Bella & Beau: Splish Splash, Bella Takes A Bath and How About Those Chick Wings
(Osprey nest location: Cambridge, Maryland, USA)
June 29, 2018
We all know birds love water; and it is always entertaining to watch a bird take a bath. In addition to drinking the water and for some cooling off, birds regularly bathe primarily to clean and maintain their feathers. And usually the bath is at the edge of a body of water or an erected shallow bird bath.
The Osprey, however, will regularly drink, cool off, and bathe in the same deep water that they fish, so preening and waterproofing their feathers constantly is important to keep their feathers from getting saturated. Osprey secrete a pungent, oily substance from a preen gland at the base of their tail that they spread all over their feathers for that waterproofing purpose.
With Bella stuck on the nest after the hatchings for such a long duration, I was happy to see her leave the nest a month or so ago and dive directly into the water below, flapping her wings back and forth, floating and dipping herself. She had gotten quite dirty with those heavy May rains, brooding the chicks, all those feedings, and even having spots of chick poop on her that didn’t quite make it out the nest back then.
It happened so quickly, and I wasn’t prepared with my camera, but I got to watch her bathe. She looked like it felt so good. And when she returned to the nest, I will admit I was very happy to see that poop off of her.
I’ve seen her many times since dive below and bathe. But I never got any photos that were sharable.
Finally, a week ago I was watching the nest when Bella took a dive. I quickly tried to get my camera off the tripod and lock on her but didn’t make it. A drenched Bella flew back to the nest where Beau was perched. She then chirped at him and, just like that, she took flight and dove again. I was still putting my camera back on the tripod. I moved a little quicker, missed the bath darn it, but got three nice shots of her lifting out of the water this time.
Bella lifting out of the water after a bath.
Bella getting airborne after a bath.
Bella is airborne and heads back to the nest.
Excited and hoping I got the shots, I started to put my camera back on the tripod; and, would you believe, Bella chirped at Beau again and took a third dive.
This time I succeeded on a 19-shot burst of Bella bathing and uploaded it as a slideshow.
Splish Splash, Bella is taking a bath.
I think that showcased one drenched, clean, and happy Bella.
The chicks continue to grow and change. Their feathers are coming in quickly and their wings are growing longer and longer. The chicks are able to stand now and are awkwardly stretching and flapping those wings.
The oldest chick standing and flapping those awkward wings.
The youngest chick gets into the act.
The youngest chick is at it again.
It’s like watching a toddler learn to walk. 🙂
The chicks’ dark eyes have now attained their bright orange/redness.
When an Osprey reaches about three years old, their eyes will change to bright yellow like Bella & Beau’s.
Amazingly, the Osprey’s eyesight is eight times sharper than that of humans.
You can see from the photos the sad nest remains basically unchanged. I have not seen Beau bring any more nesting materials, and Bella brings mostly dead grass and leaves. She continues to guard the chicks from the edge, thankfully.
I had the opportunity a few days ago to photograph other Osprey nests on the Choptank River and will be sharing these in another post to compare to Bella & Beau’s. Surprisingly, Bella & Beau’s nest has more going for their family than others I photographed.
How about a family portrait?
I’ll end with another setting sun shot took while Bella was flying overhead (I missed her in the shot) and the chicks lay low. I didn’t see Beau, he was probably perched close by on possibly either a sailboat mast, in a tree, or on the Cambridge water tower keeping watch over his family.
Sunset over Cambridge Creek, with Bella & Beau’s nest off to the right.