Ospreys are hawks that live near water and they use their fearsome beaks and talons to catch fish.
The Osprey Cam’s featured family is headed by Allie and Bama. At the end of March, Allie laid three eggs in a huge nest of sticks, built on top of a pole in a parking lot. By May, two of the eggs had hatched. The chicks were named Ossie and Aubrie, and they quickly upstaged their parents.
Allie stayed in the nest with the fuzzy chicks while Bama went out hunting, bringing back fish after fish after fish to feed his ravenous family.
By late June, the hatchlings were huge and were starting to test their wings — stretching and flapping and occasionally whacking each other in the head.
Allie would show up with a foot-long fish, which she would tear into bite-sized pieces and feed to the kids — even though they were now almost as big as she was. (Wait a minute, this is sounding familiar ...)
There also seemed to be a lot of noise. Jeff DeQuattro of the Nature Conservancy, a partner in Osprey Cam, said the birds may have been chirping at a strange osprey, or at a nosy owl neighbor. Or maybe mom was yelling for dad to bring more fish, stat!
I saw Allie working hard, feeding the kids, keeping watch at night. But where was Bama? Don’t tell me he was spending more time at the office. “Dad is definitely still around. He is hunting almost all day,” said DeQuattro. “Bama also comes back to the nest at night sometimes.”
On June 28, one of the hatchlings took its first flight. Mom quickly followed, probably to start lessons in fish diving.
A bunch of us loyal osprey-watchers thought the bird left behind looked lonely. Um, not really, said DeQuattro, but he’s happy for us to think so. “Emotionally identifying with animals is a good thing for people generally,” he explains. “It gets them enthusiastic about nature and leads to better awareness and support for conservation. As long as you can tell yourself, ‘Self, I’m not really sure that loneliness is a trait of osprey, but they sure do look like they want some company,’ then we’ll be OK.”
The bird that flew first seemed to get cocky. He started grabbing fish away from mom and dragging them off to eat by himself. (At this point, we loyal osprey-watchers started thinking of him as male because he was acting like a big brother.)
“Normally, the first bird to hatch asserts dominance. This bird will get more food, fly first and generally be more aggressive in the nest,” DeQuattro said. Ospreys got sibling rivalry.
Finally, four days later, little sister took flight. And I missed it, just like that time I missed my daughter’s holiday band concert.
The young ones will stick around the nest for another three to four weeks, “while they learn to be adults,” DeQuattro said. “But pretty soon neither Allie nor Bama will need to provide food for Ossie and Aubrie.”
I know it’s coming, it has to come, but still I dread the day when there is only an empty nest.
Contact Lisa Davis at email@example.com
Watch the ospreys online at the Nature Conservancy website, www.nature.org . Search “Osprey Cam.”
Ospreys mate for life, and Allie and Bama should return to the nest next year. Osprey Cam plans to be there, too. But they can use some help. “Keeping enough bandwidth on hand to accommodate the large number of users is expensive — much more expensive than any of us anticipated,” said Jeff DeQuattro. “We also are hoping to install some sound capabilities for the next nesting season, and this will require additional funding.”
To help, contact DeQuattro at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Osprey Cam is made possible through a partnership between the Alabama Coastal Foundation, the Nature Conservancy and the city of Orange Beach.