Good evening from the fantastic Eastern Shore of Maryland! It is finally starting to feel a little like Spring here at the secret location, with the promise of even warmer weather later in the week. There is no doubt the humans and birds in the area are going to be very delighted to encounter some much deserved warmth and sunshine. There certainly has been some eggcitement since my last blog, so here we go!
As the title of this blog suggests, Audrey presented us with three lovely eggs on the exact same dates as last year. So in the words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again! Our first arrival was on April 12, the second on April 15 and the last egg arrival was on April 18. These dates correspond to the very dates in 2017 when the three eggs were laid. In 2016, Audrey’s three eggs entered the nest on 4/17, 4/20 and 4/23. April 2015 brought us eggs on 4/12, 4/15 and a surprise after six days on 4/21. Going back to 2014, our eggs were laid on 4/15, 4/18 and 4/21. Our first year partnering with the Chesapeake Conservancy was in 2013, when Audrey laid a total of four eggs on 4/17, 4/19, 4/23 and 4/25. This was the only year since we had a camera on the nest that we had four eggs. I will discuss the hatching results in the next blog, have to keep you guessing! Just a little hint, though-typical time from laying to hatching is 35-42 days, with the usual times on this nest being 39-41 days. If you are inclined to do the math, we can probably expect our first egg to hatch between May 17-May 30. Complicating the guessing game this season is the loss of one of our precious eggs. Since we don’t know which egg is now missing, our first hatch may be delayed. We will just have to wait and see, but it is possible we are less than three weeks away from our first nestling!
After the third egg was laid on April 18, the rate of Tom’s sexual escapades (copulation is such a technical term) slowed down considerably, but did not completely stop. Here is one of his last attempts to have his way with Audrey.
In addition to eggs showing up in the nest, there was a plethora of other objects that made their appearance in April. One of the more concerning ones was a plastic water bottle, probably brought back by Tom. Fortunately, it didn’t remain very long and was carried off by the wind, hopefully to a place where someone found it and had it recycled.
A wad of some type of black matter was the subject of much discussion a couple of weeks ago. COM and I took several good looks on our dedicated osprey computer monitor, which has incredible resolution. We determined it was a piece of filter cloth from our rip-rap, the structure that protects our shoreline from erosion. When rip-rap is being installed, a layer of filter cloth is laid over the bare earth that has been exposed, before any rocks are put in place. This will keep the dirt in place, but allows water to flow through.
I had a discussion with our dear friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, and he told me that ospreys bring every sort of “stuff” into their nests. He suggested putting out a little dolly, so we may have to sacrifice one of Osprey Girl’s old Barbie Dolls to the osprey gods. It might be kind of creepy, though, so I will have to rethink that one. Sorry, Dr. Spitzer, you have had some incredibly good osprey ideas over the years, but this might not be one of them.
There have been a few comments on the Explore site asking about how high the nest and platform are above the water, as sometimes it appears from the camera view that the nest is very close to the surface of the water. Have no fear, the nest is well-protected from the waves.
Have you noticed how much Tom likes to incubate those eggs? Sometimes after he takes over incubating duty, after bringing Audrey a fish or just giving her a break, she has a very difficult time getting him to leave when she returns. When either Tom or Audrey is in the nest incubating, you can see it very clearly in the camera view. However, from land, sometimes it is hard to tell if anyone is home, as evidenced by the above and below photos. The incubating osprey sits very low snuggled into the nest.
If you watch the camera with any regularity, you can’t help but notice that Audrey is, shall we say, quite vocal (that is an understatement, to be sure!). There is a thirty second delay in what is happening in real time, and what is going out over the internet for your viewing pleasure. We haven’t had an abundance of warm, window-opening weather yet this season, but when the windows and doors are open, we hear Audrey’s enthusiastic vocals in real time, then again thirty seconds later. She also likes to start her sweet calling (yeah, right) before the sun comes up, shattering our early morning peace and quiet. But this is a small price to pay to have our beloved osprey family right behind the house.
