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  • Writer's picturePam Narney

The Osprey Are Coming

Living on Osprey Time: Returning V2, 1

February 25, 2022


Soon, Colonial Beach osprey watchers will see osprey. Our nest in Placid Bay hosted our earliest arrivals on February 24, 2017, February 25, 2016 and February 26, 2014. The normal arrival time is between March 4 and March 10. E-bird reports sightings of three osprey in Gloucester County, one in James City and others in Hampton. The ospreys are coming!!

An eagle just soared over our nest. “Watch out buddy,” I thought. Enjoy it while you can.

Soon the osprey will be back to take over the bay.

This winter many birds used the vacant osprey nest.

A kingfisher checks out the view

Where's the beef?

We have watched these adults, probably siblings, for many years. Fed on the osprey platform by their parents when they were young, the kids have come to expect a free lunch.

Now fully adult, Mom and Dad ignore them.

“Adulting” is hard even for eagles.

Eagles are completely adult at five- and one-half years old.

When mature, eagle heads and tails are fully white. Their bodies are dark brown while their legs and beaks are bright yellow

Mom, where's breakfast?

Immature eagles have a brown body, brown and white mottled wings with a dark band at the tip. Sometimes they look spotty. This eagle is approximately one- and one-half years old. Mom and Dad are still feeding this eagle occasionally.

At last. FOOD!

This last winter the birds who visited the osprey nest were, of course, the eagles, who brought their own food or got parental supplies. After the eagles fed, a heron checked out the nest for tidbits of fish. Gulls picked over the remaining waste.

Canada geese, kingfishers, and local mallards curiously checked out the nest action. We even spotted a double crested cormorant in the nest once.

Osprey are particular about their nesting sites. They choose their nests sites carefully and remain true to them for life.

An excellent nest site means life and the continuation of the species. Generations may use the same nest. Osprey are more faithful to their nest site than they are to their mates, and osprey mate for life.

Alan F. Poole summarizes their requirements like this:

The nest must be near water. Water gives them easy access to food and protects them.

The area around the nest must be open giving birds clear and easy access when landing and the ability to see predators and danger approaching.

Whether tree or nesting platform, power pole, buoy, duck blinds, radio tower, gazebo roof, water tower, the top of the nesting area needs to be flat.

Some osprey like to nest near other osprey. The presence of other osprey nests tells them this is a good location. Close nests mean neighbors help chase off threats. Most osprey are solitary nesters. They do not nest in colonies.

The Chesapeake Bay region including Colonial Beach, known as an osprey garden, has the largest breeding population of osprey in the world. Fifteen to thirteen million years ago osprey originated in North America, so they return to their natal grounds to breed each spring.

We welcome our osprey back with joy and hope!

Warning to newcomers/weekenders to Colonial Beach: If you have property on or close to the water, especially with a pier and boats, come and visit regularly during the mating/nest building season. Once Osprey select and begin construction on a nest site, be it your boat, your pier, or the chimney of your house, they will come back every year. It is best to prevent them from building a nest by removing the sticks and erecting barriers, or you may not be able to use your property over the summer. Once Osprey have an active nest, eggs and/or chicks, it is illegal to move the nest. Make peace with nature and live in harmony. Osprey nest watching is better than tv!!

Sources for osprey information

Gessner, D. 2001. Return of the Osprey: A season of flight and wonder. Chapel Hill: Random House. A lyrical look into osprey life. A beautiful and hopeful book.

Gessner, D. 2008. Soaring with Fidel: An osprey odyssey from Cape Cod to Bermuda and beyond. Boston: Beacon Press. Excellent information on migration.

Poole, A.F. 1989. Ospreys: A natural and unnatural history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. THE seminal scientific authority on osprey. Whatever you want to know,

Poole gives you information about that aspect of osprey life. Easy to understand and well organized. My go to source for facts. Dr. Alan Poole will present live by Zoom on April 9, 2022 during the Colonial Beach Osprey Festival.

Poole, A.F. 2019. Ospreys: The revival of a global raptor. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. A more accessible look at osprey for the general readers with individual sections on migration and different countries. Excellent pictures.


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