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Woolwich, Maine

August 28, 2010


Friends from out of state called to say they'd be passing through and asked about meeting for lunch - so we of course suggested our new favorite restaurant for lunch, the Taste of Maine!

When I arrived, one of the osprey (I think the chick) was perched on the center post of the nest, not a place I'd really seen her before. And of course my camera and binoculars were in Charlie's car - so no picture. I thought about dashing into the restaurant, giving our friends a hug, grabbing Charlie's car keys and disappearing for 15 minutes - but considering that I'd seen the chick two days ago, and hadn't seen our friends for a year - I decided against that. The chick stayed there for quite a while, and flew off out over the marsh shortly before we left.

When we came out after lunch, there were no osprey to be seen anywhere. We showed our friends where the eagle nest was - but they were also not at home. And that came very close to being the end of my report for the day.


I decided to go over to the corner of the lawn by the road, to see if anyone was perched in the big pine tree. And as I got over there - I heard some peeping - and saw two osprey heading for the nest. And if you click on the picture below to see the larger-sized, more cropped version - it looks as if the one on the right is carrying something.
two osprey approach nest

A few pictures of the arrival and delivery:
osprey osprey

osprey osprey

Dad left quite promptly:
osprey dad flying away from nest

While the chick was eating, I made my way around the nest to chat with a couple of folks who were up from South Portland to see how the osprey family was doing - and happily had arrived in time to see the delivery. We made our way over to the side of the lawn so I could show them where the eagle nest was, and while I didn't think we were too close to the osprey nest, I guess the chick disagreed, because she took off, fish in hand ... well, actually, firmly gripped in her talons. I didn't feel too bad about that - flying with a fish is a skill she'll need, and it was nice to see her doing it so well. I didn't get a pic - hadn't expected her to go, and had my binoculars out to look at the eagle nest - but it looked as if the fish was properly aligned, head first for easy carrying. The chick dipped glided gracefully down towards the marsh, disappearing from sight behind the bushes.

We chatted for a few more minutes, but no one returned - and we headed off, they to a late lunch and I to my car. I had a few extra minutes, so I decided to drive to the other side of the marsh, to see if I could see where the chick (and possibly Dad) were hanging out. If you turn right, heading north on Route One, as you leave the Taste of Maine parking lot, and cross the marsh, there's a little road to the right on the far side. I turned off onto the road, then made a sharp right, heading back toward the Taste of Maine. I noted that it was a recreation area, and followed the narrow dirt road until it ended in a large circle where one can easily drive around to head back out without backing up (probably even with a boat trailer, as there is a launching ramp for small boats without motors). I parked there, and noticed that the road continued, though there was a gate.
across the marsh from Taste of Maine

I didn't see any sign suggesting it was private property or that trespassing was not allowed, so I ducked under the fence and made my way back towards the Taste of Maine (it's straight ahead in the picture above, though the flag is behind a tree, as is the osprey tower; the metal tower is just beyond the restaurant). Unfortunately, although I could walk almost the whole way back to the restaurant, I couldn't get much of a view of the other bank. There were tall bushes growing up along the edge of the trail, and in those places where the bushes were lower, I generally couldn't see that much of the shore. I got one picture which might possibly be an osprey - the thumbnail shows the bushes I was looking through, and the larger version when you click is cropped to show a fuzzy something.
possible sighting of osprey through bushes

I did make a note to check it out in the spring when the osprey return and the bushes aren't as high - perhaps we can see one of Dad's perches from along there. But for now, I settled for a clearer shot of the restaurant from partway down the trail
restaurant from the trail

And turned around and headed back to the car. And then as I was walking out, I did stop to admire the marsh - and saw an osprey circling the marsh!
osprey in distance
(I'm afraid he's out of focus - but the marsh is quite lovely, so I've kept the picture as part of the story.)

And as I strolled back, I took a look out over the marsh whenever there was a break, enjoying an occasional glimpse of the osprey in the distance.
osprey flying

And all of a sudden - there were two!
osprey flying
(And now that I've seen the picture, there might even be a third off in the distance.)

I continued down the trail to the gate, happy that I had seen them -
path back to car
and feeling quite certain that our young osprey was out with Dad, looking for fish, rather than sitting on the nest waiting for a delivery. I had been a bit concerned about the amount of time she was spending on the nest - though that does seem to be something that varies from chick to chick.

I got back to the car and was getting ready to put my camera away, when something made me look up.
two osprey flying two osprey flying

two osprey flying two osprey flying

two osprey flying two osprey flying

And then, as they moved off to circle the marshy area on the other side of the road, I saw what I'm pretty sure was a third osprey, flying over the area they'd been a moment earlier, and getting fairly close without any apparent reaction from the first two.
three osprey three osprey

Unfortunately I couldn't get a good picture of the third one - there aren't a lot of distinguishing characteristics in the first pic, and the autofocus went for the branch rather than the bird in the second.
third osprey third osprey

But based on everything I could see, I do believe it was an osprey. And I do believe it was flying unchallenged in the territory of our ospreycam ospreys.

I am not an expert, and I'm sure there are other interpretations to what I was seeing. But this is what I'd like to think.

I'm pretty sure the adult female has left on migration. In most nests she's the first or one of the first to leave, though there are notable exceptions. Also in most nests, she's more likely to stay on the nest with the chicks even after they've fledged, and while I admit the amount of time I've observed the nest is relatively small, I haven't seen an adult spend any time there. The adults do sometimes fly together - but I heard peeping from time to time when I was watching the two who seemed to be together, and I associate peeping while flying with fledglings (though there may be adults who have similar vocalizations).

I've been thinking the chick I usually see at the nest is the older, likely female chick. And I have seen some other nests where the older or oldest chick is the slowest to learn to fish for herself, perhaps because she didn't have to work for her food the way the younger ones did. We definitely saw the younger chick at this nest being bullied at times, and saw him(?) learn to look for an opportunity to sneak in and grab a share of the food, because he was too small to challenge his larger sibling. It's a bit of humanizing, but I can understand why the older chick, who generally was served first, might be more likely to sit and wait for food, while the younger chick might be more likely to use his new-found freedom to follow Dad to the source.

So I'd like to think that the first two I saw were Dad and the older chick - which is likely because they are the two we've seen the most, and she likely went to where he was perched to finish her fish. And I'd like to think that her instincts are kicking in as they should, and she will be spending the time between now and migration watching Dad catch fish, and perhaps trying to catch a few herself. And I'd like to think the third osprey was the younger chick - who may have been tagging around after Dad for a while and who just may have begun to catch his own fish, at least some of the time.

I am going to be busy for the next week or two so am not likely to be able to get down to check up on them again before they migrate - so I'll say "fare well" to our osprey family as they head off towards warmer climes - and thanks for providing such a lovely show today.

P.S. I think I also saw one of the fledgling eagles circling way off to the right after the ospreys moved over to the left side of the road - too far for any sort of picture, but nice to see one of them as well.


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.