Welcome Home, Chesapeake Bay Osprey

My post of March 5th, “Watching For Osprey” discussed the impending return of the Osprey to the Chesapeake Bay area.

Osprey are returning!  For me, March 12th was my first sighting of an Osprey.  I saw it from my balcony across the creek on the utility tower.   This tower was one of Bella and Beau’s perches (our community’s Osprey pair from last season).

Hmmmmmm….could this be Beau?  Sorry, too soon to tell!

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Osprey on utility tower

 

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Osprey close-up

 

March 13th we passed through the Grasonville area (sighting of the Snowy Owl in my last post, no sighting again).  There on Rt. 50 in Grasonville I saw my second Osprey on the Exit 44A sign as we started exiting for a planned fuel stop (Wawa station) just before the Osprey & its nest.

Perfect because that Wawa gas station provides very easy viewing and photo-taking opportunities of this nest and family.  This has been an active Osprey nest for many years, and I’ve posted on in years’ past when I previously lived in this area.

The first photo I shot yesterday below gives you a view of this nest atop a pole which is directly in the center of a three-lane dual highway.  Heavy traffic zooms pass this Osprey nest daily throughout the Osprey season (summer traffic is crazy-heavy).  And yet they have prevailed here year after year.  Amazing!

(sooooo terrible photo, don’t know why I took only one and assumed I focused…for shame…)

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Osprey nest left, in the center of a heavily-traveled three-lane dual highway (poor shot)

 

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Highway that gets quite heavy with traffic
(taken with my cell phone when getting back onto Rt. 50)

 

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The Osprey that has returned on Rt. 50 Grasonville, MD (photo 3/13/19)

 

Passing over Kent Island, MD, today, I saw another Osprey gliding over Rt. 50 near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; and then a little later another one flying over Rt. 50 just north of Easton, MD.

The Chesapeake Bay Osprey are returning, and they are right on schedule.

Welcome home, Osprey!

 

 

A Snowy Owl Sighting

A rare and thrilling opportunity to see an immature, female Snowy Owl hit the local area ‘bird’ news March 8th, sighted near Grasonville at Kent Narrows waterway channel in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Home is far north of the Artic Circle where Snowy Owls spend their summers hunting the vast, open tundra for lemmings, ptarmigan, and other prey in 24-hour daylight.  Generally, Snowy Owls migrate in winter to southern Canada and the northern half of the United States.

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Snowy Owl (immature female)

 

This Snowy Owl has been leisurely sitting and sleeping atop the waterfront seafood restaurants’ roofs as well as townhouse rooftops across the creek at different times of the day.

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Snowy Owl (immature female) looking towards a noise she heard

 

Her sighting was an hour away for me.  My travels yesterday put me about 20 minutes of the vicinity so I gave it a shot to see if I could spot this rare beauty.  I easily found her, napping.  The lighting was hazy sunny and she hardly moved for the ten minutes I watched her.

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“Sleeping Snowy”

 

No, she’s not sitting on a sandy beach or atop a dune or snow drift like so many others’ beautiful captures shared.

But I am still elated to have gotten so close with a Snowy Owl.  It was one of those lifetime birding experiences.

 

 

Snow Geese

It is getting close to the time for the visiting winter Snow Geese to take flight to the skies for their migratory return to the Artic tundra for their breeding season.

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Snow Goose

 

Always on the lookout for them, I witnessed distant local farm fields blanketed with Snow Geese many times.  And it was always a beautiful sight when seen.

Fields blanketed with Snow Geese

 

Blackwater NWR had their share of Snow Geese, where they primarily stayed out on the water.

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Snow Geese landing on the water late afternoon at Blackwater NWR

 

Late yesterday afternoon, lo and behold (and finally!), we happened upon a flock of Snow Geese foraging on a farm field alongside a back road.

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Snow Geese settled for the evening

 

It was exciting to finally get a chance to be closer to them.  But it became even more exciting when I started viewing through my lens and noticed this flock included a large number of the Snow Goose’s dark morph color variant “Blue Goose”.

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Snow and Blue Geese

 

The dark color of the blue morph Snow Goose is controlled by a single gene, with dark being partially dominant over white.  If a pure dark goose mates with a white goose, the offspring will all be dark (possibly with white bellies).

If two white geese mate, they have only white offspring.  If two dark geese mate, they will have mostly dark offspring, but might have a few white ones too.

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Snow and Blue Geese

 

These two colors of geese were once thought to be two separate species but are now considered two color phases of the same Snow Goose species.

We sat a bit to not alarm the geese further since they had already seen our car coming, and we just watched and listened.  I love their sound!  I then slowly got out of the passenger side and went to the back of our car and used it as a blind to take my shots of the beautiful color mixture.

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Donna caught photographing Snow Geese

 

The geese didn’t mind.  Alas, there was no swirling ‘snow globe’ geese take-off/landing to capture, and we weren’t going to ‘create’ one.

As we slowly drove off, thankfully the Snow Geese remained grounded and were back to foraging and resting as if we’d never stopped.

 

Cuties of the Creek

We’ve had a wonderful mix of winter water birds here on Cambridge Creek these past few months.

It’s the three little ones that win the Cutie Contest!  Here’s my latest favorite shots to share.

