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Update #10 June 16, 2021 - We have chicks in the nest! At least two that are clearly visible. They probably hatched on June 13 or 14. We know there were 3 eggs, so there is some hope for a 3rd chick. Time will tell. Given the nest structure, there are sticks blocking the view into the nest, so there could be a 3rd chick already. If you listen carefully, you can hear the chicks chirping from time to time. best time to see feeding is early morning and again in the later afternoon, although it can occur at any time.
Annie and Squam are doing their usual outstanding job parenting. Squam delivering the fish; Annie feeding the chicks. What a solid team. It will be fun to watch the chick grow in the coming weeks.
Across the entire county, there are nests hatching right and left. A rough count of active breeding pairs is about 65 so far in 2021; up from 58 last year. In another week or two I will start doing to chick banding. More reports on that to come.
Update #9 May 23, 2021 - Life for Annie and Squam has fallen into the "incubation" routine and this will continue for several more weeks. Annie sits on the eggs almost all the time, only taking breaks for food and bathroom! Squam is his usual stalwart self, delivery the goods in all senses of the word - food, nesting material and protection. Now that we are in the heart of the nesting season, there is a full cohort of Osprey in the area, which certainly includes a healthy number of non-breeding young adults who can be seen interacting with their breeding Osprey counterparts frequently. So if you follow the sightings that are reported by Greenbelt's volunteer community scientists (https://ecga.org/Osprey-Monitoring-Listing/search), you will read notes about breeding pairs defending their nest and territory against intruders and passerbys. This is all normal and a sign of a healthy growing Osprey population.
Speaking of a growing Osprey population, I have not tabulated exactly the number of pairs around our region yet in 2021 but new nests continue to be reported, inluding two new nesting pairs in Gloucester, one in a tree at Magnolia Woods! Very cool nest on the eastern end of the pond there, best seen by walking up the trail to the left of the upper fields and looking from near the portajohn there. This time of year I encourage any of you reading this to let me know if you think you might know of an active Osprey nest somewhere that we do not know about. How do you know if we know about a nest? You can always just shoot me an email and ask. Or you can visit the Google Map I maintain which is updated frequently and should have all know nests listed with discriptions. And pass the word to your birding friends and avian enthusiasts! Every year I hear after the season about a nest or two I was not aware of, which is great but the sooner I know the better.
I am not aware of any Osprey nests hatching chicks yet but in the next 2 weeks a few will hatch eggs. Exciting times!
Update #8 May 13, 2021 - Annie laid her third egg on May 12, which most likely completes her clutch. Sometimes Osprey will lay 4 eggs but unusual. So now she and Squam have about 35-40 days of incubation ahead of them, and the eggs will likely hatch asynchronously, over a period of days. Also typical. We should all start looking closely around the summer solstice, June 21, for the first egg to hatch.
There is still another Osprey visiting the nests and creating some commotion from time to time. It is probably the banded male from earlier but the intruder is often not seen on camera. It could also be one of the nearby nesting eagles but let's hope not. Over at GLO-04 on the Annisquam River, where the female was killed, there has been a lot of activity, including a new pair taking up residence and starting a nest in an adjacent platform, which is very interesting. When that platform was installed by the landowner I thought it was too close but here I am now learning that it is not! And from time to time a new female appears to be at GLO-04 with the male. So we'll wait and see what happens there. I also had a report of a new nest in a tree in Gloucester that I am going to see for the first time today. More to come on that. Things are happening fast right now this time of year. Pass the word if anyone thinks they are seeing a nest that is not shown on this map https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/viewer?ll=42.77605091218056%2C-70.88409215000001&z=11&mid=1mRqtUdgdso5STgaO-OB9ReGNEPI please have them contact me.
