Mr. Murphy Comes To Call

Good evening from the damp Eastern Shore of Maryland!  There has been quite a bit of excitement here at the secret location since my last blog was published. On April 11, the camera stopped working, and the malfunction couldn’t have come at a worse time.  We were waiting and watching for Audrey to lay her first egg, and certainly did not need Mr. Murphy hanging around ruining the view! Bright and early on the morning of April 13, I noticed that Audrey was hunkered down in her incubating position, and felt quite certain that an egg had been laid the night before.  The Explore folks had exhausted all their avenues to fix the camera, so a decision was made to have a local technician here in Maryland come out to take a look.  In preparation for a possible repair and rewiring of the system, COM obtained the necessary cable and had it all laid out in the yard ready for a repair.  He was not looking forward to bothering our osprey couple during the potentially critical egg laying time, but was prepared for any eventuality.  When the technician arrived, it didn’t take him very long to figure out that the problem was a loose wire inside our house, and not the camera.  A big shout out and many thanks to our technician extraordinaire, Brian Slota from Atlantic Control Technologies, who was able to quickly diagnose our problem and get the camera up and running in no time.  After Brian left, we told Mr. Murphy (in no uncertain terms) to get lost, and hopefully he will not be returning again this season!

As I am sure you have all noticed by now, there are three beautiful eggs being quietly incubated by Tom and Audrey.  The eggs were laid on April 12, 15 and 18, three days apart as expected and on Audrey’s typical schedule.  The one year she laid four eggs, the fourth one came a few days after the third, but did not hatch.  I am very excited and happy to have three eggs, and actually hope not to have another one.  Have you noticed that Tom loves to sit on those eggs?  Sometimes Audrey has a hard time getting him to leave!


Tom is enjoying his incubation duties.



Audrey’s break time is over and she returns to the nest. Tom is willing to give her another 15 minutes of breaktime.



Tom is having a friend distract Audrey so he can remain on the eggs a little longer



Audrey is on to Tom’s tricks, and tells him to get moving.



Tom takes off, counting the minutes until he can come back and incubate the eggs again.


I am a regular lurker on the Explore comment section of the camera, and have been monitoring the comments and discourse that takes place.  A recurring area of concern seems to be the nest size, with many of you expressing worries that our nest is too small. To allay your fears, we have had the same size nest platform since our pole went up in 1995.  The platform is 24 x 24 inches, and the dimensions have remained the same for 22 years. Our osprey pairs have always successfully raised their families in the nest on top of that size platform.  We have lost chicks two times in those 22 years.  The first time was before we had the camera when two of the chicks became tangled up in fishing line brought back to the nest by Audrey, possibly having been attached to a fish that was caught.  You can read all the details of that incident in the blog that was published July 18, 2013, titled “Rescue At Sea #2-From The Annals of Crazy Osprey Man”.  That year, there were three chicks in the nest, and at the time of the incident, only one had fledged.  One remained in the nest, we were able to rescue one from the water, and the third drowned before COM was able to get out in the water and save it.  The only other time we have lost a chick was last season, when a Great Horned Owl attacked the nest at night.  The owl blindsided Audrey and knocked her out of the nest.  During the attack, one of the chicks was either grabbed by the owl or was also knocked out of the nest with Audrey.  One chick was not hurt, but the remaining unhatched egg was also damaged and did not hatch.  So we have never lost a chick due to the nest size.  Now, I am not saying the nest won’t get crowded at times, but relax, all you nest worriers, the nest is big enough for Tom, Audrey and the chicks-to-be!  Tom and Audrey will continue to add to the nest with sticks, grass (no moss in this nest) and other paraphrenalia, and it will be comfy-cozy for the entire osprey family.



July 2015. In the nest you will see Tom, Audrey, Maine, Montana and a newly arrived juvenile from who knows where, E.T.  This was E.T.’s first day in his new digs. The whole family is perplexed, even E.T.   As you can see, there is plenty of room for all (same size platform as this year)


Another area of concern seems to be the lack of perches at the nest.  I wish I could take you all on a little magic carpet ride to see the lovely area surrounding the nest.  Natural and man made perches abound!  As the season goes on, I am sure there will be many photographs posted in my blogs of our osprey friends perching in and around the nest. Here are some of the places Tom and Audrey can be found perching.  When our chicks-to-be fledge, they will use some of the same haunts, and probably find some of their own. Some of the more common places Tom and Audrey like to perch when not visible on the camera are quite close to the nest, some are a little further away.  Here are some of the places our ospreys can be found on a regular basis.



