Fond Adieu, Sweet Audrey Two

Good morning from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland! Well, we all knew that one day our sweet Audrey 2 would not be returning from her winter digs in South America, but hoped she would be with us for a few more years. I had a funny feeling this winter that we wouldn’t see her again, but tried to put those negative thoughts away and and stay positive. Unfortunately, my worst fears have come to pass, and our years with sweet Audrey 2 have come to an end. She was with us from 2010 through 2020, and was a noble and fearless companion to our last two Toms. Who can forget the night she was knocked off the nest in the dark by a Great Horned owl, and lost one of her newly hatched chicks and an egg? She was a noisy osprey, and I can still hear her in my mind squawking away. Her most special memory has to be the great adoption story of 2015. It was the first season with our current Tom (3), who was initially known as Calico Tom due to his mottled coloring. The Fishing Fool part of his name came later. Audrey laid three beautiful eggs that year, but none of them turned out to be viable. She sat on those eggs way past the date they should have hatched. Those of you who were with us that year will certainly remember how heartbreaking it was to watch her day in and day out, faithfully incubating those three eggs, even after the experts told us there would be no hatch. But all was not lost, and Tom and Audrey raised three beautiful young ospreys. How did that happen, you might ask? If you want to know the rest of the story, and I think you do, check out two of my blogs from that summer- “Who Said You Can’t Fool Mother Nature”, dated 7/9/2015 and “E.T. Phone Home”, dated 7/23/2015. Take a look, I know you will enjoy both blogs. It was a fascinating story with a delightful ending. All of the old blogs are archived at the end of each of the other blogs.

Here is my little tribute to Sweet Audrey Two, living it up somewhere warm, sunny and full of fish with Audrey 1, Tom 1 and Tom 2.

Audrey 2 on the former poop dock (now a nice, new clean dock) next door to us to the south

Audrey 2 in the scraggly stick tree

Audrey 2 taking off from the scraggly stick tree

Audrey 2 and Roger (sans hat, not sure where it went). I needed to get in that last poop shot starring A2. I am not sure why this photo looks so blurry, but if you click on it, it should show up in focus as it does in my draft

This photo captures her the best, our Squawking Audrey. It is one of my favorite photos of her. She was a noisy thing!

Fond adieu, sweet Audrey 2. We won’t forget you.

The order of events in my 2021 blogs has gotten a little cattywampus. Since I already wrote about the arrival of Calico Tom the Fishing Fool, I am going to go back to late February/early March before he arrived and fill you in on the happenings at the secret location before his joyous appearance. Then I will jump forward to the happenings after Tom’s arrival, and we should be all caught up for now. Sorry for the confusion, I am just keeping you on your toes. It should be smooth sailing after this blog. Here goes!

Time marches on, and here we were at the beginning of a new season full of hope. As the 2020 season ended with the take-down of the poles and camera, the 2021 season started with the equipment being installed with a brand new, spiffy camera. The new camera is a 4 megapixel delight, up from the old 2.8 megapixel camera. You should be able to tell the difference in the quality of the images. Due to the change in the field of vision and different size lens, the poles had to be moved further apart from each other. But before the poles could go up, the new camera had to be readied for the task at hand. The new camera is hard wired from the pole to the NEMA box at the end of the dock, then goes wireless from the NEMA box to our house. The old camera was hard-wired all the way from the pole, through the water, under the dock, through a trench in the back yard and up to the house. In addition to a new camera, we also have a new NEMA box. NEMA is an acronym for National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association. The NEMA box contains switching gear, electronic connections and an external wireless antennae, which transmits to an antennae located outside of COM’s office in the house. The new NEMA box looks just like the old one, except it is clean, has an external antennae and is not covered in old, petrified fish guts.

Here is the old NEMA box, which was at the end of the dock. You can certainly see remnants of lots of fish-consumption, as this was a favorite dining area for Tom and Audrey

The technician, Mark, is getting all of the technical equipment ready to go. COM is the equivalent of a sous chef to the executive chef on this one.