Update #7 May 10, 2021 - Annie laid her second egg yesterday, 5/9. There is not a lot more to report. She is incubating dutifully. I did walk out to the nest last Friday 5/7 to remove the large white plastic trash bag that was brought to the nest by Squam. It was clearly more concerning to viewers than the two of them, but it was easy enough to grab and remove. Squam is one of those "more is better" nest builders. I had cleared off almost all the old nest material last fall concernd it was getting excessively heavy. He has brought in at least a foot of new material this season, which seems to be his norm. And that includes odd items like large plastic bags and the like.
Update #6 May 6, 2021 - No eggs yet for Annie and Squam but a lot of energy is going into building up the nest. It is big and has a deep cup now that Annie can be seen arranging frequently, suggesting the first egg will be forthcoming. They are copulating daily so it is just a matter of time. In 2020, she laid her first egg on May 5, so a little behind this year. Hard to say why - maybe the early season commotion with the banded male, maybe some inclement weather. But many other Osprey pairs have eggs already, and Annie will too soon.
NEWS - Annie did lay her first egg today sometime in the mid-morning.
The dramatic bald eagle events of last week at GLO-04 Annisquam River Platform #1 were upsetting for sure. The pair of eagles returned the next day but according to the observer who lives within sight of this platform, 5 adult Osprey appearred on the scene and literally drove then eagles away. And apparently since then, a second Osprey has been observed at the nest with the surviving male, presumably a new female. I have not been over personally to observe this nest this week bit I will and I'll report back. It will be fascinating if a new female pairs with the male this year.
Update #5 April 30, 2021 - Annie and Squam are in their pre-egg laying mode this week. Squam has delivered significant amounts of new nesting material to the nest and they have each arranged it. All in all, the nest appears close to being ready for eggs. The pair has been seen copulating on numerous occassions, so I anticipate the first egg any day now. Squam has also been doing an excellent job as always providing fish for Annie. Some one asked recently why Annie calls so much sometimes. Its a good question and I think she is calling out for Squam to deliver food. I think he often eats about half his catch himself, often nearby the nest. Annie knows he is there and let's him know through her calls that she is hungry. If you notice, he almost always delivers half a fish to her.
One other interesting side note. Some of you may have seen the red fox that cruised on camera by the nest yesterday morning. I caught a bit of it on video and we posted it on FaceBook. He stopped a bit to sniff around the base of the side perch, but was being dive-bombed by Annie and ran off pretty quickly. I am not worried about them as an Osprey predator, more just an interesting sighting.
Also I hate to divert anyone's attention away from Greenbelt's webcam, but a colleugue who works for MADCR at the Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston has placed a webcam on the Osprey nest there. She is already on one egg. http://share.earthcam.net/BelleIsle/osprey_nest/camera/live
In a sad bit of news, a pair of bald eagles just attacked GLO-02 Annisquam River platform #1 and killed the female. I knew there was a pair of bald eagles nesting nearby and they had been perching on the Osprey platform up until a month ago. The bald eagle took the Osprey on the wing, then plunged it into the water. It never had a chance. The male returned later with a fish, so he is OK for now. It will be interesting to observe if he gets a new mate in 2021. I sort of doubt it. So not such a great day for Osprey and tough for the elderly couple who put up this platform and watch this pair all day long.
Update #4 April 25, 2021 - Annie and Squam have settled into to normal courtship and nest prep activities. The nest is developing nicely and they have been observed copulating numerous times, so I anticipate the first egg in the next week or less.
The intruding banded male has not been seen on the nest for a week now, although at least once I observed a third Osprey around the nest, so he may still be around the area. I suspect he is a young (3-4 yr old) bird who thought he could take a short-cut by taking over an active nest and the famale associated with it. He is a big male - much bigger than Squam. But in this instance size did not seem to matter, as either Squam was able to defend his position as Annie's mate or perhaps Annie herself rejected the banded male. Either way, the young banded male will need to find his own compatible female mate and his own nest site, and I am sure he will.
