Editor’s Note: Osprey Cam is back! Check out the 2015 edition at its new location.
Judy Haner is the Marine and Freshwater Programs Director for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama
UPDATE: July 21 – Getting ready to say farewell to Osprey Cam 2014.
Update by Matt Pelikan
Thanks to everyone for their interest in Josie and Elbert, Allie and Bama, and thanks for all the great comments and observations!
Both nests are now empty most of the time, following the successful fledging of all the young (Wynken, Blynken, Nod, Chachi, and Joanie!).
We wish we could follow the fledglings as they take on their next big job: learning to live on their own as adult ospreys. It’s an enormous challenge, and sadly, the odds are that not all the youngsters will survive to raise fledglings of their own. But some probably will, and the parent birds, who are clearly skilled and experienced individuals, did everything adult Ospreys can do to get their young off to a good start in life.
Adult Ospreys typically return to the same nest over and over, so assuming they both survive, the adult birds will be back at their nests next spring, repeating the strenuous process we were able to witness this season.
If one of the pair fails to return, the survivor will find a new mate and try to defend the nest against other pairs who may try to take it over. It’s also likely that some or all of the fledglings that survive until spring will return to the area where they hatched. But they won’t be welcomed by their parents, who will be focused on another set of eggs and young and will treat their young from this year as intruders.
But although there is no room for sentiment in the world of the Osprey, we humans are allowed a little emotion. I’ll miss these complicated, feathered creatures, with their remarkable abilities and their relentless drive to survive and reproduce.
I feel privileged to have enjoyed an intimate look at the private lives of these birds. And I wish all the members of both families strong updrafts and plenty of fish.
I hope that you will continue to watch and comment for as long as the cameras run and the fledglings continue to visit the nests and that you will join us again next season!
UPDATE: July 1 – The youngsters take flight, and your observations can help!
Update by Matt Pelikan
We love all the excellent comments and observations!
Let’s put everyone’s sharp eyes to work answering a question that we don’t know the answer to: How do the adult ospreys react to the initial flights of their youngsters?
I’ve been able to watch the first flight of an osprey chick only once, and that time, the female didn’t even seem to notice that one chick had just jumped out of the nest.
But I have no idea if this the usual behavior, and I haven’t been able to find any information on this in books or on the web.
So if Wynken, Blynken, or Nod of the Wolf Bay cam or Chachi or Joanie of the Orange Beach cam make one of their early flights while you’re watching, please watch to see what their mother does, and note her behavior in a comment.
UPDATE: May 29 – The chicks have names, and why the camera is fuzzy
Many thanks for everyone who submitted names for the three osprey chicks. Our esteemed judges have selected the winning names: introducing Wynken, Blynken and Nod!
Many thanks to the following for submitting winning names: Erica Labouisse, Peggy Peters, Brenda Ploegstra, Barbara Gonshor, Sandy Sundquist, Barbara Lough, Daphne Webb, ML Hooper, Charlotte Doran, Deane Bauman and Patricia Benward.
You may have noticed the osprey cam has been a bit difficult to view lately. There’s no delicate way to say this: the ospreys pooped on the camera. And apparently, scored a direct hit.
We can’t clean it because that would disturb the birds. But with yesterday’s rains, the camera looks much clearer again. We hope you continue to enjoy the ospreys!
UPDATE: May 9 – Three chicks and a naming contest!
Alert osprey cam observers have counted three chicks in the nest. Now it’s time to name them.
Join our official naming contest here:
UPDATE: May 7 – Chicks have hatched
The wait is finally over as the two eggs incubated by Josie and Elbert for about 5 weeks have hatched!
Last week, coastal Alabama was slammed with heavy rains where certain spots, especially Wolf Bay, received more than 20 inches of rain in less than 24 hours causing significant flooding and road washouts in Baldwin County.
We were concerned how the eggs would fare from the mini monsoon, but I guess it’s true that rain does bring in new life.
Now the fun part of the osprey cam is about to begin by watching the babies grow as their parents feed them fresh fish caught daily in their backyard from Wolf Bay and seeing them grow and mature.
