What A Difference A Day Makes

Good afternoon from the once again rainy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  What a miserable, wet spring it has been here at the secret location.  Before I sat down to write this blog, I took a look at the last blog, which was published two days before the initial crow attack on the nest which destroyed two of our eggs and a second attack the next day which has left the third egg’s viability in question.  There was so much hope and anticipation in that blog, which included the hatch windows for all three eggs, and the promise of chicks by the time this blog was written.  What a difference a day makes…………..

So here we are, closing in on the end of our hatch window for Egg #3.  I am sure many of our faithful camera watchers remember the 2015 season, when Tom and Audrey sat faithfully on their three eggs for weeks past their viability date.  A season which went from sadness to great elation with the fostering of Maine and Montana, and the arrival of our bad boy, E.T.  What a season it was!  Last year while sitting on her three eggs, our Audrey disappeared for twenty four hours during a very cold, wet and windy spring day.  Tom did the best he could to incubate the eggs, but he also needed to leave the nest to eat.  The eggs remained unattended for 7 hours when the temperature outside was 47 degrees and a cold rain fell.  For all of the details, take a look at the blog “Beautiful Noise”, published 5/12/2016 and “History In The Making”, published on 5/31/2016.  Of course, after the first two miracle chicks hatched last year, our nest was attacked by a Great Horned Owl, which resulted in the death of one of the chicks and damage to the remaining egg, which never hatched.  Our beautiful Chessie became the only child, thrived with all of the undivided attention, and took off to warmer climes in the fall.  We just can’t seem to catch a break the past couple of years, so thanks for hanging in there with us.

Where do we go from here?  Why has this happened?  What caused the change in behavior from our faithful Audrey and Calico Tom The Fishing Fool?  The questions are many and the definitive answers are few.  I am not a trained raptor biologist, just an observer of Nature and our nest going back more than two decades.  My unsubstantiated opinion is that the terrible weather conditions caused some or most of our problems earlier in May.  Above all, adult ospreys have survival instincts that supersede protecting the nest and eggs.  They must take care of themselves first, so if Tom wasn’t supplying enough fish to sustain Audrey, she had no choice but to go fishing for herself.  Tom may not have been able to catch enough fish to feed himself and Audrey due to the wind, rain and crummy weather, so he had to take care of himself first.  There were many days that I would see him with a fish, eating in the scraggly stick tree or a near-by dock.  I was sure he would bring part of the fish to Audrey, but each time, he finished the meal himself, much to my chagrin.  I go back to Craig Koppie’s statement from my last blog:  Anything in Nature is possible.  Since those days earlier in May when Tom no longer deserved his Fishing Fool moniker, and Audrey inexplicably left her eggs unattended for what seemed to be an interminable length of time, the conditions at the nest have made a remarkable turn-around.  I would wager to say that Tom and Audrey are back to their former selves. Tom is catching fish for all at a tummy-filling rate, and Audrey is as attentive to her remaining egg as we are used to seeing.  The nest has taken back its beautiful shape and size, and is lined with soft nesting materials just waiting to cradle new chicks.  As we wait for the fate of the third egg, other options are being considered with no decisions having been made.  So keep watching, keep commenting and hang in there with us for now.  The wild ride this season may not be over yet!

With the editorial out of the way, on to more pleasant topics.  I was in sort of an osprey funk for a while after the crow attack, but am getting back in an osprey frame of mind.  To reward your patience while I was incommunicado, here are some photos I have taken since the last blog was published.


First, some photos of the villains in this ever-changing saga:



The weekend of the crow attacks. A villainous, murderous crow taking advantage of the nest devoid of adult ospreys




While the crow was in the nest, Audrey was eating on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us, but seemed to notice the unwanted nest visitor



A couple of days later, Tom was observed eating a fish on the electrical box at the end of our dock.



Tom is trying to enjoy his catch



Tom gets ready to take another bite, but seems a little distracted



Something has caught Tom’s eye (beside Mrs. COM and the ever-present camera)



Here is the “something” that has caught Tom’s eye.  Roger is beyond embarrassed, and is blaming his new hat on the crow’s seeming nonchalance in sitting directly on top of a scarecrow


The crows are very wary and very smart.  The crows are in trouble, however, because COM has a new mission.  You should know by now that when COM has a mission, there is no stopping him.  Crows be warned, COM has you in his sights!!!!


While Tom and the crow were trying to ignore each other, Audrey was quietly incubating her remaining egg.



Audrey in the nest, hoping everything would be back to normal


A little while later the same day, Audrey was taking a break in the scraggly stick tree next door to us to the north.