Mark and COM doing technical stuff, well beyond my capabilities. I have been told by a reliable source that Mark is handing COM the wireless antennae for his office. I will have to take the source’s word on that.

The new camera has a built-in infrared capability.

The back of the camera with a good view of the new perch COM built for our feathered friends

The junction box on the camera pole that holds the cabling, microphone and supporting electronics

Mark paying out the underwater cable

Checking out all the connections inside the new NEMA box. The wireless antennae is the little white column attached to the upper right of the box

With all of the technical equipment readied, it was time to install the poles. We hold our breaths every year, hoping that an osprey will not return before the poles are up. Of course, we are also keeping our fingers crossed for a low tide, gentle breezes, a reasonable temperature and no inclement weather, not too much to ask of the weather gods. I had to work away from the house the day of the installation, so missed some of the action. Fortunately, I was able to sneak home for a little while to grab some photos and distribute the home made lemon poppy muffins.

By the time I got home, the nest pole was already up.

Dean, COM and Phil installing the nest pole

Emily from the Chesapeake Conservancy was there to help

The super duper 12 foot step ladder is at the ready, joined by a measly little regular ladder who is feeling inadequate next to the big guns

The camera pole catching a few rays on the adirondack chair while awaiting its turn for glory

Phil is auditioning for the L.L.Bean catalog while getting ready to transport the camera pole with Dean. He looks spiffy, and is definitely color coordinated

Phil and Dean carry the camera pole down the dock. It is way heavier than it looks, especially with the camera attached

The massive step ladder is at the ready in the water. The little ladder is still back at the dock, and relieved not to be compared to the big guy at the moment.

COM is fiddling in his waders. He like to keep his tools down there (double entendre is on purpose to see if you are reading the captions)

Our neighbor Cole offered to help, and is joining the group in the water while Emily tends the cables to avoid tangling

Phil is getting the trash pump ready to jet in the camera pole. It’s important not to let the camera hit the water.

As with the take-down in the fall, physics plays a part in raising the camera pole. Check out the pullies and lines doing their thing

Everyone gets in on the action. COM is tending the line, Cole and Dean are holding on and Phil is jetting in the pole to bury it in the bottom

The pole is up!

Emily is in the water at the ready

Is the pole straight? Fortunately, Emily and Cole agreed on which way the pole was leaning!

One of the last steps is to install the crosspiece which stabilizes the two poles. Emily has the very important job of not letting the kayak float away with the trash pump

The poles are further away from each other this year, so Tom won’t have his little piece sticking out where he liked to perch

Clean up time! Does it look like COM has his hands on the ladder? I guess he is supervising

The old camera pole and camera need to be removed from their winter quarters, where, due to a technical difficulty, they didn’t do anything but look cool. Check out the differences in the two cameras between old and new

The crew minus Cole. I knew I was going to have to leave for work before the task was completed, so I took the obligatory group photo before they started and before Cole arrived. Sorry you missed the photo, Cole, but thanks for your help! Hey, Dean, where is your mask? The beard doesn’t count

After the poles were in place, it was time to sit back, watch and wait. One day during the lull, COM asked me to take a look at a really big bird that he just could not place. So I went out with my trusty Nikon, and was thrilled to observe this magnificent creature.

A juvenile bald eagle. The yellow feet and size of the bird are dead giveaways

Manicure, anyone?

The eagle decides he has had enough of Mrs. COM and her camera, and departs the area

I just couldn’t resist a little editing. Gotta love the feet!

In a few years, the juvenile bald eagle will look like one of these two glorious birds I photographed in January 2021, hanging out in the scraggly stick tree

Look who is hanging out by the riprap. Must have been some tasty morsel down there. Stand back, I’m an eagle! This is a turkey buzzard, by the way

Things began to get interesting as the days clicked closer to the end of March. Our first visitor was a beautiful osprey with a very dark necklace. As neither Tom or Audrey had a dark necklace, this lovely bird was new to us. She stopped by a couple of times, piqued everyone’s interest and caused much speculation about the whos, wheres, whens and hows. But she was not destined to be the one.

And then Tom arrived, but you already know that from the last blog.

