Goodbye for Now

Most Recent Sighting

Most Recent Sighting

The nest has been very quiet with few images of any ospreys around. A cam watcher did spot this bird on the nest, but we can’t be completely certain that it’s one of the birds from our cam family, since we have quite a few ospreys around Blackwater Refuge and we also have ospreys migrating down the coast who could be stopping over at the Refuge to rest and feed.

I’m tempted to say our family has likely left because there have been few sightings of the youngsters coming back to the nest looking for a meal. If the youngsters were ready to go, the male osprey would have left, too. The one advantage of going now is that the hurricane activity in the Atlantic has been relatively quiet, so now would be a good time to head down the coast and over to South America. We hope that if our family has left that they have a very safe journey, no matter where each individual bird decides to go for the winter.

The one thing that’s a bit surprising is that we’re not seeing bald eagles on the nest just yet. We have seen turkey vultures, but normally the bald eagles start perching on the platform once the ospreys are gone, but maybe it’s a bit early for the eagles to feel at home taking over the platform.

Raptor Watching on Hawk Mountain

Raptor Watching on Hawk Mountain

One item we wanted to pass along in this final blog post: If you’re interested in seeing raptor migration in person, a wonderful place to visit is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary near Kempton, Pennsylvania. The sanctuary offers trails to the overlooks, and they also have a wonderful Visitor Center with raptor exhibits. They also just opened an accessible trail, if you’re not up for the more strenuous climbs to the higher lookouts. According to their Peak Migration calendar, the next few weeks will offer the best chance to see ospreys and eagles migrating over the mountains, so it’s a great time to visit. You can also check out their Raptor Count page to see the most current migration numbers.

We want to thank everyone for joining us for what was a very successful season on the Blackwater Osprey Cam. After a couple of seasons with disappointing results, we were very happy to have such an enjoyable year. We’ll be keeping the gallery open, so feel free to continue sending in photos, and thanks to all those who sent in photos throughout the nesting season.

Until next season,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: migration | 4 Comments

A Day in the Life

We’re not sure if our mother osprey has left on migration, but if she hasn’t, her time is very close. The female adult leaves first on migration, while the male adult will stay behind and watch over the youngsters until they are ready to leave for migration. Our two chicks — Flight and Feather — might leave on migration together, but none of the family members will make the long journey with one another. Each bird will fly most of the way on their own and choose their preferred winter habitat down south. The two adults will return to the place where they’ve spent past winters, and our two youngsters will get to pick out their new winter non-breeding grounds. The young birds will stay down south through the next summer and then return the following spring to this area as adults, where they will try to find a mate and a nesting spot. The map below shows the path our birds will likely take to their winter non-breeding grounds.

Osprey Migration

Osprey Migration

Many ospreys have been tracked with satellites on their journeys south, and researchers have discovered that our Mid-Atlantic ospreys often settle in the northern parts of South America, although some might go farther south (down toward the Amazon) or even stop short in Cuba. If you’re interested in some of the research that has been done on osprey migration, be sure to visit osprey biologist Rob Bierragaard’s website — he has recent migration maps for ospreys from the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas, including a few maps for birds from the Chesapeake Bay.

We have a new video to share — this shows our family about 12 days ago, before the mother would have left, and you can see the family hanging out in the Blackwater River (right in front of their nest), on the platform, and in the sky. The bird in the sky was definitely a chick, and the bird struggling with the fish on the post appeared to be an adult (probably the male).

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: blackwater nwr, migration | Leave a comment

Fledgling Chicks

Osprey Chicks Flying

Osprey Chicks Flying

As we reported on the cam page last week, both our chicks are now flying. They fledged within a few days of each other and both have been safely in and out of the nest many times since then, which we were happy to see because sometimes chicks get into trouble on those first flights. But both chicks are doing well and are clearly enjoying their newfound freedom. We have noticed that they like to fly up to the camera arm that sticks out from the platform. This is a favorite perching spot for the father, and it’s like a handy “branch” where the chicks can perch after a short hop. Anytime you see the camera view jump around (like on the video below) you can tell that one of the ospreys has either landed on or flown off of the wooden arm.

So in addition to the camera arm, you might wonder where the chicks go when they fly away. In the photo below you can get a better perspective of the area around the platform. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see the Osprey Cam platform is on the far left. Immediately below it is an impoundment pond and in front of it is the Wildlife Drive and the large Blackwater River. In the distance on the left side of the platform is a large group of trees where eagles sometimes perch (out of view in this photo), and to the right of the platform is a wetland area with shrubs and small plants. This is the environment where the ospreys will go exploring and will learn to fish, and this is the location that will be imprinted on them — which means it’s the location where they will likely return when they’re adults and are ready to breed.

