Better Late Than Never

Good morning from the cold, wet Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Another dreary day here at the secret location.  We are due for some sunny, warm spring weather, which will be most welcome by all, man and beast (bird).  Yesterday was the start of egg-laying for Audrey, yippee!!  As I write, she is sitting on her egg in the cold wind, protecting her precious bundle. The eggs should come every two days, for a total of two to four in her clutch.  The typical number of eggs Tom and Audrey produce in a season is three, but there is always a chance for four.  Time will tell, so stay tuned!

First, I had a bit of good luck last week at the grocery store.  I was thrilled with my find at six thirty in the morning.


Toilet Paper

A sight for sore eyes. Well, maybe not sore eyes………..


As I mentioned in my last blog, I went through a vast quantity of photos a couple of weeks ago in preparation for publishing my first blog of the season.  There were just too many to use in one blog, so as promised, here is one that contains some of those photos. The dates span August 2019-February 2020.  Better late than never!

As the 2019 season started to wind down in August, Audrey was the first to leave for her winter digs, which is typical at our nest.  Tom, Lil Bit and Archie remained, with Tom being the responsible parent. This is the camera pole last season before COM modified it with the spiffy new perch on top.

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Tom surveying his kingdom with a yapping fledging. There has to be some Audrey DNA in that one!



Archie and Lil Bit spent some time honing their flying skills, which also encompassed landing skills.



This isn’t as easy as Mom and Dad made it look





Phew, made it! Look at the wingspan on that youngster!


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More yapping, this time way up in the tippy top of Joe’s big tree.



Here is some perspective of how high up the youngster was in the tree


True confessions-I am not sure of the true identity of the youngsters in some of these photos, so yes, I am being purposefully evasive.  I do believe this was Lil Bit.



All of our ospreys love the scraggly stick tree along the water one house to the north of us. Tom and a youngster are hanging out together


Here are some dastardly crows congregating in the top of Joe’s tree.  Our new pan tilt zoom camera has two-way sound capability, so if we see the crows performing nefarious acts at our nest, we can yell at them.  Perhaps we can entice the explore cam operators to help, will have to check with them.


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These birds we could do without, especially with the eggs arriving. Sorry for the terrible lighting.


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Tom keeping guard on one of the youngsters in the scraggly stick tree


Tom will usually spend the night either on top of the camera pole or on the cross bar which stabilized the two poles.  You can hear him scratching around when he is on either one of his nighttime roosts.



Tom on the cross bar which stabilizes the two poles.


A lovely photo of Calico Tom The Fishing Fool shortly before he left for points south.


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Tom in the scraggly stick tree with a bright blue autumn sky. This is shortly before he left for his winter home


As much as we are sad to see our beloved ospreys leave to winter in South America, their departure allows for some other spectacular visitors.  We have a population of bald eagles in the area, who do not get along with the ospreys.  When the ospreys are away, the eagles will play.


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Joe’s big tree with two majestic bald eagles at the very top


I stealthily approached the tree, hoping not to scare them off before I was able to get a closer shot.


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Success! Check out the yellow feet on the closer eagle.


My stealthiness didn’t last for long, and one of the eagles took flight.


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No words needed


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Flying right overhead as I was twirling around to attempt a photo. Not a great photo, but you get the idea. Check out the yellow feet tucked in for aerodynamics


There are also juvenile bald eagles in the area.  It takes a few years for them to develop their distinctive white heads and tails.  Here is a youngster on our osprey pole.  His plumage is almost fully developed, but you can still see some dark streaks on his head.  This photo was taken just after sunrise, not the best lighting but a cool photo nonetheless.


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Big baby!


Check out the thick feathering on the legs, almost looks like the eagle is wearing pants.


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Juvenile eagle rearranging sticks for Tom and Audrey.


You can see that the eagle’s plumage is not fully developed.  This is also a good vantage point of the top of the camera pole before the new perch was installed.


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Something has caught the eagle’s attention


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Stand back, I’m an eagle!


I am sure this is the same eagle pair as above, this time with late afternoon lighting


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At the top of Joe’s tree in the late afternoon sunlight


In addition to eagles, there are many Great Blue Herons in the area.  I caught this young one on the electric box scratching an itch with the sparklies in the background.  This photo was taken in the morning, so the lighting is not so hot for photos this time of day from our yard.


