Bella & Beau 2019: Three Healthy Chicks and A Toy Story Delight

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

June 15, 2019

A week has passed and it appears that all three of Bella & Beau’s chicks are healthy and thriving.  Their growth has been amazing already!

June 6, 2019                                                      June 10, 2019

 

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Hello World – June 15, 2019

 

 

Their beige downy feathers are all but gone and little pin feathers have begun to grow.  The oldest two are beginning to sport the golden color at the back of their head already.

I did fret a bit with the heavy rains and strong, cool winds that overtook our area several times.  Bella did her best to cover all three chicks to keep them warm and as dry as possible.

Not good conditions for three newborn chicks trying to stay warm and dry

 

And with their flourishing growth, Bella has done an excellent job to date!

Before I get on with the past week’s photos, I’ve got a toy story to share first.

Toy story?

I wish, I wish, I WISH I had seen this new nesting material addition being delivered!  It was not present April 11th, and I was out of town all of the 12th til late night.  Early morning April 13th I saw something odd on the nest alongside Bella.

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My first notice of an odd object in the nest
(Bella had just returned from a bath)

 

I couldn’t make it out.  I could see something fluttering and thought, geez no, not another plastic bag.

Early the next morning checking out the nest with my binoculars, Bella was renovating, and I noticed the odd thing had been moved.

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What is that thing?

 

Forty minutes later, I checked on the nest; and the object had been moved again.

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Hmmmmmm……

 

And then literally, after retrieving a cup of coffee, it was moved again!  I couldn’t believe I was missing Bella moving it around.

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Ah-ha!

 

A child’s toy stuffed animal!  Oh my goodness!!  Here’s a grainy cropped shot.

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Kitty Cat or Teddy Bear, maybe?

 

And that is where the toy stuffed animal is resting now.  No more movements, thank goodness.  Here’s more shots from yesterday and today.

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Bella from ground level

 

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Hello World from way up here!

 

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Beautiful Bella

 

I first thought it was a “Hello Kitty” brand toy, but it’s not.  I do think it’s either a kitty cat or a teddy bear.  Any other ideas or does anyone recognize (or are missing!) this toy stuffed animal?

I was quite excited to share this, although it’ll now be a worry that the chicks will peck at it later.  We’ll wait until we come to that bridge.  It’s possible it may not stay in the nest for long and fall out.

Okay, now let’s continue with Bella & Beau’s week.  You’re privy now on why you’re seeing an odd nest object in the last few days’ photos.  J

Fish is on the menu!  Three hungry chicks plus Bella means one busy, busy Beau.

Bella crying for Beau’s attention – “We need fish!”

 

Beau is doing his best I guess, but I do feel for Bella crying, sometimes for an hour or more.  Keep at it, Beau, you can do this!

 

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Beau enroute to the nest with a fish right over me!

 

Fish means eating time.  Line up everyone!

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Bella’s thinking, “What have Beau & I done?!!”

 

With Beau having the busy chore of constant fishing, Bella has ramped up helping to retrieve nesting materials and renovating.  The only concern, she is sometimes leaving the nest for 1-5 minutes when Beau is not there, which leaves the exposed chicks to aerial predators.

 

I am constantly witnessing an Osprey intruder trying to land on the nest, at times when just Bella is there, other times when both Bella & Beau are present.  It does not look like an attack, just a visit so-to-speak.  Of course, Bella & Beau will not allow a landing.

Bella vs. Osprey Intruder

 

I wish I had photos, but I actually witnessed Bella attacking a Great Blue Heron who was just flying down the creek and got a little too close to the nest while in flight.  Bella was off the nest in a flash, hit the Great Blue Heron with her talons, and they both went into the water.  Both recovered quickly and took flight, Bella back to the nest, and the Great Blue Heron flying away, squawking his unpleasantries!

Then, of course, the Double-breasted Cormorants still drive Bella & Beau batty.

Bella vs. Cormorant

 

Back to the chicks!  All three have already learned a bit about Osprey life.  They know they are required to poop over the top edge of the nest.  That’s still a work in progress at times.

Poop Mishap

 

Sibling rivalry has already begun too.

Kid fight!