Tom sitting on top of the camera. He likes this perch. When he is up there, you cannot see him, but can usually hear his talons scratching away on the camera cover.  This photo was taken a couple of evenings ago when the sun was almost down



This photo was taken last season of Tom on the camera, Audrey at the ready and chick checking out the world.  Mrs. COM must have been standing on one foot and drinking a glass of wine when she took this photo


Another perch used by Tom and Audrey is in the nest, but sometimes it is not visible in the camera view.



There are two of these nest supports which may be used as perches. Tom is hanging out on one in this photo, and you can clearly see the other one to the right.


The house immediately next door to us to the south has a dock that is not used very frequently.  Both and Tom and Audrey like to sit on the pilings and enjoy a fish meal.



Audrey is enjoying her sloppy seconds on the dock just to the south of us. Notice the yellowish, deeply notched tail on what remains of this fish. These characteristics are indicative of a menhaden, the most common fish eaten by our Chesapeake ospreys.



Tom and Audrey on the dock immediately to the south of us. There are clam shells all over the dock, left there by the gulls who like to eat clams. There is also a substantial amount of bird poop on this dock, giving a new meaning to the term “poop deck”.



Squawking Tom emulating Squawking Audrey in full voice. Stay away from my fish, you crazy photo taking woman! This photo is from last season, before the poop deck was cleaned. Nasty!


Another favorite perch is the swim ladder on the dock two houses to the south of us.  Our neighbors who own that house just purchased a new boat, and our ospreys have taken to sitting on top of it, much to our neighbor’s chagrin.  I will try to get a couple of photos when I see someone out there.



Tom and Audrey together on the swim ladder at the dock two houses to the south of us.



Tom enjoying a sunny day on the swim ladder



This is another photo from last year showing a lovely little family getaway. This was as close as I could get with all three remaining in place.


Tom and Audrey spend a fair amount of time on various locations on our dock.



Here is Tom on the boat lift. It’s not so bad when the boat isn’t in the lift (like now), but COM does not appreciate little osprey gifts (you know what I mean) when the boat is in the lift. These gifts are especially apparent when the dark green boat cover is in direct line with the gift givers. SPLAT!



Look, ma, I can stand on one foot!



Another favorite spot is on the end of the dock, quite close to the nest pole.




Here is Audrey on the electric box at the end of our dock. Many bloody messes have been made on top of this box. Good for the osprey, bad for the fish.



This is how close the electrical box is to Roger, who is missing his lovely fedora after the big blow a couple weeks ago. We have the new hat, it just hasn’t made its way to Roger’s “head”


The ospreys use the electrical box to enjoy their fish meals.  And you know what sometimes happens after ospreys eat (the next photo is dedicated to COM, who really enjoys when I post these specialized action shots)



Al least she is pointed away from Roger!


Audrey has had quite enough of Mrs. COM and that ever-present camera.



I think it’s time to go…………………



Might as well wash off my feet while I am here


The weird looking metal contraption in the above photos is all that remains of COM’s floating dock ramp.  Many years ago, we had a floating dock at the end of the permanent dock.  COM invented and built a ramp out of an old sailboat mast and some small pieces of dock wood.  The ramp could be raised and lowered as needed by the pulley system you see in the photo.  The floating dock and ramp are long gone, but the pulley system remains and is used as a perch by our ospreys.



Audrey on the conveniently located perch.


Moving to the north, there are a few well-used perches.



Looking north from our backyard. The closest tree, known as “the scraggly stick tree”, is in the yard directly to the north of us (next door). We refer to the furthest large tree as “the big tree two doors to the north of us”, another frequent hang-out. If you look closely, you can see another osprey nest on a pole in the water to the right of the big tree. The dock with the black boat is another frequent stop.


For those of you who have been with us for many years, you know I will frequently refer to the scraggly stick tree.  This tree is right next door to us to the north, and is right along the rip-rap.  It is one of the most favorite perches used by all of our ospreys, and you will see many photos taken in that tree.  The tree received its moniker because Audrey will frequently make fly-bys and break sticks right off the tree, and immediately take them to the nest without any stops.



Audrey in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us. You can see some of the broken ends of branches where Audrey has harvested nest sticks.


On further observation, Audrey is not alone in the scraggly stick tree.



Two’s company, five’s a crowd! Hungry crows hoping for a hand-out.



