Welcome to another season of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Osprey Cam. Blackwater Refuge is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (near the Chesapeake Bay) and we’ve been broadcasting images from this man-made platform since 2001. The nest sits close to the Blackwater River, which is a popular fishing location for our many ospreys and bald eagles. This protected habitat, along with the shallow river and plentiful fish, give raptors the perfect environment in which to raise a family.
During the last two seasons we’ve had some bad luck at the platform with eggs going missing (2013) and a possible predator taking the chicks (2014). We’re hoping that if these parents are the same from the last two seasons that they’ve matured and are ready to properly protect their eggs and young. As for our scorecard, here is where we stand:
- 1st egg:
Laid: April 21
Possible hatch: May 27-June 2
- 2nd egg:
Laid: April 24
Possible hatch: May 30 – June 5
- 3rd egg:
Laid: April 27
Possible hatch: June 2 – 8
As you can see in the photo below, osprey eggs contain a variety of patterns and colors, which help them better blend into the material in the nest. However, the color variations on osprey eggs have not always been a good thing. In fact, the beautiful coloring is one of the things that motivated egg collectors to steal eggs from osprey nests in places like Scotland and England, where the collectors decimated osprey populations.
Fortunately ospreys are making a comeback and their populations are doing well in many places around the world. One of the chief reasons for this is that ospreys are willing to nest in man-made structures, and this flexibility means they have had an easier time finding nesting spots where other birds have struggled to find a home due to coastal development. In fact, ospreys are so flexible in their nesting locations that you can even see several nests built atop highway signs on Rt. 50 near the Chesapeake Bay. It’s hard to imagine that an osprey couple could think this is a good spot, with all the cars whizzing by right beneath their nest, but they come back each year.
If you visit Blackwater Refuge and go out on our Wildlife Drive, you’ll see several water platforms sitting in the Blackwater River where ospreys are nesting. Ospreys often prefer to nest over water because it reduces the danger from land predators. Our Osprey Cam platform is on land, but it is very high in the air, and this height helps keep land predators, such as snakes and raccoons, from bothering the birds. Aerial predators are still a threat, however, and we believe that last year a Great horned owl might have been the predator that got our chicks.
Folks have often asked why we don’t put a cover over the nest to help shade and “hide” the chicks. Unfortunately if we did that, the ospreys would likely stop nesting there because the adults always prefer a clear view of the sky over their nest.
We want to thank everyone for joining us for another nesting season, and we hope we’ll have better luck this year and can provide you with some osprey chicks to watch and enjoy.