Bella & Beau 2019: The Good, The Bad, and The Sad

Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Region, USA

June 27, 2019

Bella & Beau’s last update was such an upbeat post with the three chicks looking healthy and their nest receiving a surprise toy stuffed animal to complete their ‘nursery’.

Unfortunately, things have taken a few turns.

I know Bella’s different loud calls.  I can crack my slider balcony door just a bit when I’m intent on listening, and bop out on cue.

After the last post, I was home all the next day and able to watch Bella, Beau, and the nest, thinking how neat to post on what a full day with the Osprey family would be like.

And as usual, Bella woke us up calling for fish at sunrise that morning.  Shortly thereafter, Beau must have delivered a fish, as Bella quit calling; and she and the chicks were quiet and content until about 9:00 a.m.  That’s when Bella started calling for Fish #2.

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Bella crying for fish

 

After a while of Bella’s calling, I stepped out and tried to locate where Beau was perched but couldn’t find him, and Bella wasn’t giving me any signs of her seeing/looking at him while she called.

Bella called and called.

After five LONG hours of begging, I finally heard Bella’s cry that said Beau was incoming with a fish.  I stepped outside, and sure enough, he was flying towards the nest with a fish in his talons.

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Beau enroute to the nest with a fish

 

From where I didn’t see, but a pair of intruding Osprey quickly appeared and Beau flew to the nearby water tower where he stayed perched with his fish.

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Intruding Osprey harassing Beau with his fish for the nest

 

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Bella watching the action while the chicks chirp for the food that Momma said was coming

 

Beau made it known loudly he wasn’t giving up his fish or perch.  Eventually the intruding Osprey departed the area; yet Beau refused for the next hour to bring the fish to the nest, no matter how loud Bella cried and stared at him.

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The three chicks are hungry

 

Beau did not deliver that fish.  He stayed on the water tower, and the fish soon disappeared.  I guess he ate it.

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Bella is not happy

 

It’s now 3:26 pm, with almost another hour having passed.  Bella suddenly took flight from the nest and plunged herself into the creek and proceeded to take a bath.  She pulled up from the water and plunged three more times, once right in front of me.  I could see another chick’s poop mishap had doused her pretty good.  I’d want it off too!

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Bella taking a refreshing, cleansing bath

 

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A wet Bella returned to the nest and immediately resumed crying for fish.

 

I don’t know what Bella said with that last crying.  Suddenly, Beau left the tower, flew towards the nest, and actually started fishing the creek.  He dived quickly and caught one, circled around to head back to the nest, and, you’re not going to believe this, accidentally dropped the fish back into the creek.

Beau then flew to a sailboat mast and perched.  Looking at Bella, I gathered she couldn’t believe it.  She just sat and stared in Beau’s direction.

 

Beau perched after dropping fish                    Bella looks at Beau in disbelief of what just happened

 

Another three hours pass.  Beau had disappeared from my sight.  The chicks hadn’t eaten since shortly after sunrise.

Bella had had enough.  At 6:17 p.m., I caught a glimpse of Bella taking flight from the nest and watched her fly to the direction of the Choptank River.

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Bella leaves the nest to go fishing while the chicks lay low

 

I still couldn’t find Beau perched anywhere, so I was a bit nervous.  Was he on nest-watch duty and I just couldn’t see him?  It was early evening.  Other raptors and owls are on the prowl for their next meal.

Bella was gone for six LONG minutes.  When I saw her coming, I was so relieved.  And happy!  I could see Bella had a large fish.

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Bella lands with the day’s long overdue Fish #2 meal

 

The three chicks were unquestionably hungry.  They were pushing, trying to get in close position to Bella, chirping loudly “fish fish fish”.

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The three chicks are pushing and shoving, trying to be the closest to Momma Bella and that long-awaited fish.

 

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Bella begins feeding the chicks.
Notice the size difference of the three chicks.

 

The youngest chick usually hangs back and allows the two older chicks to be fed first.  It’s safer.  But this time he was just as hungry and didn’t wait.

