Two “Different Takes” of a Great Blue Heron

I’ve not been able to get out with my cameras and so have been going through photos taken this past winter, specifically my Great Blue Heron images.

This Great Blue Heron was photographed back in February at Blackwater NWR.

The cloudy day created soft reflections on the still water.

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Great Blue Heron

 

As I started to turn away to leave, the heron took flight.  I quickly tried to re-zoom and focus, capturing the following blurry image.

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“Great Blue Blur”

 

It’s not what I planned!  But I thought it turned out pretty cool after all.

I was sorry I spooked him; but am happy to report when I ‘re-looped’ the wildlife drive, he was back in his spot as I slowly cruised by.  It’s a location where you can easily find a Great Blue Heron fishing at the refuge.

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: Signs Show A Possible Egg

Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Region, USA

April 20, 2019

In the past 1½ weeks, Bella & Beau had to deal with some rain and a lot of windy days, many days exceeding 20+ mph, even a couple days of gale force winds.

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Beau showing off his beautiful wingspan

 

The wind played havoc with Beau’s continued hard work to build a strong nest.  But he has never given up, no matter the weather.

Beau delivering sticks to the nest

 

Even Bella has been helping, specifically materials for the nesting cup they have created.

Bella bringing more nesting cup materials

 

Bella found something different that she worked into the nesting cup

 

With all those sticks arriving, they have to be placed just right, according to Beau.

 

Sometimes Bella disagrees, and a tug-of-war occurs.

One rule about an Osprey nest, it is to be kept clean of poop.  The chicks are taught early to back up, lift their tail, and aim up & over the nest rim to the outside world.  Bella gives an example.

“Excusez-moi!”

 

Mating has been non-stop.  Beau’s instinct is strong to procreate!  When they finish, most times Beau takes off the nest, fetches a stick, and returns back to place it for Bella.

It is important that the male show his commitment to the female so she knows he can provide a nest as well as feed her and a new family.

So Beau has also been quite busy fishing and bringing back meals to Bella.  Beau will usually eat the head first before taking it to Bella so he can get some nourishment as well.  Bella can be very aggressive when Beau arrives, usually snatching it away from him, then taking off with the fish to a telephone pole across the creek from the nest.

 

 

 

There’s still the occasional harassment from other area Osprey.  No longer any real challenges, just the airspace territory they all think they own around them.  The Osprey seem to all have their own nests now and are busy with their lives.  Thank goodness, they all really challenged Bella & Beau to take their nest platform from them.   We said it before, waterfront real estate is prime!

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Bella giving a warning to an intruding Osprey overhead

 

There is also the occasional Bald Eagle that ‘passes through’ overhead, much to the frustation of Bella & Beau.  I was watching and taking some photos of them, when they both started screaming, took off the nest and flew towards me.  Why are they flying at me so angry?

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Bella & Beau taking off and flying towards me

 

I snapped some shots but was also looking away from my camera towards them, making sure I wasn’t possibly getting attacked.  I saw then they weren’t looking at me but something up over my head.

Bella in a frenzy flight

 

Beau also in a frenzy flight

 

What was the frenzy about?  Suddenly, a Bald Eagle passed out in front of me, with Beau in pursuit.

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Beau closing in on Eagle – Note the size comparison between these two raptors

 

The Eagle kept on going, trying to out-fly Beau.  Proud Beau finally gave up the chase as the Eagle headed off.

Last year, Bella laid her first of three eggs on April 17th.  I’ve been on watch, looking for signs for this year’s first.  During the last few days, more mating occurred, and the nest was constantly being attended to.  In addition, I noticed both Bella & Beau did a lot of napping.  A busy last few days!

It is exhausting being an Osprey!

 

Beau even began laying in the nest cup as if he was incubating, while Bella stayed perched alongside the nest rim or if she left with a fish.  This worried me at first, I wondered had Bella laid an egg but didn’t care to incubate it, yet Beau was trying?

When Beau left the nest, Bella would not change her perch.  I researched this odd behavior and found that the male will possibly start mimicking incubating as another sign to the female he can be the Dad he needs to be when she needs a break.  I had never seen this before!

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Bella (standing) while Beau is laying in the nesting cup, practicing incubating

 

Beau in the nesting cup, practicing incubating

 

Well, today, I believe was finally the day!  Early this afternoon, Bella changed her normal perch stance, and got into the nesting cup.  I checked on her often with my binoculars; and she remained there, shifting, panting, napping, moving soft nesting materials around her.  Beau would arrive and perch, look at Bella often, and then leave.

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Bella possibly in the process of laying an egg

 

I only saw Bella get up once, taking a quick flight due to a pedestrian walking below the nest platform with a dog.  She quickly returned and I watched her shimmy and shift, as if she was incubating.