Audrey in the scraggly stick tree, showing off on one foot



Audrey in the scraggly stick tree



Audrey fending off an intruder from the scraggly stick tree




A photo from last summer after Chessie had just fledged, showing his first stop. This is what the big tree two houses to the north of us will look like when it is leafed out.


Other neighborhood birds also like the big tree.



A regal bald eagle enjoying the view from the top of the big tree in early fall 2016 after our ospreys had left for their winter digs.


So as you can see, there are many, many perches in very close proximity to our nest.  There are plenty to go around, providing a variety of options for our feathered friends.  When our chicks fledge, COM will put out two or three perches right next to the nest for the newly flying youngsters.



A previous photo of the perches COM will install when the chicks start to fledge


Here are some other recently taken photos that you might enjoy.  In the first one, Audrey is returning to the nest.



Coming in for a landing


Tom notices that Audrey is back in residence, and decides to visit for a little afternoon delight.



A quick pick-me-up



This won’t take long, I’ll be out of your hair (read feathers) in a jiffy



See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!


I am not sure who Audrey is mantling for in this photo, so I guess it must be me!  I also like this photo because you can see Tom’s buff head.



Get away from my fish, Mrs. COM and go get your own!


Roger doing the funky chicken (maybe funky osprey?)



A cool dance move by Roger



A great view of our downstairs tenants (on the right below the nest platform)


Some good news this season is that both Tom and Audrey seem to be tolerating my presence with the camera much better than in years past.  Our dear friend and osprey expert Dr. Paul Spitzer suggested that COM and I talk to our ospreys to get them used to us.  I have been sweet talking them and calling to them at every opportunity, and I am seeing a difference in how long they will tolerate me stalking them before they fly off.  We will see how long their benevolence lasts, but this may turn out to be a great photo-taking season.


One last observation before we end for today.  There have been observations and comments galore about “the stick”, the one that has seemingly been in the way for a couple of weeks.  Intervention is not an option for this stick, which was placed there by our ospreys and is part of nature.  Tom and Audrey will figure it out, and all will be well.


That’s it for today!  Until next time, we remain-

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


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 today.  Thanks very much!
















Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Good afternoon from the sunny, cool Eastern Shore of Maryland!  There has been a beehive of activity here at the secret location since my last blog.  The partnership between the Chesapeake Conservancy,, the Crazy Osprey Family and Investigative Options, Inc. is up and running, and has generated much interest in our favorite Chesapeake Bay osprey couple.  A hearty hello to all of our new viewers, and welcome back to our faithful friends who have been with us in previous seasons.  I thought I would use this blog to update the action at our nest and address many of the observations made by our new followers.  I know you are all wondering when the first egg will be laid, so here are some quick stats from last season.  Audrey arrived on March 8 and Tom arrived on March 31, 2016.  The three eggs were laid on April 17, 20 and 23.  This year, Audrey arrived on March 21 and Tom arrived on March 25.  I will leave you to ponder possible egg-laying dates.  Maybe some of you can start an egg-laying pool!  Hopefully, these tidbits of information will assuage some of your concerns. So without further adieu, our 2017 blog season continues!

At 12:02 a.m. on March 21, an owl was observed sitting on the platform.  Although said owl was a beautiful bird, his/her presence caused some alarm in the COF (Crazy Osprey Family), as we lost a two day old chick and an unhatched egg to an owl early last season. We sent the camera stills to our favorite osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer and our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie, who each confirmed that our late night visitor was indeed a Great Horned Owl.  They both expressed concern about the presence of the owl after the incident last year.  So our Osprey Protector and Defender, Roger, came out of his winter quarters and took over his watchful duties.  COM (Crazy Osprey Man) was at the ready, and prepared Roger for placement at the end of the dock.  But before Roger was in residence, at 6:00 p.m. that very day, our dear Audrey returned to the secret location.  By the time Audrey was back, our swans were on their way north for the nesting season.



Audrey back at the platform. This photo gives you some perspective what the pole and platform look like from the dock.



A closer look at Audrey resting quietly after her journey. She doesn’t rest quietly too often, she must have been really tired!



A cold and windy day after Audrey arrived back. She was probably wondering why she left her winter digs so soon.


In order to protect Audrey, COM worked into the darkness to get Roger on duty.  He was deployed at 8:32 p.m. on that dark, cold, windy night!  Thanks, COM, your moniker is well-deserved!