Osprey Cam and Blackwater River

Osprey Cam and Blackwater River

If you visit the Refuge and you don’t see the birds in the nest, look across the road in the Blackwater River, and you might see them perched out there. You might also see one perched in the wetlands area to the right of the platform. And of course you could also see them in the air, flying around the platform. Keep in mind that the best way to distinguish a juvenile osprey from an adult osprey is to look for the tan-colored tips on the feathers of the juvenile birds, as seen below. Adults do not have the tan-colored tips on their feathers.

Juvenile Osprey

Juvenile Osprey

The video below was captured Saturday and offers some nice shots of our chicks flying in and out of the nest. The parent (might be the mother) is just hanging out in the nest, watching her young practicing their new skills of taking off and landing. Soon the chicks will begin work on their fishing skills, which they’ll need before they leave for migration in September.

One final note we wanted to mention: As some cam watchers know, the mother osprey is the first to leave on migration. We expect her to hang around for a couple more weeks, but by mid or late August she will head south and the father will be responsible for watching over the chicks until they leave on migration in September. We’ll talk more about migration in the next post.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: blackwater nwr, fledge, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Fledging is Near

Our chicks are about seven weeks old now and they’re spending more time flapping and gaining some air time over the nest, as you can see in this video.

It won’t be long before our chicks take their first flight. It might be a short one, with the chick returning quickly to the nest, or it might be a longer one if they make it to a nearby tree or decide to sit on the ground for a bit until they can make it back up to the nest. They might also just fly up to the top of the camera arm, where the male likes to perch — just out of our sight.

Speaking of fledging, the Dyfi Osprey Cam nest in Wales had three chicks fledge yesterday — all in the same morning. You can watch the interesting videos on their website.

Given that our chicks are very close in age and size, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them fledge close together. Often seeing one chick leave the nest greatly motivates the other to fly, too.

Finally, as we mentioned on the Osprey Cam page, we are starting the 2015 Osprey Chick-Naming Contest. It will run through August 1. Visit the contest page for details on entering, and please help us name our chicks.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: blackwater nwr, fledge, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Video of Mealtime

Two Osprey Chicks

Two Osprey Chicks

Our chicks are six weeks old and we’re happy to say that they seem to be doing splendidly (knock on wood). We haven’t seen any predators or threats to the chicks, and both chicks are getting plenty of food. In fact, they’re remarkably close in size and there seems to be no visible bullying or fighting at mealtime. After a couple seasons of problems on both the Eagle Cam and Osprey Cam, it’s very nice to have such a “dull” nest to watch. We hope it continues this way over the next few weeks, as the chicks work their way toward their first flight.

As you can see from the photos below, we have seen flapping from the chicks. At this stage in their lives, the chicks need to begin building up their wing muscles in preparation for flight, so we occasionally see them grip the nest with their talons (they need to be careful that the wind doesn’t take them out of the nest prematurely) and then open their wings and begin flapping. Eventually they’ll get to a point where they’ll begin to lift off the nest (also a time when they need to be careful to not get blown out) and hover a bit before landing back on the nest.

Osprey Chicks Flapping

Osprey Chicks Flapping

Back on the July 4th weekend, we captured the following video of our two chicks at mealtime. It was an interesting clip because of the unusual behavior on display. First, it was funny to watch the adult female practically mug the poor adult male when he landed with a fish. We don’t know if it had been a long time since he had last delivered a meal, but mom practically knocked him over trying to rip it away. Then oddly enough, she began mantling the meal (spreading her wings over it). You don’t normally see this behavior from a bonded pair, and when I saw it I wondered if maybe this wasn’t our resident male, but then I noticed a shadow pass over the nest and both parents begin calling out and looking up at the sky, so there must have been an osprey or eagle targeting the fish, and the female was doing her best to keep the meal safe.

In the next part of the clip you see the female feeding the two chicks. At one point, the chick on the right drops his food, and the clever chick on the left picks it up and takes it over to the side of the nest where he can eat in peace. Not long after this he goes back and swipes another piece from his sibling — apparently he learned that mom isn’t the only way to get a meal in the nest! Finally at the end of the video, the opportunistic chick returns to his mother’s side and begins eating the normal way.

