We waited to publish this final blog post of the 2014 Osprey Cam season, just to see if we received any more news from Blackwater Refuge (from the volunteers or staff) about anything they might have seen at the nest, but we don’t have any news to report.
In the photos below you can see two of the last shots we have of the chicks. We think they’re visible in the photo on the right (not 100% sure), but we did have trouble seeing them when the infrared came on in the evening, so they were either taken late on June 23 or early June 24.
The Osprey Cam platform is very high, so we don’t think the chicks were taken by a ground predator (snake, raccoon, etc.), so the odds are it was a bald eagle or a Great horned owl.
As watchers of our Osprey Cam know, in the months before the ospreys return from migration, we sometimes see a Great horned owl perching on the nest at night. We certainly have a number of Great horned owls in the area, but we’ve never seen one land at the nest when the ospreys are in town and defending the platform. But Great horned owls are the most common osprey predators. The owls have been known to attack a female osprey (a large raptor) when she’s protecting eggs/chicks at night and kill the mother before taking the chicks, so the owls have the ability to take on a parent.
As for the eagles, our volunteers did report seeing eagles flying high over the osprey nest around the time the chicks disappeared. Back in 2005, I was at the Osprey Cam platform and captured some video clips showing the mother osprey at that time flying over to a small forest that sits to the left of the Osprey Cam platform (our left). She didn’t like that an eagle was perched in that forest when she had chicks in the nest, so she dive-bombed the eagle to get him to fly away, then she flew back to the chicks. So we know that eagles sometimes hang out near the osprey platform and make the parents nervous, and we know that eagles have a varied diet that doesn’t exclude osprey chicks.
We were feeling very hopeful this year because our osprey parents seemed very organized and efficient in their actions (as compared to last year), but it was not to be. We’re hoping that if this is the same pair from last year, that they will return all the wiser next year and have a successful nest.
We have seen adults on the nest since the chicks were taken (we think we’ve seen the mother, who we were most worried about), but we know we won’t see much of them from this point forward. The ospreys are likely defending the nest, because they want it to be available next year, but they don’t have a reason to perch there for long periods or eat there — they usually hang around the nest because of the chicks. Instead the ospreys are probably fishing in the river, perching in the nearby trees, and keeping an eye on their nest to be sure another osprey doesn’t claim it or that the eagles don’t decide to perch there. Once we start seeing the eagles perching on the platform (likely in September), it will mean the osprey parents have set off for migration to South America.
We have some photos that our cam watchers have sent in, so we’ll try to update the gallery soon. And we’ll continue to take photo submissions if anyone sees anything interesting on the nest. We want to thank all those who have been following our fish hawks this season. We got close to having a good year — maybe we’ll get one in 2015.
And a reminder to check out our Facebook page — we sometimes share interesting photos there of other osprey nests at the Refuge.