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Young backlit heron scratching an itch


A beautiful late summer sunrise.


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One of my favorite sunrise photos of all time


It was time to take down the poles for the winter.  In years past, we have removed the nest but allowed the pole or poles to remain standing.  As I explained in the last blog, the poles are removed for a couple of reasons.  One reason is to protect the poles from moving ice.  More recently and since we have had a dedicated camera pole, that pole is mounted on our dock to allow viewing of the tundra swans, other waterfowl and the vistas that grace the Chesapeake in the winter.  Our good friends from the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, Phil and Dean, were on hand for the end of season operation.


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Phil is removing the crosspiece with COM’s help and our trusty mega stepladder


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Time for the nest to go


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Where are your gloves, Phil?


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Almost gone



The nest is floating off toward our dock. Look closely, do you see anything vaguely familiar?


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COM is carrying the crosspiece back to the dock



What is Phil carrying? Could it be Audrey’s copy of The Capital newspaper? Yes, it is!!!



Getting the kayak ready to transport the trash pump, which is in the wheelbarrow, out to the poles



The pump is in the kayak. Look in the water at the end of the dock. The remains of the nest are floating by



Close up of the nest remains floating by the dock. If you look closely, you can see one of COM’s marked sticks to the right of the piling



COM readying one of the pulleys to raise the camera pole



The bare nest platform. There is a line from the camera pole leading to the pulley at the bottom of the platform, then attached to the bottom of the stepladder, that will be used to help lower the camera pole



Drew, COM and Phil bringing the trash pump out to the poles


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Ready to jet the poles out



Drew jets out the pole while Phil and COM lower it down. The camera cannot get wet



The poles are buried four feet into the bottom and are really hard to get out


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The pole is lowered slowly, being assisted by COM playing out the line attached to the pulley under the nest platform



Almost down



Now the pole is positioned for the slow trek back to the dock, with careful attention to not getting the camera wet



The pole is rotated so the camera is away from the water. COM is still handling the line keeping the pole out of the water



COM is gathering the line used to lower the camera pole. Phil is resting the very heavy pole and camera on his shoulder



Off they go. Due to the weight and having to make sure the camera stays dry, it takes all three to get the pole back to dry ground



The pole is back to the dock. Now it needs to be raised and attached to the piling for winter viewing


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Phil and Dean are in the water under the dock pushing while COM hoists the pole up


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A nice dry camera nearing its winter residence



Positioning the pole. COM and Drew are on the dock, and the young, strong, hearty Phil is still in the water (he is very cute, by the way)



The nest pole stands alone. looking rather bare and forlorn



Back to the dock. This is a good view of the top of the platform with the metal strip that strengthens the platform.  It will spend the winter on the top of the rip rap in our yard



The team is bringing the kayak and trash pump back to shore. Sorry I cut off part of Phil. They were in motion at the time



The winter home of the camera pole with the camera all wired up


So between the last blog and this one, you now have an idea of the amount of work involved to take the poles down for the winter and get them back in place for the start of the osprey season.  We all need to give a big shout out to COM, Phil, Dean and Michael for doing the hard work that makes it possible for all of us to enjoy some of the best that nature has to offer here on the Chesapeake Bay!  An extra atta boy is due to COM for all the behind the scenes work he does all year round to maintain and improve everything having to do with the camera and equipment.

Winter on the Chesapeake Bay is a different world from summertime.  In the warmer weather, the bay is bustling with boaters, crabbers, ospreys, heron, fish and all sorts of recreational activities.  In the winter, things slow down considerably and the weather changes from sultry summer days to the much more challenging winter climate .  In spite of the cold, grey skies, there are still those who have to make their living by working on the water.  This lone waterman caught my eye one cold, foggy winter day tonging for oysters. A true taste of the old days on the mighty, magnificent Chesapeake Bay.



Tonging by hand for oysters on a cold, foggy winter day


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Only the hardiest among us can eke out a living this way.


I will leave you with another lovely sunrise over the water at the secret location, complete with two of our tundra swans.