Check out the camera in the early morning during your coffee break or during lunchtime around noon to share a meal with the babies as they will be likely eating at these times.
In between, Josie keeps the babies warm by nesting on them since their feathers haven’t come in thick quite yet. As they get bigger over the next couple weeks, you will see them fidgeting under her. Get ready for lots of funny moments to be made by these future TNC superstars.
Check back regularly for more updates.
UPDATE: May 1 – We have osprey eggs!
We’re just not sure exactly how many – some folks have spotted two and some say three.
Either way, we’re expecting hatchlings sometime toward the end of May. (Osprey eggs usually hatch within 35-40 days).
For the next four weeks, Josie will spend the majority of her time incubating the eggs and Elbert is on kitchen/catering duty.
Fortunately, Josie doesn’t seem to be a picky eater since it’s almost entirely fish on the menu morning, noon and night. Elbert will also occasionally take a turn sitting on the nest while Josie gets a no doubt much-needed break from egg duty.
Once the eggs hatch, things will start to get a bit more active – like newborns everywhere, the chicks will need to eat. And eat. And eat.
Over the next 55 days or so after hatching, the young ospreys will be busy growing feathers and eventually learning to use their wings.
Stay with us for the summer to catch all the osprey action – watching the young birds learn to fold their wings can be like watching someone try to fold a map in a high wind.
The biggest wildlife reality television stars are back for a new season! Welcome to Osprey Cam, 2014 edition!
Last year, thousands of viewers from around the world enjoyed the real-life drama of Allie and Bama, two ospreys who set up a nest in Orange Beach, Alabama. The cam provided an intimate view into the lives of nesting ospreys.
We’re back for a new nesting season with Josie and Elbert, named after the nearby Alabama towns of Josephine and Elberta. And this year, there’s a new feature. Thanks to a special infra-red sensor – don’t worry, it doesn’t bother the birds – you can now watch the ospreys 24/7.
Ospreys have had a big year. After all, the Seahawks (another name for ospreys) won the Super Bowl. And more importantly, in our opinion, osprey populations continue to be strong.
That wasn’t always the case. Their numbers were decimated by DDT and other pesticides, which caused thinning of their egg shells. Between the 1950s and 1970s, osprey populations declined as much as 90 percent in some areas. Thanks to DDT bans, their numbers have rebounded and continue to grow.
Ospreys are known for their lengthy migrations, but the birds you’re watching are year-round Gulf residents.
And they rely on a healthy Gulf. As conservationists work to restore the Gulf and rebuild fisheries stocks through habitat projects, ospreys will benefit.
Ospreys are like the commercial fishers of the bird world. They’re highly effective fish catchers, too: studies show they catch a fish an average of one out of four tries, and it only takes them about 12 minutes of hunting to catch a fish. (That’s better than my own Catch per Unit Effort by a long shot!).
They dive feet first and catch fish with their sharp talons. They have a reversible outer toe that they use to point their fish head-first, which makes them more aerodynamic on their flight back to the nest.
You’ll see the results of those hunts back at the nest, as the ospreys tear small chunks of fish and feed them to the eager chicks. You’ll notice the chicks wrestling each other for a chance to get a tasty morsel.
The female osprey feeds the chicks, but the male will come shortly thereafter and clean out the nest. They’re great house keepers: the nest is very well kept and free of discarded fish carcasses.
As you watch, you’ll undoubtedly notice all kinds of interesting and unusual behavior. We’ll include updates here (at the top of the blog) throughout the spring and summer. And if you have questions, post them in the comments below. We’ll respond promptly during the day. Unlike the Osprey Cam, though, we will be asleep at night!
Also note that the osprey cam is reality – sometimes things that are upsetting or disturbing happen, like the loss of an osprey chick. These are wild animals and we don’t interact or assist them in any way.
We hope you enjoy our new bird stars. Watch frequently, share with friends and help us in our work to protect and restore a healthy Gulf – benefiting people and ospreys!