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?


_DSC0450-1 71918.jpg

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.



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

  1. Thank you Donna for the mention. I think you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes you have to decide for an assumption, instead of an assertion without any proof.
    I had to make a decision myself on March 20th, first day of spring. A pair of bluebirds came to my backyard and immediately they started to build the nest in a birdhouse I installed years ago, every year is used as home for bluebirds, but I just assume they are the ones that come every year. I really don’t know they are the same. You can read my blog tomorrow about that.
    Remember this. I’m here to help a friend. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your support and comments, HJ, it means so much to me! How wonderful your Bluebirds have returned as well, looking forward to your post on them! 🙂

  2. Fantastic, Donna! I bet it is Bella and Beau – and your presence documenting their arrival and courtship made it feel even more like home to them. 🙂

  3. I am open. Maybe the “give-away’ will be how well, or poorly, they build their nest. Either way, I am happy they have a name for the sake of the story and look forward to the season ahead.I wonder if you could call the Wildlife Association and find out who they are by the location, because someone must be keeping track of them.Have you seen bands on their legs?

    • Thank you, Jane! I was thinking the same thing, on how this nest looks in two months. Poor Beau last year had such a rough time. Hopefully, he took a class on home-building over the winter! 😉

      Sorry, if I indicated these Osprey might be banded, they are not. But wouldn’t that be an added special to really know who they are and where they’ve been! 🙂

    • I agree, Brian. I read in detail about Osprey molting and markings. The behavior will be the real factor here, I believe as well. So we’ll see how that nest looks in a couple months, lol.

  4. In the end I guess your comment about the purpose of the blog being a photo journal about the daily life of an osprey pair says it all. We can all ‘hope’ that it is Bella and Beau, just as I hope and assume that it is Betty and Barney who come back to the osprey platform in our cove each year. Our pair have not yet returned, but they were late last year also. Perhaps that is how I will ‘confirm’ that our pair, when they return, are the habitually late Betty and Barney. No matter – watching these pairs throughout a season are what it is all about. Keep sharing!

  5. I’m so pleased you’re still living where you live Donna. I’ve looked forward to the return of these two, and if you moved house we’d all lose track of Bella and Beau. You really must turn their story into a book.

  6. Funny, we’re both into IDing birds. NOT an easy task as I’ve discovered! Perhaps if this is an imposter pair, the REAL Bella and Beau might show up and reclaim the nest. If there’s no such ruckus, then perhaps it’s them for (almost) sure! What a challenge you have. I’m just trying to determine species, with a mystery hybrid (perhaps) in the mix. That’s quite enough challenge for me, thank you! 😀

    • Sometimes IDing can be so difficult! But after long periods of trying to figure a bird out, sometimes I want to scream when I’m confused! 😅 😂 Then I sit back and tell myself, enjoy this, girl, it’s part of the challenging fun of birding.

      Are we having fun yet, Gunta?
      Yepper!! 😊

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