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.
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:
Shortly after the camera was in place, our new arrival checked out the platform additions:
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:
Here are a couple of photos taken on March 11, 2016:
Here is a photo taken on Monday, March 14:
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!