Good morning from the confused Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Mother Nature cannot decide if it is winter or spring! There certainly has been a lot of excitement here at the secret location since our last blog. Our beloved Tom and Audrey have returned to their northern summer home, and how delighted we are to have them back. As you already know by now, Audrey returned on the evening of March 18, with Tom close behind the next morning. We are all waiting with bated breath for our first egg. Last season, Audrey laid three eggs. The first one arrived on April 12, the second one three days later on April 15 and the huevo final on April 18. So keep your eyes glued on your computer screen, we could be welcoming our first orb of delight at any moment.
The weather certainly hasn’t been cooperating since our feathered friends have returned. We have experienced cold, rainy, snowy, windy weather so far this alleged spring, with little in the way of the sunny warmth for which we all yearn. The weather folks are predicting some warm, sunny weather by the end of the week, hopefully just in time for some good egg laying and fish catching! Patience is a virtue, so it is said, and now we just watch and wait.
While we are on pins and needles, I thought I would continue where I left off in my first blog of the season. After a long winter of watching our pole precariously bent over from the relentless ice this past winter, it was time to prepare for the new season, new camera and new pole (actually poles). The preparations began with new wiring for the upgraded camera.
During the winter, when there is activity at the end of the dock, it usually involves feeding our swans. They were quite confused by all the commotion, and were hanging around hoping for a free meal.
Meanwhile, back on the dock, Jesse and COM continue the task at hand.
Meet Peter, our adopted stray. Osprey Girl gave him his name due to the white tip at the end his tail, as in Peter Cottontail. We think he is actually a dog in cat’s clothing.
The swans are still hanging around waiting for a handout.
The next big project was to remove the old, bent pole and replace it with two new poles. We needed two poles this season, one for the nest platform and one for the new spiffy camera. The new camera weighs over twice as much as the old one, and COM’s old system of supporting the camera wasn’t sufficient to support the weight of the new one.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature was still playing with us. Shortly after the extremely low tides we experienced and chronicled in the first blog, the moon, tides and wind blew all of the water back in to the bay and then some. Here are some photos that compare the water depth over a couple of days.
Some more low tide/high tide comparisons:
In order for the old pole to come out and the new poles to go in, the water could not be above 18-24 inches. Our ospreys were due back very soon, and the high water just wouldn’t go away. Nerves were getting frayed at the secret location. Phil and Dean from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage were on call for when the water returned to normal.
After a few days, the call was made to Phil and Dean.
You can see the old pole was bent at the bottom from the ice over the winter and had to be replaced
One of the new poles was waiting on our deck, and the other arrived with Phil and Dean.
Now the new pole needs to be jetted into the bottom
The job of installing the new poles took two days due to the uncooperative water depth. We love Phil and Dean of the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, who come through for us year after year. Thank you once again, gentlemen!
Once both poles were in, the new camera and equipment had to go up. Our new camera, which was provided by the Explore.org folks, has pan/tilt/zoom capabilities which allow us to view our birds when they are not on the nest. Here is the final product, quite a bit different than last year.
Alas, the coming of the ospreys meant the departure of our graceful, beautiful, noisy swans. A large flock took flight, but there was still a small flock hanging around, as well as some migrating swans who were just passing through the Crazy Osprey Family bed and breakfast.
COM still had work to do to get everything ready for the arrival of Tom and Audrey.
The poles and equipment were put in place just in the nick of time. On Sunday, March 18 at around 7:00 p.m., we looked out and saw an osprey on the new nest platform. Could it be Tom or Audrey? The lighting was very poor, but I quietly moved outside toward the pole with my trusty Nikon.
The next morning began with a spectacular sunrise.
Much to our delight, a few hours later, another osprey arrived on the nest platform.
The welcoming committee was next to arrive.
After careful observation, it was determined that we indeed had welcomed back Tom and Audrey to the secret location. Joy!! But two days later, our newly arrived couple had to be wondering why they had left their warm winter digs when on March 21, we received almost a foot of snow at the secret location.
Fortunately, the snow only lasted a couple of days. Audrey returned to the platform, and nest building commenced.
Everyone needs a little break. Tom and Audrey decide to relax on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us.
Nest building continued, and the first of COM’s marked sticks made their way to the nest.
Along with nest building comes baby making. Tom and Audrey wasted no time in getting down to business.
Here are some photos of what has been happening around the neighborhood.
Audrey is eating sloppy seconds, and has gotten a chunk on top of COM’s electrical box. Yuck!
It’s a full house at COM’s stick locker.
COM tries to think of everything when it comes to our ospreys. He had a great idea for a “T” on the top of the new camera pole, but unfortunately didn’t think of it until after the pole was up. You can rest assured that next year, there will be a modification to the top of the nest pole. In the meantime, someone has figured out how to sit on top without the modification.
Another break from osprey nooky and nest building on the swim ladder.
If one is good, two is better. Poop Shot #2 for the 2018 season. Stop it, Mrs. COM!
The dangling marked stick hung in there for quite a while, much to everyone’s surprise. The nest is looking really good after only a couple of days. And can you believe how rapidly they have completed their cozy nest? Amazing!
The next series of photos are of Tom on the electrical box, and leaving the electrical box due to a crazy woman with that camera stuck around her neck. Take a good look at the coloring under Tom’s eyes while you are observing these photos. The reason will become apparent in a moment.
There has been much discussion on how to tell Tom and Audrey apart. This is not an easy feat. Our very first Tom and Audrey pair looked completely different from each other, with Tom having a very black face and head, and Audrey having just a little sliver of black on her head. They could be instantly identified and differentiated from each other. This Tom and Audrey pair has become more and more difficult to tell apart as our Calico Tom has lost his calico. Here are a couple of hints you can try to use to figure out who is who.
The above photo is Audrey last year. Notice the white patch under her eye which breaks up the black mask.
The above photo is Tom last year. The black continues all the way under his eye.
Above are Tom and Audrey together. Tom is on the right, Audrey is on the left. Use the markings under their eyes to tell them apart. Very subtle, but there is a difference. This photo is from last year.
The above is a new photo from a couple of weeks ago, Tom is on the right, Audrey is on the left. Tom has a very faint buff patch on the back of his head that is best seen when his feathers are ruffled. The white patch under Audrey’s eye is quite noticeable in this photo.
Okay, your turn. Identify the ospreys in the below photo:
Here are some more photos from the above series:
COM witnessed quite a spectacle a few days ago while I was at work and he was lucky enough to be home at the secret location. He heard a bunch of commotion, and looked out to see Tom and Audrey chasing an eagle. Grabbing the camera, he began taking photos from inside. The quality of this photo is not great, but you can clearly see the eagle on the bottom and two ospreys on top trying to chase the eagle away. Go away, eagle, leave our ospreys alone!
The hour is late, and duty (read work) calls in the morning. When next I write, there should be some very good news to explore. But before I close, two last things. First, I want to give a big shout out and thank you to two of our faithful watchers who both happen to be from Germany! Thank you, Uta, for your help and guidance. Thank you, Poppy, for all of the incredible work you do keeping us informed on the explore Chesapeake osprey page. You are both such huge assets to all of us who love our ospreys!
Lastly, a phenomenal sunrise photo from last week:
Until next time, we remain,
Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl
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