Good afternoon from the still blustery, cold Eastern Shore of Maryland! Since my last blog, we certainly have seen some nasty weather here at the secret location. We went from hoping one of our feathered friends would make an early appearance to being oh so very happy that the platform is still bare. I know many of you are watching, waiting, beginning to get nervous and a little worried about the fate of our beloved family. Therefore, I have gathered some data on the dates our ospreys have returned since we have had our newest Audrey. I hope these nuggets of knowledge will provide some relief over the next few days while we watch and wait. This data was shared at the beginning of the 2016 season, but I thought it would be a good reminder that there is no need to panic just yet!
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. The morning after we returned home, 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.
2012: Tom arrived on March 21, but COM’s usually reliable 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 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.
2015: We had a crazy start in 2015. Audrey showed up first on March 16, followed by a brief one week visit from a dark stranger. The visiting osprey showed up on March 23, and adult-rated osprey shenanigans occupied most of the week this Lothario was in residence. Our Calico Tom arrived on March 30, and laid claim to his new mate. The dark stranger moved on to more fertile, friendly grounds, and was not seen again.
2016: Audrey was back very early last year. The camera was scheduled to be put up on March 9, but she arrived back on the scene March 8. After another early season of suspense and questions surrounding the arrival of a second osprey previously not seen, our Calico Tom finally showed up. He took charge and reclaimed his woman on March 31 after a resounding aerial battle with the mystery osprey.
In my walks around the neighborhood, I have not seen any ospreys so far this year. We have many active nests in our area, and none of the ospreys are back. So at this point, I am not worried about Tom and Audrey returning. Are you all feeling better now? Get some sleep, it will be all right!
There have been many questions and comments posted on the Conservancy’s Facebook page, our blog and at the explore.org site. While we wait for the return of Tom and Audrey, I thought this would be a good time to post some thoughts and insights in response to your questions and comments. For some reason, the photos in this blog have reverted to posting at a small size, so please click on each one to enlarge for your viewing pleasure.
Swans: Many of you have commented and posted photographs about our gorgeous tundra swans that grace the water around our nest. In addition to being Crazy Osprey Man, COM is Crazy Swan Man from November, when the swans arrive at the secret location and March, when they fly north to their breeding grounds. Our visiting flock of tundra swans usually numbers between sixty and seventy a day. A few years ago, some of our swans were banded and fit with satellite collars, and their summer home was determined to be in northern Hudson Bay, up near the Arctic Circle. A general rule of thumb around these parts is that when the swans leave in March, the ospreys return. COM feeds his swans daily when they are here, and when they see him walking down the dock, they take off in flight toward him to get to their daily ration of cracked corn. The swans you see on the osprey camera are tundra swans, which are native swans. They have a black beak, and have very loud calls. The other swans that used to be seen around the Chesapeake Bay are mute swans. They are non-native swans with orange beaks, who wreak havoc on the underwater grasses. The mute swans were introduced to North America from Europe in the late nineteenth century. They have been declared an invasive species due to their adverse effects on waterfowl and native ecosystems, severely reducing the density of submerged aquatic vegetation. The mute swan population in the Chesapeake Bay was eradicated several years ago, and we haven’t seen any mute swans at our dock for many years. The mute swans that would visit the secret location were very mean to the tundra swans (and would hiss at us), and although beautiful, we were not sorry to see them go. We hope you have enjoyed watching the tundra swans swim by under the nest pole.
Crows: We have a plethora of crows in the area, and you may have noticed some of them sitting on the nest platform. When our ospreys are in residence, the crows will hang around trying to mooch a free meal of unattended fish or scraps that remain in the nest.
Infrared light source: Once again this year, COM has spent a large chunk of his time trying to tweak our infrared light source for nighttime viewing. He purchased a new light for this season, and we tried it out for a few nights. Under the darkness of night, one of us would go down to the dock and try out different COM designed filters, while the other was stationed at our dedicated osprey camera computer monitor located on the second floor in COM’s office assessing the quality of the IR light using different parameters. Communications between the end of the dock and the house were by cell phone. I think the final product will be awesome for nighttime viewing this season. From what we have seen so far, the IR feature is looking really good.
Unusually low tides: The winds over the last ten days have really been howling. When we have high winds from the northwest and a low tide, sometimes the water will get blown out of the bay. This usually occurs only during the winter months a couple of times a season. Due to these high winds, a few days ago the swans could be seen walking around under the nest pole! For those of you who observed this, it was quite comical to see the swans waddling around on their feet and not swimming by as their usual graceful selves.
Nest sticks: I guess COM was feeling a little sorry for our ospreys this year, as for the first time, he placed a few sticks on the platform when the camera went up. The platform is usually bare until nest building commences, but not this season. For those of you new to our nest, we have some of the luckiest ospreys around. Every season, we gather the perfect osprey nest sticks, and put them in the backyard for the ospreys to use in building and maintaining their nest. COM will tie various colors of construction tape to some of the sticks, and these marked sticks always end up in the nest. Keep your eyes peeled during the season for the various color sticks that will appear. You won’t see any green St. Paddy’s Day sticks this year as there are no ospreys around, but Easter is not far off!
Roger: Our resident scarecrow Roger, protector and defender of osprey nests, is resting comfortably in his winter quarters (the garage) until his services are needed. He will make his appearance soon, and maybe we will give him a spring make-over (but maybe not, we will see). Roger became one of the family after an attack at our nest by a Great Horned Owl last season, leading to the loss of one of our newly-hatched chicks and an unhatched egg.
Eagles: There are three eagles that have been around since the fall, two adults and a juvenile. They all spent a fair amount of time sitting on the nest platform, in the big trees two houses to the north of us, and flying around the area. I don’t anticipate this will be a problem when Tom and Audrey return. We will keep an eye out for a confrontation, but there is nothing we will be able to do if there is trouble between the eagles and ospreys.
A beautiful sunrise at the secret location during October 2016:
Remember, after a one season hiatus, comments are once again being allowed on our blog page. Feel free to communicate with other camera watchers and blog readers at the end of each blog. Please follow the rules, which were posted in the last blog.
I hope I have soothed you about the return of Tom and Audrey and answered some of your burning questions. Here’s hoping for some good news in the next few days!
Until next time, we remain,
Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl.
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