 

The three chicks are very curious about their world outside those sticks now.  They walk around, using their wings to help navigate their huge feet around the nesting cup, peering up and over Mom Bella’s border wall that she continues to try to raise to keep them within.

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“Hmmmm….Wonder what that is up there?”

 

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“Whoa, it’s a long ways down there!”

 

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Bella asks, “Okay, who messed on me?”
“Not me!” all three chicks said innocently.

 

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One chick is already flapping and stretching its little wings

 

Finally, a couple flight shots of Bella & Beau….

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Beau in flight

 

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Beau in flight

 

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Bella in flight

 

And two sunsets from this past week that calmed down some of the weather and Osprey excitement…..

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All is quiet at sunset – June 11, 2019

 

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All is quiet at sunset – June 15, 2019

 

What an amazing week!!   😊

 

 

Canada Geese Mating

Making a lot of splashing noise, I started watching and photographing a pair of Canada Geese.

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Canada Geese splashing

 

The splashing was a sign of mating.

And, sure enough, there was a heated moment.

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Canada Geese mating

 

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Canada Geese mating

 

And just as quick, it was over.

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“Happy Ending”

 

Canada Geese mate for life and remain together year-round.  What a beautiful commitment!

 

 

Blue Dasher & Muskrat Combo

While hanging around the boat docks with the Barn Swallows, I’ve also been trying my luck at the numerous dragonflies and damselflies that hunt the embankment.

Kudos to all you excellent insect photographers, these are not easy!  Quite frankly, after a ton of takes over several days, I scored only two shots of the Blue Dasher dragonfly.

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Blue Dasher “Smiling”

 

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Blue Dasher

 

They were shot with a 70-200mm telephoto lens and 1.7 teleconverter combo from about 4-5 feet.  I need to go back and work on these some more.

My “unusual combo” title also mentioned a Muskrat.

Yep, I had one come out from under the dock I was standing on while taking these dragonfly shots; it crossed the creek to swim alongside the bulkhead on the other side.

For over a month now, I’ve watched a muskrat going back and forth along the creek.  I’ve finally gotten some great shots of him/her up close, with this one displaying a beautiful water-play of reflections.

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Muskrat

 

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: One, Two, Three – Cute As Can Be

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

June 9, 2019

A week has passed since the last update, and it’s exciting to report Chick #1 now has two siblings!

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All three chicks lined up for a feeding

 

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Three Hungry Chicks

 

Bella & Beau checking out their new chicks.

 

Beau seems to give more looks of surprise, the looks are priceless.

 

Since the hatchings, Bella has become the full-time incubator and chick feeder, only taking breaks to exercise or wash, before being back to the nest in a flash.

Beau always seems nervous and bewildered when she goes.  He’ll glance at the chicks but keeps his eye on Bella the most.  What is he supposed to do?

“Come back, Bella!”

 

I am most sure Beau would rather be fishing, right?!  Of course, Beau now has to step up his game on quantity and size to feed Bella and three very hungry chicks.

Beau’s fish have indeed been been coming in bigger, and many with the head still attached.  Beau will have to find his nourishment inbetween runs best he can.

This specific instance, Beau was enroute with a fish and had to chase an Osprey intruder away before delivering it to Bella.  Talk about doing two things at once!  Go, Beau!

 

Another fish delivery….

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Beau delivering a fish and Bella aggressively taking it

 

Bella will feed herself first, hungrily devouring the head and gills.  She then begins feeding the chicks the meatier portions in small bites.

Feeding Time

 

Feedings easily last 20-30 minutes.  Although Chick #1 is the biggest and most aggressive to grab the offered bites, Chick #2 is right in there alongside #1, getting his share.  Chick #3 is hanging back, sometimes not even up and trying, letting the older ones get their fill first.  But after a couple minutes, #3 tries to get in there for a bite.  Bella is awesome, ensuring #3 is getting his share too!  It can be very tough for the third chick to survive if food is scarce, even more so if any Osprey has four chicks.

After delivering, Beau gets out of the way, perching on the wood block until the feedings are done.  His job is to keep his eye to the sky for any intruders, alarming when necessary.

Beau alarming an intruder

 

We still have numerous Osprey flying overhead often, agitating Bella and Beau to no end.

