Bald Eagle

Maryland’s Blackwater NWR has the largest concentration of breeding Bald Eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida.  During the winter, the population soars with transients.

Even though I see at least one Bald Eagle at almost every visit, I still feel lucky and get excited each time.

Most times they are flying high in the sky or perched too far off for great photos.  Just seeing Bald Eagles in their realm is rewarding.  And sometimes you get lucky with a close fly-by or find one a little closer to the wildlife drive for a photographic opportunity.

 

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Bald Eagle at Blackwater NWR

 

Just something so beautifully majestic about them makes the Bald Eagle one of my top favorite birds.

 

 

Bella & Beau: Nest Protection and Attack

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

May 27, 2018

Since their last post, the skies cleared and Bella & Beau were able to dry out in the sunshine and breezes.  They have continued to show great interest on something that’s within their nesting cup.  Both parents are also still getting up and down more often while incubating/brooding.

Dare I say it?  Okay…..with my binoculars I’ve seen Bella trying to feed.  She picks at something within the nest, and then gently moves her head and goes back down with it.  Bella watches for a bit, and then tries again or resettles back onto the nest.

I love watching the parents peering down in the nest.  Sometimes you see a look of bewilderment.  Or a questioning look.  Or maybe a bit of a scared look.

Bella & Beau are always looking down into the nest.

 

The nest is getting a bit bigger but still has a long ways to go if it’s going to harbor one or more chicks safely.

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Bella smiling for the camera.

 

Keeping up with his chores while staying close to the nest, Beau still tries to fish here in the creek.

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Beau circling the creek looking for a fish to snatch.

 

Suddenly, Beau spots a fish in the water.

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No luck this time, so Beau gave up and took off for the river.

With so much around them, protection of the Osprey nest is constant.  If only one parent is on the nest, naps are seconds in length.  Eyes reopen quickly for a look, then close back for a 10-second nod.  When one is perched at home, the other can get a deeper sleep.

Beau scratching with those enormous, sharp talons while on nest protection duty, giving Bella a chance to sleep.

 

Bella & Beau have been relentless with harmless ‘scare’ attacks against Gus, the Canada Goose.  Gus seems to have had enough and moved on for now.  I miss his honking, although I’m guessing Bella & Beau do not.

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Gus says, “I am outta here!”

 

Besides, Bella & Beau have others to deal with, like Eagles passing over.

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American Bald Eagle

 

This morning I heard chaos and watched Bella chase a black crow.  Photos were lousy.

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Bella in pursuit of a black crow flying over the nest.

 

The Great Blue Herons are definitely unliked.  I’ve seen three at one time perched around the creek, so they are often visiting or flying through.  No matter, Bella & Beau forces them away when they’re too close for comfort.

Osprey attacks on Great Blue Herons

 

Yesterday, there was a traumatic attack on the nest that still has me rattled.  As I watched Beau making his way across the sky with a stick, Bella started screaming and looking up.  Overhead the other local Osprey pair were circling above the nest.  They do this every day, always agitating Bella & Beau.  No big deal, right?

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Intruding Osprey pair circling over Bella in the nest.

 

Beau heard Bella and sees them too.

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Beau rushes to the nest while he watches the intruding Osprey overhead.

 

Beau arrived to the nest and took an immediate defense stance alongside Bella.  Both are now screaming frantically.  Quite unexpectedly to me, one of the intruding overhead Osprey dive-bombed the nest.

What the heck just happened?  I think my heart jumped out of my chest right then.  Bella & Beau were still screaming.   As the first intruder circled around the nest…..

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Osprey intruder circling around.

 

…..suddenly, the second intruding Osprey dive-bombed the nest.   I captured shots this time.

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Second intruding Osprey attacking Bella & Beau in their nest.

 

Bella & Beau are now in high-defense mode.  Their screams are ear-piercing.

Bella & Beau (foreground) watching and screaming at the intruding Osprey circling.

 

Bella & Beau see a third attack coming!

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Beau spreads his wings to cover the nest while Bella screams frantically.

 

One of the intruding Osprey swoops in again.

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Intruding Osprey swoops down over Bella & Beau for a third attack.

 

Then just as quickly as the attacks started, the traumatic event was over, and the intruding Osprey flew off together.  Bella & Beau finally calmed down and quickly view their nest.

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Bella & Beau viewing their nesting cup after the attacks.

