osprey cam

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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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

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

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