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Bobby and Sharon’s Osprey have come home for the summer.

On April 4th, the Osprey made their grand return to our nest on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Though we’re not entirely sure if it’s the same duo as before, we’re overjoyed to have them back and ready for observation via our Osprey Camera throughout the season. We’re also open to name suggestions for this pair. 

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of Ospreys. These majestic birds, belonging to the raptor family, weigh an average of around 3-4 pounds. Their evolutionary journey spans an impressive 13 million years, long predating human existence. 

Osprey Fly over 10,000 miles in a year to their winter homes in South America.

During the chilly winter months, Chesapeake Bay Ospreys embark on an incredible migration journey to South America, typically making stops in Venezuela, Colombia, or Panama. Interestingly, while these birds mate for life, they don’t migrate together. In fact, they might not even see each other during their time down south. It’s only upon their return to the Bay that they rekindle their domestic bonds. 

However, life isn’t without its challenges for Ospreys. They face threats from various predators, including bald eagles, raccoons, and even large snakes. While nests over water are less accessible to predators, they’re not entirely safe either, as great horned owls have been known to pose a danger, particularly to sitting adult females during the night.

Despite these challenges, Ospreys have made a remarkable comeback in the Chesapeake Bay region. From a mere 1500 pairs during the DDT crisis in the 1960s and 1970s, their population has now soared to an estimated 10,000 nesting pairs, representing a significant portion of the USA population. 

Upon their return, the nesting routine begins anew. The male typically arrives first, followed by the female, who joins him in refurbishing the nest or building a new one if necessary. Their intricate courtship rituals involve stick-gathering and fish-sharing, crucial elements in establishing and strengthening their bond.

Osprey Cam

Pictures of the Nest-Building process from Bobby and Sharon’s Osprey Cam on Dun Cove near St. Michaels, MD.

As the breeding season progresses, we witness the female’s transformation into a devoted parent. She spends increasing amounts of time on the nest, meticulously arranging sticks and preparing for egg-laying. Once the eggs are laid, she rarely leaves the nest, relying on the male to provide sustenance for both her and the soon-to-hatch offspring. 

Brooding time is a period of intense dedication for the female as she diligently incubates the eggs, eagerly anticipating their hatching. When the time finally arrives, the nest comes alive with the arrival of tiny hatchlings, each successively smaller than its predecessor. 

From hatching to fledging, Osprey chicks undergo rapid growth and development under the watchful eyes of their parents. The male’s role as the primary provider becomes increasingly crucial as he tirelessly hunts for fish to feed his growing family. 

Eventually, the time comes for the young Ospreys to take their first flights, marking the beginning of their journey towards independence. With practice and perseverance, they master the art of fishing, gradually becoming self-sufficient.

As summer draws to a close, the Osprey family prepares for their annual migration south. The females depart first, followed by the males and, eventually, the juveniles. By September, the skies are emptier as Ospreys begin their journey to warmer climates, marking the end of another remarkable breeding season in the Chesapeake Bay.