Series: Take a Moment and Enjoy a Sunset

At Blackwater NWR, the sun began to drop behind the clouds, on its way down to the horizon.

The silver-lining effect gave a beautiful, moody reflection.

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Sunset at Blackwater NWR

 

I cropped the above photo and loved it as well, so decided to share it below.

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Sunset at Blackwater NWR

 

Which one do you like better?  I can’t decide!

 

“My sun sets to rise again.”   — Robert Browning

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: Welcome Home, Bonding, and an Eagle

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

(The majority of my photos for this series are shot from my balcony about 200+ feet away where I’ve got just enough advantage height to reach over and into the top of the platform.  My equipment is 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!)

 

As of March 23, 2019

If you followed along last year’s season, this is the return of my journal of the activities that I see and photograph of an Osprey pair’s life and season on an erected Osprey nest platform in a private, gated community on Cambridge Creek.

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Osprey Nest Platform 2018

 

After welcoming a male Osprey on the nest platform March 15th, we were quickly surprised with a female alongside him on March 17th.

Welcome home, Bella & Beau!

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Beau (left) and Bella (right)

 

As they’ve tried to settle in, we’ve had several days of rain and wind.

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“Beau, why’d we leave our tropical winter vacation grounds for this?”

 

However, when it hasn’t been raining, the couple have been quick to rekindle their bond with aerial courtship flying and playing.

 

 

Bella & Beau

 

Attempts at mating have been non-stop.  This series is just one attempt at mating.  It certainly doesn’t look easy!

 

Bella and Beau mating

 

Apparently Bella had something to say afterwards.

 

Bella’s got something to say after mating.

 

Impressively, Beau has gotten started bringing sticks, and works hard at arranging them and pleasing Bella.

 

“Architect” Beau

 

Beau has even brought gifts of fish to Bella.

 

Beau delivering a gift

 

 

There was once instance where Beau had a fish and flew past Bella, flying over to the crane to perch with it.

 

Bella watching Beau with a fish, landing on the crane across the creek

 

Maybe Beau wasn’t finished eating the head before passing it on to Bella.  Or maybe he was teasing her.  Either way, Bella must have been hungry; she departed the platform and flew over to Beau.

 

Bella chasing Beau for the fish he has in his talons

 

Beau was quick to depart and Bella took off to chase Beau.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared a Bald Eagle.

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Bald Eagle

 

The Eagle decided he wanted Beau’s fish, too, and began his chase.  Just as quickly, Bella began her chase after the Eagle.  No one chases her guy!  Or was it, “No you’re not, that’s my fish!”

(click on the first photo and a slideshow will begin to see the action unfold)

 

 

 

 

Yikes, Bella!  Beau gets into the action, with the fish still clasped in his talons.

 

 

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Beau chasing the Eagle further away

 

Beau was quick to return and reunite with Bella.  He chased her to and behind the water tower; where I hope they perched, and he finally gave Bella that fish!

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Beau chasing Bella with the fish that she truly deserved!

 

Unfortunately for Bella and Beau, their favorite near-by perch, atop the crane….

 

 

A favorite perch across the creek

was lowered today, I’m sure to avoid Osprey perching and any ideas of another pair building a nest on it.

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Crane lowered to avoid Osprey perching and nesting

 

Some flight shots of this beautiful Osprey pair.

 

Bella

 

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Bella

 

 

 

Beau

 

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Bella (right) and Beau (left)

 

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Beau showing his ‘heart’ marking on his crown
(I’ve not seen it since in a photo)

 

It looks to be a promising season!

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: A Side Discussion on Individual ID’ing

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

March 23, 2019

Before we begin the 2019 season of Osprey pair, Bella and Beau, I wanted to first briefly discuss how I know that the 2019 arriving pair is Bella and Beau.

Unfortunately, I don’t know.  But let’s discuss the possibilities.

 

There are some factors that point to “yes”, the arriving pair is Bella and Beau.

1.  A male Osprey showed up on the nest platform on March 15th.  I’ve read the “official” Osprey return date for the Chesapeake Bay region is March 17th.  The earliest males are usually those that paired up the previous season, rushing back to secure last year’s nest ahead of his mate.

2.  A female Osprey showed up alongside the same male on the nest platform March 17th.  Another good sign.  The female returning to her nest can be a week or two behind her mate.  This gal was eager to get home!

3.  Bonding was noticeable immediately between the pair, with courtship aerial flying, a gift of fish, and bringing nesting materials.  They knew each other.

4.  I haven’t witnessed any ‘fighting’ over the platform with any other Osprey.

 

Some factors that are “hmmmm”.

1.  The male Osprey’s chest is very white, no speckling of brown.  Last year’s male had a bit of speckling.

2.  The female Osprey’s “necklace” on her chest seems to have a few more darker markings.

 

2018 and 2019 Photos

 

Bella & Beau 2018                                      Bella & Beau 2019

 

3.  Are there any distinct ‘markings’ on the Osprey’s head that match from last year to this year?  I’ve poured through my photos already and any movement/change in the Osprey’s head, shoulder, body, flight, all of these slightly alter the look of the head markings and shapes.  I give up.

Basically, the only way to confirm an individual Osprey’s ID is if the Osprey is banded or carrying a backpack transmitter and being tracked.  However, I do want to point out that there has been some studies done where the patterns of black marks on the Osprey’s hard were recorded without handling the birds, possibly IDing based on size, shape, and number of them.  From year to year, these patterns were recorded to have changed only slightly.  I even found where one female Osprey was able to be confirmed by a noted dark mark on her iris.