Audrey in the scraggly stick tree, finally enjoying some sunshine. Sunshine on her shoulders makes her happy (with apologies to John Denver)


Audrey didn’t feel like messing with Mrs. COM that day, and off she went



Audrey wasn’t in the mood for Mrs. COM and her camera, and skedaddles back to the nest



Settling back in to the nest, but still keeping an eye on the crazy woman with the infernal camera


Remember in the last blog when I couldn’t choose between two photos, and decided to post both of them for your viewing pleasure and input?  Well, guess what, I had the same dilemma this time.  (By the way, I spent some time researching “dilemma” vs. “dilemna”. I have used the proper spelling, but I’m afraid that hasn’t always been the case prior to today)



Option #1-Audrey in the scraggly stick tree- head on view



Option #2-Audrey in the scraggly stick tree-profile


So, which do you like?  Option #1, or Option #2?


The weather gods have not been kind to us so far this season.  We have seen the following behavior in the past, but it is still rather rare to see either Tom or Audrey sitting on the rip-rap or near the ground close to the shore.  They will usually only sit there to get out of the wind.  Here is one of those windy days:



Audrey sitting on a piling close to shore with her fish to stay out of the wind



Audrey decides to head out a little further from shore to put some distance between her fish and Mrs. COM.  She is now being buffeted by the wind, and her head feathers are askew. The waves are rockin’ and rollin’




Facing into the wind-she knows her head feathers will look better in the photos



Back to the nest and hunkered down against the wind. Audrey looks nice and cozy



There has been much discussion of late about Tom’s fishing, first the lack of it and now the return of the Fishing Fool.  Here is some photographic proof of the return of our beloved Calico Tom The Fishing Fool:



My first glance out the window, so I grabbed the camera and made my way outside



A striped bass (also known as rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay) big enough to feed a multitude of osprey families. Take a look at how much of the head is still on the fish




Oh, no, I know she is stalking me again.  Next stop in an attempt to elude the pesky Mrs. COM, a piling on the dock next door to the north of us.



Notice that a fair amount of the fish’s head is now consumed



Time to move on, that woman just won’t leave it alone



A different kind of bird that is very popular with the Crazy Osprey Family.  Guess where COM and Mrs. COM spent their Saturday night last weekend?


IMG_0450 (002)

Parrothead just sounds like a lot more fun than Ospreyhead, more colorful, too!!



Okay, back to the ospreys.  Here are some photos from yesterday and today to wrap up for now.

Tom and Audrey love the scraggly stick tree next door to the north, probably the place where Tom spends the most time.  He is sitting out there right now, looking quite wet.  Here is Audrey yesterday, drying off after a shower:



Audrey is drying off in the scraggly stick tree




Ah, that feels better!



Some of you have commented about seeing this lovely little family swim by in the camera view:



Our resident Canada goose family



We know Tom is back to normal because he has been hanging out at one of his favorite haunts:



Tom surveying his kingdom from the top of the camera cover. Audrey looks like she wants to say something, but has decided to keep her yap shut for once



Group scratch!


Here are the final few photos that were taken today, including one of my favorite photos of all time.  You know I have taken thousands of photos in the five seasons we have been with you, so this is going to be good!  Sure hope you like it!



One of Mrs. COM’s favorite photos ever! What do you think?



In the next series of photos, Tom is headed back to the nest and arrives with a fish:



Back to the nest with a snack for Audrey. He has already eaten the good parts



Bringing home the (fish) bacon, dear!



Audrey didn’t waste any time taking off with her gift from the sea



Tom in his man-cave while Audrey has left the nest and is eating on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us



Here is a unique sunrise on the morning of the initial crow attack.  Somber, but beautiful, sort of like the feelings we all had later that day:



A sunrise fitting for the unsettled mood we were all about to experience later in the day. A portent of things to come. Sort of fitting, and a little eerie, don’t you think?


By the way, if you haven’t seen it, our dear friend and videographer extraordinaire, Uta, captured a fascinating moment a couple of days ago.  A cownose ray was swimming by the nest, and Uta was able to capture the image and post it on Explore and the Chesapeake Conservancy website.  The cownose rays make their way to us in the late spring every year to mate and have their young.  I will try to get some photos of them sunning themselves near the surface of the water when the weather warms up.  Great job, Uta, we so appreciate everything you do for us!


So that’s it for today.  I have actually finished a blog while the sun is still up, not about to come up, rather unusual for me.  Feels great!  As I leave you, Audrey is incubating quietly in the nest, Tom is in the scraggly stick tree, the pouring rain has finally stopped and tomorrow is another day.  We are all waiting anxiously to see what the next few days and weeks will bring to our Tom and Audrey and their adoring public.  Fingers crossed, everyone, for a positive outcome for all!

Until next time, we remain,

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man 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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!