Roger back in action for the 2017 season.  Note the empty platform and camera in the background.


With the return of Audrey, the Tom watch was officially underway.  There was a brief osprey stop-over on March 23/24, with much discussion as to the identity and gender of the visitor.  Audrey had also disappeared, as the weather was not welcoming to our newly arrived bird.  At our nest, it is not unusual for Tom and Audrey to take a leave of absence during very cold, windy weather.  They take cover out of the wind, and probably hang out in more protected trees around the neighborhood and in near-by woods.  We checked all the usual hang-outs, but Audrey was not to be found.  On March 25, she returned to the platform without offering a clue as to her former whereabouts.  Maybe she had a feeling that Tom was in the area, for later that night, he arrived back at the platform after dark.  His identity was confirmed the next day during daylight.


Audrey in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us the day after she arrived



Tom in the big tree two houses to the north of us shortly after his arrival. The tree will look very different in a few weeks when it leafs out.


Now that our happy couple was back together, there were many questions posed by our newer viewers inquiring how to tell Tom and Audrey apart.  Sometimes this is not easy. Our first Tom and Audrey pair, who started out with us in 1995, looked completely differently from each other, and there was never any question about who was who.  Our current Tom and Audrey are a different story.  Audrey is a little bigger than Tom, and has a Phoenix-shaped black patch on the back of her head.  Tom has a buff patch on the back of his head, and has mottled-looking feathers. When he first arrived at the secret location in 2015, the mottling was more pronounced.  He was nicknamed “Calico Tom” by Dr. Spitzer, and that name has stuck.  Over the years he has been with us, the mottling has lessened, but you can still observe his mottled feathers when he is dry.  When wet, the mottling is harder to notice.  Don’t feel badly if you have trouble telling Tom and Audrey apart, even the Crazy Osprey Family isn’t sure sometimes!



A beautiful photo of Calico Tom sitting on COM’s boat lift with perfect conditions to see the reason he was given his nickname by Dr. Spitzer. He is dry and the sun is at a perfect angle to capture his mottled look.


Over the next few days, there was much discussion about the lack of nest building and many questions about the removal of the existing nests from year to year.  We have always removed the nest at the end of the season based on input from our resident osprey experts.  There are two reasons for the removal of the old nest every year.  One is to prevent parasites from wintering over and infecting our birds in the spring.  The other reason is that the nest, if allowed to grow and grow, would get way too big and heavy for our little pole.  The pole is twenty one feet long, and is sunk six feet into the sand, making it fifteen feet off the bottom with an average of thirteen feet above the surface of the water.


Dock Osprey

A really big nest on a boat lift right up the creek from the secret location. This nest would be way too big for our pole and platform, and is obviously not removed after each season.

I guess the owner of the above dock doesn’t get to use his boat lift very often!


Here are the remains of our nest after COM took it down last fall.  To remove the nest, he simply pushes it into the drink.


Our 2016 nest forlornly floating off.



There it goes……………



Arrivederci, old friend!


After much angst and gnashing of teeth about the lack of nest building, a few days after Tom arrived BAM!, the nest building began in earnest.  It was a sight to behold!  We hope you all enjoyed watching the nest take shape with warp speed. Yet another advantage to removing the nest every year, I will add it to the list. But next year you have to give Tom and Audrey a little break.  After all, they just flew thousands of miles and needed a little R & R before commencing the build! This year, COM put a few sticks on the platform when he put the camera up to give you something to look at, but I don’t think he will do it again next year.  Now you know not to worry about the old nest being taken down, as Tom and Audrey (all of our Tom and Audreys) have built a spectacular new nest every year since we have had our pole starting in 1995.

Before the nest was started, you may have noticed a piece of aluminum angle iron on the platform.  There was some concern expressed about the safety of our ospreys with that piece of metal being exposed. COM installed it to keep the platform from deforming under the weight of the camera.  There were no sharp edges, and there was no chance that any birds could have been injured by the aluminum.  As soon as nest building began happening, the aluminum strip was quickly covered. Rest assured, we love our ospreys and would never do anything to cause them any harm!

The day after Tom returned, I happened to be home on another cold, wet afternoon and noticed him with a humongous fish.  It was so big, he had trouble carrying it and landed in the yard next door.



Tom in the yard next door to the north. He had a hard time carrying his humongous fish, and landed in the grass. Note the buff color on the back of his head.


Tom was a little camera shy, and decided maybe he could carry the fish after all.



