Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Good evening on this last day of June from our secret location on the delightful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This month seems to have gotten away from me, so I will try to make it up to you with double the photos this time.  There have been many changes in our little osprey family since my last blog.  As I was sitting at my computer working on the May 31st blog, unbeknownst to me, a great drama was taking place in the dark over the water behind our house.  I was joyfully writing about our history in the making, describing the events leading to the hatching of our miracle chicks. To my great horror early the next morning, reports were coming in on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page and by text to my phone of a large crash into the nest/camera around 10:00 p.m. the night before, and the demise of one of our little miracle chicks.  We did not hear the commotion as our windows were closed, and we keep the camera sound on mute inside of the house. COM reviewed the tapes from the previous night, with the events being visible due to his installation of an infrared light source at the beginning of the 2016 season. He was able to capture the shadowy, blurry image of a large bird swooping down on the unsuspecting Audrey, knocking her almost off the nest and causing the disappearance of one of our beloved, newly hatched chicks.  We have had some discussion as to whether the bird (probably a Great Horned Owl) snatched the chick or if the chick was knocked out of the nest when Audrey was blindsided.  The attack happened so quickly that it was impossible to tell from the video footage what actually transpired.  It doesn’t really matter how it happened, but our chick was gone and one egg remained unhatched.  A couple of days later, Audrey broke into the remaining egg, and consumed the contents.  A working theory on the third egg is that it was damaged in the attack and nature took its course.  A few very sad days here at the secret location, going from “the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat” in a very short time.  Will the drama at our nest never cease?

But life goes on, doesn’t it?  I am sure you have noticed that our remaining chick has grown by leaps and bounds, much more quickly than other chicks of a similar age that have been raised by Tom and Audrey in our nest.  It’s a spunky chick with quite a personality, and we are so thankful to have an only child this season. Calico Tom the Fishing Fool is living up to his name, and the fish just keep on coming.  In a few days, our chick will have a name after the voting closes at the Chesapeake Conservancy.  My vote was for Lucky, as it just seemed apropos for this year’s chick.  But the majority will rule in our democracy, and we will soon know what to call our baby instead of “the chick”.

Very shortly after the incident at the nest, the Crazy Osprey Family was contacted by Craig Koppie, our favorite raptor biologist.  He suggested that we put up a scarecrow to try and keep the predator away from our remaining chick.  You know that Crazy Osprey Man got his moniker for a reason, and off to the garage he went.  A couple of hours later and my only good hat gone (I didn’t have the heart to tell COM, he worked so hard on his project), we had a new family member.  Enter Roger:

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A view from the backyard of Roger in his original position with Tom hanging out on the boat lift

 

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Tom is keeping an eye on Roger, who doesn’t seem the least bit concerned

 

Notice the very clean boat cover in the above photo.  Please remember this clean cover for comparison in future photos.

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Suave Roger keeping things safe

 

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Roger, protector of ospreys, at his original location at the beginning of the dock

 

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Roger in his first location on the dock close to land

 

And of course, no scarecrow would be complete without night lighting, so Roger’s presence is not only felt but seen all night long!  Thank you COM for being the Crazy Osprey Man that you are!

When Craig Koppie first suggested that we try Roger as a possible defender against unwanted visitors, he suggested that we place him at the beginning of the dock.  As the days went on, a decision was made to move Roger from his original location out closer to the end of the dock nearer to the nest.  On the day of the big move, the Crazy Osprey Family was honored to have wonderful visitors, Maureen and Gene from Cape Cod.  Maureen has been a faithful camera watcher and blog follower from the start. Her witty lyrics to the tunes of some of our favorite songs and her continuing cheerful and positive attitude have made her a welcome addition to our little osprey family.  COM and I were delighted that she and Gene were able to join us for a fun-filled day at the secret location:

 

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Roger has been relocated to the end of the dock to be closer to the nest. Maureen and Gene from Cape Cod have stopped by for a visit

 

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Gene, Maureen and COM enjoying a beautiful day at the secret location. COM has just finished relocating Roger to the end of the dock

 

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Roger in his new digs at the end of the dock

 

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Wider view of Roger at the end of the dock. Nobody will sneak up on his watch!

 

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Don’t tell Roger, but he has a stick up his rear end. Ouch!

 

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Roger is keeping a close “eye” on the nest. Or is the nest keeping a close eye on Roger?

 

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Roger doing his thing. He looks like he is doing a little dance

 

We are so happy to have Roger as part of our osprey family.  I guess we will never know, but he seems to have done his job to protect everyone at the nest.

After all of the excitement at the beginning of June, things seemed to have calmed down and osprey life is moving forward.  The little one has lost its down and is now starting to sport real feathers.  It is truly unbelievable to me how large the chick has grown in just a little over four weeks.  Tom and Audrey continue to be exemplary parents, and take incredibly good care of their baby.  Here are some photos of the daily lives of our favorite osprey family, all of which have been taken since the last blog was published:

 

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Tom on COM’s boat lift, which is one of his favorite places to hang out

 

Sometimes after Tom has been fishing, he will arrive back in the area looking very wet and bedraggled.  The top of the camera assembly is another of his favorite places, and turns out to be a great place to dry off:

 

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Sometimes when you can’t see Tom, you can hear him scratching around on top of the camera assembly

 

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Tom loves to sit on top of the camera. He is catching the breeze trying to dry his wings after a very wet fishing expedition

 

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Tom drying his wings on the top of the camera

 

When I am home, I usually keep one eye on whatever I am doing and the other eye wanders to the windows to try and catch a glimpse of a photo op.  Here is a series of photos of Tom after he caught a fish and took it to the neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us:

 

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Tom with a fish on our neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us

 

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Tom taking his fish and leaving. He doesn’t feel like sharing with Mrs. COM today

 

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Tom on the downstroke with a foot and a fish trailing

 

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Tom in flight with his fish, holding on with one talon

 

When you are watching the ospreycam, it is usually Tom who likes to sit up on the observation posts (actually the nest supports).  Once in a while Audrey likes to sit up high and enjoy the view from the top floor:

 

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Audrey on the viewing tower on one leg

 

In seasons past, I have posted many photos of our various ospreys sitting in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  For some reason, this year neither Tom nor Audrey is spending much time up that way.  Maybe it is because there is another osprey pair nesting very close to the big tree.  Earlier in the month, I observed Tom fly off to the big tree with a fish after I unceremoniously chased his away from our neighbor’s dock while trying to snap a few photos:

 

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Tom in the big tree two houses to the north of us with a fish with a deeply notched tail

 

Here is a wider view of the big tree.  You can barely see Tom sitting up near the top of the leaf canopy on the right side of the tree.  If you look closely, you can see one of the other ospreys who nest near the big tree sitting to the left of the tree on a piling.  Their nest is to the right of the big tree on a pole in the water five houses to the north of us:

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The big tree two house to the north of us. Tom is over to the right up near the top of the leaf canopy

 

Here are some photographs of Tom and Audrey in the nest.  It is hard to see the chick in most of the photographs, but he/she is starting to be more visible from vantage points on land and the dock:

 

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Tom and Audrey are checking something out. The chick’s head is visible between its parents and the nest support to the left of Tom and Audrey

 

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Good lighting and a bucolic scene with the sailboats on the horizon

 

I have been putting a lot of sticks out in the yard, and both Tom and Audrey have been picking all of them up:

 

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Not sure how some of those sticks are still hanging in there. One of COM’s marked sticks is barely hanging on near the middle of the bottom of the nest

 

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Two parents keeping a watchful eye

 

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Tom on his viewing post, Audrey close by and the chick is hunkered down

 

This is a quiet Father’s Day on the dock with Roger keeping guard.  The Full Strawberry Moon Dock Party was the next night.  Could anyone hear us howling?

 

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A quiet Father’s Day on the dock with Roger. It wasn’t quiet the next night with 25 happy howlers at the Full Strawberry Moon Dock Party

 

Audrey takes a little break from the nest to do her thing on the boat lift.  What is that white stuff on the formerly clean boat cover?

 

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Squawking Audrey on COM’s boat lift. “Hey, COM, that’s not my mess down there, go talk to Tom”

 

The chick is starting to be visible unless a parent sounds the alarm, then it flattens out and cannot be seen from land:

 

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The Happy Family-all three visible on 6/19/2016

 

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The chick flattens out when Mrs. COM is on the prowl with her camera and the alarm is sounded of an intruder in the area

 

The crows always seem to know when one of our ospreys is enjoying a fish meal near by.  As Tom enjoys his meal on our boat lift, a patient crow is waiting for sloppy seconds:

 

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Tom and a patient crow on COM’s boat lift. COM is not going to be happy when he sees that boat cover

 

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Tom decides if the crow left, maybe he should be thinking about moving on

 

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Tom arrives back at the nest with provisions

 

One of our many rainy days this spring:

 

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A dreary, wet day at the secret location. Tom is hanging on COM’s boat lift

 

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Tom on COM’s boat lift looking rather wet

 

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Tom leaves the area. All my fault!