Sibling rivalry can be detrimental when they are hungry.

The oldest chick roughly attacked the youngest several times into submission.  The middle chick wasn’t spared either; but it was the youngest that really took a beating that time.

 

Sibling rivalry over food

 

Eventually, the oldest chick was filled and fell back to rest.  Bella fed the other two chicks with what was left.

Beau, in the meantime, had flown from out of nowhere over to a sailboat mast and had watched over the feeding event.  He was probably close by all along, watching over the nest when Bella flew to the river for the fish.  For some unknown reason, Beau obviously had an ‘off’ day on his fish duty.  He needed to keep up the pace on fish.

So Bella got that last fish herself at 6:17 pm.  At 7:19 pm, Beau dove from the sailboat mast into the creek.  I didn’t see him try to go in flight as I rushed to grab my camera.  I found him swimming to the marina’s bank across the creek.

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Beau swam to the marina creek’s edge with a huge fish and climbed up on the rocks.

 

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Close-up of Beau resting with the huge fish.

 

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Beau then began eating the head of the fish.

 

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Beau kept sliding back into the water from the slippery rocks, so he climbed higher.
Suddenly, Beau stops, looks, and listens.  He and I both hear Bella calling him.

 

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Beau slid back into the water  and tried to start taking flight.

 

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Beau kept trying to lift off alongside the length of the dock.

 

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Beau still trying to get up in the air with that huge fish.

 

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A wet Beau makes it airborne……without the fish.

 

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Beau flew past Bella and the nest and off into the distance.

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Bella watched Beau the whole time, including him losing that fish and flying off into the distance.

 

The sun set.  There were no more fish deliveries that day.  It had turned into a bad day for Bella, Beau, and family.  It certainly wasn’t what I anticipated in sharing a day in the life of the Osprey.

Beau’s fish deliveries are better now, but something wasn’t right for a couple days.  I saw Bella fish a couple times herself in the creek for a quick, small fish for the nest.  I always saw her share it too with the chicks, even though I knew it wasn’t even enough nourishment for just her.

That long day was followed by a couple days of severe storms, high winds, and heavy downpours, causing some damage to the nest.

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First storm approaching Bella and chicks – June 17, 2019

 

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First storm was full of lightning and strong winds.

 

When the first violent thunderstorm’s downpour and strong winds hit us on the evening of June 17th, I was worried for Bella and the chicks.  I opened my door and took a couple quick shots of Bella and the nest.  That’s when I saw the toy stuffed animal was missing.  It was there before the storm slammed us.

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Bella covering her three babies best she can as the torrential rains and winds hit.

 

The next morning I was very happy to see three chicks.  I searched the waters but didn’t find the toy.  It was cute in the nest while it lasted, wasn’t it?

(Side note:  I shared a few photos of Bella and her toy stuffed animal on Facebook at MD Birding and Friends of Blackwater NWR.  In addition to my blog ‘likes’ from all of you and over 200 views to date, the two Facebook posts also received 487 ‘likes’ and 163 shares to date.  WOW, Bella & Beau really had their moment of fame!  I had contacted our local WBOC news station to do a feel-good wildlife story and was disappointed I never even heard from them.)

So that first storm took our beloved toy away.  A couple more days of the same type of storms passed through.

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Another evening, another storm with heavy rains and winds.

 

And the next morning after each, I would check and be happy to find Bella and the three chicks ready for another meal.

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June 20, 2019 – Bella’s head buried in preening and her three chicks

 

The morning of June 21st, we left for a last minute, three-day getaway.  The storms had finally passed and it was to be a nice, although a high-wind weekend, with 20+ mph winds expected most of Saturday.  I took a photo of the three chicks, not the greatest, but for my records, while we hustled out the door.  (They don’t cooperate when you want them too!)

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June 21, 2019 – Bella and her three chicks

 

We returned the afternoon of June 23rd.  I checked on Bella and the nest.  I checked it again….and again….and again, up until sunset.  I was only seeing just two chicks each time.