Bella returning quickly after a pedestrian worried her, immediately getting back into an incubation positioning

 

My last shot this evening at a cloudy sunset.

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Bella possibly incubating her first egg while Beau spots something in the water, taken during this evening’s cloudy sunset

 

If Bella did in fact lay an egg, up to 2-3 more eggs can follow, each laying 1-3 days after the previous.  Time will tell this coming week!

With that exciting news, I’ll end with a bunch of beauty shots of the hopefully soon-to-be parents, Bella & Beau.

 

Bella in flight

 

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Bella giving Beau ‘a look’ when he doesn’t react to her cries

 

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The soon-to-be Parents!

 

Note:  The majority of my photos for the Bella & Beau series are shot from my balcony about 200+ feet where I’ve got just enough advantage height equal to the top of the platform.  My equipment:  a Nikon D200 and D750, with a Nikon AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 lens combined with a Nikon Teleconverter (1.7x magnification), zooming all the way in.  At photo processing, it is then necessary to crop at least 50% to share close-ups with you.  The Bella & Beau series is not so much about high-quality photos (although I seriously strive to get the best, detailed shots for the storyline!) as it is about the antics and adventures of an Osprey pair’s daily life.  It is also my hope you will learn a little bit about the amazing Osprey and enjoy following along!

 

 

Eagles At Rest

 

Since I am on a recent posting ‘kick’ with Bald Eagles, I’ll finish it off with some recent perched shots of several at rest.

 

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Bald Eagle – Upper Hooper Island, Maryland

 

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Another day, same tree – Bald Eagle – Upper Hooper Island, Maryland

 

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Bald Eagles on Osprey webcam/platform – Blackwater NWR
(unfortunately, to date Osprey have not occupied this platform)

 

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Bald Eagle – Blackwater NWR

 

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Same Eagle, head turned slightly, aware of juvenile Bald Eagle approaching for a fly-by

 

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Bald Eagle at sunset – Blackwater NWR

 

An Eagle is beautiful and majestic, no matter the scene!

 

 

Three Eagles In Flight

Three Bald Eagles in flight on three different types of days.

 

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Bald Eagle in flight with catch on a foggy day

 

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Bald Eagle in flight on a cloudy day

 

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Bald Eagle in flight on a sunny day

 

No matter the weather or how often, always an exciting moment to see an Eagle!

All recently photographed at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

 

 

Eagles Nesting in Trees and on Beaches

Living near the Chesapeake Bay, I am fortunate to be able to see Bald Eagles most days year-round
when out and about.  I also love to look for and know where many active nests are located.
Scanning the tree tops of their favorite Loblolly pines is perfect now in locating them before
surrounding leafy trees sprout.  Here are a few recent nest photos.

Bald Eagle Nest seen from Observation Boardwalk – Blackwater NWR

 

Today, the Chesapeake Bay region hosts the largest concentration of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states, where there are over 1200 pairs of Bald Eagles currently breeding.

Another Bald Eagle Nest – Blackwater NWR

 

Bald Eagle nests average 4-5 feet in diameter and 2-4 feet deep.  An Eagle pair will keep and control their nest year-round.  Each fall, they begin preparing it, adding another 1-2 feet of nesting materials.  By late January to early March, the female will lay her eggs which will hatch in about 30 days.  So our area Eagle nests have chicks in them.  🙂

Interesting fact:  The largest recorded Bald Eagle nest was in St. Petersburg, Florida, at 9.5 feet diameter, 20 feet deep, and weighed approximately 3 tons.  That was one hefty nest!

 

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Another Bald Eagle Nest – Blackwater NWR

 

I know of several other nests that can be seen from the roads surrounding Blackwater NWR, and
there are many more unseen.  Even while driving backroads, I’ve sighted many nests.
It is pretty cool to see Bald Eagles flourishing, knowing they were at one time on our federal
endangered species list.

Bald Eagle Nest – Queen Anne, MD

 

Those were all Bald Eagle treetop nests.  I had also mentioned in my post title of Eagle beach nests.

I recently read and thought interesting to share The Center for Conservation Biology’s article
on Eagles beach-nesting on the barrier islands of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a little over a
hundred miles south of me.

Eagles nesting on open beaches?

Read on for the full article and amazing photos.

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Beach-nesting Eagles

Eaglet in a new beach nest found on south Ship Shoal Island

Eaglet in a new beach nest found on south Ship Shoal Island by Alex Wilke on 1 March 2019. A horned grebe was the prey of the day in the nest. Photo by Alex Wilke.