 

Audrey and the chick sharing a quiet day at the nest. I must have been standing on one foot when I took some of these photos, they seem a little lopsided:

 

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Audrey and her offspring sharing a quiet moment at home

 

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Audrey gives the alarm call and the chick disappears from view

 

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Tom arrives back at the nest and the all clear signal is sounded

 

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After Calico Tom the Fishing Fool brought home dinner, Audrey feeds the young’n

 

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Tom and Audrey at the ready, but the chick just wants another bite

 

Audrey doesn’t leave the nest too often, but as the chick is getting bigger, she has been leaving for longer periods of time.  Even when she isn’t in the nest, Audrey is not far away:

 

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Audrey on COM’s boat lift, a rare visit

 

Tom has been taking some squawking lessons from Audrey:

 

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Squawking Tom emulating Squawking Audrey in full voice. Stay away from my fish, you crazy woman!

 

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Tom on the nasty poop deck (dock) next door to the south

 

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Tom checking out Mrs. COM and that darn camera

 

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When Tom took off with his fish, the crows moved in for the spoils on top of this piling

 

As I am sure you know by now, one of Tom’s favorite places is the swim ladder on the dock two houses to the south of us.  Our neighbors that lived there for over twenty years just moved at the beginning of June.  One of my first orders of business when I met the new neighbors was to explain that they may be seeing a crazy woman with a camera traipsing through their yard to take photographs of birds on their dock.  I very politely asked for permission to continue my pursuits, and they very graciously approved.  I am sure Tom would have much preferred that they said no trespassing, but Mrs. COM saved the day.

 

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Tom is hanging out on his favorite swim ladder, now owned by new, very nice and understanding neighbors

 

Sometimes staying vigilant and looking out the window really pays off.  As I was doing some dishes this morning, I glanced up and saw something very unusual for this part of Maryland:

 

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We heard the fishing is good in the Chesapeake Bay this time of year-a flock of pelicans flying over our osprey nest!!!

 

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Hey, this doesn’t look like Florida!

 

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Flying in formation, ready for the airshow

 

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Maybe the Blue Angels can adopt this new five “man” formation (sorry for the bad lighting, no choice)

 

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Getting ready to dive for breakfast

 

Pretty cool, huh?

Please remember to send in your photos for the “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest.  Send a photo of yourself watching the ospreycam from wherever you are.  Please include your name (first name is fine) and the location, and I will post it in my next blog.  Send your photo to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com. A winning photo will be selected at the end of this season with a prize to follow!

We are up to over 491,000 views of the blog since its inception in 2013.  Please send in your guess for the day we will have our 500,000th view!  A great prize will be awarded to the winning person!  You can send your guess to the same email listed above for the photo contest.

 

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William watching the ospreycam with his grandparents on Kent Island, Maryland

 

The hour is drawing late, and it’s time to close out another blog.  Remember to get your votes in for our chick’s name (it’s a Lucky chick, isn’t it-hint, hint!) on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page.

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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History In The Making

Good evening from the incredibly beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Our seemingly never-ending streak of rainy, dreary days appears to have come to an end. It is a delightful evening here, with temperatures in the high seventies, low humidity, spectacular cloud formations and ospreys everywhere.  I was finally able to plant my vegetable garden, the purple wave petunias are nestled around the mailbox post and my deck planters are an array of color for the eye.  But the best part of all, according to Dr. Spitzer, is that we are all a part of history in the making!  On Friday, May 27, despite being left unattended for seven hours at forty-seven degrees in a steady rain, Tom and Audrey’s first egg hatched forty days after it was laid.  The first hatch was quickly followed two days later by the second hatch on Sunday, May 29, thirty-nine days after the egg was laid.  We are anxiously waiting  to learn the fate of Egg #3, and should know something definitive within the next few days.  So far, for the first two eggs, we are in the typical hatch window for our nest of 39-41 days, with June 1 being day thirty-nine for Egg #3.  Even the experts have been stumped by what has happened at our nest this season. And everyone is walking around with big smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts at the arrival of our miraculous chicks!  COM and I are also happy because Osprey Girl is home for the summer, and all is right with the world.

Here is a photo taken by Osprey Girl of the incredible sky early this evening, complete with osprey pole and nest:

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Gorgeous sky the last day of May 2016. Audrey is in the nest with Chick #1 and Chick #2. Tom is chilling somewhere in the neighborhood

 

I wanted to say a few words about the camera and images that you see.  We have had the same good quality, mega pixel camera for the last three seasons.  Nothing has changed with the camera with the exception of the addition of an infra red light source which COM installed just before the ospreys returned this season.  He spent an inordinate amount of time at the end of the dock fooling with the infra red light source and camera before it was installed on the pole.  I helped him test the IR light source at night, trying many different combinations of filters, running back and forth to the house to observe the results on our monitors, making homemade filters out of plastic containers, and trying it all again and again.  We thought we had it right and the image looked good before Tom and Audrey returned.  But alas, once the IR source was mounted on the pole, and our friends returned from their winter vacation, the light was just a little too intense.  The camera is out of reach now, so nothing can be done to tone it down, but we will adjust it for next season.

The other issue is the quality of the images you see from the ospreycam.  Rest assured that we are producing the highest level of quality that is possible given the constraints of the system.  The camera is fine, but we are limited by the internet connection between the camera and the distribution point, which is not at our location.  The connection is limited by the upload speed of the internet service available coming down the road to the secret location, and is beyond anyone’s control at the Chesapeake Conservancy or from the Crazy Osprey Family.  In layman’s terms, the quality of the image you see is not a camera issue, but a bandwidth issue. (at least, that is how it has been explained to me, and as you know by now, I am somewhat technically challenged).

Okay, enough technical talk, back to the ospreys!  I witnessed something very comical the day that Chick #1 hatched.  Audrey was alone on the nest, and took off, leaving the newly-hatched chick by itself.  Oh phooey, I thought, here we go again.  Audrey took a loop around our yard, took one of her daily constitutionals, and immediately returned to the nest, not missing a beat!  What a good mom, she didn’t want to take a chance of soiling the nest with her new baby.  I had never noticed her do that before, and it was quite amazing to watch. I promise, no more poop stories or photos for the rest of this blog (well, maybe one).

After some initial tentative fish supplying, Calico Tom the Fishing Fool has once again proven himself to be an expert provider for the nest.  I especially love to watch the chicks pass out after their bellies (actually crops) are full.  Tom is sometimes hard to spot when he is not right at the nest or at one of his usual haunts.  But Audrey knows when he is on his way back home, and always welcomes her man with vociferous greetings!  If COM and I are on the end of the dock enjoying a little happy hour, we always know when Tom is approaching without ever looking for him.  Squawking Audrey leaves no doubt as to his approach, and is even louder (if that is possible) when he is returning with a meal.

You may have noticed that Tom and Audrey have been spending a fair amount of time defending the nest and trying to shoo off unwelcome passers-by.  There are a significant number of ospreys and nests in the neighborhood around the secret location.  The closest nest is five houses to the north of us, just north of the big tree.  There are two ospreys occupying that nest.  I am reasonably sure that one of them is the osprey that was hanging out at our nest early in the season before Tom returned, possibly an offspring that was raised in our nest.  When I go walking, there are ospreys everywhere.  I will ask Osprey Girl to take a loop around the neighborhood by water and count the active nests around our area.  I will report back on her findings.

It’s that time again!  The “Where In The World Are Tom and Audrey?” contest is officially open!  Please send a photo of yourself or anyone else watching the ospreycam on any of your devices.  Send the photo, along with your name and from where you are watching.  I will post your photos on each blog.  At the end of the season, the contest winner will receive something cool from the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Not sure what your prize will be, but it will be cool!  Send your entries to Tom_audrey_osprey@yahoo.com and keep an eye out for your submission to be posted on the blog.

Speaking of the blog, the views continue to go up and up.  The total number of views since the blog inception at the beginning of the 2013 is season is rapidly reaching HALF A MILLION!  Wow!  We are over 485,000 views as of earlier today.  In that light, please send your guess as to which date the blog views will hit HALF A MILLION to the above email!  It will be this season, so get your guesses in.  If you are the winner, a cool prize will also be coming your way!  Make sure to include contact information in your email.

Here are some of the photographs that have been taken since the last blog was published.  I hope you enjoy them!

 

After Tom catches a fish, he will eat first.  The male has to be fed before anyone else to ensure the survival of any osprey family. Without Tom to bring home the bacon (fish bacon, that is), no one would eat very well.  As you have noticed, he will usually eat the top half of the fish, and bring the bottom half back to the nest.  Here is Audrey on the dock two houses to the south of us, on her favorite swim ladder with her fish snack:

 

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Audrey on the swim ladder with her sloppy seconds. I do believe she is squawking!

 

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Audrey: “Are you kidding me? Can’t a girl get a peaceful meal alone?”

 

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Audrey at the end of our dock. The crab pots will be in the water shortly

 

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Once again, Mrs. COM has gotten too close. Audrey does not stay to hear what I have to say

 

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Tom is on his observation post while Audrey incubates

 

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Tom is taking his turn incubating. Audrey is doing what she does best, squawking

 

Audrey is enjoying the tail end of her fish.  You can see the deep-notched yellowish tail, so this is a menhaden.  I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about poop, but this dock gives new meaning to the term “poop deck”:

 

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Audrey is sitting on a piling at the end of the dock just south of us. I’m not sure I would want to have happy hour out there!  Nasty!