The next day confirmed what I feared.  One chick was missing.  Whether it was blown off, or knocked off by sibling rivalry, or severely injured in a sibling attack, or not being able to get enough to eat, would be some of my guesses.  It is sad to accept, but accept we must.

The good news is it seems Beau is back on track delivering fish.  And Bella still doesn’t give Beau any slack in her demanding.

The two remaining chicks look healthy and are growing like weeds.

There is a noticeable difference in size and pin feather growth between the two.  Enough that makes me think Chick #2 was lost.

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Youngest chick chirping for food but still hanging back while the oldest chick is fed.

 

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Here’s a great profile of the two chicks showing their crops full after being fed.

 

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Another profile shot with those full crops.

 

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The youngest chick finally getting his feeding after the oldest collapses full.

 

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Another sweet shot!

 

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The oldest is being fed again while the youngest hangs back to watch and wait his turn.

 

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The youngest getting braver on not waiting.

 

Hopefully, things will stay the course now for Bella, Beau, and their two remaining chicks.

That’ll end this update of mixed news.  I’ll leave you with some pretty sunset shots of Bella and Beau from the last couple days.

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Bella at sunset

 

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Beau and ‘his’ tower aglow with the same sunset.

 

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Last night’s sunset had a unique bonus cloud.
Bella and her nest are on the left over the creek’s glow.

 

 

55 thoughts on “Bella & Beau 2019: The Good, The Bad, and The Sad

  1. Amazing shots again Bella, and how strange that Beau would drop the fish as they have opposing talons specifically for locking into the fish, unless he was not holding well enough. Love all your baby pics and also lightning captures are great, as well capturing the mother covering her babies in the storm. What a showcase! Enjoy your weekend my friend!

    • Thank you, Ashley! It was rough and tough there for a while, but things do seem to be better with Beau and his fish deliveries. Fish for three chicks plus Bella is a lot of fish needed. Looking forward to better days we hope! Have a great weekend too, my friend!

  2. Amazing story you shared and did dear Donna, loved them all so much and I am impressed too. Thank you, have a nice day and weekend, Love, nia

  3. Yes, that is sad about the chick.. I wonder if Beau had got an injury and was weakened, even wondered if he stayed away to protect th nest, but am very relieved that he is back. They need to stick together.

    • I thought too maybe Beau had an injury of some type. He’d been doing so well with fish deliveries; something was wrong for a few days. I am relieved too, they do need to work together for the chicks’ survival.

  4. Hello Donna,
    This update took me on an emotional roller-coaster. You do know how to tell a story, and with wonderful photos on top of it ❤ While very (very) sad that one chick has gone, I do realise that that's life, and admire how Bella and Beau & remaining chicks move on and live to the fullest each day. I am relieved that nothing serious happened to Beau.
    As always, thank you for sharing and have a lovely weekend! 😀

    • Thank you, Takami! I record B&B with photos & notes almost every day, it keeps me straight on what happened when and maybe how/why as time progresses. This post was a bit tough to write with so much bad and sad news, when I obviously want to keep it upbeat and exciting for everyone to read. Bella and Beau prove life as an Osprey is not so easy as we may think. I am happy you enjoy their story, even with the ups and downs. Have a wonderful weekend, too, Takami!! 🙂

    • I can only imagine, Ted, with the rookeries and how sad that can be. It’s already a tough rough wildlife world and sibling rivalry seems so unnecessary. It is definitely hard to see and watch.

  5. Oh my! When I saw the title I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the whole story, but again, once I got into it, it was a page turner. Thanks again for so many photos and such a wonderful story. The hard part about getting emotionally invested in the wildlife around us is accepting that nature can sometimes seem cruel – but in the end is probably just Darwinism at work.

