


Pretty Audrey enjoying a sunny day in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north.



Audrey enjoying a fish on the dock one house to the south of us



You really need to leave me alone!


Nest photographs from over the weekend:


Audrey on the nest. COM’s yellow and red markers are visible.



Closer view of Audrey on the nest.


Photographs taken this morning, Monday, March 28, 2016:


Audrey and the mysterious stranger in the scraggly stick tree on a gloomy morning



A wet crow joins the fun

Right after this photograph was taken, Audrey took off back to the nest and the mysterious stranger followed her back like a little puppy dog!

A photo taken at sunset a couple of day ago:



No special reason for this photo, I just thought it was kind of cool


I am waiting to hear back from Dr. Spitzer, and when I do, I will post a quick comment about his feelings on the mysterious stranger spending time at the other nest and attempts at mating.  Another crazy season in the making!

Until next time, we remain-

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

Don’t forget to sign up for the Welcome Back Osprey gathering on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.  The event will take place from 4:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Pusser’s Caribbean Grill in Annapolis, Maryland.  Craig Koppie and Dr. Tina Gorrow will be the featured speakers, and will be talking about their new book which focuses on Tom and Audrey’s nest.  For more details and to sign up, visit the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page or website.

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!











Hello Ospreys, Good Bye Swans!

Good evening from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Well, I have good news and bad news for all of my faithful blog readers.  The bad news is that all of our beautiful swans have departed for points north where they nest and have their babies.  The Crazy Osprey Family hopes you enjoyed the little swan diversion this winter.  Many thanks to Crazy Osprey Man, who masquerades as Crazy Swan Man from November through March every year.  He has been faithfully feeding the swans for as long as I can remember. It was his idea to move the camera from the osprey pole to the dock this winter to allow you to enjoy watching our beautiful flock of tundra swans and a few mooching geese.  The swans usually arrive a a little before Thanksgiving and depart around the time the ospreys arrive, which brings us to the good news (I think you may have guessed what I am about to say!).  The Chesapeake Bay ospreys have started to make their presence known, and we have our first beautiful osprey friend in residence!  The bird arrived much earlier than usual this year. Interestingly, our swans also arrived much earlier than usual last November.


Tundra swans near the end of the season. The grey-necked swan is a juvenile. We had a flock of about 60 swans visiting our dock for hand-outs all winter.


Our winter here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland was relatively mild with the exception of the Blizzard of 2016.  This was the first winter since 2012-2013 that we did not have to replace our pole and platform, and were able to utilize the same ones from last year.  The last two winters before this one, our pole succumbed to ice and wind and we had to acquire the help of the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage to replace the pole and the platform.  COM was grateful for a little reprieve from the very cold water and air temperatures he had to endure before the last two osprey seasons.  Mrs. COM baked far fewer homemade muffins this winter, which had been needed the past two years to feed the hard-working, shivering, osprey-loving pole installers, cameramen and all our assorted helpers.  Check out some of the early blogs from 2014 and 2015 to read about and see photos of the pole replacements the last two seasons.

There has been some discussion as to the identity of our first arrival. I have carefully reviewed still photos and video taken off the camera feed since we went live last week, and am quite certain that we have had the same osprey at the nest platform and hanging out in the area since our first osprey sighting on March 8.  There have not been any other ospreys observed around us, not even at the other nest a few houses to the north of us. Please remember that we have a direct high definition feed to a dedicated osprey monitor in our house which does not go through the Internet, so our viewing image is much sharper than what goes out to our thousands of camera watchers. This gives us a decided advantage as to which osprey is on the nest at any given time.  Even with our viewing advantage, sometimes it is hard to tell who is who.  Our very first Tom and Audrey pair, who graced our nest from 1995-2009, looked completely different from each other, and there was no doubt as to which osprey was which.  Tom One had a very dark head, and our first Audrey had just a little splash of black on her forehead, decidedly different from that Tom. Our feathered friend this spring appears to be Audrey, but we are not a hundred percent sure.  It is typical for the male osprey of a pair to return to the nest site first, followed a few days later by the female.  When we had our first Tom and Audrey pair from 1995-2009, Tom always showed up first.  Even with our second pair, Tom always showed up first until the 2014 season.  Here are some dates from the last few years to give you an idea of when our pair showed up:

2009:  This was the last year of our first Tom and Audrey pair.  Tom showed up on March 22, 2009, and Audrey arrived on March 30 that year.

2010:  We were away on a Spring Break vacation from March 12-21, 2010.  The morning after we arrived back, March 22, we observed a new Tom and Audrey already in residence at the nest.

2011:  This was the year for a St. Patrick’s day return for Tom, with Audrey only three days behind on March 20, 2011.

2012:  Tom arrived on March 21, but COM’s notes do not reflect the exact day of Audrey’s arrival, which was sometime after Tom’s.

2013:  This was the first year of our partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the start of our blog.  Tom arrived on March 21, 2013 with Audrey not far behind on March 24.

2014:  Our first anomaly year, with Audrey showing up before Tom on March 22.  Tom took his good old time, and made his grand entrance on March 27, 2014.