 

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Audrey has that far off look in her eye

 

And off she goes!!!

 

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Escaping from Mrs. COM’s incredibly annoying camera. Cool reflection!

 

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Flying low

 

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Skimming the water

 

Guess who?

 

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Need I say more?

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree.  Guess how many fingers (talons, actually) I have up?

 

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Ah, that feels better!

 

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Who is trying to sneak up on me? I see you!

 

Audrey loves this swim ladder.  She frequently sits here while eating and to take a little break from the nest:

 

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How does she do that?

 

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If you look carefully, you can see Audrey’s left leg tucked up into her belly

 

Another favorite hang out of Tom and Audrey is the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us:

 

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Audrey is trying to decide whether to leave or stay

 

This is a good view of the infra red light source attached to the camera pole.  It’s the silver device mounted on the pole just under the covered camera.  Don’t you love COM’s fancy K-Mart trash can camera cover?

 

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Audrey is patiently incubating her eggs. At this point, we weren’t sure if they were viable. You can see one of COM’s marked sticks down in the nest

 

We have loved living on the water at the secret location for twenty seven years.  One of my absolutely favorite phenomenon is when the sun hits the water at a certain angle and the breeze is blowing at a certain speed.  If the two come together in just the right way, the entire surface of the water sparkles and twinkles until it is blinding.  I have dubbed this phenomenon “the sparklies”.  You can see just a few of the sparklies in this photo:

 

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Tom, his fish and two mooching crow friends on COM’s boat lift. Love those sparklies!!

 

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Mrs. COM has chased off the crows, but Tom could care less and just wants to enjoy his fish

 

This photo was taken the day that Chick #1 hatched, and shows the second feeding:

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Tom proudly sits on his observation post while Audrey feeds her newly hatched chick

 

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Tom is looking at Mrs. COM while Audrey continues to feed newly hatched Chick #1. This photo was taken from the end of our dock

 

 

Here is a series of photos of Tom and Audrey while Chick #1 is being fed:

 

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Arriving!

 

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Out of my way, woman!

 

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What’s going on down there?

 

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Dad is in the house!

 

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Are you going to eat that?

 

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Well, if you aren’t going to eat it, I’ll finish it

 

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Tom takes the left-over fish and flies away to enjoy it in peace

 

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Notice the deep-notched fish tail, probably another menhaden. Tom is heading to the dock south of us

 

 

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I wonder what Tom and Audrey are discussing?

 

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Tom, Audrey and an eavesdropping downstairs neighbor

 

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You watch for intruders from the North, and I’ll watch for intruders from the South

 

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These are the faces we will use to scare them off!

 

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Tom is finally enjoying the sun on COM’s boat lift

 

I hope you have enjoyed my latest batch of photographs.  The hour is getting late, and I have another early wake-up tomorrow.  So 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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Noise

Good evening from the relentlessly soggy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Since I wrote the last blog, we have had rain in some form for the last fifteen days.  People (and ospreys) do crazy things when the weather is this dreary.  My purple wave petunias, destined to be planted around the mailbox, have taken up residence next to the back door, still in their plastic trays.  My vegetable plants, stirring up wistful visions of 4th of July tomatoes from the garden, are sitting on the deck with sodden feet, as the ground is too wet to plant anything.  The grass looks verdant and happy, as it grows with unabashed enthusiasm, but it is too wet to mow on a regular schedule.  And here I sit with the weather prediction of yet more rain to come.  I guess the weather gods are still angry!  But the extremely good news is that our Audrey is back, making more noise than ever.  The only good thing about all this bad weather is that we have to keep our windows closed most of the time.  This doesn’t stop us from being able to hear all of her squawking, however, it does keep the decibel level down to a dull roar!  But after our recent incident, I am so very happy to hear all of Audrey’s beautiful noise!!!!!

Since the last blog, we have had some excitement (isn’t that an understatement!).  The arrival of our third egg on April 23 was a happy day indeed.  I missed the blessed event, as I was enjoying my forty year college reunion with 29 sorority sisters in a Midwestern state known for its horses.  It was a most wonderful weekend for all of us sixty-somethings.  As far as egg laying goes, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief not to have a fourth egg this year.  The time from an osprey egg being laid until hatching ranges from 35-42 days.  In our nest, we seem to have a range of 39-41 days.  I’m sure you can all do the math, but here it is in black and white for your viewing pleasure:

Anticipated Hatching of Tom and Audrey’s Eggs 2016:

Egg #1 laid April 17, hatching range May 22-29

Egg #2 laid April 20, hatching range May 25-June 1

Egg #3 laid April 23, hatching range May 28-June 4

Now, the above dates are all based on the premise that these eggs are viable.  No one knows for sure what will become of them after our Audrey went missing in action for over twenty four hours, which leads us to the next story.

The sun rose on Thursday, May 6, 2016 to a very wet, cold and dreary day.  Tom was sitting on the nest, incubating the eggs, with Audrey no where to be found.  We checked all the usual places on docks and trees in the area, and there was no sign of her.  Going back over the video from Wednesday, May 5, she had departed the nest around 2:00 p.m., and did not return that day.  Here is the last photo of Tom and Audrey before she disappeared for over twenty four hours:

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Tom and Audrey about an hour before Audrey disappeared for over 24 hours. The downstairs neighbor is enjoying the view

 

A little over an hour after the last Audrey sighting on Wednesday, an adult Bald Eagle was seen sitting in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  This is one of the usual places that Tom and Audrey like to hang out when not in the nest:

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An adult Bald Eagle, enemy of the osprey, sitting in the big tree where Tom and Audrey like to hang out.  This is the same place the eagle was sitting when Tom was dive-bombing him the next day after our couple’s return

 

Tom sat on the nest and incubated the eggs for the rest of Wednesday, all that night and into Thursday morning, with the exception of nine minutes at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday night when he was off the nest.  At approximately 8:05 a.m. on Thursday morning, he took off and the eggs were left exposed to the elements.  At 9:00 a.m., the temperature was 47 degrees and it was raining.  It was so eerily quiet without Audrey’s usual begging calls for a meal. As the hours went on, we became more and more worried about the welfare of our osprey pair. There was no sign of either Tom or Audrey at any of their usual haunts until approximately 2:48 p.m., when Audrey returned to the nest from who knows where.  As unhappy as all of you were, evidenced by the comments on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page, you can only imagine how we felt here at the secret location.  It’s one thing to look at an empty nest through the camera lens, and quite another to be staring out the window at the driving rain and wind, with the pole and empty nest staring right back at you.  We have very large picture windows on the water side of the house, and there was no escaping that view, devoid of any sign of an osprey no matter where we looked.  I just knew something horrible had happened to Audrey, because I did not think she would ever leave her eggs unless she couldn’t get to them.  COM was a little more optimistic about Audrey’s well being, and thought she may be trying to protect herself and stay out of the elements.  I was already thinking about an obituary blog for Audrey, and was just numb thinking about what had happened to her.

So what does the Crazy Osprey Family do when the going gets tough?  All together now, we ask the experts!  We contacted our osprey experts, and here are a couple of thoughts we received from them while Tom and Audrey were missing and the eggs were laying bare:

Dr. Spitzer’s comments:

We don’t really know much about vulnerability of osprey eggs to prolonged cooling early during incubation.  So once again you may be extending Osprey Science.  Of course, if they do resume incubation you will have to wait until term for Proof of the Pudding.  Then do as last year if necessary.

Julie Zickefoose, in  her recent book “The Bluebird Effect” (Houghton Mifflin, available via Kindle for $10, which may not do justice to her splendid artwork) has an excellent chapter on her long-term work with Tree Swallow nests.  In rotten weather, these (largely) insectivores may abandon incubation for several days–then resume under more favorable conditions, with continuing egg viability.  This book also has an excellent osprey chapter.

Of course this is an epic run of rotten weather.  Generally ospreys just hunker down for that long incubation, despite their recent return from the tropics.  Early bad weather doesn’t appear in egg viability data as a problem, as far as I know–I am copying three long-term osprey colleagues (Poole, Scheibel, and Bierregaard) on this.  There is general agreement that prolonged wet, cold weather post-hatch does substantially depress nestling survival.  But little nest abandonment (that we know of) under current, albeit rather arduous, incubation conditions.

Dr. Bierregaard’s comments:

Sounds to me like something happened to Audrey. Has she been seen today? 18 hours on the nest for a male is very strange. 

 I’ve seen birds off of eggs in really miserable, cold, rainy, windy weather for at least 2 hours and all eggs hatched. Ospreys have a very thin down layer and females do not have brood patches, so Osprey eggs never really get all that warm under incubating adults. I believe this explains their very prolonged (38 days or so) incubation period, which is about a week longer than similar sized raptors—a real outlier on the curve.

Good luck!

Of course, our dear friend and raptor biologist Craig Koppie has offered to help find foster chicks for our nest again this year if we suffer a repeat of last season’s failure to hatch.  I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So the waiting and watching begins yet again here at the secret location!