There’s the adorable, amusing Buffleheads….
Length – 12.6-15.8″ (32-40 cm)
Weight – 9.6-22.4 oz (272-635 g)
Wingspan – 21.6″ (55 cm)

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Bufflehead (female)

 

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Bufflehead (male)

 

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Bufflehead (male) with Lesser Scaup (male)

 

the charming Ruddy Ducks….
Length – 13.8-16.9″ (32-40 cm)
Weight – 10.6-30 oz (272-635 g)
Wingspan – 22.1-24.4″ (56-62 cm)

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Ruddy Duck (male)

 

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Ruddy Duck napping (female)

 

 

Female Ruddy Duck stretching and smiling for the camera

 

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“Paddlin’ During Nap Time”

 

and the delightful and smallest of the three, a Pied-Billed Grebe:
Length – 11.8-15″ (30-38 cm)
Weight – 8.9-20 oz (253-568 g)
Wingspan – 17.7-24.4″ (45-62 cm)

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Pied-billed Grebe

 

I think you’ll agree with me on these three Cambridge Creek Cutie Contest winners!  😊

 

 

Watching for Osprey

It is the first week of March and getting to be that time of year again.

Time for the return of the Chesapeake Bay Osprey!

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Osprey – Harris Creek jetty (July 2018)

 

The Chesapeake Bay Osprey departed August/September (some stragglers in October) last year and have been ‘vacationing’, each on their own, down in the Caribbean and South America.

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Osprey – Tuckahoe Creek (July 2018)

 

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Osprey – Choptank River (July 2018)

 

The adult Osprey should be heading back now, with an instinctive pull to return to their previous summer home grounds.

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Osprey and nest – Tuckahoe Creek (July 2018)

 

So, if you were following me last summer, that means…….

Yes!  If all went well during their separate migrations and winters, both Bella and Beau should be heading home now to Cambridge Creek!

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“You mean us?”  🙂
Bella and Beau (April 2018)

 

In general, the males return first, followed by the females usually within the following week.  So we should see Beau first, by mid-March.  He’ll hang around the platform, and wait/rest/feed.  No home building or repairs will begin until the lady of the house is home.

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Bella telling Beau to get more sticks or food (May 2018)

 

All Osprey chicks born in 2018 (including Bella & Beau’s two chicks) will not return but stay another full year down in the tropics, learning to take care of themselves and basically enjoy their new life before they return as an adult in 2020.

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Bella, Beau and their chicks (June 2018)

 

 

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Bella and her two chicks (July 2018)

 

I’ve seen my first Osprey in past years as early as today, March 5th.  So I will not be surprised to see eBird and MD Birding pages start lighting up with shares of their ‘first’ Osprey sightings of the season and where any day.

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Bella, Beau and chicks (July 2018)

 

And so we wait.  And watch.  And listen.

You can bet, for us locals, it is an exciting time for the return of the Chesapeake Bay Osprey!

UPDATE:  I saw my first Osprey on the distant cell tower across our creek on March 12th!  Hmmmm….one of Beau’s and Bella’s perches.  Could it be one of them?  Time will tell!

 

 

Long-Tailed Ducks

One of the more exciting winter ducks to visit off and on this winter along Cambridge Creek has been a lone juvenile male Long-tailed Duck.

I’ve only once seen and photographed this duck in flight, so this winter’s chance of opportunity to get so many wonderful captures of this species was a thrill to say the least.  I’ll try to ‘hold back’ on the number of photos!

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Long-tailed Duck (male)

 

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Long-tailed Duck (male)

 

Only the males have the long-tail plume.  I watched him several times and finally caught our visitor flipping his ‘tail’.  They do this as part of a courtship display.  There are no females around, so maybe this young fella was practicing for his return in the Spring to find a mate.  🙂

Long-tailed Duck (male) flipping his ‘tail’

 

The Long-tailed Duck breeds in the Arctic and winters along both coasts of North America, usually in large flocks that raft often far out at sea.  They also winter in the Bering Sea, Hudson Bay, and Great Lakes.

This duck is one of the deepest diving sea ducks, diving as deep as 200 feet (60 meters) to forage for mollusks, crustaceans, and a few small fish.

 

 

Formerly known as the Oldsquaw duck, it was renamed in 2000 as the Long-tailed Duck because of it’s name’s sensitivity.

 

 

We took a trip down to Hoopers Island to dine at Old Salty’s Restaurant (BEST crab cakes in the area!) a few weeks ago; afterwards as always, we road to the end of the islands where it meets the Chesapeake Bay.  (I highly recommend a road trip down to Hoopers Island.)  I sighted both a male and a female Long-tailed Duck out in the open waters of the Bay.  I could not believe it!

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Adult Long-tailed Duck (male) shot at a long distance on the Chesapeake Bay

 

Long-tailed Duck (female) on the Chesapeake Bay

 

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Long-tailed Duck (male) on Cambridge Creek

 

How lucky our community is to have this young male Long-tailed Duck hanging around Cambridge Creek this winter for our enjoyment!

 

 

Geese & Gulls Reflecting On Ice

Cambridge Creek has had a few thin-ice freeze-overs this past January and February.  During those days, the visiting birds would dwindle down to just the gulls and geese.

Watching them rest, walk around, take-off, and land on the ice was interesting to watch.  Sometimes they outweighed the ice’s strength.

 

Canada Geese slowly but surely collapsing the ice

 

The shining sun melting the ice sometimes produced a mirror-effect when the lighting and time of day were just right.

Some of my favorites…..

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Canada Goose

 

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Great Black-backed Gull

 

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Canada Geese

 

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Ring-billed (left) and two Herring Gulls

 

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Canada Goose

 

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Canada Goose

 

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Great Black-backed, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls

 

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Ring-billed Gull (first winter)

 

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Canada Geese “Quad Squad”

 

As always, thank you for stopping by,

and have a wonderful, reflective weekend!