Bella & Beau 2018: Osprey Migration

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

August 21, 2018

As is usual with our Chesapeake Bay Osprey, the adult female Osprey is the first to migrate, leaving during the month of August, with nonbreeders leaving sooner and breeders leaving later in the month.  Bella’s final days with Cambridge are numbered.  My goal is to keep an eye out for Bella when I can to know whether she is still around.

I actually saw Bella, Beau and both OspreyTeens all at the same time shortly after 7 pm today.  She is still busy chasing intruders away from the nest platform….

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Bella pursuing a Turkey Vulture flying around the nest platform (and out of my shot).


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Bella chasing a Turkey Vulture away from the nest platform.


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Bella has her talons extended as she neared the Turkey Vulture and they disappeared behind the trees.  I hope the Turkey Vulture is okay!


….and delivering fish to begging OspreyTeens on the nest platform.  In this next series, the other OspreyTeen already has a fish when Bella drops in.

Bella drops in with a fish and tries to give it to the begging OspreyTeen.


Surprisingly, Bella decides to not release the fish and instead feed the OspreyTeen.


The male Osprey will stay on for up to another month after the female leaves to continue to assist the chicks with mastering their fishing skills and feed them as needed. Once the fishing skills are acquired, each Osprey chick will get an instinct to leave and will go.  Once the last chick has left, the adult male’s final duties are done, and he will head south as well.

There is still a lot of begging from the OspreyTeens while perched on the nest platform, you should hear the commotion at sunrise now.  I no longer need to set our alarm clock.  Beau also has been keeping up with fish deliveries.  To date, I have not seen a wet OspreyTeen arriving or eating a fish, a sign it might have caught it itself.


Beau delivering a fish to an aggressive OspreyTeen.


An OspreyTeen spending over 20 minutes watching the water below, seeing small fish perhaps?


The OspreyTeens are still actively flying around, chasing each other for fun, and chasing the gulls.  They still leave other intruders to Bella & Beau.

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Terrible photo of OspreyTeen after a gull today.


Just days ago, one of the OspreyTeens left the nest platform and swooped down to the water (to my horror!) at precious little Cassie Canvasback.  I screamed, “NOOOOO, that’s Cassie!”

Cassie dove under the water and popped back up while the OspreyTeen turned and flew off (maybe it heard my scream, lol).  Cassie looked shaken and quickly swam to the safety of the docks.  My photos show how shaken I was with the poor shots, lol.

First time I got mad at one of the Osprey.  😉


So where do Osprey migrate?

U.S. Northeast/Chesapeake Bay Osprey – migrate to South America, some to the Caribbean
U.S. Midwestern Osprey – migrate to Mexico, Central & South America, some to the Caribbean
U.S. Northwest Osprey – migrate to south Texas, Mexico and Central America
Australasian Ospreys – most do not tend to migrate
Europe and northern Asia – migrate to Africa, India and southeast Asia

In the U.S., there are scattered numbers of Osprey along the Pacific coast of Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as Arizona that do not migrate, nor do the Osprey along the entire Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Atlantic coast of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Migrating adult Osprey will usually return to their previous wintering grounds.  They will typically fly alone, although there have been flock sightings of up to 92 Osprey in the Cuba and Haiti regions.  Osprey will fly day and night, instinctively following their repeated migration routes, stopping to fish, eat, and rest as needed and if they can.

Unlike many raptors, Ospreys do not use updrafts and thermals to fly.  It is thought that Osprey use a variety of techniques for navigation, including the stars and the changes in the earth’s magnetic field.  Their average distance per day ranges from approximately 60 to 235 miles/day (95 to 380 km/day).

As with Bella & Beau and the OspreyTeens, the U.S. Northeast Osprey will inevitably be making 12+ hour-long flights at night over water to South America, which is possible because of the Osprey’s wing morphology and wing-loading characteristics.

Osprey chicks’ first migration is tricky.  They sometimes wander in wrong directions, hang out in areas too long, and can even get lost.  These mistakes can be detrimental.  The mission is to get to the Caribbean or South America and hang out there for another year and a half, then returning usually back to their birth area, ready to find a mate and begin their adult breeding lives.

Unfortunately, the survival rate of an Osprey chick’s first migration is less than 50%.  If they do survive and reach 3+ years old, they have an increased 80-90% survival rate.  Alan Poole summarized this as:  “On average, out of 100 young fledged in any year, 37 will be alive 4 years after fledging, 17 eight years after, and only 6–8 twelve years after.”

On a happier note, the following is a successful, amazing recount of a 2008’s Osprey chick’s first migration journey, learned through data obtained from a small, lightweight backpack containing a satellite tracking device (GPS) that was attached to her back.

“On a clear morning in early September 2008, a three-month-old female Osprey named Penelope pushed off from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and flew, alone, 2,700 miles to French Guiana in 13 days.  She touched down in coastal Maryland and North Carolina for three days, lazed along the Bahamas for four, then blew through the Dominican Republic in 29 hours. At dusk she launched out over the Caribbean, flying all night and the next day to a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela. A week later she was exploring rainforest rivers in French Guiana, her home for the next 18 months.”  Written by Alan Poole, Osprey expert

Here’s a map showing Penelope’s first migration journey from Massachusetts to French Guiana, South America, in 13 days.  Amazing!


Copyright © Cornell University, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds


Today, there are many groups around the world involved with tracking Osprey, using banding and satellite backpacks, gaining data to help focus on conservation efforts and migrational differences within their species.

Now back to a few more images of Bella, Beau, and those wonderful OspreyTeens while they are all still here with us to enjoy!


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Beau in flight


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Bella in flight


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Bella and her OspreyTeens


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Beautiful OspreyTeen wings


OspreyTeen begging because it doesn’t have a fish.  A few minutes later another fish was delivered.


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OspreyTeen home alone


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“Sorry, but you look delicious!”


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OspreyTeen’s defense stance, protecting it’s nest platform.


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OspreyTeen getting a louder, as an intruder flies overhead.


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OspreyTeen staying with eye-contact on the intruder, and louder still.  The intruder flew off.


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“Who’s leaning, us or you?”


For an Osprey to survive their migration’s physical and mental challenges of extreme weather, crossing large bodies of water, finding food, avoiding predators, AND not get shot by fish-farmers seems like a small miracle.

Maybe when you see an Osprey return next Spring (usually March), a smile will cross your face, knowing the miracle of migration you are witnessing.  🙂

Fingers crossed Bella is here with us a few more weeks!


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



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