This rotten weather has made for some terrible conditions for taking photographs, but you know I cannot resist.  So here are some photos for your viewing pleasure, all taken since the last blog was published, most with terrible lighting.

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Audrey sitting in the scraggly stick tree. She will sit here sometimes after finishing a fish while Tom tends the eggs

 

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Audrey in a stare-down with Mrs. COM. She has been letting me get a little closer of late.

 

Tom has taken a liking to sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree:

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I can’t do a thing with my feathers in this rain, thinks Tom

 

I was taking a few nice photos of Audrey in the nest when Tom decided to take a swing by the nest:

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Osprey Photobomb!

 

Tom also likes to spend time on our neighbor’s dock two house to the south of us.  One of the spots where he likes to perch is the boat lift:

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Tom perched on my neighbor’s boat lift two houses to the south of us.

 

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It’s Tom’s turn to have a stare-down with Mrs. COM

 

Mrs. COM has gotten a little too close for Tom’s liking, and off he goes:

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Tom captured in flight as he makes a mad dash to escape from Mrs. COM and her infernal camera

 

This photo isn’t centered very well, but neither was the photographer as I was spinning around trying to capture the action:

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Calico Tom, the fishing fool

 

Tom headed back to the nest:

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On approach to the nest during the escape run. Audrey is ignoring him

 

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Arriving! The downstairs neighbor doesn’t seem too concerned

 

Over the last four years, I have discussed Audrey’s raucous utterings (a nice way to say loud, obnoxious, continual squawking).  As I have mentioned in the past, when the windows are open during the nice weather (what’s that?), we have to mute the sound on our osprey watching computers in the house.  There is a seven second delay between what is happening in real time, and when those sights and sounds are broadcast over the internet. So we hear every squawk in stereo, first coming from the outside in real time, then on the computer, hence the muting inside.  It’s enough to drive a person crazy, but I will never, ever complain about that beautiful noise again!

Here are a few photos of Squawking Audrey (Donald Trump’s nickname for her):

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Squawking Audrey doing her thing in the nest

 

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Squawking Audrey, probably complaining about the sun being in her eyes during the one bit of good weather we have had in the last 15 days

 

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Squawking Audrey making her presence known from our neighbor’s swim ladder. She is probably squawking at Mrs. COM this time

 

Here is a fun series of photos during a shift change, featuring Tom and once again, Squawking Audrey:

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Audrey arriving back at the nest after finishing her fish. Tom looks pretty comfortable and is not looking like he wants to leave

 

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They both see something. What could it be? A lady with a camera, perhaps?

 

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Squawking Audrey living up to her moniker

 

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Tom has had enough, and decides to let Audrey have her way. See ya later, Audrey!

 

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Ah, mine, all mine, thinks Audrey, as she settles back down on her eggs

 

We have been seeing a lot of wet ospreys in the last couple of weeks:

 

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Wet Audrey on a dreary day sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree

 

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Wet Tom trying to dry out on our boat lift. This is during the same bit of decent weather when Audrey was complaining about the sun in her eyes.

 

Here is another series of photos featuring Tom on our boat lift, one of his favorite haunts:

 

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Wet Tom perched on our boat lift. Check out those talons! I’m glad I’m not a fish when Calico Tom the Fishing Fool comes calling!

 

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Time to try to dry off! Tom shaking out his feathers

 

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After shaking out his feathers, Tom stands on one leg. This is probably as close as he has ever let me come to him

 

The final series of photos for this blog shows what Tom does with a fish after he catches it and before he brings the back half to Audrey.  The fish is a menhaden, which has a very deep-notched yellow tail (although this tail is rather bloody).  When I first noticed Tom in the scraggly stick tree with his fish, he must have just landed.  The fish was still intact and flapping furiously against Tom’s strong talons.  Although it was really unsettling to watch, the photo op was too good to pass up:

 

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This is shortly after I noticed Tom sitting down low in the scraggly stick tree with his fresh catch

 

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The fish continued to flap furiously as it was being eaten alive! Nature can be brutal

 

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Dinner is served

 

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Tom is getting a better grip on his prey

 

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Multitasking-Eat and poop while your photo is being taken

 

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Another big bite. By this time, the flapping had slowed down considerably

 

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This is a good view of how Tom eats the fish from the head down

 

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It takes a long time for Tom to eat his fill

 

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Taking a little break from the fish, who by this time had stopped flapping (much to my relief)

 

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Tom is still looking wet, probably from a combination of fishing and the weather. This was as close as I got to him, as I wanted Tom to eat his dinner before the weather went south on him

 

Last night, during a brief respite from the rain, COM and I went out on the end of the dock for a quick happy hour.  Our dock happy hours have really been curtailed due to the continuing inclement weather.  While we were sitting there, Audrey, who was sitting on the nest and being reasonably quiet for her, started raising a ruckus.  We looked around, and noticed Tom very close to the nest, but about two hundred feet in the air.  As we watched, he came diving down, crashed into the water and snagged a pretty big fish.  We hadn’t been able to catch Tom in the act of actually catching a fish this year, so we were thrilled to witness the Fishing Fool at his best! When Tom flew off with his meal, that really got Audrey going in full squawk mode with her beautiful noise.  So much for our peaceful few minutes on the end of the dock with a glass of wine and some cashews!

I will leave you with a photo from the last full moon.  I had just returned home from my nine hour drive after the reunion weekend.  The moon was so beautiful shining on the water and nest, I dropped my suitcase on the deck, and ran to get the camera.  It’s not the best photo ever taken, but wasn’t bad for a quick shot in the dark:

 

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April 2016 Full Moon at the secret location

 

Time to wrap up this blog, for it is now the wee small hours of the morning, and wake-up (once I go to sleep) is just around the corner.  Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl (soon to be home for the summer-yippee!)

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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patience Is A Virtue

Good evening from the finally Spring-like Eastern Shore of Maryland.  After being able to write the last two blogs during the light of day, I am back to authoring my blog at night.  And what a great night it is!  After patiently waiting for the first egg to be laid, Tom and Audrey now have two!  The first was laid very late on the night of April 17, and the second egg was laid around dinnertime on April 20.  This is a little later than last year, when Audrey laid her first egg on April 12 and her second one on April 15.  It remains to be seen how many eggs will grace our nest over the next few weeks.  We certainly know that Tom has given his all to fertilize all these eggs.  He has been an enthusiastic donor of osprey sperm to be sure!  So we just need to have a little more patience before we have the final egg count.  Ospreys will generally lay 2-4 eggs in a clutch, usually 2-3 days apart with an occasional outlier.

 

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Tom making his sperm donation. A different view than you are used to seeing

 

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As copulation doesn’t last long in the osprey world (the old quantity over quality school of thought), I was able to snap a couple of photos before the opportunity was over

 

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Tom and Audrey smoking a cigarette after their interlude (ha, ha, not really kids). Tom loves the high ground

 

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Tom is finished with his pre-fatherly duties, and takes off to the north

 

Typically, osprey eggs will be incubated for 5 to 6 weeks, or 35 to 42 days.  In our nest, the most common incubation period has been 39-41 days.  As the eggs are laid in intervals, they will also hatch in intervals.  But we are getting way ahead of the game!  By the time the next blog is published, we will know what the egg count will be for the 2016 season.  Then the waiting will really begin!

 

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This is what Audrey looks like from our backyard while in the nest incubating her eggs. You can see how low and deep she snuggles down in the nest

 

There never seems to be any shortage of drama in this nest, does there?  The big excitement since the last blog (other than our 2 new eggs, of course) was the plastic bag that Audrey brought back to the nest.  She managed to get the bag tangled around one of her legs, much to the consternation of all of us.  Here are some photos that were taken shortly after the bag was noticed:

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It was one of those windy days when Audrey brought the bag back to the nest. Before it was attached to her leg, the bag kept blowing in her face

 

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“What the heck is this thing” thinks Audrey, looking quizzically at the bag

 

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Audrey seems a little annoyed at the bag as she tries to get it in place for use in the nest

 

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Right in the middle of the bag drama, Tom decides to bring Audrey the bottom half of a fish. What’s a girl to do? Fly to a piling with bag and fish. The bag is now firmly wrapped around her leg.

 

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You can clearly see the bag handle wrapped around Audrey’s left leg.

 

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Audrey can multi-task with the best of them. Poop, eat fish and maneuver a plastic bag wrapped around your leg.

 

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Audrey is either looking at me for help or getting ready to get out of Dodge

 

Tom did seem concerned about Audrey’s plight.  He brought her the fish and she took off with it and the bag. Tom tried to get close to Audrey while she was attempting to eat the fish with the bag attached to her leg.  He landed on the ground near the piling, which is unusual to see:

 

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Tom on the ground close to the piling where Audrey is eating her fish.  He seems to know that something is not quite right

 

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Another photo of Audrey with the bag attached and fish. It was not a flimsy plastic grocery bag, but a heavier duty, larger bag from a retail store

 

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Audrey has had enough of Mrs. COM stalking her, and takes off with her fish and the bag firmly wrapped around her left leg.