 

I truly hope no damage occurred within the nest.  😦

I have not seen the local intruding Osprey pair do this before, nor any other time of pairs over the years.  I contacted one of the Osprey experts at Blackwater NWR and asked about this attack.  Lisa commented, “It’s not uncommon for a single intruder Osprey that is unmated and without a nest to try and push in on a couple.  Often they want to replace one of the pair and become the new adult at the nest. They’ll even do it when eggs or chicks are already there.  Sometimes the new adult will kick out the eggs or get rid of the chicks. It’s like they know the chicks are not theirs.” 

Bella & Beau’s attack was by an established pair so the attack doesn’t make so much sense.

“About the best you can hope for is the adults will drive off any intruders, and the intruders will give up before the eggs/chicks are harmed.”

I know the intruding Osprey live close by, having not been successful with mating and eggs.  They do seem to torment poor Bella & Beau every day.

Since the attack, business seems as usual at the nest.  Beau’s bringing sticks, Bella’s tending to the nest, and nest protection continues.

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Bella & Beau early this morning after a night of showers.

 

After such a suspenseful post, I’ll end with some pretty images of Bella & Beau that’ll hopefully help calm down your racing heart… or is it just mine?

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Beau taking flight from the nest while Bella incubates.

 

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Bella

 

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Beau

 

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Bella

 

The coming week’s forecast is calling for mostly cloudy, humid conditions with rain and t-storms.  Hopefully, it won’t be too rough on Bella & Beau as they continue to instinctively protect and care for their nest and each other.

 

Catching Up With Those South Carolina Birds – Part 4

This past January to March, I had numerous sightings of wintering Loons along the South Carolina coastline, both far out in the distance Atlantic Ocean or up in the marshes around Murrell’s Inlet, and have shared some already.

Before departing the area, I got one more chance to watch a Red-throated Loon as he dived, stretched his wings, and basically just looked pretty in his winter plumage in the turquoise waters.

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Red-throated Loon in winter plumage.

 

 

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Red-throated Loon in winter plumage.

 

All was fine and dandy, the loon was diving and resurfacing, although I’m not sure if it was catching anything.  I never saw a catch in its mouth.

And then someone arrived to see what was going on.

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Laughing Gull also watching the Red-throated Loon.

 

The Red-throated Loon was also watching the Laughing Gull.

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Red-throated Loon ‘eye-balling’ the Laughing Gull perched on a piling overhead.

 

Finally, the Laughing Gull dropped and swooped in for the steal while the Red-throated Loon quickly dove.  You can still see the darkness of the loon as he was diving down.  I’m not sure if the gull actually took something from the loon, or had grabbed something already floating in the water.

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Laughing Gull swooping in ‘for the steal’ while the Red-throated Loon is diving down below him.

 

The Red-throated Loon was not amused with the Laughing Gull and started swimming out of the inlet.

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Red-throated Loon

 

The pelicans and gulls are real smart on how to get an easy meal by stealing from the diving cormorants and loons at Murrell’s Inlet.

 

Bella & Beau: No Firm News Yet

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

May 20, 2018

Since their last post, Bella & Beau have been trying to keep to their nesting duties while Mother Nature has brought them showers, rain, thunderstorms, hail, and winds with gusts up to 60 mph, with heavy rains the last couple days.

This weather has been disheartening.  Heavy rains for long periods during the hatching time period can be challenging for successful, healthy hatchlings.

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Several days were like this, just wet and yucky.

 

Poor Bella…..

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Bella enduring the rain.

 

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Bella enduring the rain.

 

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Bella spread low and tightly protecting her egg clutch while rain pours.

 

By calculations, an egg could have hatched.  I have been watching Bella & Beau with 20×80 binoculars and looking for behavioral changes.  Here’s what I noted.

When changing over incubating duties, both parents are now peering down in the nest and staring, before settling back on the nest cup and egg(s).

Many times, I’ve also seen Bella make a sudden movement, then get up, and resettle.  Or she keeps her head down low for a brief moment, head moving gently.

With all this, it does seem like something is going on, but it is too early to confirm if there has been a successful hatching.

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Bella inspecting her nesting cup.

 

Two to three days before a hatching, an Osprey egg “stars” (first cracks).  Then about 12 hours before hatching, the chick’s beak creates a pip hole and begins the long hours of trying to exit the egg.  A chick may chirp faintly, especially if distressed.

 

Bella inspecting the nesting cup.

 

We wonder what Bella is seeing and thinking.

 

A newly hatched Osprey chick is very weak in movement but can briefly beg, so the female parent will try to feed it very small bits of fish starting the first day.  I’ve been watching for a chick feeding by Bella, but the foul weather has really made it difficult to see what she is doing when she is doing something down low.

To see an Osprey egg hatch, water this 2015 Video from the Audubon’s Osprey cam.  The other two chicks in the video would be approximately 3-4 days and 6-8 days old.  You will enjoy it.

