Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nesting Time

I am just getting around to posting about the Osprey this year. They typically fly in from the south during the second week of March. After arrival, it takes them about a week to settle in. Then the pair begin to tidy up and rebuild the nest. By late March the mating ritual has begun (I missed that this year as Donna and I were away). While both birds are active in the nest building (here the male is placing a stick under his mates watchful eye), my observation is that the male usually brings in the bigger sticks while the female tends to stay closer to the nest and bring smaller sticks and fluffy material (straw, etc.) for lining.

Forked sticks present a challenge to arrange. It may take a couple of days to place one to their satisfaction. Here the female is working on a forked stick. It is impressive how large of a stick they can carry. I have seen the male fly in sticks easily six feet long and 2 inches in diameter. I have seen both birds work together to place a particularly difficult stick. Within a couple of weeks they have built up their nest 8 to 10 inched higher.

I arrived a recent morning just in time to see the male fly in with a corn stalk to add to the lining on the nest. Their flying skill never cease to amaze me. Even with a slight breeze, he places the stalk precisely. As the nest nears completion, the female spends more and more time at the nest preparing to lay eggs. During all this activity the male also is doing the fishing for both, bringing in a number of fish a day to share with his mate.

At the end of a busy day they both take a moment to rest before he flys back to the river for another fish. By the second week of April, she has begun laying eggs and is sitting on them almost the entire time. Yesterday after he brought her yet another fish to eat she wanted a break from sitting. After making a big fuss, he settled in on the eggs for a while so she could stretch her wings for a bit. Since the male is much more skittish around people it took some cajoling on her part. She is much more used to people and sits tight when eggs are in the nest. They are graceful and efficient flyers. Should another Osprey cruise by too close (seems to happen fairly often) or a Bald Eagle, she will launch off the nest with shocking speed to defend her nest. I saw her pin a Bald Eagle to the ground a couple of years ago and repeatedly attack until I thought she might kill him. The Eagle barely escaped with his life by limping to the tree line. So now we wait for something to hatch.

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