Everyone was anxiously waiting for the return of Audrey. When I was home, I spent a fair amount of time glancing out the window at the platform. As Audrey had returned before Tom for many years, I was getting a sinking feeling. At the very end of March, a new visitor arrived. It took some looking to verify that it was not Audrey 2. A new chapter at the secret location had begun. Welcome home, Audrey 3, now known as Audrey.

Since we installed our very first osprey pole in 1995, our osprey pair has always been Tom and Audrey. These names were selected in honor of our two dear friends (you guessed it), Tom and Audrey. They were living in Alaska at the time, having moved there from the Washington, D.C. area. In true quid pro quo fashion, they named the moose that visited their yard after me and COM. Hmmm, we were not quite sure if we should have felt honored or insulted! So the names Tom and Audrey have a long history in our household, and all of our ospreys have maintained those names. This season, we are hosting Tom 3 and Audrey 3, and are delighted to have both of them.

One issue we didn’t expect with a brand new camera was no sound. It was frustrating for everyone involved. COM was in close contact with the Explore folks trying to troubleshoot and fix the problem. One chilly day a couple of weeks ago, COM trudged out to the junction box while on the phone with the Explore gurus, and attempted to regain the sound.

Yet a third ladder owned by the Crazy Osprey Family. One can never have enough ladders, you know.

COM taking the cover off the junction box with one of his trusty cordless drills. I think he has a cordless drill to go with each ladder.

I received a friendly wave, along with a few phone calls from the ladder. I provide friendly, courteous ground support (ha!)

I know you must be sick of reading about people and poles and cameras and the like. So I will finish up with the subject which brought you all here, ospreys!

It didn’t take Audrey long to get comfortable with her new digs. Much to Tom’s chagrin, one of her new favorite places to hang out is on the perch on the top of the camera pole, which has always been Tom’s domain. She also likes to sit in a tree by the water at our neighbor’s house two to the south of us. Tom spends a substantial amount of time on the boat lift and the swim ladder on the dock at the same neighbor’s house where Audrey likes the tree. I have only seen an osprey in the scraggly stick tree a couple of times this year, which makes me kind of sad. But maybe that’s a good thing, because the tree has certainly seen better days.

Tom in the scraggly stick tree, which is looking a little precarious

Tom in the scraggly stick tree with a good look at his coloring and head markings

The back of Tom’s head with the noticeable buff coloring

Another good view of Tom’s head markings and coloring

Audrey settling in to her new home

Tom getting ready to snag a marked stick from the yard. Sorry for the poor lighting

‘Who invited you?’, says Tom to the hopeful crow

Tom hopes if he ignores the crow and continues to eat, the crow will leave. Wishful thinking on his part. Another great look at the buff coloring on the back of Tom’s head. The fish has no opinion

Three’s a crowd, but three on this nest seems to be de rigueur these days.

Horrible lighting, but a cool photo nonetheless. The fish seems to be missing something

That’s a big fish! Calico Tom the Fishing Fool living up to his moniker on our dock

Tom on the support, Audrey in the nest. How can I tell, you ask? I zoomed in on them before I posted the photo!

Tom scratching an itch. This is a great view of the camera and perch

Audrey returning to the nest, looking intent

I’m ho-ome, dear! Tom is thinking that she means business

Time for some more marked sticks, perhaps with a color change? Keep your eyes out!

One last glimpse of the back of Tom’s buff colored head. I think you get the idea by now, so I will stop

It is time to close for now. As I write, Tom is on the boat lift and Audrey is on the perch on top of the camera pole. With my current work schedule, I haven’t been home very much when the lighting is good for photographs, but I will keep on trying. I leave you with a couple more sunrise photos. The winner of the photos from the last blog was #2, which happened to be my favorite, so thank you very much!

Another glorious sunrise at the secret location

Swans at the same sunrise

Our eggs last year were laid on 4/17, 4/20 and 4/23. In previous years, the eggs were laid only two days apart. Either way, it’s time to go on egg watch, how exciting! I’m hoping to have some great news to write about in a couple of weeks!

Until next time, we remain,

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl

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