Bella & Beau 2018: Laying and Incubating

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

April 24, 2018

So far Bella and Beau seem to be performing great teamwork.  Ospreys usually have a clutch of 2-4 eggs.  I’m positive Bella laid an egg on April 17, evidenced by Bella’s start of incubation.  After the first egg is laid, any additional eggs will generally follow every three days thereafter.  By now, there could be three eggs.

During these intense several days, I’ve watched Bella do a lot of panting.  It’s certainly not hot here, our temps are in the 50’s F.  Labored breathing?

Bella panting


Beau seems bewildered at times.  When Bella pants, Beau leaves the nest and perches across the creek and keeps watch.

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Beau keeping watch


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Bella incubating, Beau keeping watch


No matter how many eggs there are, the nest must increase in size and strength to support the family.

Beau brings a stick and works on placement while Bella watches


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Many sticks are falling to the dock below the nest


Bella returns with more soft materials for the egg cup surrounding the eggs, Beau is incubating


So, how do I know who is who?  In this next photo, you can see the difference between Beau (perched) and Bella (in the nest).  The female Osprey is larger than the male and usually has a darker, more speckled chest (or her ‘necklace’).

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Beau (left) and Bella (right)


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Another portrait, Bella is in the back, Beau in the foreground


Bella obviously needs breaks.  If Beau is not on the nest, Bella calls out to him.  Sometimes I have no idea where he is, but he knows when his lady is calling and comes pronto.

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Beau perched close by this time


Bella loves her breaks but she has been quick to return to the nest.  For the most part, the female Osprey generally does most of the incubating.

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Bella on flight break


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Bella returns to find Beau doing a great job incubating


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But time to take back over, so Bella swooshes Beau off the nest


I have also noticed Bella has been asking Beau to bring her food.  Again, Bella starts calling and across the skies comes Beau with a fish.  Notice the fish is headless.  The male Osprey generally eats the head and brings the rest to his mate.

“I’m coming, Bella!”


I loved this next series of Bella returning to the nest again, taking back over her motherly duties while Beau jumps up to the perch to keep watch.


And through it all, there needs to be a time for rest.

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Bella gets a chance to sleep while Beau keeps guard.


So where does that put the time for hatching?  Osprey eggs hatch in the same sequence as they were laid, in about 4 to 5 weeks time.  That calculates the first egg hatching around May 15 -22.  My calendar is marked!


(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)



59 thoughts on “Bella & Beau 2018: Laying and Incubating

  1. I can actually see you in my mind all worry about Bella having the babies, just like all mothers do…
    Get ready to have an extra family! Great gallery of photos. 🙂

  2. Very nice series of photographs and storyline. I know nothing about bird nests but Bella and Beau’s nest seems kind of skimpy with regards to depth or sides, or is it pretty normal.

    • Thank you David. Yes, it is a skimpy nest. I believe this is a ‘new’ young couple, and they are still figuring it all out. The nest definitely needs to get stronger and denser to handle the fast-growing chicks. The pair definitely have a lot of work to do. Don’t know why they don’t pick up the fallen sticks just below them. Guess that is too easy, lol.

  3. Quite interesting Donna. The shots are great. Incidentally, the nest is quite small and I hope there won’t be any disaster with the eggs, and that would be terrible.

  4. Love the shots Donna, you have been tracking this couple so well. Funny how Beau feels more sticks are needed after Bella is settled on the nest. Your photography is a credit to you! It gives such clear insight into the Osprey world, capturing their expressions also.

    • Thanks Ashley! Having watched/studied Osprey for a few years several years ago, this has been a wonderful delight to get to follow another Osprey family on a daily basis. And, boy, does Bella let Beau know when it’s time for him to retrieve food or more nesting material. He’s a busy,bewildered daddy!

  5. The nest does seem too sparse! I hope they’re able to shore it up with lots of good stuff before the chicks hatch.

    Wonderful series Donna! I love that you have front row viewing and share!

  6. More great shots of this couple, Donna! I had the same thought about regathering those fallen sticks and was rather surprised there is a dock below them. Most Osprey platforms I have seen are situated away from other structures for added protection from raiders coming up from below. Like your other commenters I look forward to more of this story!!

    • Thanks Ellen! It’s like having the lumber yard just below, lol. You are right, most platform poles are pile-driven directly over water, usually away from a dock or structure. I guess with the tight creek quarters, the community chose to attach it to the dock. Which makes for a messy dock, sticks and poop! 🙂

  7. Truly amazing photography here! You make me feel as though I’m right there watching along with you. This is so exciting! Our osprey seem to be returning here, but no signs of a nest anywhere nearby. Still searching.

  8. Donna, these are wonderful! I have enjoyed watching my pair for the last three years and thought I knew a lot about their behavior, but I learned a few new things reading your blog today with these pictures. Thank you for sharing your photos AND all your information!

    • You are welcomed and thank you, Susan! I watched/photographed an Osprey nest over at Oyster Cove from my balcony daily for seven years, they are what got me into wanting a nice camera and starting this blog to follow their behavior. Wow, that was nine years ago, lol. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, I am glad you’re enjoying this quite entertaining bird. Fingers crossed and hopes are high that I’m able to share a healthy family over the summer. 🙂

  9. This is a great documentation of making a family, and right at eye level, too. Doesn’t get any better than that! Osprey do have a long incubation period, even longer than geese.

  10. I’m pleased Beau knows his place and comes pronto when called upon. I think you’ve mentioned these could be newly weds. I do hope their first nesting attempt is successful – and I hope you manage to capture their young’s First flight for us.

    • Beau has been a great mate so far! They do seem to be a new pair, their slowness to build the nest (more fun to mate, lol). Fingers crossed with lots of hope that they are successful and I get to capture the chicks growing up, and yes maybe that first flight! 🙂

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