 

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Audrey landing back at the nest still trailing the bag.

 

After a fitful day and night for all of us, human and avian, Audrey managed to pick at the bag until she got rid of it.  All’s well that ends well, I guess!  But we did have some nervous moments until the coast was clear.

I have been working many odd hours the past few weeks, necessitating early departures from the house, like at 4:15 a.m.  When I leave under cover of darkness, it is not under cover of silence.  There is nothing like the sound of a squawking, hungry female osprey (not naming any names here) in the wee small hours of the morning.  We are probably not the most popular people on the street when our neighbor’s bedroom windows are open at night!

Our downstairs birdie neighbors are also back.  The sparrows who live in the basement apartment under the nest have been busy flitting around stealing bits of grass from Tom and Audrey’s stash.  They are a cute little addition to our viewing pleasure, don’t you think?

After what seemed to be a slow start, our Calico Tom seems to be retaining his fishing fool status.  The interesting thing is that neither COM or I have seen Tom actually catch a fish this season.  He always shows up with the back half of a fish for Audrey, but his whereabouts while obtaining his delectable delights remain a mystery.  Tom must have a hidden fishing hole somewhere near the secret location.

 

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Audrey with a tender fish morsel at her favorite dining spot, the electrical box at the end of our dock

 

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Digging in

 

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Yummy, this is one of my favorite pieces!

 

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While Audrey was enjoying her free meal, Tom was keeping watch from the boat lift

 

Here are a couple more photos for your viewing pleasure.  All of the photos in this blog were taken since the last blog was posted:

 

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Audrey on the electrical box after finishing a fish meal. Notice she is standing on only one leg

 

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Our beautiful Tom and Audrey in the late afternoon sun before the first egg was laid

 

I want to take a moment to thank you all for continuing to follow our blog and watch the ospreycam.  Comments may now be posted on the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page.  In case you were wondering, we have almost half a million views of the blog since its inception in 2013 with over 91,000 viewers from all over the world.  I will keep you up to date on our numbers as the season continues.  In the next blog, I will let you know where some of our viewers are watching from around the world.

The hour is late, so I will end for now.  Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM 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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

And The Weather Gods Were Angry

**  Notice  **

While we appreciate the overwhelming support, enthusiasm and interest in Tom and Audrey, as well as this blog, it has reached the point that we do not have the time or resources required to maintain the comment section. We hope that you understand and continue to enjoy the webcam and the opportunity to see these iconic birds up close and personal. 

 

Good afternoon from the cold, windy, rainy, sleety, snowy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I feel like we are in a time warp back to February.  It has not gone unnoticed by most of you that we have had less than stellar weather for the beginning of our 2016 osprey season.  The winds over the past ten days have been relentless.  It is truly amazing that our faithful ospreys have been able to build such a beautiful nest given the adverse conditions they have had to face.  The weather prediction for tonight is for more subfreezing windchills and ferocious winds.  Hang in there, Tom and Audrey!  It is April after all, we are bound to get some true Spring weather shortly, aren’t we, Mother Nature?  Pretty please, Mother Nature, with sugar on top?

Since I last wrote, some of the head scratching has stopped, but not all.  Our wonderful Calico Tom has made his way back to the secret location.  He defended his nest admirably during an aerial battle on March 31, and chased off the mysterious stranger.  Audrey seemed happy to have her man back, and the couple got down to some serious nest building and egg fertilizing.  The nest has really come a long way since Tom has returned.  Little by little, it has grown and been lined with grasses and other soft stuff, ready for some egg action.  COM has put out dozens of sticks, some of which have been scooped up and some of which remain laying in the wet grass, waiting for their moment in Osprey Architectural Digest.  A newly-taped red stick was plucked from the backyard for the nest on April 8 and is in full view for the time being.

Speaking of the nest, there has been some discussion of late in the blog comments about our annual nest removal at the end of each season.  This action was recommended to us by osprey experts, and we have heeded their advice ever since we have had a nest at our location starting in 1995.  There has never been a problem with a new nest being built.  There are two reasons for the old nest removal.  The first reason is that the pole and platform could not withstand a nest that continually grew bigger and bigger.  The bigger the nest, the more windage and chance for damage.  You may have seen photographs of very large nests that have gotten bigger and bigger for years, or even seen some in person.  There is a very large nest on the southwest side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge just as you start over from the toll plaza.  Our little pole and platform could not remain upright with a nest that size.  The second reason for removing the nest annually is to help control the parasite population that would have access to our osprey family.  Our pole and platform have provided a suitable nesting site for over twenty years, so we will continue to remove the nest at the end of each season.

There has also been some discussion in the blog comments regarding our pole and platform.  Since the original pole went up in 1995, we have replaced the pole and platform three times.  Two of the three replacements were in back-to-back years, 2014 and 2015. We had to replace the poles and platforms due to ice and wind over the winter that damaged the pole in 2014 and took the pole down entirely in 2015.  If you go back to the early blogs from those two seasons, there are many photos of the pole and platform being replaced at the beginning of those two seasons.

As with the last blog, I have been writing this one during the day, which is unusual for me.  I have had the opportunity to look out the window as I write, and have run outside a few times to snap a few photos for you.  Tom and Audrey have been spending a lot of time together today.  They have been a very cute couple to watch:

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Tom and Audrey hanging out on our neighbor’s dock two houses to the south of us

 

 

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A close-up of Audrey on the swim ladder shown from afar in the last photo

 

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A close-up of Tom from the same far-off photo

 

A little while later, Tom and Audrey left that location, and moved over to our dock.  Audrey had a piece of fish that Tom had brought her:

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Tom (on the boat lift) and Audrey (on the electric box) on our dock. He is not letting her out of his sight today

 

As I was walking through the kitchen later in the afternoon, my eye caught something outside that I had never seen.  Sometimes I feel like some of my photos are repetitious, but this was a new one on me:

 

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Long view of Tom and Audrey together on the swim ladder two houses to the south of us

 

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Audrey is asking Tom why they left warm South America to come to Maryland.  He looks a little sheepish, knowing he had three more weeks in the warm sun than Audrey, who came back early to start working

 

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Tom doesn’t have an answer for her, and decides to keep his mouth shut. They both look cold and wet

 

Many of you have been wondering where Tom and Audrey have been spending their time during this bout of very unusual nasty spring weather.  The below photos show an unusual place for them to hang out.  I noticed them out there right after the start of this windy period:

 

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This is the first thing I noticed when I started looking around for Tom and Audrey on a very cold, blustery spring day

 

I tried to get a little closer with the camera:

 

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I quietly approached, and was able to get closer to them

 

After a while, Tom decided he wanted to be closer to Audrey:

 

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Tom gets closer to Audrey on the riprap. I was surprised they let me get close, although I was using a very long lens

 

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Audrey is trying to tell me something. I’ll bet it wasn’t nice

 

Audrey loves to sit in the scraggly stick tree one house to the north of us, usually up near the top.  During this cold windy spell, she has been sitting way down in the bottom of the tree, something I had never seen before:

 

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Audrey sitting way down low in the scraggly stick tree

 

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A closer view of Audrey low in the scraggly stick tree

 

This is where Audrey usually sits when in the scraggly stick tree:

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree up near the top having a stare-down with Mrs. COM

 

Audrey always looks so regal at the top of the scraggly tree:

 

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Audrey is such a regal osprey!

 

Tom has been bringing Audrey some delicious cold fish meals.  Here she is on our boat lift with her morsel:

 

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Audrey on the boat lift with a snack

 

It is not unusual when we have strong winds from the north or west and a low tide to have the water blown out of the bay and leave us with an exposed sandy bottom.  With the very cold weather, sometimes the bottom will freeze.  This is the water behind our house a few days ago, not a typical spring phenomenon at the secret location:

 

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The water has blown out and left us with an exposed bottom and caused some freezing.

 

The nest is really starting to look good.  Tom and Audrey have been working very hard on it.  Here are some photos of the nest from the backyard:

 

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Tom and Audrey in the nest. Some of the first marked sticks are visible at the bottom of the nest

 

 

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Tom decides to move to the nest support in case he needs to make a quick getaway

 

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Tom is on the support keeping a close eye on Mrs. COM. Audrey is nonplussed

 

You would think Tom and Audrey would be used to me stalking them by now.  They seem to be getting better, but I am still an unwelcome intruder:

 

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Tom and Audrey minding their own business. This is a great shot of Tom’s buff feathers on the back of his head

 

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Let’s see how close Mrs. COM can get before someone relocates

 

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That was close enough for Tom. He makes a hasty departure, leaving Audrey alone on the nest. You can see why Dr. Spitzer nicknamed him Calico Tom!

 

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Audrey is all alone on the nest. Did you have to chase him off, Mrs. COM, he just got here!

 

Well, I think that is enough for today.  I hope you have enjoyed the new photographs which were all taken since the last blog was published.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the high wind and freeze warnings expire quickly, and we all (human and avian) can enjoy some warm Spring days really soon!