Bella mantles over her chicks while she & Beau warn intruders

 

Beau would prefer to have a rest and scratch an itch, which always feels good.

Beau scratching an itch

 

While shooting the Barn Swallows around our marina, I can still see Bella & Beau’s nest, although it is at a distance farther than my balcony.

It was then an awesome photo-op moment occurred.  From the marina docks, I watched Beau fly to the nest with a fish.  Bella didn’t jump up like she always does, screaming and grabbing.

She just ignored him and stayed incubating.

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Bella ignoring Beau’s fish delivery

 

Bella must have told Beau to “Shhhhh…the babies are sleeping, go!”

I watched Beau take flight and fly directly towards and past me…..

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Beau in flight with a fish

 

And then he landed atop a sailboat mast six boat slips from where I stood.

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Beau preparing to land on a sailboat mast

 

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“Touchdown!”

 

He seemed to be worried with something or someone behind him that I couldn’t see.

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And then just as quickly, Beau took flight again and flew off towards the water tower where I imagine he either ate the fish or waited with it for Bella to call when time.

 

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Beau departing the sailboat mast

 

Talk about a right place, right time moment.  It being Beau made it more special!

Starting today, we had and are due several days of rain showers.  Wet Springs are detrimental to recently born Osprey.  The female parent must try to keep them warm and dry best she can, and delay feedings if possible to not expose the fragile chicks to the extremes.

We’re sure Bella will do her absolute best during these rough times.

I’ll end with a comical series with Beau trying to help out with more nesting materials.  Bella gave Beau some looks, she is known to prefer to arrange her nest herself.

 

 

And a shot of beautiful Mama Bella.

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Bella taking a break on a warmer day, giving the chicks some fresh air.

 

 

Barn Swallows

With their aerial acrobatics, Barn Swallows are not easy to photograph, but I keep trying.

Fortunately, by our boat slip where they’re nesting underneath the docks, they will cooperate and pose nicely.

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Barn Swallows

 

Sunny mornings and evenings, there are more photo ops than imaginable.

 

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“Fluff-Up”

 

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“Dock Line Swaying”

 

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“Just Chillin’ in the Breeze”

 

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“Blue Beauty”

 

Cool Fact:  Barn Swallows are the most widespread of all Swallow species — they’re found on every continent except Antarctica.

 

 

Sharps Island Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay

A switch up a bit from birds!

One of our recent boat outings was on a beautiful sky blue, fluffy cloud day.  The winds were calm.  That meant a great 20 mile boat-run out of the Choptank River to the Chesapeake Bay.  Maybe we’d be lucky to see a huge ship passing by.

No huge ships sighted, but outside the Choptank River entrance sits Sharps Island Lighthouse.

 

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Sharps Island Lighthouse

 

Constructed in 1881, Sharps Island Lighthouse is a cast iron caisson structure filled with concrete, with a brick-lined cast iron tower built on top.  It presently sits in ten feet of water.

This is the third lighthouse at this location.  Sharps Island Lighthouse lost its last resident keepers in 1951, following automation of its light.

 

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Sharps Island Lighthouse

 

Sharps Island Lighthouse got its characteristic tilt during the winter of 1976-7 when large ice flows, some piled as high as 40 feet, pushed against the tower and tipped it to the south at about a 15-20 degree angle.

 

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Sharps Island Lighthouse

 

Although fundamentally sound at the time, the Fresnel lens was still removed and replaced with a 250mm plastic beacon that flashed a white signal with a red sector.

 

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Sharps Island Lighthouse

 

Although still warning boaters & sailors of the dangerous shoals, Sharps Island Lighthouse began rapidly deteriorating with water damage and interior rot.  It became more than what the Coast Guard and Maryland wanted to invest to renovate.

In 2006, Sharps Island Lighthouse was declared excess property and made available to federal & state agencies, non-profits, and historical preservation groups for free.  However, no legitimate entity had an interest.

In 2008, Sharps Island Lighthouse was disposed through an online auction, noting that “the lighthouse was physically inaccessible, the iron plates in the caisson were cracked and corroding, and the wooden floor on the first level was unstable”.  The terms of the sale gave the Coast Guard access to the structure, allowing them to continue maintaining it as an active aid to navigation.

