Bella & Beau 2018: Nest Protection and Attack

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

May 27, 2018

Since their last post, the skies cleared and Bella & Beau were able to dry out in the sunshine and breezes.  They have continued to show great interest on something that’s within their nesting cup.  Both parents are also still getting up and down more often while incubating/brooding.

Dare I say it?  Okay…..with my binoculars I’ve seen Bella trying to feed.  She picks at something within the nest, and then gently moves her head and goes back down with it.  Bella watches for a bit, and then tries again or resettles back onto the nest.

I love watching the parents peering down in the nest.  Sometimes you see a look of bewilderment.  Or a questioning look.  Or maybe a bit of a scared look.

Bella & Beau are always looking down into the nest.


The nest is getting a bit bigger but still has a long ways to go if it’s going to harbor one or more chicks safely.

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Bella smiling for the camera.


Keeping up with his chores while staying close to the nest, Beau still tries to fish here in the creek.

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Beau circling the creek looking for a fish to snatch.


Suddenly, Beau spots a fish in the water.

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No luck this time, so Beau gave up and took off for the river.

With so much around them, protection of the Osprey nest is constant.  If only one parent is on the nest, naps are seconds in length.  Eyes reopen quickly for a look, then close back for a 10-second nod.  When one is perched at home, the other can get a deeper sleep.

Beau scratching with those enormous, sharp talons while on nest protection duty, giving Bella a chance to sleep.


Bella & Beau have been relentless with harmless ‘scare’ attacks against Gus, the Canada Goose.  Gus seems to have had enough and moved on for now.  I miss his honking, although I’m guessing Bella & Beau do not.

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Gus says, “I am outta here!”


Besides, Bella & Beau have others to deal with, like Eagles passing over.

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American Bald Eagle


This morning I heard chaos and watched Bella chase a black crow.  Photos were lousy.

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Bella in pursuit of a black crow flying over the nest.


The Great Blue Herons are definitely unliked.  I’ve seen three at one time perched around the creek, so they are often visiting or flying through.  No matter, Bella & Beau forces them away when they’re too close for comfort.

Osprey attacks on Great Blue Herons


Yesterday, there was a traumatic attack on the nest that still has me rattled.  As I watched Beau making his way across the sky with a stick, Bella started screaming and looking up.  Overhead the other local Osprey pair were circling above the nest.  They do this every day, always agitating Bella & Beau.  No big deal, right?

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Intruding Osprey pair circling over Bella in the nest.


Beau heard Bella and sees them too.

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Beau rushes to the nest while he watches the intruding Osprey overhead.


Beau arrived to the nest and took an immediate defense stance alongside Bella.  Both are now screaming frantically.  Quite unexpectedly to me, one of the intruding overhead Osprey dive-bombed the nest.

What the heck just happened?  I think my heart jumped out of my chest right then.  Bella & Beau were still screaming.   As the first intruder circled around the nest…..

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Osprey intruder circling around.


…..suddenly, the second intruding Osprey dive-bombed the nest.   I captured shots this time.

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Second intruding Osprey attacking Bella & Beau in their nest.


Bella & Beau are now in high-defense mode.  Their screams are ear-piercing.

Bella & Beau (foreground) watching and screaming at the intruding Osprey circling.


Bella & Beau see a third attack coming!

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Beau spreads his wings to cover the nest while Bella screams frantically.


One of the intruding Osprey swoops in again.

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Intruding Osprey swoops down over Bella & Beau for a third attack.


Then just as quickly as the attacks started, the traumatic event was over, and the intruding Osprey flew off together.  Bella & Beau finally calmed down and quickly view their nest.

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Bella & Beau viewing their nesting cup after the attacks.


I truly hope no damage occurred within the nest.  😦

I have not seen the local intruding Osprey pair do this before, nor any other time of pairs over the years.  I contacted one of the Osprey experts at Blackwater NWR and asked about this attack.  Lisa commented, “It’s not uncommon for a single intruder Osprey that is unmated and without a nest to try and push in on a couple.  Often they want to replace one of the pair and become the new adult at the nest. They’ll even do it when eggs or chicks are already there.  Sometimes the new adult will kick out the eggs or get rid of the chicks. It’s like they know the chicks are not theirs.” 

Bella & Beau’s attack was by an established pair so the attack doesn’t make so much sense.