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A bucolic sunrise at the secret location


Good bye for now!  Hopefully next time we meet, there will be a full clutch of eggs for Tom and Audrey.  Remember to wash your hands, don’t touch your face and please stay safe.


Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy 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 today.  Thanks very much!









Showdown at the OK Corral-Osprey Style

Good afternoon from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland and the eighth season of blogs from your stay-at-home (for the time being) author!  Welcome back to another season following the saga of Tom and Audrey, our favorite Chesapeake Bay osprey couple.  When last I wrote, we were way back in the lazy, hazy days of summer following the adventures of Tom, Audrey, Lil Bit and Archie. Who could have ever predicted where we are today?  Hopefully, I will be able to take your mind off of our plight for a few minutes with the first blog of the new decade.

When I sat down to go through the photos I have taken since the last blog, I quickly realized that I had way too many to publish in one sitting.  I have formulated a plan which I hope my reading public will like.  This blog will cover happenings starting in early March this year.  Next week, I will go back in time and entice you with blog #2 of 2020, and go back to August 2019 where we left off.  Sound like a plan?  It does to me!

As those of you who follow the blog know by now, at the end of every season, our nest is completely removed from the platform.  There are always questions about this destruction, much to the chagrin of many of you.  One of the reasons for the removal is due to the weight of the nest.  If the nest was permitted to remain, our ospreys would continue to build on top of their old nest year after year. This could result in a really big, heavy nest that would weigh way too much for our little 2 inch galvanized pole (check out the great pair of homophones for you homeschoolers, you’re welcome).  Reason number two is to remove any bird parasites that could winter over in the nest.  It was suggested to us many years ago by those in the know that yearly removal of the nest would be the way to go, and we have followed that advice faithfully.  Over the years, we have also lost poles to ice that forms in the bay during the winter, usually because of the movement of ice that is moving, melting or breaking up.  Poles are expensive and time consuming to replace, so we now take the poles down at the end of each osprey season.  I have posted photos over the years of the ice damage, check out some of the older blogs if you are curious to see that phenomenon.

So if the poles come down, the poles must go back up.  This happens in late winter shortly before our ospreys make their way north from their winter digs in South America to their summer Chesapeake home.  Pole removal and installation is a big job requiring a group effort. On a cold, dreary, rainy, early March morning, the tides and wind were favorable for the task at hand, and pole installation commenced.

Over the past couple of years, the camera pole has been moved from out in the water to our dock to enable viewing of the lovely tundra swans that grace our waters from November through March.  This is what the camera pole looks like during swan season, attached to one of the dock pilings.


The winter home of the camera pole


The platform pole is completely removed, and spends the winter resting quietly on our rip-rap.  The crew has moved the pole from its winter quarters to the dock while awaiting its move to placement in the water.


The platform pole ready to make the trip out to its new home. You can see the pulley at the bottom of the platform that facilitates the raising and lowering of the pole.


The task of installing and removing the poles necessitates a cast of hundreds.  Well, I may have exaggerated a little bit, four is actually an optimal number.  As in most years past, Phil and Dean of the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage are indispensable to the job at hand.  For the past couple of years, we have also been fortunate to have the help of Michael from the Chesapeake Conservancy.  COM is always in on the action, and does a substantial amount of prep work behind the scenes during the off season. And of course, Mrs. COM is always around to help as needed, but more importantly, to bake muffins to thank everyone for their invaluable help.  This year the flavor was lemon poppy and they were yummy!

Here is a little taste in photographs of what it takes to install the poles.  It was a dreary, rainy day, so not the best lighting for the photos.  However, sometimes you have to take what you can get.


The platform pole is about to travel out to the water. The crew, from left to right, COM, Michael, Dean and Phil



The pole is much heavier than it looks. It is a 20 foot long, 2 inch galvanized water pipe.



The kayak marks the spot where the pole base is located in the water. There is a trash pump in the kayak which will be used to jet in the poles.

Administrative note-I had to look up what a trash pump is, as the name sounded kind of funky.  Here is what I found out:

Trash pumps are designed to pump large amounts of water that contain hard and soft solids such as mud, leaves, twigs, sand, and sludge. Most devices are portable, heavy-duty centrifugal pumps that feature deeper impeller vanes and larger discharge openings than other pumps.