Until next time, we remain-

COM, Mrs. COM and Osprey Girl

 

It’s not too late for members of the Osprey Club to register for the Welcome Back Osprey gathering on April 19, 2016 from 4:00-6:30 p.m. at Pusser’s Caribbean Grille, 80 Compromise Street, Annapolis, Maryland.  Speakers will be Craig Koppie and Teena Gorrow, who will be talking about their soon-to-be published new book featuring Tom and Audrey.  Please go to http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org for details.

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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thank you!

 

 

 

A Real Head Scratcher

Good morning from the soggy, but now sunny, Eastern Shore of Maryland!  It’s quite unusual for me to be sitting here in the light of day writing the blog, it usually happens in the wee hours of the evening.  I actually stayed up all night before the last blog was published, trying to get it finished before we left on a two week trip to Florida.  I was not successful in my mission, but did manage to get most of the photos uploaded so I could finish up at a remote site.  So it is kind of fun to be sitting here, looking at the nest and writing about the latest happenings.

Crazy start again, isn’t it?  I know all of you are just itching to know what’s going on.  There have been so many questions posed to us, but guess what?  We are just as much in the dark about the beginning of the season as all of you!  So for those of you who have been with us before this season, what does the Crazy Osprey Family do when there are questions?  Call in the experts!!  Our dear long time friend and osprey expert, Dr. Paul Spitzer, is down at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Apalachee Bay, Florida conducting his annual spring loon migration study.  It’s hard to catch up with him at times, but we were able to connect last night while he was eating his Easter dinner at an Indian restaurant in Tallahassee.  You gotta love Dr. Spitzer!  Between bites of his dinner, I explained to him in detail what has been going on here at the secret location.  Here are some of his thoughts:

Dr. Spitzer said it is possible that the mysterious stranger is a returned young from a previous year, since this is the current Audrey’s seventh season with us.  According to Dr. Spitzer, we know very little about that possibility because there have not been enough banding studies conducted to be sure.  He speculated that because Audrey has been tolerating the visitor so well, a returned offspring could be here.  Dr. Spitzer said, and I quote, “Once again we are making scientific history at your nest”.  He discussed some of the behaviors that are fundamental to a successful nest pair.  Two of the biggies are that the male brings food to the female and the pair engages in cooperative nest building.  We really haven’t seen either of those two things happening.  Audrey has been self-feeding and building her own nest. I told him how early Audrey had arrived (yes, I do think it is Audrey, but am still waiting to see what happens), and when the two Toms had appeared on the scene last year.  Dr. Spitzer said this is also a head scratcher for him, but it is still early in the game and our Tom from last year may still be making his way here.  He will check on his laptop to see what he can observe, but he does not have reliable WIFI coverage where he is short of parking in a public library lot.  We left it that I will contact him again in a week with any new details, and he will see if he can figure out what is going on.

Now, last Saturday morning, I observed an osprey pick up one of COM’s backyard, prefab nest sticks, and take it back to the nest on a pole in the water a few houses to the north of us, close to the big tree where our ospreys like to sit.  I have been watching to see where the mysterious stranger goes when it leaves our nest, but had not been able to observe it go anywhere but in one of the nearby trees or disappear from sight.  As I have been sitting here writing, I have been keeping an eye out the window on the nest.  I just, I mean just, got up when I saw the mysterious stranger leave the nest and fly off to the north.  And what did I see?  The stranger landed in the other nest!!!!  I have texted Dr. Spitzer and asked him to give me a call when he can to tell him what I just saw, and see if he has any thoughts on that one!  So our current situation is far from over, stand by once again!  Could our mysterious stranger be Ozzie, Essie, Chester, Breezy or Spitz, one of the chicks from 2013 or 2014?

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Audrey picking up a prefab nest stick from the COF’s backyard

 

I know the situation with the camera and sound has been frustrating to you so early in this season.  Believe me, no one is any more unhappy about the problems we have been having than the Crazy Osprey Family and the Chesapeake Conservancy.  Rest assured that everything is being done to try to make this a wonderful viewing season, so your patience is appreciated.  Let’s all try to keep this a positive experience for everyone, and keep the complaining and negative vibes away from the blog comments.  Quit picking on us, we are doing the best we can!!  If you have any concerns, you can reach out to the Conservancy on their Facebook page, they do not monitor the blog comments on a regular basis but are quite good at responding quickly on social media.

A few comments on some questions that have been posed:

When we have some of our cooler evenings this time of year, our osprey will take cover for the night in protected trees.  So if you don’t see someone on the nest at night, they are comfy cozy out in the woods somewhere near their nest.

Over the years, our experience with early nest building has been that the returning birds will usually rest for a few days before commencing their task.  It’s a long way from South America to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and those birds are tired!

You may have observed some sticks in the nest with brightly colored construction tape tied to them.  We put out sticks in our backyard for the ospreys to use as prefab nest building materials.  COM (Crazy Osprey Man) will sometimes tie tape to a few sticks so we can see our sticks in the nest.  We started with some orange tape this year, followed by some green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The green ones didn’t get picked up until after St. Paddy’s Day, so they are officially Spring sticks.  The new yellow ones were to complete the Easter basket look, and I think we can all agree are quite festive.  As the nest building continues, the marked sticks will get buried in the nest and not be visible until COM puts out some new marked sticks.

Here are some photos I have taken since the last blog was published.  It’s been kind of dreary here, so some of them aren’t great.

Audrey on the electrical box at the end of the dock:

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Audrey on the electric box enjoying a quick snack. Her bothersome crow buddies are waiting for the spoils.

 

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Yum, yum! I hope COM doesn’t see the bloody mess I am making on his box.

 

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Please leave me alone, can’t you see I am trying to eat?

 

Sunrise at the secret location on Thursday, March 24, 2016:

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Sunrise-March 24, 2016

 

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Our flag at sunrise-COM has it lighted so Old Glory can fly all night

 

 

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Audrey on the nest with a good view of the camera set-up. The infrared (IR) light source is mounted just below the camera on the vertical support

 

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Audrey and the mysterious stranger on the nest

 

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Audrey and the mysterious stranger hanging out on a dreary day

 

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The Odd Couple

 

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Audrey landing in the big tree two houses to the north of us

 

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Audrey in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north

 

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Audrey leaving the scraggly stick tree. Someone got too close again, who could that be?

 

A nice photo of Audrey in the scraggly stick tree:

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Pretty Audrey enjoying a sunny day in the scraggly stick tree next door to the north.

 

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Audrey enjoying a fish on the dock one house to the south of us

 

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You really need to leave me alone!

 

Nest photographs from over the weekend:

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Audrey on the nest. COM’s yellow and red markers are visible.

 

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Closer view of Audrey on the nest.

 

Photographs taken this morning, Monday, March 28, 2016:

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Audrey and the mysterious stranger in the scraggly stick tree on a gloomy morning

 

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A wet crow joins the fun

Right after this photograph was taken, Audrey took off back to the nest and the mysterious stranger followed her back like a little puppy dog!

A photo taken at sunset a couple of day ago:

 

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No special reason for this photo, I just thought it was kind of cool

 

I am waiting to hear back from Dr. Spitzer, and when I do, I will post a quick comment about his feelings on the mysterious stranger spending time at the other nest and attempts at mating.  Another crazy season in the making!

Until next time, we remain-

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

Don’t forget to sign up for the Welcome Back Osprey gathering on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.  The event will take place from 4:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Pusser’s Caribbean Grill in Annapolis, Maryland.  Craig Koppie and Dr. Tina Gorrow will be the featured speakers, and will be talking about their new book which focuses on Tom and Audrey’s nest.  For more details and to sign up, visit the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Facebook page or website.

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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Ospreys, Good Bye Swans!

Good evening from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Well, I have good news and bad news for all of my faithful blog readers.  The bad news is that all of our beautiful swans have departed for points north where they nest and have their babies.  The Crazy Osprey Family hopes you enjoyed the little swan diversion this winter.  Many thanks to Crazy Osprey Man, who masquerades as Crazy Swan Man from November through March every year.  He has been faithfully feeding the swans for as long as I can remember. It was his idea to move the camera from the osprey pole to the dock this winter to allow you to enjoy watching our beautiful flock of tundra swans and a few mooching geese.  The swans usually arrive a a little before Thanksgiving and depart around the time the ospreys arrive, which brings us to the good news (I think you may have guessed what I am about to say!).  The Chesapeake Bay ospreys have started to make their presence known, and we have our first beautiful osprey friend in residence!  The bird arrived much earlier than usual this year. Interestingly, our swans also arrived much earlier than usual last November.

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Tundra swans near the end of the season. The grey-necked swan is a juvenile. We had a flock of about 60 swans visiting our dock for hand-outs all winter.

 

Our winter here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland was relatively mild with the exception of the Blizzard of 2016.  This was the first winter since 2012-2013 that we did not have to replace our pole and platform, and were able to utilize the same ones from last year.  The last two winters before this one, our pole succumbed to ice and wind and we had to acquire the help of the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage to replace the pole and the platform.  COM was grateful for a little reprieve from the very cold water and air temperatures he had to endure before the last two osprey seasons.  Mrs. COM baked far fewer homemade muffins this winter, which had been needed the past two years to feed the hard-working, shivering, osprey-loving pole installers, cameramen and all our assorted helpers.  Check out some of the early blogs from 2014 and 2015 to read about and see photos of the pole replacements the last two seasons.