This type of thing happens all the time in nature and being able to observe it through the webcam is a great privilege for all of us. Every day for these birds and all wildlife, the main priorities are survival and self-perpetuation. There is competition all the time and the strongest and smartest truly are the ones that survive. And keep this in mind in there are approximately 60 pairs of breeding Osprey in our region right now or 120 mature adult Osprey. In addition to that, I would estimate there are another 25-50 non-breeding Osprey less than 5 years old that are living amid the same habitat as the breeding adults. The non-breeders are curious and attracted to the activity at the active nests, and they have plenty of time to check things out. So they can be disruptive at times, but this is how they learn the ropes, where the good breeding areas are, where the best feeding areas are at the different times of the year. This is why Osprey don't breed until they are around 5 years old, because it takes them a few years to figure out migration and where to spend the summer and winter. So our friend the banded male - he was just doing what young Osprey do, trying to figure things out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am sure he learned a lot this spring and it will make him a better mate someday.
Update #3 April 19, 2021 - It seems pretty clear to me now that Annie has a new mate, a banded male that is considerably larger than Squam. It is impossible to know what might have happened to Squam; let's hope he is well somewhere with another mate. He was an excellent partner by all measures - built a solid nest and provided all the food required to keep Annie, chicks and himself well fed. The new male (no name yet) has not been bringing in a lot of nest material as we can all see and it will be interesting to watch how that goes in the next few weeks until egg laying starts (early May last year). I have still seen the new male chasing a third Osprey on the webcam, who I suspect might be Squam. My theory is the new bigger male has outcompeted Squam as Annie's mate and to date has been too distracted with that to focus on nest building. I have seen them mating. But another theory is that something happened to Squam and multiple new males are competing to be Annie's new mate.
Whatever has happened, something has changed. I hear a lot of Osprey calling in the background when I listen to the webcam. The distracted new male may be spending a lot of energy defending his position as Annie's new mate and therefore not focusing on nest building. Just a thought. More waiting and watching will be required before we will know anything definitive. Stay tuned!
Update #2 April 20, 2021 - I had a hunch that Squam was lurking around the nest, and sure enough yesterday afternoon, there he was, on the nest with Annie, bringing in nesting materials just like the good ol' days. After reviewing some of the video tape from yesterday and this morning, I have not observed the banded male at the nest since yesterday at some point. I must assume there was a "meeting of the minds" between the two males, and perhaps Annie too, and order was restored.
Squam has brought in a lot of new nest material in the last 18 hours and this morning it is starting to look more like a real nest, given that the banded male was bringing in material only half-heartedly. So, in short, we were witness to real life drama in the wild for Ospreys, and again now we wait and watch and hopefully see things settle down. Mr. Banded Male needs to go find his own mate and nest site, not take shortcuts!
Thanks to those of you who sent helpful observations. And one other note, if you think the nest looks smaller this year, it is. We went out last fall and removed about 75% of the material. I was worried about the weight of it and the platform was starting to list to one side. That is one reason why large Osprey and Bald Eagle nests in trees sometimes collapse - the sheer weight of multiple years of new nesting material on top of old material gets extremely heavy.
Update #1 April 15, 2021 - Watching the Osprey pair on the webcam now for the past few days, we have noticed that the male Osprey has a US Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum band on his right leg. I have banded over 200 Osprey chicks in the past 5-6 years and all on the right leg. Squam was not banded and it is highly unlikely he would have been banded during migration. Plus, this banded male is a large Osprey who appears almost equal in size to the female, who looks very much like and we believe is Annie. Squam was noticeably smaller than Annie. About noontime today, the banded male attempted to copulate with Annie. Since then there has been a third Osprey around the nest and much commotion, including a lot of chasing and calling.
It will take more time to determine what is going on here. Are two males competing to be Annie's mate. Did something happen to Squam or did this larger male just outcompete him? These are all possible scenarios that will unfold in the coming days. Stay tuned!