We all (or most of us) learned something new today!



Phil and COM are locating the pole base in preparation to jet in the platform pole


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Going up!



Did I ever tell you I am glad to be taking the photos and baking the muffins instead of being in the water? Consider yourselves told!



One down, one to go. Our trusty 14 foot stepladder is at the ready.


Now the tricky part begins.  The camera pole has to be disengaged from the piling, lowered down and transported to the pole base without the camera getting wet.  This is not an easy task.  Phil is the choreographer of this water ballet.



Phil and Dean are in the water under the dock, while COM and Michael are ready to assist



The pole is down and resting on the dock. As heavy as the pole is, the camera makes it even heavier and it cannot touch the water



The inside of the pole needs to be cleaned out so it will fit on the pole base out in the water



The camera pole arriving at its final destination. COM is carrying some of the cable to hook up the camera.  Mrs. COM helped feed the cable out to COM from the dock, so I did help!



The pulley on the platform pole is needed to raise the camera pole.


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Dean is jetting in the pole as it is raised. There are lines running all over the place, physics is a beautiful science. All hands on deck were needed for this maneuver


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The muffins are calling. Faster, faster!


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Everyone is out of the water, and it’s time to clean up



Mission accomplished! From left to right: COM, Michael, Dean and Phil


The next day dawned sunny and bright, wouldn’t you know it.  Check out the top of the camera pole.  COM decided that he would make it easier for Tom or any other interested osprey to perch on the top of the pole, and built the cutest little perch just suited for osprey talons.  What a guy!  Our ospreys don’t realize how good they have it.


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The finished product the next day. Check out the new perch


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Close-up view of the new perch, probably one of a kind. This is also a good view of the pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) camera and the infrared (IR) light source, which is also an analog camera but only used for the IR light to provide nighttime viewing


With the poles in, we were open for business, osprey business that is.  All that was left to do (at least for now) was wait.  And lo and behold, our first osprey came to call!



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The Visiting Lady-first osprey to visit us this season


Upon closer observation, it became quite obvious very early on that this was not our Audrey.  Although she had Audrey eye markings, her chest had a heavy necklace and she had a buff patch on the back of her neck like Tom.


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The Visiting Lady on the empty platform


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A closer look at the Visiting Lady’s necklace. Definitely not Audrey


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The Visiting Lady knows how to feed herself.



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Visiting Lady trying out COM’s new perch on a dreary day


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Visiting Lady on the electric box, one of Audrey’s favorite haunts.


The Visiting Lady was a beautiful osprey, and we were beginning to think that we might have Audrey 3.  All of our ospreys since 1995 when our first pole was installed have been Tom and Audrey.  Before the beginning of the 2020 season, our nest was occupied by Tom 3 and Audrey 2.  The plot thickened when a male osprey showed up, and looked very much like Tom.  To add to the intrigue, they did the osprey deed (if you have to ask, you don’t need to know).


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The Visiting Lady with her Tom impersonator


And then a few days later, on March 20, a great aerial battle ensued.  After the Showdown At The OK Corral (osprey style), our lovely Audrey reclaimed her rightful place at the platform.  The Visiting Lady has not been seen since.  There are a multitude of platforms and other man made nesting sites available in our immediate area, so VL and her Tom impersonator have probably set up housekeeping nearby.  The burning question in everyone’s mind was whether or not our real Tom would return to his summer digs and awaiting partner.

Audrey passed the time hanging out on the platform and in her usual places around the neighborhood.  She fished and ate, then got bored (most of us can identify with that feeling right about now) and brought a few paltry sticks back to the platform.

On March 29, there came a sight for sore eyes.  Calico Tom the Fishing Fool was back in town!


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The real Tom and Audrey back together again. Yippee!


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Hanging out together in the top of Joe’s tree, two houses to the north of us



A close-up of Tom and Audrey at the top of Joe’s tree. I think they really like each other


While all of the bird permutations were going on, COM decided he needed a new boat.