It has been brought to our attention that the sound from the camera is somewhat erratic. This is a brand new camera and set-up this season, and we are trying to work all of the bugs out of it. Unfortunately, with the eggs now being incubated, we are not able to approach the nest to try and troubleshoot the sound problem. Unlike our last camera, the new one has two-way sound. This means that we can hear what is going on at the nest, and whoever is on the nest is able to hear us if we choose that option. We are hoping that the two-way sound feature will be useful in keeping the crows away if the nest becomes unattended like last season. I will discuss what happened last season in my next blog. I am trying to keep this one happy and upbeat, and what happened last season was anything but happy or upbeat.
One of the real advantages to living here at the secret location is to be able to see Tom and Audrey when they are off the nest. Our camera operators, including Crazy Osprey Man (COM to you newcomers), have done a wonderful job trying to locate our favorite osprey couple when they are not on the nest. When COM and I are home, which is sporadic, we keep a lookout and try to move the camera to the location of the action. This is another feature of our new camera, PTZ, or pan tilt zoom, which has proven to enhance everyone’s viewing pleasure. Thanks for helping us out, camera operators!
So where are Tom and Audrey when they are not in the nest? Guess what, you are in luck, because I will now answer that question in photographs!
One of Tom and Audrey’s favorite hangouts is what I have nicknamed “the scraggly stick tree”. This is the tree right along the rip-rip of our next door neighbor’s house directly to the north of us. In years past, Tom and Audrey would swoop down and snap a stick off this tree in flight, giving the tree a rather scraggly look, hence the name. COM’s stick locker has lessened the destruction brought upon the poor scraggly stick tree, since there are always a few sticks readily available in our back yard, sometimes even marked with colorful construction tape. But between Tom and Audrey, there is usually an osprey sitting in the scraggly stick tree a few hours of the day.
One evening, just at dusk, I noticed Tom in the scraggly stick tree. What really caught my eye was a rather large half a fish clutched in his talons. The next two photos aren’t that great, because the light was fading fast, but I think you will get the idea. Now that’s a fish!
Audrey also enjoys hanging out in the scraggly stick tree.
The dock right next door to us to the south is a regular stop, but not as frequent as a couple of the other perches. In the past, I have referred to this location as the “poop dock”, as opposed to the “poop deck”. The house is for sale, so I think an eager realtor has recently had it pressure washed. As there is plenty of room on this dock, it is not unusual for Tom or Audrey to have company when enjoying a fishy snack.
The next series of photos began at the poop dock.
One last scraggly stick tree photo for this blog. I have a feeling I caught Tom either pre or post poop…….
It’s a good bet that on a daily basis, either Tom or Audrey will usually make it to our neighbor’s dock swim ladder, two houses to the south of us.
This is another photo taken around dusk. I looked out, and there was Tom on the swim ladder with a good size fish. Although the lighting is bad, I heavily cropped the photo and tried to lighten it so you could get a look at the blood on Tom’s legs.
No trip around Tom and Audrey’s neighborhood would be complete without their frequent visits to our dock. There are lots of good places to relax, and since COM’s boat and Osprey Girl’s boat will be back in their lifts this week, there are soon to be more.
Here is our dock without any power boats or ospreys. Roger will be in residence sometime this week. For those of you who are new to the secret location, Roger is our resident scarecrow who functions as the protector and defender of our nest. More about him next blog!
Here is Tom on COM’s boat lift, sans boat.
The buff on the back of Tom’s head is more easily seen when his feathers are ruffled.
Audrey likes the grip on Osprey Girl’s boat lift.
Tom’s day in paradise was disrupted by Mrs. COM and her camera coming closer.
I will leave you with a couple of sunrise photographs, both taken the morning of April 24, 2018. The light changes very rapidly as the sun rises, producing some incredible vistas. I couldn’t decide between these two, so you are stuck with both of them.
Stay tuned for the next blog when I will talk about eggs hatching, our friend Roger and if you are lucky and I am in the mood, how it all started twenty three years ago at the secret location.
Until next time, we remain-
Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl
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