One interesting thing to note about the chicks is how they’re maturing. When the clever chick is eating the piece he “borrowed” from his sibling, you see him drop it in the nest, but he picks it up and begins eating it again. This may seem like a small thing, but when the chicks were very young and they dropped food, they would wait for their parent to pick it up and feed them again — as if that was the only way they knew to receive food. So it’s interesting to see how the chicks are maturing and learning that they don’t need to wait around for the parent to “hand” them the food.

Since the chicks seem to be doing so well, we plan to open the Osprey Chick-Naming Contest later this week. We’ll keep it open for ten days and give our cam watchers a chance to submit their names for our two young birds. Keep an eye on the Osprey Cam page for the announcement.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, fledge, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Pin Feathers

Osprey Cam chicks with pin feathers

Osprey Cam chicks with pin feathers

Our two chicks are a month old and they seem to be doing well. Since they hatched so close together, and since the parents seem to bringing in a decent amount of food, we haven’t seen a lot of intimidation or competition between the chicks, and they appear to be very close in size.

The chicks are definitely losing their woolier, darker down and are now getting their pin feathers. Feathers come from follicles (tiny bumps) that grow in rows or tracts on the bird’s skin. When the feather first comes out, it is rolled and protected inside a tube-like sheath that contains blood vessels, which nourish the feather’s growth. The bluish-coloring in the sheaths is blood; this is why they’re called blood feathers. You can see the blue sheaths in the photo below.

Once the feather has developed and burst through the sheath, the protective tube will fall away or possibly the bird will pull it off while preening. The blood vessels will have withered and the quill will be the white color we are familiar with seeing. Blood feathers are sensitive and if broken or injured, can cause severe bleeding and even death. When a blood feather is broken, it must be removed so the follicle can close and a new feather can be born.

Pin feathers up close

Pin feathers up close

In our last blog post, we talked about last year’s event when our chicks disappeared, which we believe was due to a predator. We also talked about the fact that we believed it was likely an owl. One of the reasons we thought that was because we have many bald eagles at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and quite a few ospreys, and we have never seen an eagle take one of our Osprey Cam chicks. But recently a bald eagle took two chicks at the osprey cam at Hog Island in Maine. The video is a bit upsetting to see, but even more remarkable is how quickly the eagle takes the not-so-small chicks. Looking at this video clip, it makes the possibility of an eagle snatching an osprey chick very believable. Maybe we’ve just been lucky that we haven’t seen much of it at Blackwater Refuge because the eagles have a lot of other food types to choose from.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, osprey cam, pin feathers | Leave a comment

Three Weeks Old

Osprey Chicks at Three Weeks

Osprey Chicks at Three Weeks

Our two chicks are now three weeks old and life at the nest seems to be good. The parents are bringing in a decent amount of fish and the chicks are clearly growing.

Another thing that’s noticeable at this stage is the big white stripe that runs down their backs. If a predator was flying over the nest, the stripe would make it harder to see the chick, since the stripe helps the chick blend into the nest material.

At this age, the chicks are in their reptilian stage, which means their down has become darker and woolier. Osprey expert Alan Poole says this is a stage when “they are black, scaly, and often crouch at danger, reminiscent of their reptilian ancestors.” They do seem to spend a lot of time lying down in the nest, except at mealtime.

Another milestone we can’t help but recognize is June 23/24 is about the time that last year’s chicks were taken — likely by a Great horned owl or a bald eagle. Not long after our chicks disappeared, the chicks at a popular water nest not far from the Osprey Cam nest also disappeared, which seemed to clearly indicate a predator. In addition, one of our Facebook fans captured this photo of a Great horned owl not far from the two osprey nests, and we know for a fact that the owls live and nest at Blackwater NWR.

Great Horned Owl, credit: USFWS

Great Horned Owl, credit: USFWS

The Audubon Guide to North American Birds states that the Great horned owl is “Aggressive and powerful in its hunting (sometimes known by nicknames such as “tiger owl”), it takes prey as varied as rabbits, hawks, snakes, and even skunks, and will even attack porcupines, often with fatal results for both prey and predator.” Great horned owls are also known as one of the few animals that are a threat to ospreys because the owls can take out not only the chicks but also the mother osprey sleeping on the nest. Considering how large and powerful a female osprey is, that’s pretty impressive.

But before we get too down on the Great horned owl, it’s important to note that they do help control the rodent population. In fact, we probably wouldn’t want to live in a world where owls weren’t helping to control the rodent population.

