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.
COM is feeding the new cable out to Jesse, our electrician extraordinaire
Jesse is a manly man, and braves the very cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay to run the new cable and wiring
Wires and cable were everywhere, but Jesse was concentrating on the job at hand
When there is a job to be done concerning all things osprey, COM is never far behind
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.
The swans are perplexed, but don’t want to wander off in case the top comes off of the corn container
Meanwhile, back on the dock, Jesse and COM continue the task at hand.
Jesse is happy to be out of the water and out of the waders. COM is standing by (actually kneeling by) to lend a hand
Jesse has a helper
Tools of the pre-osprey trade
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.
Peter is trying to help. If only he could learn how to use a shovel
The swans are still hanging around waiting for a handout.
The swans are waiting in their usual feeding zone. Patience is a virtue, even for swans
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.
Our dock during the extreme low tides
Our dock a couple of days later
Some more low tide/high tide comparisons:
A view to the south along the rip-rap. You can see the typical water line on the rocks
View to the south during the high tides
View to the north during the low tides
View to the north during the high tides
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.
The old bent pole had to be jetted out of the mud
You can see the old pole was bent at the bottom from the ice over the winter and had to be replaced
The water was barely low enough to get the job done
One of the new poles was waiting on our deck, and the other arrived with Phil and Dean.
One of the new poles and a sleeve to hold it up.
Now the new pole needs to be jetted into the bottom
Dean is pushing the sleeve into place
The equipment for jetting in the pole is in the kayak.
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!
Phil and Dean, our pole and platform heroes!
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.
Not a thing of beauty, but the results have been fantastic. The piece of metal between the two poles provides support and allows the poles to move together
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.
A large flock of our swans took to the skies on their way north to their breeding grounds. Good bye, safe travels and we will see you in November!
COM still had work to do to get everything ready for the arrival of Tom and Audrey.
COM readies the equipment for the arrival of Tom and Audrey
Tools, cable, more tools, electrical stuff (technical term) and COM’s ever-present waders
Tidy operable equipment makes COM happy. It was really cold out there!
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.
An osprey arrives at dusk. Who could it be?
The next morning began with a spectacular sunrise.
Sunrise at the secret location on Monday, March 19, 2018
Much to our delight, a few hours later, another osprey arrived on the nest platform.
The welcoming committee was next to arrive.
Here comes the Welcome Wagon!
A peaceful scene as Tom rejoins his Audrey
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.
Tom is hunkered down on the platform. Audrey was hiding out from the storm. I can’t imagine what was going on in his head
Fortunately, the snow only lasted a couple of days. Audrey returned to the platform, and nest building commenced.
The start of a nest
I need to move this stick
Everyone needs a little break. Tom and Audrey decide to relax on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us.
Taking a break from household chores
Nest building continued, and the first of COM’s marked sticks made their way to the nest.
Two marked sticks are visible, with one barely hanging on. It stayed like that for days
Still a few swans hanging around and still a marked stick hanging around. A view of the nest complex from a different angle
Along with nest building comes baby making. Tom and Audrey wasted no time in getting down to business.
More nest building
Bring a stick…
…Get a quick(y)
Here are some photos of what has been happening around the neighborhood.
It’s not easy to get your balance on top of this little perch. Why don’t you try it if you think it’s so easy!
Audrey is eating sloppy seconds, and has gotten a chunk on top of COM’s electrical box. Yuck!
Audrey on the electrical box, a favorite place for her to eat sloppy seconds
What’s going on up there?
It’s a full house at COM’s stick locker.
COM’s stick locker with a teeny bit of snow that is still hanging in there
My first poop photo of 2018! How special! How disgusting! How juvenile!
Beautiful, stately Audrey in the scraggly stick tree. Good view of the white patch under her eye, one of her identifying features
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.
It will be easier next year, we promise!
Another break from osprey nooky and nest building on the swim ladder.
Sure wish I had a Bloody Mary, or is that a Bloody Fishy?
A cropped close-up of our favorite osprey couple
If one is good, two is better. Poop Shot #2 for the 2018 season. Stop it, Mrs. COM!
Audrey must be feeling better now
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!
AP (Advanced Placement) nest building. This is how you do it!
Fly-through stick collecting. COM took this photo, not easy to do
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.
Tom minding his own business on the electrical box when Mrs. COM sneaks down the lawn. How many legs do you see?
Tom decides it’s time to leave
Think I’ll head to the scraggly stick tree, good hiding over there
Ah, she can’t get me over here. Finally some peace and quiet
But wait, I am not alone. Oh, darn. We just won’t look at the camera
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:
You should now be able to identify which osprey is Tom and which is Audrey. Remember where they are sitting
Here are some more photos from the above series:
Someone has decided that Mrs. COM has gotten too close and leaves. Who is it?
Back to the nest she (hint) goes
She (hint) arrives back at the nest, thinking Mrs. COM can’t get her now. Wrong!
Her partner decides he (hint) doesn’t feel like being the apple of Mrs. COM’s eye (camera eye), and also decides it is time to move on
I need to line this up just right
Who’s on top? GIANT HINT
Can’t a guy and girl get a little privacy around here? Can you tell us apart now? GIANT ENORMOUS BIOLOGICAL HINT!!!!!
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!
Ospreys on top chasing away eagle on bottom
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:
Thank you, Mother Nature!
Until next time, we remain,
Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man and Osprey Girl
If you are enjoying the osprey camera an 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!