“About the best you can hope for is the adults will drive off any intruders, and the intruders will give up before the eggs/chicks are harmed.”

I know the intruding Osprey live close by, having not been successful with mating and eggs.  They do seem to torment poor Bella & Beau every day.

Since the attack, business seems as usual at the nest.  Beau’s bringing sticks, Bella’s tending to the nest, and nest protection continues.

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Bella & Beau early this morning after a night of showers.


After such a suspenseful post, I’ll end with some pretty images of Bella & Beau that’ll hopefully help calm down your racing heart… or is it just mine?

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Beau taking flight from the nest while Bella incubates.


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The coming week’s forecast is calling for mostly cloudy, humid conditions with rain and t-storms.  Hopefully, it won’t be too rough on Bella & Beau as they continue to instinctively protect and care for their nest and each other.


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



54 thoughts on “Bella & Beau 2018: Nest Protection and Attack

  1. Oh my gosh – this was better than a ‘page turner’, but my heart, like yours, was also leaping. In a way I’m almost glad that our osprey nest is out of sight, behind trees, from my view inside our house. I would hate to think they are having to go through this also. Wonderful update, and I can’t wait to get the next one. By the way, our bluebirds have babies – I peeked in yesterday and photographed 4 or 5 newborns. The good news, selfishly, is that from my kitchen table I can now watch the parents go back and forth with insects, and when they are in between feedings they take turns perching on a plant holder right outside our window, keeping an eye on the bluebird house. So while you get to watch your osprey nest I am enjoying my bluebird family. Aren’t we lucky to have such entertainment!!

    • Thanks Susan, wildlife really does endure much more than we really know. On a daily basis with easy watching is really addicting, isn’t it?! lol I am lucky, the Osprey scream when something is going on so I get an alert. 🙂 So glad your Bluebird family is doing well, despite all this wet weather we’ve had. I know for sure they have enough of their own challenges with every season.

  2. Very well illustrated episode, filled with emotion, suspense, action and reaction! Perfect story if you ask me! This story clearly shows you how difficult is life for Ospreys or any kind of birds in this case. You’re doing an impressive job Donna! Can’t wait to know the next episode! 🙂

    • Awwww thanks, HJ. We gotta thank Bella & Beau who provide all the drama too. 🙂 Birds and all wildlife really do face many challenges every day just to survive. Let’s hope Bella & Beau can hang in there!

  3. Oh my, what a suspenseful life an osprey leads! I had no idea that either an individual or a pair of osprey would attack another nesting pair, so I learned something new about osprey behavior from your post again. I’m not sure how you were able to shoot such great photos with all the action going on, but I’m glad that you did.

    • Thanks, Jerry! I don’t know how I was able to shoot some of the action focused enough to share (although some shots are just pure terrible & I’m embarrassed in sharing). When the action starts, my adrenaline starts pumping, lol. 🙂 I am glad you are enjoying their season!

  4. Donna, I’m going to recommend you for a Pulitzer. I really enjoy reading your story and the relative pics are right on the money. What else can I say. Keep up the good work. Looking forward for more. I’ll be out in the Smokeys for couple weeks, but I will continue looking for more of the development of Beau & Bella. No posting on my side for a while.

    • Awwww, thanks Alix. I take photos every day of them and then try to showcase the best of what’s going on. It’s challenging which makes it a lot of fun to me. 🙂 Have an awesome time in the Smokies. I’ll be expecting some awesome images when you return and can post again!

    • Thank you Tom, I’m enjoying including them in my daily life. And they sure do provide a lot of entertainment. I go about my usual and then I hear an alert call that gives me the clue to go out on the balcony with my camera. I feel like a mother hen sometimes. LOL

  5. Quite some drama around what should be a happy peaceful nesting experience Donna. So good to see the teamwork of the pair, it shows loving commitment. Strange that another Osprey pair would attack a nest, lest they were after it or any young for themselves. Enjoy your monitoring of the nest, and thanks for sharing your lovely photos giving live insight into the Osprey.😊

    • Thanks Ashley! I think we sometimes don’t realize all the challenges wildlife experiences, even in just one day, let alone the full season of breeding. I love the Osprey, but boy I was mad at the intruding pair. lol I’m worried about possible trauma inside the nest, I guess time will tell. It has been storming and raining since yesterday, poor Bella is drenched. Beau just delivered a fish but she didn’t get up and take flight with it as she always does. That was odd. So he left with it for himself. I hope she’s feeling okay.