History: In 2017 a pair of young Osprey took up residence on the LobstaLand platform in July/August and made a small nest. In 2018 they returned in April, stayed until August and built a large nest but never laid eggs. We call this a "house-keeping pair"- almost always a young pair learning the ropes.
In 2019, the pair returned in April to the nest and produced a clutch of 3 eggs, all under the watchful eye of the newly installed webcam. The adults were named Annie and Squam. They hatched one egg, and eventually fledged one chick - named River. River was banded before he fledged. He left the nest for good in late summer.
2020 - Annie and Squam returned to the nest in mid-April, and since then they have been tending to the nest, preparing to produce a clutch of eggs. They have been very patient as we have been back and forth to the nest site many times getting the new webcam set up. For more detail on 2020 scroll down.
Update April 29, 2020 - The webcam is now live. We're awaiting what this season will bring! We hope you enjoy it with us.
Update May 11, 2020 - All good news. Annie has laid 3 eggs, completing her clutch yesterday. So that would suggest the first egg might hatch around June 15. Squam has been busily catching mostly river herring these days, feeding himself and Annie a steady diet of fresh fish.
Update May 28, 2020 - Not much new to report. The incubation phase for Annie and Squam continues. Squam is still bringing in numerous fresh fish daily, mostly river herring but the occassional small striped bass as well. Once we roll into June the count down is on for hatching.
Update June 15, 2020 - All 3 eggs have hatched and Annie and Squam now have 3 small mouths/beaks to feed! It appears 2 chicks hatched on June 13 and the last one today. It will be amazing to watch them grow in the coming weeks. Names to come!!
Update June 19, 2020 - Annie, Squam and the 3 chicks are doing fine in their first week together. there was some concern that chick #3 was being left behind in the feeding
cycle, but after watching numerous feeding sessions now, Annie is a very fair provider. The slightly older and larger chicks, #1 and #2, dominate the feeding sessions early but eventually #3
gets into position and Annie makes sure that little one gets it's fill. They are still tiny, and weak and awkward, but appear healthy and well.
Email your naming ideas to: email@example.com. One is already named Liz.
Note: On June 18, Greenbelt surveyed about 10 Osprey nests in Ipswich and Rowley and found many with chicks in them. Two previously active nests were found inactive and abandoned yesterday, again suggesting great-horned owl predation but not confirmed.
Update July 2, 2020 - The Lobstaland family is thriving and Annie and Squam are doing an impressive job keeping their 3 chicks well fed and safe. They are now over 2 weeks old and really starting to get strong and look like adolecents.
Thanks all of you who submitted suggestions for names for the 3 chicks. They were great and fun to read. It was a hard to make a decision.
If you watch the chicks regularly you can see that 2 chicks are about the same size and the third is clearly smaller. Typically the bigger siblings are more aggressive and get fed first. However, Annie is always sure to save some fish and feed the little underdog chick - who has been named Liz, after a dear friend of Greenbelt's - Liz Duff - who lost her life earlier is 2020. The other two, who hatched on the same day and just about appear to be twins - have been named Vivi and Rusty! Seemed only appropriate in these crazy times!!
Let's hope the next 3-4 weeks go well for Annie, Squam, Liz, Vivi and Rusty. When the chicks reach about 5 weeks we will add some bling to one leg - an aluminum leg band issued from the US Fish and Wildlife Swervice that they will wear for the duration of their lives.
Update July 10, 2020 - Liz, Vivi and Rusty are now about 3.5 weeks old and really growing fast. Annie and Squam are shining as parents! The chicks are starting to develop some primary feathers and actually resembling an Osprey! They are a lot more active in the nest now, standing alot, moving around and vocalizing. In another 10-14 days they will start to spread their wings literally, and building up their flight muscles. Typically chicks take their first flight between 6-8 weeks, so they have a way to go before that time. Sometime around 5-6 weeks, we will go and band these three chicks.