 

The beach nests discovered in early 2019 represent the 4th and 5th ground nests constructed on the Virginia Barrier Islands in recent years.  On 26 April 2013, while flying shorebird surveys along the barrier islands, Bryan Watts and Barry Truitt discovered an eagle nest built on the ground on the north end of Little Cobb Island.  On 5 June 2013, while conducting surveys for beach-nesting birds, Ruth Boettcher discovered an eagle nest built on the ground on Cedar Island.  On 1 June 2018 Bryan Watts and Bart Paxton, while flying colonial waterbird surveys, located an eagle nest built on a log on the back side of Wreck Island.  These previous ground nests were in the dunes or on the back side of the islands.  What makes the two new nests different is that they were located between the primary dune and the active surf zone, a position subject to overwash during high tides or storms and a place normally reserved for nesting plovers, terns, and oystercatchers.

 

Nest out on the beach on north Smith Island

Nest out on the beach on north Smith Island with adult brooding small eaglets on 30 March 2019.  Photo by Bryan Watts.

 

Adult attending young on nest built on a log along the edge of the marsh on the back side of Wreck Island

Adult attending young on nest built on a log along the edge of the marsh on the back side of Wreck Island – 30 March 2018. Photo by Bryan Watts.

 

As with the other sea eagles, bald eagles are tree nesters.  Outside of the treeless Arctic, ground nests are very rare.  Only a few have been found since the late 1800s, and most of these have been on predator-free offshore islands with examples coming from British Columbia, coastal Texas, and isolated mangrove keys in Florida Bay.  The ground nests represent a larger movement of nesting eagles from the mainland of the Delmarva Peninsula out to the barrier islands.  On a survey of the islands conducted on 30 March 2019, Bryan Watts and Mitchell Byrd located 14 active nests on the islands including 1 nest on Fisherman Island, 2 nests on Smith Island, 1 nest on Ship Shoal Island, 1 nest on Wreck Island, 1 nest on Little Cobb Island, 2 nests on Hog Island, 1 nest on Revel Island, 2 nests on Parramore Island, 2 nests on Wallops Island, and 1 nest on Chincoteague Island.  All of these nests had either young or incubating adults.  Despite the abundant prey around the islands, there is little recorded history of eagles nesting on the islands.  Prior to 1960 we know of a single record of a pair on Parramore Island.  Beginning in the mid-2000s pairs started to nest on a couple of the northern islands, and by 2010 a pair colonized Parramore Island.  By 2011 there were 4 nests on the islands and by 2016 there were 11 nests.

 

Adult attending young eaglet on a nest in the dune of Little Cobb Island.

Adult attending young eaglet on a nest in the dune of Little Cobb Island. Photo by Bryan Watts.

 

Please remember to always keep a safe distance from active eagle nests – for your safety and to avoid disturbing the nesting pairs and their young.  Please also remember that most of Virginia’s barrier islands are owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Use policies and seasonal closures are in place to protect nesting birds – contact the appropriate organization for more information.

 

 

Lesser Scaup

The last of the beautiful winter ducks have departed the Chesapeake Bay region, leaving a few stragglers here and there for whatever reasons.

The most of any one winter duck visiting in our local area were Lesser Scaup.  I got so many wonderful captures of them, it was hard cutting down my final ones to these.

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Lesser Scaup males vying for a female’s attention

 

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Female Lesser Scaup and her entourage

 

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Lesser Scaup (female)

 

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Lesser Scaup (male)

 

The United States harbors Lesser Scaup year-round in parts of Washington and Oregon, but the rest of the country’s winter visiting Lesser Scaup migrate back to breed in Montana, Wyoming, and Canada.

 

Lesser Scaup in flight

 

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Lesser Scaup landing

 

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Lesser Scaup landing

 

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Lesser Scaup landing

 

Lesser Scaup taking off at sunset

 

Female Lesser Scaup landing with reflections

 

Female Lesser Scaup landing with reflections

 

Male Lesser Scaup landing

 

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Lesser Scaup (male) coming in for a landing

 

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Lesser Scaup (male) landing

 

Lesser Scaup are the most abundant diving duck in North America, with a breeding population estimated at 3.8 million.

 

Male Lesser Scaup “popping back up” from a dive for food

 

Way too many photos, sorry!

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“Yes, Donna, too many photos!”

 

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Lesser Scaup (male)

 

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Lesser Scaup (male)

 

How nice to know they will be back late Fall the end of this year!

 

 

Series: Take a Moment and Enjoy a Sunset

The faint, wispy skies didn’t seem to appear they would produce a dramatic sunset tonight.

Still I watched.

Never underestimate the power and display of Mother Nature.

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Sunset over Cambridge Creek – April 9, 2019

 

“My joy is the golden sunset giving thanks for another day.” Jonathan Lockwood