4.  Is there another local Osprey pair that would take the nest so quickly because theirs is ‘gone’?  I have checked the nest location just up the creek from us across from J. M. Clayton’s Seafood where a nest was built on equipment last year.  The equipment and nesting materials have been removed.  That Osprey pair were not successful breeding and were a constant nuisance to Beau and Bella, including attacks and circling the platform.  Could they be the occupants of the nest platform now?

 

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2018 Osprey nest along Cambridge Creek not too far from Bella & Beau’s nest platform.  This equipment and nest have been removed leaving an empty grass lot.

 

I’ll stop there.  That way there are 4 yes’s and 4 hmmmm’s.  No ‘bad’ wins.  No more thinking….

AND with that being said, let’s all agree to assume the next post will be welcoming our Bella and Beau back home for the summer.  After all, this is really a photo journal about the daily life of an Osprey pair and their devotion and commitment to each other.

I hope you enjoy the 2019 season of Bella and Beau.  Keep your fingers crossed we have another year of babies hatching in May!

I would like to thank two bird expert friends, fellow wordpress blogger HJ at Avian101 and Lisa at Blackwater NWR, in helping me to fully understand individual Osprey identification and be able to share this with you.

 

 

Shoveler, Goldeneye, & Long-Tailed Ducks

Three more winter ducks that are departing the Chesapeake Bay region to head back to their summer breeding grounds are Northern Shovelers, Long-tailed Ducks, and Common Goldeneyes.

The Northern Shovelers will be heading back to the northern mid-West United States and Canada for their summer mating.

Northern Shovelers at Blackwater NWR

 

As I mentioned in previous posts, we had the privilege of watching a male Common Goldeneye spend much of his winter on Cambridge Creek.  He will be migrating back to Canada for his summer.

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Common Goldeneye (male)

 

A drive down to Hoopers Island netted me this pair of Common Goldeneyes.

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Common Goldeneyes (female & male)

 

And last for this post, but not least, is this handsome male Long-tailed Duck who also spent a lot of his winter on Cambridge Creek.  His summer breeding grounds are in the Artic.  He sure has a long way to go!

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Long-tailed Duck (male)

 

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Long-tailed Duck diving

 

This post leaves me with the Lesser Scaup for my last ‘winter duck’ posts.  Although most have already departed, we still have a few Scaup stragglers hanging out on the creek.

Along with a pair of new arrivals…..   😊

 

 

American Wigeons & Mallards

Two more winter ducks that have been gracing our area are American Wigeons and Mallards.

The American Wigeons will quickly be leaving us and heading back to their breeding grounds in the U.S. mid-West and Canada.

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American Wigeons

 

 

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American Wigeon (male)

 

The Chesapeake Bay region hosts Mallards year-round but some do venture a little further south where it’s a little warmer (who can blame them!).  We may also receive winter migrants from Canada.

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Mallard (male)

 

“Snoozin’ Time”                                                               “Dinner Time”

 

Mallards in flight and landing

 

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Mallard Profile

 

The winter ducks have been fun stuff!  😊

 

 

Canvasbacks and Redheads

The ducks that winter around the Chesapeake Bay region will soon be gone.  Numbers seen are diminishing at different locations, including our creek.

It’s been a splendid season, with many photo opportunities, challenging fun, and a lot of lucky moments for me.

In my next few posts, I’ll finish up with some more of my favorite duck shots not already shared this season.

I’ll begin with the Canvasbacks and Redheads, both that sport a gorgeous ‘red’ head.  These two ducks will be migrating back to the northern mid-West United States, Alaska, and Canada for their summer breeding.

Some get confused on the difference between these two ‘red-headed’ ducks.  The easiest is to look for the color difference of the two ducks’ bills.

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Redhead (center blue bill) surrounded by male and female Canvasbacks (black bills)

 

Male Redhead                   (note the bill differences)                    Male Canvasback

 

Both are beautiful ducks!

More images of the Canvasbacks….

Canvasbacks (males)

 

Canvasbacks coming in for a water-landing

 

And more of the Redheads.

Redheads (male)

 

A final of the two, giving the double-eye stare.

“Double-eye Stares”

 

We will miss these wintering ducks!

 

 

Bella & Beau 2019: An Osprey on the Platform

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

March 15, 2019

A passing glance out my window to the Osprey nest platform just before noon today.

And what did I see?

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Osprey (male)

 

I’m a bit puzzled with the orangey/golden coloring on the back of the head/neck below the normal brown patch.  It should be a white patch as was Beau’s.

Osprey with orangey/golden coloring on back of head/neck

 

I didn’t see the male Osprey depart but know he didn’t stay very long on the platform.  I saw him again, flying over the creek later this afternoon.

When a bonded pair returns from migration, the male Osprey is usually first to arrive, going immediately to the nest location to secure it from another one taking it.

I drove over to look at last year’s other Osprey nest location close-by that was built on a piece of construction equipment, to see if I spotted an Osprey perched on it.  The nest and equipment are completely gone.  So if that male Osprey is back, he could be checking out this platform since he’s privy to it from last season.

We all know waterfront real estate is prime property!

Of course, it could also be an Osprey just passing through the area on his way home elsewhere.

And so the Osprey saga continues……