In the meantime, Beau has been busy with his parental chores:

Beau has been bringing Bella food….

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Here Bella is already screaming for the fish as Beau brings it in.

 

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Bella is quite loud as she demands the fish.

 

Beau frantically releases the fish and Bella snatches it.

 

Bella immediately takes flight with her meal.

 

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Bella flies over to the other side of the creek and….

 

Up to one of her favorite perches to enjoy her meal, all while in perfect view of her nest.

 

Beau has been bringing nesting materials….

Beau delivering nesting materials to the nest, yes, even in the rain

 

Lots of soft nesting cup materials too.  The left nest is dated 5/17/18, the right is 5/19/18.

 

And Beau has been protecting the nest.  If you are another Osprey, Bald Eagle, Canada Goose, Cormorant, or Great Blue Heron, it would be best if you do not try to fly over or swim in the vicinity of Bella & Beau’s nest.  A possible attack will occur!

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Beau giving a warning in the rain to a passerby.

 

By late afternoon, the clouds were breaking apart and the sun started shining.  The upcoming week’s forecast promised better weather, with little rain.  It’s been a tough several days for Bella & Beau, but all seemed good when the sun was setting over Bella.

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Sun setting over Cambridge Creek and Bella & Beau’s osprey nest – 5/19/18

 

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Bella at sunset.

 

Much of above was already written yesterday, but I wasn’t able to finish last night.  I had a few hours this morning before my day out, so I took a few more photos to share some more interesting action.

Bella is looking and seems to be interested with something.

 

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Bella and Beau taking a look, probably wondering, now what?

 

Here’s a few final photos of some more profile favorites I’ve not yet shared I think you will enjoy.

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Bella standing while Beau is incubating.

 

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Bella incubating while Beau is perched.

 

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Beau incubating.

 

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Bella is incubating while Beau is perched.

 

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Bella & Beau

 

One more thing, I had a request to make a Page Tab at the top of my blog to make it easier to find all the posts on Bella & Beau, and so created a Page Tab “2018 Osprey Bella & Beau” under the photo header.  All posts on Bella & Beau are accumulating here for easier access to a previous post if this helps anyone else.

As for Bella & Beau, fingers crossed for a great week for them.

 

More Birds At The Refuge, And A Few Turtles

The following birds are in full force at Blackwater NWR.  If you don’t see one of these, I would be quite shocked.

It is not at all hard to find the loud and boisterous Red-winged Blackbirds, who are excited the females are back and Spring is here.  This one stopped long enough to give me a profile shot.

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Red-winged Blackbird (male)

 

The Least Terns were all over the waters, flying and diving for fish.  They were so fast, I didn’t try much with them…..and then I later downloaded the next photo.  I was pleasantly surprised.

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Least Tern

 

I was amazed on how many Eastern Kingbirds I’ve seen in my visits.   They are so pretty with their white-edged wings and tails.

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Eastern Kingbird

 

As for other wildlife, even the turtles are out in full force, sunning and smiling.  One was practicing swimming in air.

(Someone please correct my turtle ID if it is wrong!)

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Eastern Painted Turtles

 

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Eastern Painted Turtles

 

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright

(All photos taken at Blackwater NWR, Cambridge, Maryland)

 

Two More “Reds” at Blackwater NWR

(Photos taken at Blackwater NWR, Cambridge, Maryland)

One of my last posts I shared a male Summer Tanager, a gorgeous red bird I photographed at BNWR.

I also captured two more “reds” while at the refuge I wanted to share.

Red #1 – One beauty with distinctive contrasting colors of red, black, and white is the Red-headed Woodpecker.

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

Both males and females look alike.

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

How nice that he/she gave a look my way!

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

Red #2 – Slowly cruisin’ further along the wildlife drive taking photos, we came around a corner, and happened upon a Red Fox walking along the drive, several hundred feet ahead of us.

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Red Fox

 

The Red Fox kept walking so we kept a safe distance and slowly followed.  To be honest, I don’t know if it was actually aware of us yet.

By now, the drive was crossing marshes on both sides.  Coming up to a sharp road curve to the right, the Red Fox came to a stop (as did we), turned, and looked left across the water.

The Red Fox never looked our way.  He has to know we’re sitting there a couple hundred feet away in our black SUV, doesn’t he?

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“Wait, where am I? Something’s not right.  Did I make a wrong turn?”

 

Not taking his eyes off looking across the water, he turned and started heading back towards us.  I slipped back in the car and closed my door enough to not allow a noise, and we sat still while he walked right on past us and continued back down the drive where we had all just come from.

