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Woolwich, Maine

August 18, 2010


As I arrived at the Taste of Maine ("TOM") Restaurant for lunch on August 18, the chick took off as I got out of the car (probably coincidence, though perhaps she decided she was tired of having her picture taken) - and gave me a nice display of her skill in flying. Still pictures don't do it justice - she really looked great!
osprey flying osprey flying
(As a reminder, all pictures can be clicked bigger, and some of the bigger ones are cropped to show more detail.)

And then she flew across the street and landed in a tree.
osprey flying osprey perched in tree
(I'm afraid the last picture is a bit out of focus - sorry, but I wanted to show where she landed.)

Then off for another flight - she's definitely learning to use those wings and soar.
osprey flying osprey flying

osprey flying osprey flying

And then back to perch in a different tree
osprey in tree

though it may be easier to see her with the zoom.
osprey in tree

She decided to stay there for a while, so I decided to go in and have lunch. And after a while she did come back to the nest, and spent some time just sitting there and looking around.
osprey chick in nest

Then she started doing some mantling and peeping,
osprey fledgling mantling

and my first thought was that she saw one of the adults with food, hopefully headed her way. But as the other osprey came into view, and especially as I reviewed the pictures, I decided it was not one of the parents. This is the only picture I got of the second osprey
second osprey flies over the nest
and I lightened it up quite a lot to try to see its feet and also the coloring under its wings (if anyone else would like to try some other tricks on the original pic, I'll be happy to email it - just let me know). I don't see any food - and while we don't know how the adults and fledglings interact at this nest, my sense is that the chick was defending the nest - and I just don't think the chick would be putting up that big a defense if it was one of the adults.

The chick continued the defensive posture until the other osprey had left the area, then gradually relaxed.
osprey chick defending nest osprey chick defending nest

osprey chick defending nest osprey chick defending nest

So if it wasn't one of the adults, that raises the question of who it was. The osprey overhead seems to have a "necklace" - a patch of brownish feathers on the chest. In an adult osprey, it's an indication that the osprey is female - some adult males do have brown feathers on their chest, and some adult females don't - but most of the time, it's female adults who have the necklace. Fledglings are another matter - both males and females can have necklaces until they molt into their adult feathers.

The next couple of paragraphs involve quite a bit of speculation, and perhaps a bit of wishful thinking - so I'll lay out my theory, and everyone else is welcome to do the same. :)

Based on the necklace, I'm thinking this is probably either a female or a fledgling. While it does vary from nest to nest, in general, the female adults leave on migration first - perhaps so they can spend some quiet time fishing and building up their strength for the flight south after spending several months pretty much tied to the nest. I don't know if the female from this nest has migrated - I haven't had a clear sighting of her since the end of July, but I'm not there very often. It has been a month since the chicks fledged, so I'm guessing she's probably headed south - and I'm guessing many of the other nesting females have also left the area - though I don't have anything remotely resembling proof or even circumstantial evidence.

So I think the odds are in favor of it being a fledgling. And that got me thinking about how many fledglings might be allowed this close to the nest. It's true that Dad is busy fishing much of the time (and doing a good job, I'd say, looking at the size of the chick's crop in the four pictures above) - but I think if he heard one of his chicks making defense calls from the nest and saw some stranger near the nest, he would have been there mighty fast to make it clear that the nest is off limits to intruders.

But there is one other fledgling who belongs in the area - and who was chased off the nest more than once when he tried to land after fledging by his less-than-supportive older sister.

Do you suppose we've seen the elusive second fledgling?

After 10-12 minutes, everything was back to normal at the nest.
osprey fledgling on nest

I did have one more interesting sighting - after lunch, I was looking out over the marsh - and saw what I think was one of the eagle fledgings flying around.
eagle fledgling
He or she made a big circle around the osprey nest - I think perhaps they've learned it doesn't pay to tangle with adult osprey.

If you'd like to see additional pictures from this nest, and from the osprey and eagle nests "around the corner" on the Sasanoa River, you can use the link for my Local Wildlife Home Page at the top of the page to see an index to all the visits.