Puzzling Perplexing Possibilities

Good morning from the finally sunny Eastern Shore of Maryland!  After days of rain, clouds and ferocious winds, we have finally had a couple of beautiful sunny days.  Unfortunately, rain is forecast to start later today and continue through Saturday, with some heavy rains expected.  Birds and humans will start to grow moss between their toes!  But Sunday is supposed to be beautiful, how fitting for a Happy Mother’s Day for all of the mothers out there, human and avian!

Speaking of the weather, I am sure you have noticed that that wind speed indicated on the camera view doesn’t seem to correlate with what you are observing at the nest.  You would be correct, the actual wind speed is frequently way higher than the posted wind speed. COM is working with the explore folks to identify a weather station in the area that more accurately reflects the conditions here at the nest.


Squawking Audrey on a dreary day in the scraggly stick tree with a stormy sky (reminiscent of Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick) in the background



The scraggly stick tree is in bloom, adding to the light green patina of pollen enveloping anything and everything in the neighborhood, inside and out


While we are on the subject of weather, here is Audrey on the nest hoping the rain will stay away:



Gathering clouds over the secret location. This is a good view of the infrared light source directly under the fancy camera cover (K-Mart trash can). Audrey is hunkered down waiting for a meal and incubating her eggs



Tom and Audrey on another rainy day. Check out the downstairs neighbor returning home on the right!


There have been three major issues looming over us since the last blog.  I will attempt to address them all.  Here goes……………

First and foremost, I know you are all waiting with bated breath for the hatching of our first egg.  The range of hatching osprey eggs is 35-42 days after they are laid.  At our nest, the typical range has usually been 39-41 days.  I know you can all do the arithmetic, but as a quick guide, here is what we are looking at:

Egg #1-laid April 12, range of possible hatch dates May 17-24

Egg #2-laid April 15, range of possible hatch dates May 20-27

Egg #3-laid April 18, range of possible hatch dates May 23-30

So there you go, we are getting close!



Audrey looks like she might be counting the days to her first little bundle of joy


Issue #2-Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom!  Where the heck have you been, buddy?  It did not go unnoticed that Tom’s typical behavior seemed to have altered over the last week or so. His usual moniker, Calico Tom the Fishing Fool, seemed to need a revision.  Although we have the advantage here at the secret location of seeing what goes on around the nest as well as in the nest, we were also puzzled and perplexed.  Tom’s presence was sparse, and he wasn’t seen at his typical hang-outs. When he did show up at the nest, it was usually without a fish.  This unusual behavior also caused Audrey to catch her own fish, leading to the crow incident.  For those of you who missed it, Audrey’s tummy must have been growling, and she decided to take matters into her own talons and go fishing.  The eggs were left unattended, and an obnoxious crow decided he felt like an egg snack.  The crow started pecking at one of the eggs, causing Audrey to come barreling back to the nest to protect her potential offspring.  The fate of the injured egg is unknown at this time, so we will see what happens during the hatch window.  The pesky crows are everywhere and are quite bothersome.  In addition to bothering the ospreys, they have taken baby birds out of our bluebird house.  COM has modified our two bluebird houses with homemade devices to deter the crows from their nefarious sojourns.



Tom on the left, crow on the right waiting for the spoils


There was also some speculation that perhaps we had another osprey visiting the nest that was not Tom.  One of the reasons it was thought that was a possibility was the seeming lack of the buff color on the back of this osprey’s head.  We were also perplexed at that observation, having noticed the same thing.  What was puzzling was how Audrey treated this possible third player, she did not seem bothered at all to have the bird there.  It looked like Tom, but the lack of the obvious darker patch was puzzling and perplexing. I saw Tom a couple of times eating big fish in his usual places, but he wasn’t bringing any to Audrey.  Something just seemed off.  I knew what I was observing, but I did not know the answers to the questions being posed.  As in the past, when something is troubling at the nest, the Crazy Osprey Family calls in the experts and a call was placed to our favorite raptor biologist, Craig Koppie.  I explained my observations, and my puzzlement. Here is a synopsis of my lengthy chat with him:

Anything is possible in Nature.

That about covers it all.  The bird in question could have been a returning juvenile from previous years at our nest, but probably not from the past two years since those three birds were banded.  It could have been Tom, and we just couldn’t see the buff due to the weather.  His fishing could have been off due to the turbid water caused by all the wind and rain.  He could have been taking refuge from the elements, etc., etc.

Anything is possible in Nature.

Thank you, Craig, for being there when we need you!  You are always the voice of reason, and we are so glad to have you as a mentor and friend.


Issue #3 has been the various camera malfunctions.  Believe me, no one likes having these camera issues.  We are all doing the best we can to correct problems when they happen.  We are in a transition year with the switch over to being one of the explore cameras, and everyone is learning.  Bear with us, we are all trying very hard to make this a wonderful experience for everyone.  Think positive, not negative and we will all get through these learning curves together!  Thanks so much for your patience and understanding.