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What do you think? Just needs a little work


Okay, just pretend it’s April 1.  Only kidding, a belated April Fool’s joke, we need some chuckles right about now, don’t you think?  Not really COM’s boat, I hope he laughs when he reads my blog.  I will let you know.



So happy to have Tom the Fishing Fool back in town!


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A neat eater he is not. Tom is making quite the mess on the piling.


Does a poop shot count if you can’t see the poop? Not sure if we can count this as the first poop shot of the 2020 season. What is your vote? Majority rules.


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Poop shot sans poop. Every vote counts!!


And with Tom back, nest building commenced in earnest.  The viewing public couldn’t see this wonky stick in any camera view, but it drove us crazy for a few days.


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Wonky stick at the beginning of nest building




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I think it is stuck in the cross piece.


One of my favorite phenomena on the water is what I call “the sparklies”.  In order to see them, there has to be the right combination of wind and lighting.  This photo doesn’t do them justice, as it is focused on the osprey and not the water, but here is a little inkling of the sparklies.


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The sparklies


There have been many comments on the explore page about the nest and sticks, particularly the marked sticks.  We collect sticks from our yard and some neighbor’s yards, and keep them under a tree.  This is our stick locker.  In addition to putting out many sticks au naturale, COM ties construction tape of varying colors to a few of the sticks so we can track their progress from the backyard to the nest.  What colors have you seen so far?  If your answer is pink, yellow and blue, then you win the prize!  There will be more to follow, so be observant and your efforts will be rewarded.  Tom is a nest builder extraordinaire, and there will be many sticks placed in the days to come.


Sometimes I get the feeling that Tom and Audrey really enjoy each others’ company.  Here are a couple more examples to go along with the above two.


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Tom and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree (terrible lighting, but good subject matter)



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A closer view of Tom and Audrey in the scraggly stick tree.



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Hanging out together on the ladder


You can really see the difference in the eye patterns between Tom and Audrey in the next photo, which is one of my favorites so far this season (even with the terrible lighting)



Reunited and it feels so good….


Tom catches the fish, so he gets to eat first.



Audrey is waiting on the electric box for Tom to bring her some sloppy seconds



It must have been a good size fish before Tom got his beak into it


You may have noticed a new addition on our dock.  For many years, we have tried to attract purple martins to a purple martin house in our yard, and only managed to attract house sparrows, which are not desirable birds to have.  I have always loved purple martins, as they have the sweetest song and eat bejillions of mosquitoes. Our buddy Phil from Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage suggested we put a particular type of purple martin house out over the water, which is designed to only allow purple martins to roost.  COM was happy with a new project, and with Phil and Dean’s help, we are the proud owners of a beautiful new purple martin house.  There are a few scout birds around, so we hope to start a colony here in the near future.  Stay tuned for more on our newest project!


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A very wet Audrey on our new purple martin house


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Same photo from above, but now you know about the new purple martin house.  It has all kinds of guards to keep out predators and unwanted invasive birds


I am going to close for now.  The photos in this blog cover all of March through April 1.  I am having trouble getting my photos to transfer from the camera to my computer, so until I figure it out, I can’t post any of the newer photos I have taken.

In the meantime, I will get out another blog next week with highlights from August 2019 through February 2020.  And there should be some eggs coming very soon, yippee!  Here’s hoping for another fabulous osprey season with Tom and Audrey.

I usually leave you with a photo of one of our spectacular sunrises here at the secret location.  For a change of pace, here are two photos of the March Super Full Worm Moon rising over the water behind our house.  Mother Nature at her finest, for sure!


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Super Full Worm Moon, with a reflection visible in the water


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The Super Full Worm Moon, breathtaking


Before closing, I want to give a humongous shout-out to everyone who is helping us through this destructive pandemic.  From health care providers, those who keep our hospitals clean, laboratory technicians, food service personnel, law enforcement, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, trash collectors, mail carriers, transportation workers, mechanics and anyone else I haven’t named who is trying to get us through these turbulent times, we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Your efforts are truly appreciated by everyone.  Three women who mean the world to me (JH, HL, JS) are included in the above list.  You know who you are, please stay safe while helping others.

Everyone wash, wash, wash your hands and don’t touch your faces!!


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 today.  Thanks very much!!