    • Thank you, Susan. The title was a toughy to come up with as I knew it was going to have to hint something on the news, then reviewing the earlier photos was a bit sad. But I knew as you said, nature can sometimes feel cruel, and we move on. Positive vibes for B&B and the remaining two chicks! 😊

    • Thank you, Tom. It’s interesting to actually see occurrences and activities that do effect the family and nest; but you’re right, nature is tough and sometimes unforgiving.

  6. I’m so sorry to learn about the sad news of one chick missing. Things happen and sometimes it’s better not to know what really caused the demise of chick # 2.
    I hope that from this point in time, all goes well, without any incidents.
    It must have been hard for you this reality. I totally understand. Be strong. ❤

    • Awwww, thank you, HJ. You’re right, it’s better to not know what happened; and worse yet, to witness what happens that you cannot stop or help. Positive vibes from this day forward! 😊

  7. I was sorry to read of the loss of one chick. Watching nature programmes has taught me that this is all too common though. You had some really stunning pictures in this post

    • Thank you, Tom. You are right, it is quite difficult for Osprey with three or more chicks to all survive and stay healthy. The amount of fish required can be more than what the male can handle, especially if the food source is somewhat scarce. We’ve got plenty of fish around us, but something was still amiss with Beau. Things have improved, thankfully.

  8. Many thanks for the update, but sorry to see we lost a chick. That’s always a sad one when we’ve watched over these amazing creatures. It sounds as though your osprey pair has quite a bit of competition. Hopefully the remaining two will thrive and fledge.

    • Thank you, Gunta, we know how unpredictable nature can be. That darn pair of Osprey live up on a cell tower behind the water tower where Beau perches. They either didn’t successfully breed or lost their brood. And so they love spending their time buzzing Beau on his perch. You know it must peeve him so! 😉

      • Pesky neighbors! We have a mob of grosbeaks chasing our nesting chickadee from the feeders. I’m waiting to get a new feeder that *should* keep the greedy grosbeaks away. (fingers crossed).

    • Thank you, yes it is sad. I am thankful I didn’t see what happened because I probably couldn’t do anything to help save it. Although, I had already located where the marina’s long handle net was, in case I did see one fall in and could scoop it up and out of the water. 🙂 The other two are definitely growing like weeds!

  9. Goodness, this post reads like a thriller! You had me on tenterhooks. 😉
    Sad to have lost one chick, but I guess such is the way of nature.
    Wonderful photos, Donna, I esp. love the glorious sunset.

  10. It pulls one’s heartstrings to read your report, Donna. I am glad two of the chicks are ok, and I hope the rest of the family will make it. When one considers everything that can go wrong, it is easy to get discouraged. Let’s hope for the best.
    Tanja

    • I swear every day they are an inch bigger. 😉 No not really, but my, they do grow fast, they should be almost adult size by the end of the month. Yes, I am glad I was not around. I guess hubby’s last minute ‘let’s get away’ was meant to be. 🙂

  11. Oh but I enjoyed that story, sad or no. I’m in disbelief that the local news didn’t grab this truly amazing tale and wildlife account. Have you considered putting it into a storybook format instead? My school children (where I volunteer) would LOVE this!!

  12. That is just heartbreaking. Beau all messed up, a chick gone and the stuffed toy. Could the impending storms spook Beau?

    WP is messing with my notifications.

    • I don’t think it’s the storms. He’s still lax at times on delivering fish no matter the weather, so Bella has been doing runs herself. Beau ‘babysits’ mostly from a tower or sailmast when she does. I wonder about his health….

      • Yes, Osprey chicks are vulnerable with eagles, hawks, and owls. In last year’s series I shared shots of an eagle attack on the nest, it was frightening, but B&B were fierce in their protection.

        I hope Beau is okay too, and just being a stubborn old fart.

      • The nest platform was erected February 2018 to entice a pair of Osprey that built a nest across the creek on the State of Maryland’s crane in 2017. The crane was lowered in the Spring 2018 as well to deter its usage. Bella & Beau’ took possession of the new nest platform when they showed up in March 2018. I’ve been following/journaling them since. 🙂

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