There has been some discussion as to the identity of our first arrival. I have carefully reviewed still photos and video taken off the camera feed since we went live last week, and am quite certain that we have had the same osprey at the nest platform and hanging out in the area since our first osprey sighting on March 8.  There have not been any other ospreys observed around us, not even at the other nest a few houses to the north of us. Please remember that we have a direct high definition feed to a dedicated osprey monitor in our house which does not go through the Internet, so our viewing image is much sharper than what goes out to our thousands of camera watchers. This gives us a decided advantage as to which osprey is on the nest at any given time.  Even with our viewing advantage, sometimes it is hard to tell who is who.  Our very first Tom and Audrey pair, who graced our nest from 1995-2009, looked completely different from each other, and there was no doubt as to which osprey was which.  Tom One had a very dark head, and our first Audrey had just a little splash of black on her forehead, decidedly different from that Tom. Our feathered friend this spring appears to be Audrey, but we are not a hundred percent sure.  It is typical for the male osprey of a pair to return to the nest site first, followed a few days later by the female.  When we had our first Tom and Audrey pair from 1995-2009, Tom always showed up first.  Even with our second pair, Tom always showed up first until the 2014 season.  Here are some dates from the last few years to give you an idea of when our pair showed up:

2009:  This was the last year of our first Tom and Audrey pair.  Tom showed up on March 22, 2009, and Audrey arrived on March 30 that year.

2010:  We were away on a Spring Break vacation from March 12-21, 2010.  The morning after we arrived back, March 22, we observed a new Tom and Audrey already in residence at the nest.

2011:  This was the year for a St. Patrick’s day return for Tom, with Audrey only three days behind on March 20, 2011.

2012:  Tom arrived on March 21, but COM’s notes do not reflect the exact day of Audrey’s arrival, which was sometime after Tom’s.

2013:  This was the first year of our partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the start of our blog.  Tom arrived on March 21, 2013 with Audrey not far behind on March 24.

2014:  Our first anomaly year, with Audrey showing up before Tom on March 22.  Tom took his good old time, and made his grand entrance on March 27, 2014.

2015:  I know you probably remember what a crazy start we had last year.  Audrey showed up first on March 16, 2015, with a brief one week visit from the dark stranger which started on March 23, complete with adult-rated osprey shenanigans.  Our Calico Tom arrived on March 30, and laid claim to his new mate.  The dark stranger moved on to more fertile grounds, and was not seen again.

So that brings us to this year, with our first arrival (possibly Audrey) on 3/8/2016.  Until a second osprey arrives and we can observe the start of baby making, we will withhold absolute verification of our early bird.  We were quite surprised to see the return of the osprey so early, so much to our chagrin, the camera was not back on the pole the day of the return.  Fortunately, COM had scheduled the camera to go back up on the next day, March 9.  With the help of Peter Turcik from the Chesapeake Conservancy, we were able to go live with the ospreycam without further delay.  Thanks very much for your help, Peter, and I hope you enjoyed your muffins.  Here is a pictorial of the camera installation, which occurred at low tide:

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Peter and COM getting the equipment ready for the camera installation.

 

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The barren pole awaits a camera and osprey family

 

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COM and Peter carrying the fourteen foot stepladder to the end of the dock. Peter is wearing his Chesapeake Conservancy osprey shirt, how appropriate!

 

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The stepladder is going into the water off the dock. COM and Peter are still wearing their shoes, but changed into waders before going into the drink

 

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Tools at the ready

 

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You can see the big roll of cable used for the camera at the end of the dock by the picnic table. The tub under the picnic table with a brick on top is where the swan corn is kept. Can you spot Peter and COM’s shoes?

 

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COM and Peter taking the ladder through the water out to the pole

 

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The 14 foot stepladder is going up. COM and Peter are looking stylish in their waders

 

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COM and Peter have waded back to the dock and brought out the camera attached to the mount and the junction box.  Don’t you just love the expensive camera cover-a modified K Mart trash can!

 

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Resting the camera on the ladder until the junction box is installed on the pole

 

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The inside of the electrical box on the dock. This is where Tom likes to sit, with the front closed, of course!

 

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Attaching the junction box to the pole

 

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The junction box is attached to the pole, now on to the camera

 

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Maneuvering the camera to go up the pole

 

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You add the caption to this one, as long as it has something to do with COM’s tools!

 

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COM goes slowly up the pole with the camera, which is off-balance and heavy.

 

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Getting closer-Don’t drop it now!

 

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COM is attaching the camera mount to the platform

 

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Almost attached!

 

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COM is taping the cables from the camera to the camera mount

 

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Working his way down the pole taping the cables

 

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COM has the cables down to the junction box. Note how gracefully he stands on one leg, sort of like our osprey

 

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Peter gets in on the cable action helping COM with the tape

 

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COM and Peter carefully bringing the cables back to the dock to avoid tangling

 

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COM and Peter taping the cables together

 

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This job is definitely easier with two people

 

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Attaching the cables to the dock

 

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Taking the ladder down-back to the dock it goes

 

 

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The pole is looking less bare!

 

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Mission accomplished!

 

Shortly after the camera was in place, our new arrival checked out the platform additions:

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Where is my nest?

 

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You looking at me?

 

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Take a photo of my good side!

 

Our big surprise this season is the addition of night vision capability at the nest.  COM has researched how to best provide viewing after the sun goes down for a very long time, and made his light purchase over the winter.  He spent many days testing the camera with infrared (IR) lighting, using a variety of different filters to get a good image. With my help on the inside watching images on the computer monitor, he moved the camera around on the end of the dock at night to decide on the proper placement of the IR light source.  For the near future, the IR light will stay on until 11:00 p.m.  The plan right now is to leave the IR light source on all night after the nest is bigger, which will hopefully cut down on the glare you see on the platform.  This is a work in progress, so please bear with us as we try to fine tune all the variables for your viewing pleasure.

Our osprey has been hanging out in all the usual places: the nest platform, the swim ladder two houses to the south of us, the scraggly stick tree next door to the north, but mostly in the big tree two houses to the north of us.  Here are some photos taken since our osprey’s arrival:

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March 9, 2016-the big tree two houses to the north of us. Look way up in the top!

 

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A closer view of the previous photo

 

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A closer shot showing the markings on the back of the head-this is the same bird that arrived on March 8 and is still with us

 

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Here comes the woman with the camera, I remember her! Outta here!

 

Here are a couple of photos taken on March 11, 2016:

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I think I will just sit here on my bare platform and eat my fish.

 

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Did you ever feel like you were being watched?

 

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Darn, here she comes again with that annoying camera!

 

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I am taking my fish and leaving!

 

Here is a photo taken on Monday, March 14:

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A gloomy day on the electrical box.

 

Well, I think that is enough for now!  If there are any sightings of a second osprey in the area, and I let you know right away!

Until next time, we remain-

Crazy Osprey Man, Mrs. Crazy Osprey Man (COMomma) and Osprey Girl

Reminder:  The Chesapeake Conservancy will be hosting their annual Welcome Back Osprey Party on April 19.  Details as to place and time will be announced shortly.

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 http://chesapeakeconservancy.org today.  Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re Back!!!!

Good afternoon from the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland!  This is a quick news flash:  I just got home from work, and there is a lovely osprey sitting on the bare platform eating a great big fish.  COM has been working on the camera since Sunday when we returned home from a trip to Florida, and we have a surprise for all of the camera watchers out there.  With some help from the Conservancy, the plan is for the camera to go up tomorrow.

The light is not very good, so all I can say is that there is an osprey in residence, with no further characterization. That’s all for now, I was so excited I just had to share!  Stay tuned for an update……………..

COM, Mrs. COMomma and Osprey Girl

Big Beautiful Babies Bloody Banding Biologist and Other Tidbits From 2015

Good morning from the spectacular Eastern Shore of Maryland!  Well, I thought I had better write the wrap-up blog for 2015 before the 2016 season officially starts.  The camera will be leaving the swan viewing area for the osprey viewing area the week of March 7, just around the corner. I hope you have enjoyed watching our beautiful swans and mooching geese while patiently waiting for the return of Tom and Audrey.  Winter is passing us by, complete with a blizzard and much welcomed visits from Osprey Girl (who made Dean’s List her first semester at the University of Delaware, yippee!).  This official wrap-up blog will touch on some of the highlights of the 2015 season, with special emphasis on the banding operation that took place in July.  For further details and more photos chronicling the 2015 season, you can go back to those blogs to refresh your memory!

As you may recall, we had a very eventful 2015 season. We had drama from the very start, with a flurry of activity surrounding who would be the King of the Castle (not really a castle, but the osprey nest, of course). Calico Tom, the fishing fool, won the honors and became the man of the hour. He performed his pre-fatherly duties with gusto, and Queen Audrey presented Tom and her loyal followers with three lovely eggs. Weeks of breathless anticipation followed, but as the window of opportunity for each egg to hatch passed without new life, a deep gloom fell over the kingdom.