Tom decides to take his chances and fly off with his prize fish. He landed on the dock next door to the north.


For those of you who are new to our camera, you will quickly learn that if Mrs. COM has a camera in her hand, she becomes a stalker extraordinaire.  Just a few steps closer……..



Here she comes, Tom, get ready to move on!



Yep, time to go!


Tom relocated to the dock two houses to the north of us.



Maybe if I hide this fish, she will go away



I don’t think hiding the fish worked, here she comes again.



Getting ready to relocate yet again, darn it Mrs. COM


Off he went again, so I decided to let him eat his fish in peace.  This gigantic fish was identified as an American shad.  We usually see our ospreys eat shad early in the season before they migrate further north.  The majority of the fish caught and eaten by our ospreys during the season are menhaden, or alewife.  In the Chesapeake Bay, they are usually referred to as menhaden.  We will discuss fish later in the season.



Audrey on the electric box at the end of the dock eating sloppy seconds. Roger is on duty, and looking very dapper.



This tastes so good I think I will have another bite!



I thought Roger was supposed to be a scarecrow. This crow doesn’t look too scared!  Maybe the crow knows Roger is really a scareowl.


Last Thursday, April 6, 2017, we had a ferocious storm blow through at the secret location.  There were tornadoes confirmed in Washington, D.C. and even closer to us.  We always worry about our feathered friends in such dangerous weather.  Our usually calm bay was whipped up into a frenzy.  Audrey hunkered down to ride out the storm.  Tom was nowhere to be found, probably hiding in the woods like a weenie.



The Chesapeake Ocean



Audrey is hunkered down riding out the storm. One of COM’s pink marked sticks is still visible in the lower left part of the nest.


The storm was fierce, but the nest held.  There was some damage, but it was mostly intact.  Windage on the camera caused it to rotate 180 degrees from its usual position.



You can see some of the damage on the right hand side of the nest. Audrey is telling Tom to get moving, and either fish or do some nest repair. Tom is trying to ignore her. A pink and green marked stick are visible after the big blow.


The most damage from the storm was inflicted on poor Roger.  Here he is after the storm.



Roger was pummeled by the wind and rain. His stylish straw hat was ripped off his head, and only a remnant remained.


COM retrieved brave Roger, and has taken him to the garage to be rehabilitated.



Roger looking wet, dirty, bedraggled and hatless. His supporting stick has been broken off. COM is exhibiting the appropriate amount of concern.



A bit of Roger’s old hat can be seen sticking up out of his “head”, which is an upside down gallon oyster container.


If you have been watching the camera even a little bit, I am sure you can’t help but notice that Tom and Audrey have been doing their best to make sure we have some fertilized eggs.  For the voyeurs in our midst, here is what their interludes look like from shore.



Tell the kids to go into the other room, X-rated osprey photos. The camera is still in the rotated position.



Wham, bam, thank you m’aam!



The osprey equivalent of smoking a cigarette after their romantic interlude.


This photo gives you a perspective of the pole in relation to the water surrounding it.  It was taken just after the storm before COM was able to rotate the pole back into place.



Audrey alone on the nest after the storm.


There has been discussion about perches at our nest.  I will discuss this in the next blog, as this one is getting way too long.  In the meantime, here are Tom and Audrey in the nest just after the storm.  You can see the damage on the right side of the nest.  Tom loves to perch on this nest anchor.



Tom perched on one of his favorite places before the pole was back in position.


We had a very low tide a couple of days ago, and COM went out in the water and rotated the pole back into its original position.



The pole is back in its usual position. Audrey is also in her usual position, the one with her mouth open squawking


Well, this blog has gotten long enough.  I still have lots of good information to pass on to you about various inquiries, and will continue answering some of your questions in the next few blogs.  I’ll cover such topics as where Tom and Audrey hang out when they are not in residence, perches, history of the nest and other fun facts that inquiring minds want to know.


A parting shot for now…………



Sometimes you just get lucky. COM thinks I am gross for putting this photo in the blog. But it is nature in action, right?


Here’s hoping for a nest full of eggs for the next blog!

Don’t forget about the Chesapeake Conservancy’s 4th annual Welcome Back Osprey Party, to be held on Tuesday, April 25 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Maryland.  It will feature ornithologist and filmmaker Jacob Steinberg, who will talk about a documentary he wrote, directed and produced called “Osprey”.  For further information, please visit

Until next time, we remain,

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl


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 today.  Thanks very much!