Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chick Development

The Osprey Cam action has been slow lately, but that’s a very good thing. At this time of year, with the parents on eggs, you don’t want a lot of excitement or drama. The parents have been doing a great job staying on the eggs and providing the needed heat, so that the chicks can develop properly inside the eggs.

The incubating eggs must be kept at a temperature of around 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Each parent has a brood patch, which is a featherless spot on their underside, that they hold against the eggs to keep them warm. The osprey population always has a high egg/chick mortality rate when the spring weather is cold and wet, but so far our spring has been good for osprey incubation.

Our first egg is due to hatch around May 31. As that day nears, we’ll be watching the parent (probably the female) on the eggs to see if she seems restless. The parents will hear the chick chirping and might feel it moving inside the egg before hatching occurs. The hatching process is very hard on the chick, and the youngster must stop quite frequently to rest, so the hatching (from first pip to leaving the egg) can drag out over 24 hours.

Below is a video of a chick hatching at the Loch of the Lowes osprey nest in Scotland. The video shows the end of the hatching process, when the chick is finally able to push off the top of the egg and emerge.

Some cam watchers have asked in the past if the parents ever help the chick get out of the shell. Most biologists will say that the parents do not help, but I’ll admit that I’ve seen a couple videos over the years where it looked like the parent might be moving the shell aside. Whether that’s helping or not, I’m not really sure, but it does seem that most parents leave the hatching to the chick.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Welcome to the 2014 Season!

Three eggs on Osprey CamWelcome to a new season of the Osprey Cam at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

This is our 14th year broadcasting images from this osprey platform located along the Wildlife Drive at Blackwater Refuge. Last year we appeared to have newbie parents who laid their eggs very late, and then had two of their three eggs “disappear” close to hatching. The one chick that did hatch died within the week, so it was a disappointing season.

Our 2014 pair (we’re not sure if it’s the same couple as in 2013) returned from migration and quickly set about filling the nest with many sticks. They then laid their three eggs in a timely fashion and have been incubating in an efficient way ever since. So we have high hopes that this year we will have a successful nest, since we’re off to a good start.

Our parents have made it a bit challenging to see the eggs in the nest, since they put up a stick “wall” between the camera and the nest cup, but based on what we’re seeing on the TV monitor at our Blackwater NWR Visitor Center, we definitely see three eggs, and we don’t believe there is a fourth. The scorecard looks like this based on our best guess of when the eggs appeared:

1st egg:
Laid: 4/23
Possible hatch: 5/31

2nd egg:
Laid: 4/26
Possible hatch: 6/3

3rd egg
Laid: 4/29
Possible hatch: 6/6

Osprey egg colors

Osprey eggs – credit: Rob Bierregaard

Osprey eggs are about 2.2-2.7 inches in length and often come in a wide variety of attractive colors, as you can see in this photo courtesy of osprey biologist Rob Bierregaard. In fact the beautiful coloring is one of the things that motivated egg collectors to target osprey nests in places like Scotland and England, where the collectors decimated osprey populations. Even today, popular osprey nests in the UK are often protected from egg collectors by volunteers who watch over the nests, so the eggs can hatch. You can read more about the history of ospreys in the UK on the website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Both osprey parents assist with incubating the eggs, although the female does it more often and is the parent on the nest at night. While the larger female protects the eggs at night, the male likely roosts in a nearby tree.

Our regular cam watchers know that during the past winter we saw a Great horned owl on the osprey platform at night. Great horned owls are a legitimate threat to ospreys and have been known to kill female ospreys on their nests and also kill the chicks. In places like Jug Bay Natural Area on the Patuxent River in Maryland, Great horned owls have been a threat to ospreys, but we’ve been fortunate at Blackwater NWR that the owls seem to abandon the platform once the adult osprey begins staying on the nest all night. Hopefully this trend will continue.

We thank everyone for joining us for another season with our Osprey Cam, and we also thank those who have sent in photos to our gallery. If you’re new to our Osprey Cam and don’t know how to submit photos, you can find instructions here.

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

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

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