2015:  I know you probably remember what a crazy start we had last year.  Audrey showed up first on March 16, 2015, with a brief one week visit from the dark stranger which started on March 23, complete with adult-rated osprey shenanigans.  Our Calico Tom arrived on March 30, and laid claim to his new mate.  The dark stranger moved on to more fertile grounds, and was not seen again.

So that brings us to this year, with our first arrival (possibly Audrey) on 3/8/2016.  Until a second osprey arrives and we can observe the start of baby making, we will withhold absolute verification of our early bird.  We were quite surprised to see the return of the osprey so early, so much to our chagrin, the camera was not back on the pole the day of the return.  Fortunately, COM had scheduled the camera to go back up on the next day, March 9.  With the help of Peter Turcik from the Chesapeake Conservancy, we were able to go live with the ospreycam without further delay.  Thanks very much for your help, Peter, and I hope you enjoyed your muffins.  Here is a pictorial of the camera installation, which occurred at low tide:


Peter and COM getting the equipment ready for the camera installation.



The barren pole awaits a camera and osprey family



COM and Peter carrying the fourteen foot stepladder to the end of the dock. Peter is wearing his Chesapeake Conservancy osprey shirt, how appropriate!



The stepladder is going into the water off the dock. COM and Peter are still wearing their shoes, but changed into waders before going into the drink



Tools at the ready



You can see the big roll of cable used for the camera at the end of the dock by the picnic table. The tub under the picnic table with a brick on top is where the swan corn is kept. Can you spot Peter and COM’s shoes?



COM and Peter taking the ladder through the water out to the pole



The 14 foot stepladder is going up. COM and Peter are looking stylish in their waders



COM and Peter have waded back to the dock and brought out the camera attached to the mount and the junction box.  Don’t you just love the expensive camera cover-a modified K Mart trash can!



Resting the camera on the ladder until the junction box is installed on the pole



The inside of the electrical box on the dock. This is where Tom likes to sit, with the front closed, of course!



Attaching the junction box to the pole



The junction box is attached to the pole, now on to the camera



Maneuvering the camera to go up the pole



You add the caption to this one, as long as it has something to do with COM’s tools!



COM goes slowly up the pole with the camera, which is off-balance and heavy.



Getting closer-Don’t drop it now!



COM is attaching the camera mount to the platform



Almost attached!



COM is taping the cables from the camera to the camera mount



Working his way down the pole taping the cables



COM has the cables down to the junction box. Note how gracefully he stands on one leg, sort of like our osprey



Peter gets in on the cable action helping COM with the tape



COM and Peter carefully bringing the cables back to the dock to avoid tangling



COM and Peter taping the cables together



This job is definitely easier with two people



Attaching the cables to the dock



Taking the ladder down-back to the dock it goes




The pole is looking less bare!



Mission accomplished!


Shortly after the camera was in place, our new arrival checked out the platform additions:


Where is my nest?



You looking at me?



Take a photo of my good side!


Our big surprise this season is the addition of night vision capability at the nest.  COM has researched how to best provide viewing after the sun goes down for a very long time, and made his light purchase over the winter.  He spent many days testing the camera with infrared (IR) lighting, using a variety of different filters to get a good image. With my help on the inside watching images on the computer monitor, he moved the camera around on the end of the dock at night to decide on the proper placement of the IR light source.  For the near future, the IR light will stay on until 11:00 p.m.  The plan right now is to leave the IR light source on all night after the nest is bigger, which will hopefully cut down on the glare you see on the platform.  This is a work in progress, so please bear with us as we try to fine tune all the variables for your viewing pleasure.

Our osprey has been hanging out in all the usual places: the nest platform, the swim ladder two houses to the south of us, the scraggly stick tree next door to the north, but mostly in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  Here are some photos taken since our osprey’s arrival:


March 9, 2016-the big tree two houses to the north of us. Look way up in the top!



A closer view of the previous photo



A closer shot showing the markings on the back of the head-this is the same bird that arrived on March 8 and is still with us



Here comes the woman with the camera, I remember her! Outta here!


Here are a couple of photos taken on March 11, 2016:


I think I will just sit here on my bare platform and eat my fish.



Did you ever feel like you were being watched?



Darn, here she comes again with that annoying camera!



I am taking my fish and leaving!


Here is a photo taken on Monday, March 14:


A gloomy day on the electrical box.


Well, I think that is enough for now!  If there are any sightings of a second osprey in the area, and I let you know right away!

Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man (COMomma) and Osprey Girl

Reminder:  The Chesapeake Conservancy will be hosting their annual Welcome Back Osprey Party on April 19.  Details as to place and time will be announced shortly.

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!







They’re Back!!!!

Good afternoon from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This is a quick news flash:  I just got home from work, and there is a lovely osprey sitting on the bare platform eating a great big fish.  COM has been working on the camera since Sunday when we returned home from a trip to Florida, and we have a surprise for all of the camera watchers out there.  With some help from the Conservancy, the plan is for the camera to go up tomorrow.

The light is not very good, so all I can say is that there is an osprey in residence, with no further characterization. That’s all for now, I was so excited I just had to share!  Stay tuned for an update……………..

COM, Mrs. COMomma and Osprey Girl