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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Osprey Files: Nesting Starts at Wolfe's Neck State Park

14 April 2012:

This past week one of my friends told me about a long-standing, natural, Osprey nest near my home - I had no idea it was there so I was really excited to find out about it. I've always wanted to spend time photographing these beautiful birds but have never had the opportunity to see them up close, on the nest, and in a location I could visit anytime I wanted.

I stopped by Wolfe's Neck State Park today to check out the nest. It's on a small island off the coastline of the state park. To view it, I had to walk through a narrow strip of woods between the parking area and the park's rocky shore. Before I even was within sight of the water I heard the screeching cries of the Osprey - one calling from above me and the other answering from somewhere ahead.

I unconsciously stepped up my pace and within a couple of minutes I was out on the rocks of the shore, staring across a narrow tidal flat to a small island. There, on top of an Eastern White Pine, was a large nest - a conglomeration of sticks, pine needles, seaweed, and who-know-what else:

One bird, presumably the female, was hunkered down in the nest, her head and back barely visible over the wall of sticks. Was she incubating eggs?

Another bird, the male I guessed, perched at the left side of the nest and was a bit restless. He soon took off to the east, then caught a thermal and flew off out of sight while the female screeched and squawked. I wish I knew what she was saying to him! My kingdom for an Osprey translator...

About 20 minutes later he returned, bringing her a fish. He tore part off for himself and flew off to a favorite branch, leaving her with the bulk of the fish for her lunch.

It looked more and more like she was incubating eggs because this was the pattern the rest of the time I watched them. The only time she was visible above the wall of the nest was when a) she seemed to want food and was calling to him or b) he returned to the nest with a fish c) he returned to the nest to help her make more babies :-)

In case you think she's starting to sound a little "bossy" - well, she is justified at this time in the season. Egg-laying is extremely energy-intensive for female birds and the larger the bird, the more energy is needed. Each egg carries inside it not only the DNA to make a new bird, but all of the food and water the developing Osprey baby needs for its 5 weeks inside of the egg. And all of that energy inside of the egg comes from the female bird, so while she is laying she needs a lot of help from her mate in getting enough food.

After watching the pair for a couple of hours I thought I would unofficially name them. They aren't pets (obviously) but it will be easier, and more fun, to refer to them by name in upcoming posts rather than a generic "male" and "female." So in the language of my Fox/Sauk ancestors, I'll refer to the female as "Wapatewi" which means "Light," and the male will be "Notenwi" which means "The Wind" (since he's been flying so much).*

How can I tell the two apart? The female, Wapatewi, has a darker "necklace" of brown feathers around her upper chest. She's also the bigger of the two, though only by a little. The male, Notenwi, has a very, very light "necklace" of darker feathers around his upper chest.

I also decided that I'd come back at least weekly while they were here and document life for this pair of Osprey this season. I'll be sharing what I see, here on this blog and on Facebook. Stay tuned for more updates...

Notenwi stretching his wings

All text and photos copyright Nancy Rynes, 2012. You may link to or share this article, but you may not copy or reproduce it without my permission.

*My apologies to the local tribes here in Maine for naming these birds in the Fox/Sauk language. This is the language of some of my ancestors so it's the one I'm most comfortable using.

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