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“Darn, now I gotta walk nonchalantly past this thing that was following me.
I just won’t look at it, and hopefully it will leave me alone.”

 

Before we had sighted the Red Fox, there was a side road to fields that connects to the wildlife drive, which is where he probably came from, accidentally turning right instead of left, and then finally realizing he was not where he thought or was supposed to be.

We enjoyed the encounter, especially me capturing these best shots to date of the gorgeous Red Fox.

 

Bella & Beau: Are They Ready To Be Parents?

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

May 14, 2018

Bella & Beau have been stepping up the pace on strengthening the nest in preparation of hatchings.

Bella delivering a stick at sunset.

 

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Bella working on the nesting cup materials surrounding the eggs.

 

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Unfortunately, many more sticks are gathering on the dock below the nest, being knocked off the nest by accident.

 

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Bella & Beau’s nest size on May 14, 2018.

 

The nest is still in need of major strengthening.  At the writing of this post, I didn’t see many deliveries of sticks today.  It seems, though, there’s been an increase for fish requests by Bella.  She’s always asking.  Young Beau is trying to do that job too.

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Bella snatched the headless fish from Beau who had just arrived with it, she must have been very hungry.  Beau immediately went to egg-duty.

 

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Bella, in the meantime, takes off with her meal.

 

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Yes, Bella was hungry, she begins eating while heading to a perch.

 

 

This past week I began noticing that while Beau was perched on the nearby sailboat masts, he began intently watching the water below him.  Since then, Beau has tried his skill at fishing here in the creek also.

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Beau’s thinking, “Is that a fish I see?”

 

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Beau dives and comes back up with empty talons…..no luck that time.

 

Beau dives again…..and again has no luck.

 

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Beau is diving for the strike.  (terrible photo!)

 

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Beau comes up after submersion.

 

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Beau lifts and pulls himself up and out of the water.  Did he succeed this time?

 

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Beau scores a fish!  He then took off with it to a perch to eat it.  I never knew if he came back to share it with Bella.

 

The creek obviously isn’t the only place Beau is fishing, thank goodness, his scores are pretty small.  I’m still seeing him coming from the river with fish.

Beau arrives with a headless fish, Bella grabs it, and begins eating while taking flight.

 

One more series of Beau bringing a fish to Bella.  I will say, Bella isn’t very nice when she snatches the fish from Beau.  Poor Beau, he’s trying.

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Beau dropping in with another headless fish for Bella.

 

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Bella snatches the fish from Beau.

 

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Bella proceeds to leave and take flight to eat her meal elsewhere, leaving Beau to incubate the egg(s).

 

A funny series here, Beau had come back empty-handed on fishing the creek and flew up to the nest.  He was saturated with water.

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Beau returns to perch and dry off, after several attempts fishing in the creek.  Bella throws several looks at Beau and I could hear her chirping a little under her breath.

 

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Suddenly, Beau takes flight, I figured begrudgingly to go fish some more or go get a stick.

 

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Wrong!  Beau flew over and landed on a sailboat mast where he continued to air-dry himself.  He ignored Bella’s louder chirping.  Bella back at the nest didn’t seem to pleased.

 

And now we are entering the period of time for hatchings.  The female Osprey usually lays a clutch of 2 to 4 eggs, about 3 days apart.  The eggs will hatch in the same sequence as they were laid, in about 4 to 5 weeks time.

I calculated Bella’s first egg was laid on April 17.  That would put hatching of her first egg to be around May 15-22.

I will be watching the nest for any changes in behavior by Bella & Beau to clue me an egg did indeed hatch.  Hopefully, I will be able to photograph behavior changes and post in several days with updates on Bella & Beau.

Here’s a few final photos of some profile favorites and flight shots I’ve not yet shared I think you will enjoy.

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Beautiful Osprey wings!

 

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Beau in black & white.

 

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I thought this was an unusual profile.  It was a very chilly day.  When Beau returned to the nest, he proceeded to sit on the nest as well.  Was he trying to help keep the eggs warm?

 

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Beau doing a fly-by on me.

 

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A shot at sunset.

 

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Beau warning a passing Osprey while Bella watches.

 

Oh, to let you know Canada Goose “Gus” is still around.  He’s not sure what to do.  One day he can swim all around the nest, another day Bella or Beau are swooping down at him.  Neither Osprey has tried to really attack Gus, I have not seen any talons stretched out.  I think they are just trying to scare him away.  Not sure if he’s going to listen.  He thinks he belongs in the creek too.

You should see a new post in several days with updates on Bella & Beau.  Let’s hope they are ready to be parents!

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