This is a follow up to my earlier blog posts on an osprey nest. This nest has given us many hours of contentment since we first watched them setting up housekeeping in mid April. Since we started we have come to the nest on 21 days between April 12 and June 27, most since they hatched. (See my blog posts “Half a Fish is Better than One: Part I and II) for the early days.
We watched them several days when they were getting ready to nest, knew that incubation would probably be as dull for us as it is for the them, and now is the time to pay attention again. Our many hours of watching has verified what I’ve read about osprey, i.e. that both will incubate and that after hatching the male brings in the fish, but it is the female who feeds the chicks. I also read Osprey eat a variety of fish. We’ve seen the male bring in bass, trout, chub, bullhead, and shad.
Here are some highlights.
It is hazy -- gentle, very gentle breeze. A very energetic rooster crows off in the distance. A rancher is loading big rounds of hay and hauling them off. Muggy. Warm. One feather lies on the ground near me. I decide to paint it while I wait.
The female sits on top of a nearby telephone pole and picks apart a fish for at least twenty minutes, then preens, waits, watches. Still no sign of a bird on the nest. Fifty minutes after our arrival the osprey on the nest stands, then flies off without calling. It’s the male. The female immediately flies to the nest and settles. I’m pretty sure the eggs haven’t hatched yet.
9:43 AM: Adult hunkers on nest with back to the sun. No sign of chicks. Quiet up there.
I welcome the morning sun on my back. The osprey has a backdrop of cotton ball clouds and blue sky. A collared dove beats out his mantra, “Who, hoooo, hoo! Over and over. Behind the peach orchard, a rooster crows.
I’m hoping to see an osprey chick today, but how long do I have to wait? I amuse myself by drawing the tangle of wires underneath her nest. An electrician would probably think a sixth grader was trying to build a time machine. Such a tangle of wires! And another set of cross-arms below this one.
10:41 AM: I see a head! One little head pops up, panting in the warm sun Are there more up there? I wish I could see into the nest.
…. And about an hour later I see two little heads pop up. Two chicks!
12:45 PM: Suddenly the hen erupts off the nest screaming. She circles high above the nest. Is she trying to call her mate in? I see no sign of him.
Overhead I see her cause for concern. An immature bald eagle soars by. No fuss. The eagle continues on and the hen osprey returns to her nest. I think she rose high so that, if she needed to, she could stoop on the invader.
June 19, 2020: We see a lot of sitting here. One field has been mowed and its hay stored in long plastic tubes. Interesting to see one machine make the cylinders of hay, each about 6 feet long and 6 feet high; another carries them to the ‘wrapper’; and the wrapper wraps white plastic around the bales, connecting them in the process. Finally there is a long tube filled with hay the length of the short end of the field. It looks like a bloated grub that goes on and on. Since then the hayfield has been plowed.
We see two peach orchards: the smaller trees look healthy but very few peaches this year – too cold when the blossom should have been pollinated. The older orchard was badly damaged by ‘snowmaggedon, Feb. 2019. Ten rows have been cut to the stumps, one after another, since we started osprey watching in April. No cutting recently. Perhaps there is more pressing work to be done.
Most late afternoons a father and daughter drive by in their ATV. The little girl sits tall and proud, driving the farm vehicle. Nice treat for her. If we are here around noon, a school bus comes along. No school because of the pandemic, but food is being delivered to kids who need it.
While sitting here I think back to the last nest we spent considerable time at – the nest across the Lamar River in the Narrows (Yellowstone National Park). That nest is built in a fabulous gnarly Douglas fir. The Lamar rushes below; a backdrop of steep forest, and once even a bear watching us. Here we actually have more privacy, but not quite the same ambiance.
6:33 PM: Three chicks! All this watching and it’s the first time we’ve seen the third chick. They all look about the same size.
June 22: Hotter today. 88 degrees. We didn’t get here until 4 PM. Hen sits with wings drooped and her back to the sun, shielding her chicks. Sometimes I see a little head underneath her, in the shade of her belly. The chicks pants.
We’ve already noticed two differences compared to most days. (1) for the first time the female muted (pooped) from the nest rather than a short fly around. I assume she doesn’t want to leave the checks exposed to the hot sun … and (2) the farmyard chickens are quieter. Hot for them too. I’m sitting sideways, tucked tight to the car on my stool. I’m trying to keep out of the sun too.
Not a cloud in the sky, but breezy .. and another difference. There are fewer turkey vultures up in the air. Often I don’t see any. Usually I see 2-6. I wonder where they hang out.
The sun finally eases down, enough so that I can sit straight on my stool with my back leaning on the car. Better. At least I get to draw while we wait.
June 24: We didn’t come yesterday. Too hot! The news says Roseburg reach 97 – a record. It felt like it. That hen had a hot job!
Much nicer today. Hazy. Breezy. 81 degrees.
We’ve been here an hour. Still waiting. I can hear the chicks today. They move around quite a bit and one did an excellent job of backing up to the nest edge and pooping over the edge. Out spurts a stream of liquid white, projected upwards into a nice arc.
June 27 -- Our 56th Wedding Anniversary!
We arrive early: 2:32 PM . The hen is feeding the chicks. I wish we hadn’t missed that fish coming in. The male is perched on the snag near the farm house – just hanging out.
While we were there, the female brought in three sticks … it is as if she just has to get away from the kids for a brief jaunt. If the male isn’t on the nest, we know she’ll be back within five minues.
By 6 PM the chicks seem content / well fed. It has been a very quiet day for us. No new fish, just three sticks. There may be another fish before dusk, but we don’t think it will happen for a while. Time for us to head home.