In June, our melancholy was about to come to an end.  Dr. Paul Spitzer, our resident osprey expert and dear friend, suggested that we place a foster chick in need of a home into the nest, with some very specific parameters that needed to be followed as to the age of the chick.  The Chesapeake Conservancy made contact with Craig Koppie, a raptor biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the rest, as they say, was history, with not one chick, but two!

These are our two foster chicks on the day they arrived before they were placed into the nest.  Remember, you can click on each photograph to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure:

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Our two new foster chicks!

 

Our foster chicks, yet unnamed, taking a look around:

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Craig Koppie placing the Foster chicks in the nest. Audrey is on high alert

 

Tom heads back to the nest with a stick.  He had no idea of the surprise in store for him!

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What a glorious day in the continuing saga of 2015!

 

Life went on at the nest.  As usual, COM aka Mr. Fixit, was frequently fixing something at the pole.  He takes very good care of the osprey pole, camera and nest.  We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his devotion to our favorite osprey family:

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COM adding support to the pole to avoid rotation, which plagued the nest pole during the early part of the season

We certainly had a lot of excitement in July.  The month started with a beautiful summer day:

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A beautiful summer afternoon at the nest

 

We thought the real excitement in July was to be on the 17th with Craig Koppie banding our two foster chicks.  Little did we know what was to occur a couple of days after the banding:

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Double trouble-wading out to the nest to retrieve the foster chicks for banding

 

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COM and Craig setting up the ladder

 

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First chick being removed from the nest for banding

 

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First package ready to go down the ladder

 

 

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OUCH! A big beautiful baby is bloodying a banding biologist. Hey, that would make a great title for a blog…..

 

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Stand back, I’m an eagle!

 

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Don’t drop it!!!

 

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COM is a good helper. One down, one to go

 

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Next victim! On to number two.

 

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Sure wish I knew how to fly, thinks the young osprey

 

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Escape is not an option

 

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Gotcha! Happy Craig, sad osprey.

 

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Birds of a feather flock together, and I am not talking about the ospreys!

 

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COM and friend

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Craig Koppie with the red banded chick, soon to be named Montana, who appears to need a manicure

 

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COM and Craig wading back to the nest with precious cargo. Don’t get that camera get wet!!

 

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Montana in nest, Maine ready to go back

 

I know that we can all agree that the banding of the soon-to-be named, rapidly growing chicks made it incredibly easier to differentiate between the two chicks as the season progressed.  Many thanks to Craig Koppie, raptor biologist extraordinaire and COM, his faithful helper. Photo credits for the banding go to Teena Gorrow, as Mrs. COMomma was at work attempting to fill the college account.  By popular vote later in the season, the red-banded chick was named Montana and the yellow-banded chick was named Maine.  These names were chosen by the camera watchers/blog readers in memory of chicks in Maine and Montana that perished very early in their young lives.

Just as I was getting ready to write a blog about the banding, an interloper appeared at the nest on July 19, just two days after the banding.  We really thought we were through with visiting strangers and drama for the 2015 season, but it was not to be.  Enter E.T., although he wasn’t named at the time:

 

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First photo of the intruder, soon to be known as E.T.  He is at the far right closest to the camera.  Maine and Montana are hunkered down, and Audrey is confused.

 

Tom arrived back at the nest and a big surprise was waiting, another hungry mouth to feed:

 

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Someone is not happy with the new arrival. Yes, we are talking to you, Tom

 

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E.T.’s first day in his new digs. The whole family is perplexed, even E.T.

 

The working theory on the arrival of E.T. was that he was a fledging from another nest in the area who landed with us and decided he liked the new digs.  Our E.T. gave us oodles to talk about and much entertainment for the rest of the season.

Here are some other favorite photos taken in and around the nest during July 2015:

 

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Super Full Moon rising over the nest. One of COM’s marked sticks is making its presence known

 

 

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The same full moon as the evening progressed. One of our infamous Full Moon Dock parties was in full swing at the time, with lots of howling going on!

 

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July 2015 Full Moon. Check out the glowing eyes!

 

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Words cannot do this photo justice-Full Moon over the nest with the moonlight reflecting on the water

 

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July thunderstorm-Another one of Osprey Girl’s amazing photos

 

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July thunderstorms. Osprey Girl took some incredible photos that night.  This one includes the osprey pole, complete with osprey

 

The summer continued with Maine, Montana and E.T. learning to fish and fend for themselves before heading on their arduous trip south.  We worried at times if they would ever perfect their fishing skills, and the youngsters did not let us down:

 

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Learning to fish successfully. Two of our juveniles in the big tree, each with their own catch. The crows are looking for a hand out.

 

Oh, bittersweet September.  Some of our friends were on their way, but there were still some ospreys around.  We consoled ourselves with views like this behind the nearly empty nest:

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September sunrise behind the nest pole. Spectacular!

 

October was a fun month.  We had our end of season gathering, aptly named The Flocking.  The many attendees ate and drank and told tales of the summer.  Dr. Spitzer spoke to us, and was as entertaining as ever. A poster put together by one of our faithful camera watchers/blog readers, Featherdog, was a popular item.

 

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The happy Flocking attendees! Some had already left before the group photo was taken.

 

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Dr. Spitzer regaling us with tales of the osprey. He is a plethora of osprey knowledge, and we are so fortunate to have him in our corner!

 

There were always new and spectacular things to see at the secret location, even after our ospreys went South for the winter.  Here is a favorite December photograph:

 

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A rare December rainbow at the secret location. Take a look at the extremely high tide, up to the bottom of the dock

 

All good things must come to an end, as our 2015 season did.  We leave you with a scene from December:

 

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A December sunrise, complete with swans, geese and COM’s dock Christmas tree.  The empty pole looks so forlorn.

 

So another successful season came to a close, our most unusual yet.  From March through October, we laughed, cried, oohed, aahed, smiled, frowned, wondered and worried.  In another couple of weeks, the cycle will begin again.  Who knows what 2016 will bring?  Will our faithful Audrey and our Calico Tom return to start another family?  Or will we be met with some new osprey friends fresh back from their South American travels?  Stay tuned, we will know very soon!

Thanks for staying with us, and we look forward to another wild and wonderful season with you, our faithful camera watchers and blog readers!

We remain,

COM, Mrs. COMomma and Osprey Girl

We hope to see you all at the annual Welcome Back Osprey Party on April 19.  Craig Koppie will be the speaker.  Details to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 End of Osprey Season Gathering And Some Photos

Good afternoon from the gloomy Eastern Shore of Maryland.  The plans are almost finalized for our end of season gathering.  It will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015 from 2-4 p.m. at O’Loughlin’s Restaurant and Pub, College Parkway Center, 1258 Bay Dale Drive, Arnold, Maryland 21012, 410-349-0200.  I tried to obtain a beautiful location on the water for our event, but the cost was prohibitive.  O’Loughlins’s will provide a cash bar with separate checks, and a per head fee for food.  I am working on the menu, and will let you know the cost as soon as I have it.  So I will need a head count to let the restaurant know how much food to prepare.  Although the hours of our event are 2-4 p.m., I am sure if we want to hang around later, it would be fine.

Craig Koppie will be speaking at a Wildlife Festival at Patuxent Refuge that day and will probably not be able to join us.  Maybe he can stop by toward the end of our gathering, or meet us later.  I will see what can be worked out.  I will invite Dr. Paul Spitzer to join us, and let you all know if he can stop by.  Hopefully, we should also have some folks from the Chesapeake Conservancy in attendance.  Crazy Osprey Man (COM) will also be there to greet you all and regale his adoring public with yet more osprey stories!  We will have some of Featherdog’s posters at the event that will be available for a donation to the Conservancy.  There may even be a special surprise for everyone who attends!

There is still an osprey hanging around.  Here are some photos from the scraggly tree I took yesterday:

Could it be E.T.? It's possible!

Could it be E.T.? It’s possible!

 

A lonely osprey being pestered by some crows.

The lonely osprey being pestered by some crows.

Doesn’t it figure that we have only one osprey around, and the crows still manage to find him!

Can't a guy get a little late season respect?

Can’t a guy get a little late season respect?

The poor osprey just wants to relax in the scraggly tree:

Just leave me alone!

Just leave me alone!

The osprey decides to go fishing:

Our lone remaining osprey trying to catch a meal

Our lone remaining osprey trying to catch a meal

Now that the ospreys are almost gone, our majestic national bird is starting to be a frequent visitor to the neighborhood:

We hate to see our ospreys leave, but it is good to welcome our national bird

We hate to see our ospreys leave, but it is good to welcome our national bird

As you may have noticed, the camera and nest came down today.  Due to the impending severe weather, COM decided to take everything down before any storms hit.  Craig Koppie came over to help.  I was at work, so unfortunately was not here to take any photos.  No sooner did the camera and nest come down than we had a visitor to the now bare platform:

This platform is not as comfortable as it was yesterday!

This platform is not as comfortable as it was yesterday!

 

So that’s it for now.  I have two more blogs coming.  One should be published in the next few days, and should be fun.  I’ll write the last one after our end of season gathering.

Please get your RSVP’s in as soon as possible!

Thanks,

Mrs. COMomma