I have taken a bunch of photos the past two weeks, and will finish the blog with some of them.


Here is a series of photos of Calico Tom the Fishing Fool, taken on May 6:



A delightful meal in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us on a yucky day



I would admonish my daughter if she took a bite this big



I guess this piece was a little slippery (rain or blood or general muck), he dropped it!



Plenty more where that came from…



In between bites



Ready for another chunk of Chicken of the Sea



Thinking about fleeing from Mrs. COM



Nah, think I will stay and chow down a little more



Okay now, Mrs. COM, you are coming into my comfort zone


Tom and Audrey have allowed me to come much closer to them this year than in years past.  Dr. Spitzer told us to talk to them, which we have been doing.  I really do think it is working, they seem much less bothered when we are around them this year.

I had another close encounter with Tom, but this time, he decided to move on when I got close:



Tom with a rather large fish in the scraggly stick tree



Not paying much attention to me yet



You looking at me?



Getting closer. He is starting to realize I am not going away



Well, maybe just one more bite



Okay, I have had enough of you, Mrs. COM



Tom and his fish relocate to the big tree two houses to the north of us



She’ll never find me way up here in this big tree!


We have other visitors in the neighborhood besides those that fly:



A furry friend exploring near our big step ladder. Don’t let the eagle see you down there, you tasty morsel


Speaking of eagles, over the last two weeks, we have seen Tom and Audrey chase off an eagle that has been in the area a couple of times.  There is definitely an eagle pair living near by, we think across the street in the woods.  They are probably busy with their own young ones, as we haven’t seen them as frequently as we did over the fall and winter.

Some of you have been wondering about our dear scareowl, Roger.  He is back on duty, still kind of scraggly and dirty from his ordeal in the storm, but sporting a new chapeau:



Roger on duty at the end of the dock. Stay away, you murderous owls!



Roger, our protector and defender of ospreys big and small



How do you like my new hat? Spiffy, don’t you think?


As Audrey has been spending the vast majority of her time incubating, we don’t see her out and about so much these days.  She hasn’t been getting equal time in the photograph department.  I spotted her on the poop dock a couple of days ago, and wandered next door to memorialize her visit:



Does it look like something is missing? Yes there is, a leg!



The second leg is now down for a quick getaway



I think she likes me, hasn’t flown away yet, but I am further away than it looks in this photo



Audrey relocates to the top of the piling.  Look ma, I can balance on the other leg, too!



Audrey figures Tom has had enough time at the nest, and decides this is good time to vacate the piling






Everyone’s home for a minute


Tom has been relieved of egg duty (although he really likes egg duty), and decides to visit our neighbor’s new boat two houses to the south of us:



Tom leaves the nest and heads south



Flying low, cool reflection




Almost there


Here is the new boat, without poop producing ospreys.  The swim ladder where Tom and Audrey like to perch is visible to the left of the boat and the two dock chairs.  The poop dock is at the end of the dock in the foreground:



Poop dock in the foreground and sparkling new boat one dock down to the south



Poop dock and one of our COM modified bluebird houses next to my garden. Our neighbor’s new boat and the swim ladder are visible to the right



Tom at his destination, demonstrating why he is not welcome on top of my neighbor’s new boat



Caught! Please let me stay!


Tom then flew to COM’s boat lift on our dock.  Unfortunately, he didn’t choose the best place for a photo, but boys will be boys.  The two two photos are similar, but I couldn’t decide which one I like best, so decided to use both of them:



Tom on the boat lift, Option #1



Tom on the boat lift, Option #2


So which is your favorite?

Tom is not feeling like humoring Mrs. COM, and continues to the north, where he makes a stop on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the north of us:



Tom has continued on to the north, trying to get some alone time


This swim ladder is one of Tom’s favorite haunts:



Tom on the swim ladder on the dock with the new boat two houses to the south of us. Both Tom and Audrey like this perch


It’s so good to see Tom back at the nest with more regularity.  He likes to stand on the nest support:



Tom and Audrey together again




“Reunited and it feels so good” Audrey is singing to Tom (somehow I don’t think these are the lyrics she is singing)


This will give you some perspective of the nest pole in the water:



Can you see another pile of COM’s prefab sticks? Look closely


Well, it is 2:44 a.m. on Thursday morning, and I have to leave for work at 6:45, so I think it is time for a wrap.  Tom and Audrey may be parents again when next we meet. I will leave you with a glorious sunrise here at the secret location.  Someone has been getting up early, guess who?



Sunrise at the secret location. Thank you, Mother Nature!


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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!