blackwater nwr

No Chicks This Season

Missing egg on the Osprey Cam nest

Missing egg on the Osprey Cam nest

Well, we’re in a familiar place it seems. Much like our Eagle Cam nest, it looks like we won’t have chicks at the Osprey Cam nest this season. Our one egg was late in hatching, and then yesterday the egg disappeared, although the parents were still around. Some possible scenarios are that the chick hatched but died immediately or the parents realized the egg was not going to hatch and removed it or buried it. We didn’t see any crows on the nest, so we don’t think they came in to destroy it when it was left unattended.

One cam watcher felt that this year’s female appeared a bit different than last year’s female. If that’s true — that we had a new female — then it’s possible this was her first breeding year and that was the reason she didn’t produce a viable egg (our female last year fledged two chicks). Also, that might explain the one-egg clutch (the expected clutch size is two to three eggs). But whatever the reason, the chick was not viable.

Some folks might wonder if we could see a second clutch. It seems unlikely given that our parents incubated this egg through the entire incubation period (and a bit beyond), so it’s rather late for a second clutch. If they did have an egg that hatched, the chick would have lost an entire month of development time before migration, and it would put the chick at a serious disadvantage come September when the chick would have to migrate alone to South America, so maybe it’s best if they don’t lay any more eggs.

As for the parents, we expect them to hang around the nest for a while because they need to defend it, since it is their home and they want to use it again next year. Eventually we might see less of them on the camera, but they might still be in the area, keeping an eye on the nest to be sure another osprey couple doesn’t try to claim it (for next year). Normally the female osprey would migrate in August and the male would stay to help out the chicks, but since they don’t have chicks, I think both parents might start migrating south in August. Without any chicks to feed and protect, they could both get an early start on migration and possibly miss any hurricanes down south.

We plan to leave the cam on throughout the summer, just to see what kinds of birds show up at the nest and to see what our parents do. Thanks to those who were keeping an eye on the nest and the egg. If you plan to visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge during the summer, just a note that we do have chicks at some of the other nests along our Wildlife Drive, which you can drive, walk, or cycle. Below is a photo that Beverly Middleton (one of our volunteers) just took of a two-chick nest along the Drive.

Two-chick osprey nest along the Blackwater NWR Wildlife Drive

Two-chick osprey nest along the Blackwater NWR Wildlife Drive

So although our Osprey Cam nest was not successful, other nests at the Refuge will likely be fledging chicks later this summer and you can come and photograph them from the Drive. You can also visit the National Wildlife Refuge System website to find other refuges near you that might be hosting osprey families this summer. And if you’re interested in volunteering at a national wildlife refuge, consider joining a local Friends refuge group.

In addition to keeping the cam up, we’ll also keep the gallery open, if you want to submit photos of any interesting sights. Thanks again for joining us for another osprey season at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge!

Until next season,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, chick, eggs, osprey cam

Checking In With the Parents

From what we can tell, our parents are doing well. They’re sharing incubation duties and we’ve seen both of them on a regular basis, so no surprises there. We’re still a couple weeks away from hatching, so we hope things continue to go well for our one egg.

Speaking of our parents, something I forgot to post in the last entry was this wonderful photo showing a comparison of how our Osprey Cam nest appeared when the first osprey arrived back (probably the male) and what it looked like after almost three weeks of nest building. Over the winter, many of the sticks blow out and some are “stolen” by both nesting bald eagles and Great blue herons, so when our poor ospreys arrive back, the nest is often empty. The parents get right down to the business of building it back up, once they’ve rested from migration, and before long, the platform is filled with fresh sticks. The upside of this process is that the chicks have a relatively clean nest to grow up in, rather than one filled with super old food and egg/chick remains from previous seasons.

Comparison of the Osprey Cam nest over a three-week period.

Comparison of the Osprey Cam nest over a three-week period.

One other fun sight we had recently was this photo showing one of the parents practically standing on top of the other parent. We’ve seen this behavior in previous seasons, but it’s still funny to observe. Usually this seems to communicate that the standing parent wants to take over incubation, and it often results in the seated parent standing up and moving off the egg, although sometimes the seated parent just won’t get up. You can almost hear the seated parent saying “I’m sorry — can I help you?”

Parent crowding the other parent.

Parent crowding the other parent.

We’ll continue to monitor the couple and hopefully see things stay relatively quiet as we move into early June, which is our potential hatching period. If the egg hatches and the chick is healthy, the parents will have an easier time caring for it, since they’ll only have one little mouth to feed.

We’ll work on getting a gallery update posted soon. Thanks to those sending in photos.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, eggs, incubation, osprey cam | Leave a comment

Welcome to the 2017 Season!

first-egg

Egg on the Blackwater NWR Osprey Cam

Welcome to the 2017 Blackwater NWR Osprey Cam season! Our couple currently has one egg and it was laid on April 29. We hoped to see at least one more egg, but so far we still have a one-egg clutch, and at this point we suspect that’s all that will be laid this year. Here is the scorecard:

  • 1st egg:
    Laid: April 29
    Potential hatch: June 3

Folks often ask if this is our same couple from last year. We don’t band ospreys at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (we have a lot of them), so we don’t have a band to examine, but this couple returned from migration in a timely manner and seemed to immediately recognize each other (no prolonged mating/bonding activity or competition for the nest), and then quickly went about bringing in a ton of sticks to fill the platform. So based on this behavior, we think this is our same couple from last year.

As a reminder, last year our couple produced two chicks that successfully fledged. Our camera malfunctioned after the eggs were laid, and we missed a lot of the action because we’re not allowed to go up and potentially disturb them while they’re nesting. Ospreys are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and causing them to potentially abandon their eggs is not allowed, so we had to wait until the chicks fledged before we could visit the nest and repair the camera. But the two chicks did successfully fledge, and they were seen around the nest site before they migrated.

If you’re new to our Osprey Cam, the white building you see in the background of the cam image is the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center. If you visit the Refuge (visit our website for directions), be sure to stop in at the Visitor Center because we have two monitors in the building that show a live video feed of the Osprey Cam. We currently don’t have streaming video on our website, but we can tell you that the local authorities are working to bring broadband service down the road toward Blackwater NWR and the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, which just opened across the road from the Refuge. So we might have streaming video in the future. I know we’ve said this before, but the local authorities are finally laying the cabling and contacting us about potential service, so it seems more hopeful at this point.

We thank you for joining us for another season of the Blackwater NWR Osprey Cam, and we look forward to seeing a chick around the beginning of June. And don’t forget, if you’d like to submit images to our cam gallery, visit our Cam Instructions page for directions on sending us any images you capture.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, eggs, osprey cam | 2 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
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Categories: blackwater nwr, migration | Leave a comment

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