  6. I was holding my breath as I read this. I so want Beau and Bella to be able to bring up their young and am wondering if there are chicks in the nest. This story brings to mind how dedicated the parents are, and how vulnerable the young are. Maybe they are attacked because the others see how new they are at this business of raising their young but out model couple are rising to the occasion and learning as they go. What a steep learning curve! I am hoping for the best.

    • Thank you, Jane, the unusual attack has really had me thinking too. Do birds really think outside of instinct? We learn all about wildlife but don’t know everything that really does go on. What we think is unusual maybe isn’t. Quite a lot goes on with every single creature on a daily basis they we do not know. We never stop learning. Isn’t nature constantly amazing!!! 🙂

      • Yes it is. When I see these large groups of goslings that I photographed today, are they being guarded by the community , or have they been “stolen” because I have seen this on a farm. It takes a lot of observation and refraining from projecting our human viewpoint. Thanks for sharing your photos and stories, maybe time will shed some light on Bella and Beau’s family.

  7. Have you ever watched any of the bird cams. A couple of years ago I watched an osprey nest and there was a single bird that attacked a pair with a single chick. There was such an attack and the very young chick got caught in the ruckus. It struggled to hang on for a couple of days, but eventually succumbed. It’s so sad to see something like that, but it’s part of nature and the joy outweighs the sad, as in so many things. Love these series you are presenting here! Your photography of these feathered friends is simply superb!

    • I’ve watched many cams over the years. Quite addicting, lol, I once had two small windows always opened at work with bird cams to keep an eye on while I worked. Oh my, how awful to witness what you saw. I once saw an intruding eagle attack another eagle’s nest and kill an eaglet. It too was sad to see it lay there for a couple days on the cam. People were begging the cam people to climb up there and get it out and off the video. And I agree, you are right, it is part of nature. And then we do see the joys and triumphs which are the best. I hope we have a good outcome with Bella & Beau’s family season, but I am proud of them as they learn and practice and wonder as they go about their daily instincts. It is just marvelous! 🙂

  8. What a harrowing experience for them!

    Your in flight shot of the intruding Osprey is fantastic! So sharp, and clear! Well done, you’re amazing!

    I hope there’s a chick and soon it pops up for you to see and share! I hope the intruders make an egg and are too busy with their own family to worry about Beau and Bella!

    • Thank you, Deborah! I’m still flabbergasted with the whole attack and cannot believe I got any shots, my adrenaline was pumping so fast.

      It is now too late for the intruding Osprey to make eggs, they’ve missed the window. They hang further down the creek (when they aren’t harrassing Bella & Beau), but I’m not sure where they were trying to nest. I wondered if they lost their’s during a storm or just never got it together to reproduce this year. They’re probably still teenagers! 🙂

  9. What a drama! That would have been heart stopping to watch. Excellent photos and story telling Donna, I enjoyed reading it and hope Bella and Beau have a non eventful week and recover from their ordeal.

  10. What a fantastic post, Donna! Full of action packed dramatic captures. It seems that Bella and Beau are well practiced in nest defense and I am happy that everything seemed to end well. But it was odd that one half of an established couple would attack the nest. Perhaps they didn’t have a nest as yet and were trying to chase away both parents? How exciting to see the first signs of feeding…that’s how I concluded the time Bubbette had hatched. And I have also concluded that both you and I are ‘osprey grannies’ 😀

    • Thank you, Helen! It surely has been challenging for Bella & Beau. Re the attack, both intruding Osprey attacked the nest, not just one of them. Very rare! The intruding Osprey are still flying around up high at times but I haven’t seen any more major aggression. Of course, I’m not here all day long either. It’s back to exciting instead of fear, and and I the conclusion of our new titles you, Osprey Grannies! 🙂

  11. What fantastic series you presented us with! You are so fortunate to have these majestic birds so close by to study and photograph. Another “well done”!

    • I have been on pins and needles, worrying if any trauma occurred during the attack. Even Bella or Beau could have accidentally stepped on a chick while trying to attack the intruding Ospreys.

      Good news on latest post…… 🙂

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