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!
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.
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.
Another perch used by Tom and Audrey is in the nest, but sometimes it is not visible in the camera view.
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.
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 spend a fair amount of time on various locations on our dock.
Another favorite spot is on the end of the dock, quite close to the nest pole.
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)
Tom has had quite enough of Mrs. COM and that ever-present camera.
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.
Moving to the north, there are a few well-used perches.
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.
On further observation, Audrey is not alone in the scraggly stick tree.
Other neighborhood birds also like the big tree.
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.
Here are some other recently taken photos that you might enjoy. In the first one, Audrey is returning to the nest.
Tom notices that Audrey is back in residence, and decides to visit for a little afternoon delight.
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.
Roger doing the funky chicken (maybe funky osprey?)
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.
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