The osprey are back!

Today, I have very exciting news – the osprey are back!

I almost feel a little bit like Gandalf at the end of The Return of the King Book 6 during the battle at the Field of Cormallen, when he exclaims “The eagles are coming!”

“As if to his eyes some sudden vision had been given, Gandalf stirred; and he turned, looking back north where the skies were pale and clear. Then he lifted up his hands and cried in a loud voice ringing above the din: The Eagles are coming! “ – The Return of the King, Book 6 Chapter 4, The Field of the Cormallen by J.R.R. Tolkien

Osprey pair

Yes, I am that excited! Last summer, when I really started getting into bird-watching, I went to watch the osprey whenever I had the chance. I may even be guilty of doing extra errands just so I could get a chance to spot them. I have been looking forward to this moment for the last few weeks, and just this past Monday, the second of the pair arrived back.

Osprey are beautiful birds of prey whose diet consists mainly of fish. That’s why they build their nests close to freshwater bodies or the ocean. During the northern winter, osprey migrate to South America before returning north around April to mate and typically stay until September or October.

migration-paths-IUCN
Migration paths of osprey from the IUCN Red List (image from Osprey Watch)

Osprey typically mate for life and often return to the same nest site each year. They like to nest on high-up platforms, including man-made structures, and some parks have designated osprey platforms. They have a single brood of chicks each year. Once the chicks are hatched, the pair share parenting duties; the female remains at the nest protecting the chicks while the male goes fishing. Even after the chicks fledge, the parents stay on and both go hunting (or fishing), bringing back fish for the chicks to eat. I like this cooperative parenting method.

You can watch the pair live online at the University of Victoria’s osprey webcam. There are other pairs in the area, but this is the only one I know of with a webcam. This nest has been active since 2005 with two out of three chicks successfully fledging last year.

the pair

Yesterday when I went to watch our osprey, they were working on building their nest. One of them typically stayed back at the nest while the other flew off for a bit and returned each time with a branch which was then carefully added to the nest. While one was away, the other would sometimes call. I am guessing that is maybe the two of them keeping in touch, but I’m not sure. This all went on for quite some time.

I think this pair have got a head start because much of their nest from previous years was leftover. I am hoping this gives them an advantage later to have more time to spend hunting, mating and raising healthy chicks.

getting ready for take-off
waiting patiently and calling out
returning with a branch
carefully building the nest

I hope there will be many more osprey photos (and babies) and observations to come over the spring and summer. They are very intelligent creatures, so I take every precaution that I can not to disturb them. I remember last year if I accidentally wandered too close, they would start calling out in alarm.

There could be a nest near you. Check out Osprey Watch to see if there is.


Sources:
Friends of the Osprey
Ospreys.org
Osprey Watch

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