The buyer from Delaware paid $80,000.  Since their purchase, the buyer has done nothing to the lighthouse.

Declared in 2017 to now be too dangerous, the Coast Guard stopped maintaining the lighthouse and its light went out.  Any efforts now to save it will cost the private owner an enormous amount of money.  Today, Sharp’s Island Lighthouse remains on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses.  😦

 

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Sharps Island Lighthouse with a male Osprey on watch

 

Oh, did I say a post with no birds??  My bad!!  😉

 

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Female Osprey on the other side of the lighthouse, incubating on their nest

 

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There’s the Mrs!

 

It is so nice of the private owner to provide this nice waterfront property for the Osprey this season!

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: Welcome Little One

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

June 3, 2019

The past 1½ weeks seemed to have crawled along, waiting and watching for any signs of a hatchling.   The storms in the U.S. mid-West kept rolling through our region with heavy rains, winds, and high temperatures exceeding normal.

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Bella Incubating Her Egg(s)

 

Each passing day was a repeat of the previous day’s routine.  Bella incubating for long stretches, then going flights to exercise or go perch to dine on a fish delivered by Beau, then maybe a bath or make a quick run to bring back more nesting material.

Bella in flight

 

Bella taking flight with a fish delivery from Beau

 

Bella bringing nesting materials

 

Bella working on the nest while Beau incubates and rests

 

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Bella telling Beau his time is up

 

Bella returning from a break

 

Beau has kept his duties up with fish deliveries for Bella, maintaining watch over her and the nest from either the platform or a near-by perch, as well as relieving Bella to incubate the eggs (and possibly get a little nap) while she’s on break.

Beau in flight

 

Beau protecting Bella and their nest

 

When not on the nest, Beau is nearby on watch over Bella and the nest

 

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Beau skimming the water, cleaning his talons

 

Before I continue, I must share a photo of Bella & Beau that was to be in my last post but got misfiled.  I kept looking for it because, not only was it an endearing shot, it was also the first time I photographed this behavior.  Bella was incubating when Beau arrived to the nest.  Beau climbed down next to Bella and cozied up along side her, and they incubated and rested together.  I loved it!

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Bella and Beau’s cozy, bonding moment

 

The day finally arrived.  Early morning June 1st, I checked on the nest and saw Bella incubating, then up, then down.  Two hours later, I spotted an eggshell off to the side of the nest cup.

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Broken shell in front of Bella

 

Now things were different.  Bella was moving a lot, up and down, peering into the nesting cup.  Time to get busy.

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Bella attending deep into the nest

 

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“Beau!  I need a fish”

 

Beau delivering fish in just minutes

 

Bella ate a few good chunks of the fish and then moved with it more into the cup and began to feed.  Beau is quite curious.

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Beau checks out the hatchling

 

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Beau can’t take his eyes off of the hatchling

 

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Curious Beau gets out of the way and watches the feeding

 

I started watching the nest with binoculars while Bella fed, trying to catch movement between the nest branches, and saw a passing head-bob.  Later, I set up my camera and waited for the next feeding.

The little one appeared.

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Bella and the new little one waiting as Beau lands with a meal

 

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Little one waiting next to Mama for a feeding

 

I tried another photo session late today when I got a chance, got a couple more photos.

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Baby Osprey looking up at Bella, waiting for another fish morsel

 

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Same photo, showing chick in circle
Beau continues to be amazed

 

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Hello World!

 

Bella & Beau have a hatchling.  Will there be more?

While watching and photographing the feeding late today, I got this next best shot of a series, showing Bella giving attention to another ‘spot’ in the nesting cup, alongside Chick #1.

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Bella attending to possibly Chick #2

 

After a very quick feeding, Bella settled back on the chick(s) and any remaining eggs.

Osprey usually lay 2-4 eggs; Bella herself produced at least 3 eggs last year.  Hatching now of any remaining eggs will occur 1-3 days apart from the previous hatched one.

Once the hatching is complete, the growth of the chick(s) will be amazingly fast.  So don’t be surprised with the chick photos in a couple weeks along with an official head count!