Finally, for those who wonder how a large female osprey could fail to protect her chicks from a Great horned owl, we offer the following video that shows how difficult it would be. FYI: This is not for the squeamish.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, reptilian stage | Leave a comment

Update on Third Chick

We have some sad news about our third chick. We lost him today. Yesterday afternoon during a feeding session, the youngest chick (on the right in the video below) appeared to either get injured or stuck in some part of the nest material. He was not able to move from the spot that you see in the video. Apparently the parents weren’t able to help him, assuming they realized he was in distress.

Today was a very hot day, so we know he didn’t survive being on his own in the corner of the nest (and not shaded by the mother, like the other two chicks), so right now we have a two-chick brood.

We were worried about the third chick, but we didn’t expect this to be the reason he didn’t survive. In fact, in all the years we’ve been watching this nest and the Eagle Cam nest (since 2001), we’ve never seen a feeding incident like this. At first we thought he got injured by the fish the mother dropped over him, but if you look at the video, he seems to go down right before that, so we’re not sure what happened, but the parents were not able to assist him.

The good news is our other two chicks look strong and are getting big, so we’re encouraged by their apparent good health and the amount of fish the parents are bringing in.

Watching wildlife cams is interesting because you never know what you’re going to see, but unfortunately sometimes what you see is sad or upsetting.

We want to thank our cam watcher Trish for capturing this episode, so we could see what happened.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Three Chick Brood

Three Chicks on Osprey Cam

Three Chicks on Osprey Cam

We wanted to post this update yesterday, but for some reason YouTube wasn’t making it easy to upload a video, so we had to wait until today. At the moment, we have three chicks. We say “at the moment” because as those who follow osprey cams know, sometimes the third chick doesn’t make it for the long haul, so we’re watching carefully to see if he can hang in there. The good news is that the chicks hatched about 24 hours apart, so at least for now, the first chick doesn’t have a huge advantage in size.

Here is the final scorecard:

  • 1st egg:
    Laid: April 21
    Hatched: June 1
  • 2nd egg:
    Laid: April 24
    Hatched: June 2
  • 3rd egg:
    Laid: April 27
    Hatched: June 3

The first chick was late in hatching, but the other two chicks hatched a bit early, so that put them very close together. Last week was a bit wet and cool, but all the chicks came through fine (if a wet spring persists, it can be bad news for osprey chicks), so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they’ll continue to grow and thrive.

Below is the video we captured at the Refuge over the weekend. The father flew in with a fish and was eating the fish on the camera arm (you see the camera shake when he flies down). He then shared the good-sized fish with the mother, who fed the three chicks. The youngest (in the back) didn’t get a lot in this clip, but the feeding session was long, and toward the end he got more food, once the two older chicks were full.

Thanks to those who have sent in photos for the gallery. The chicks are hard to see in the nest, and then the parents put up some large sticks right in front of the camera, so we know capturing images of the chicks has been very challenging. We’ll update the gallery later this week.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: chick, eggs, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Update on Eggs

Three eggs at Osprey Cam

Three eggs at Osprey Cam

We’re about two weeks from the possible start of hatching and fortunately all is quiet on the nest. The eggs look good (when we can spot them in the sticks and grass) and the parents are on the ball so far with incubating. We haven’t seen any intruder ospreys or other disturbances at the nest, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that things will continue to progress normally.

If you visit the Wildlife Drive at Blackwater Refuge you’ll see four water nests around the road (all man-made platforms), and right now we have osprey couples in all of them, so it’s shaping up to be a good season. In addition, we have a new natural nest near our photography blind. Last year, at the end of the nesting season, we saw this nest being built. It was so late in the season that we assumed it was a “frustration nest,” which is a nest built by a couple that failed to produce chicks. Over the winter the nest blew down (it’s very exposed), but this year it returned even bigger and now we can see an adult incubating inside. We hope this couple has a successful season, since we’re excited to see a natural nest along the Drive.

Natural nest along the Wildlife Drive

Natural nest along the Wildlife Drive

In other osprey news, we heard about the soap opera going on at Loch Garten in Scotland. The normally reliable Odin went missing and left EJ on the nest with her eggs. A new male took advantage of Odin’s absence and began to woo EJ. When EJ took a break from her eggs to eat, the new male destroyed Odin’s eggs (something a challenging male will do). But then Odin returned, and now it’s not clear who will be the resident male.

Although we get some drama occasionally with our eagles, ospreys do seem to be especially skilled in surprising us with their antics.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: eggs, incubation, osprey cam | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.