Update July 30, 2020 - Liz, Vivi and Rusty are now wearing some new jewelry in the form of USFWS aluminum leg bands that were placed on them yesterday (by Dave Rimmer). It was a quick and easy process and all three chicks came through with flying colors. If you zoom in on the webcam, you will notice the bands on their right legs. Vivi and Rusty are very close to flying and expect to see them lifting off the nest in the coming days. Little Liz is a bit behind them but they should all be airboarn by next week sometime.
Typically the adult female will depart the family group first, so don't be surprised if Annie takes off after the chicks fledge. Squam will remain as long as needed, which is until the 3 chicks are fully independant and are catching their own fish. Its a guess, but in another month or even less all 5 of this family group will be on their way south.
Update August 27, 2020 - First of all my apologies for the lack of updates. I drafted one last week but somehow it never was uploaded. Technology strikes back!
Since late July, Liz, Vivi and Rusty have all fledged. During August, they remained on the nest, with fish being delivered by Squam. Annie took her leave (females typically depart south first) in early August and Squam has not been sighted at the nest for at least a week. And it appears that Vivi and Rusty have left the nest in the past week or so too. As of today, we are only seeing Liz, who was the smallest of the 3 chicks (probably a male as they are smaller than females), on the nest. Some viewers have expressed concern for Liz, but Liz has been seen bring fish back to the nest confirming hunting ability. Liz is just staying longer at a familiar pace before embarking on the long and arduous migration.
Do Osprey migrate together? That is a question I hear often and the answer is: they do not. Annie and Squam go their own way and could end up far apart by the time they reach their final winter destination. However, breeding pairs bond for life and reuse the same nest if they can year after year, so they will find each other again in Gloucester next spring (we hope), and start their 3rd breeding season in a row together.
Same with Liz, Vivi and Rusty - they will each chart their own course south. However, Osprey in general follow similar migration routes, so if you were "hawk watching" at a place like Cape May, NJ or Hawk Mtn, PA, you might see dozens or even hundreds of Osprey (and other raptors) soaring by overhead going south. But it is not a flock, it is a concentration.
Liz, Vivi and Rusty have a tough road ahead, as only about 40% of first year Osprey survive through year one. And remember, these three will stay for 18 mos where ever they end up - be it Cuba, or South America. If and when they return north successfully, and we sure hope they do, it will not be until the spring of 2022, and they will be about 20 months old at that point.
There is little question that it has been an amazing experience watching Greenbelt's webcam and observing this family throughout the nesting season. Sometime this fall I will compile a summary video of still shots and videos to recap the 2020 year. For now we have have a few more days or perhaps longer to watch Liz remain on the nest. After that, we pull the plug, lug the webcam gear off the marsh, store it for the winter and start planning for 2021. To learn more about the program check here. To learn more about supporting the program check here.
Update September 22, 2020
This will be the final update for 2020. Liz caused a lot of hand-ringing by remaining on the nest so long, but finally departed fpr parts unknown on Sep 15. I heard from quite a few viewers with conerns about why Liz had not left yet, but across the county, other nests still had a few fledglings clinging hanging aound. So this is fairly normal and I was never overly concerned. Untold numbers of osprey generations have come and gone, and natuaral selection works to determine which birds are the fittest and most capable of survival. Let's hope Liz is just a slow starter and is now well on the way to warmer winter grounds.
Check out Greenbelt's faceBook and Instagram pages for a cool photo of an adult Bald Eagle that was observed on the nest on Sep 20. It wasted no time finding this perch once the nest was vacated.
Finally, we will be taking down the camera on Sep 23 and storing all the associated equipment until next year. It will probably go back up next March. Until then....
Thanks for tuning in! -Dave Rimmer, Osprey Program Director
Your support helps fund and continue our Osprey Conservation effort.
Greenbelt is looking for volunteers to be monitors in our Osprey Watch program.
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Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.