Operation Osprey: 8.24.2023

Published: August 24, 2023

Gotta Be A Nest In There Somewhere … Captain Andy Told Us So

Osprey Date – 8.24.23:  What a great day this turned out to be working with an osprey tracking team to chart nests in Weems Creek. 

Our Osprey Navy team today featured special guests – Annapolitans Inaya, a 4th grader, and her aunt, Coren Lee – as well as SRA’s summer high school intern, Natalie, boat captain, Dan at the helm and Osprey Project Leader, Tom, taking on the Lewis & Clark role of directing the exploration.

   
Inaya, Captain Dan, Coren                               Inaya and SRA Intern Natalie look for nests

Stay tuned for more about sharp-eyed Inaya’s major contribution … 

About a month earlier, we had been alerted to active osprey family nest near the Ridgely Rd. drawbridge. Our water quality monitoring (WQM) teams had observed the osprey as they track oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity, and clarity in the creek every week. They reported the activity to our Osprey Navy, who later confirmed the nest was home to a mom, dad and two chicks. 

But our main goal today was a challenge – to chart elusive (at least in the summer) osprey tree nests hidden in the forested shoreline. 

We were working on a tip from my pal Andy who moors his handsome trawler, Yes, in the little cove on the north side of the creek. 

After one of our enthusiastic chats about Operation Osprey, Andy told me that there were osprey nests in the trees along the stretch of land known as Priest Pt. “Gotta be one or three nests in the trees,” he reported. “There must be. I see them flying around and singing out all the time.” But Andy hadn’t actually seen a nest. 

So off to Priest Point the Osprey Navy headed for a thorough search with everybody on our research vessel, Sea Girl, scanning the shoreline (see image at top). It was sharp-eyed Inaya who located a tree nest. She found it way before the adults could find it. Give a girl some binoculars … discovery follows. 

      

We cheered her discovery, much to her delight, and we named the nest “Inaya’s Nest” for its discoverer.

An On-The-River Educational Experience

Alas, this nest was not occupied. Had there been a nesting pair of osprey, there should have been a juvenile osprey or two just learning to spread their wings to fly (see image below left). 

By mid-August, juvenile osprey like this one near the Ridgley Rd. Bridge over Weems Creek, are nearly as big as their parents and just starting to flex their wings. 

At this stage in life, Inaya, Coren, Natalie and Captain Dan learned that osprey mom will exit the nest when danger approaches her juvenile offspring (in this case the crew on Sea Girl). 

That’s what happened here as Inaya studied the family. The parents flew away and perched in nearby trees to scream out their warning cries, “Danger, danger, Junior, hunker down or fly away!!!” As we slowly approached, this fledgling found the courage to flex those wings and fly away.  

At Inaya’s tree nest in Priest Point, there is a different story – no residents. Without young to raise, adult osprey will migrate early to winter in South America. 

They’ll return in March to try again to create a new generation of osprey. To be ready for their spring return, we charted Inaya’s nest for our Osprey Navy teams of students and volunteers to monitor. 

Inaya and team also searched the south shore of Weems Creek for osprey nests where we watched at least two groups of osprey disappear into the trees. No luck here. 

Unlike Inaya’s Nest, which is atop a dead tree and readily visible, most osprey tree nests are hidden behind the thick screen of the green leaves of summer. It will take follow-up investigations over the winter to identify tree nests so we can add them to the master inventory of osprey nests, 

Special thanks to BGE and the Great Schooner Race Foundation for supporting Operation Osprey!

To join our Osprey Navy in spring 2024 to help with the osprey census, contact SRA’s Program Officer, Tom Guay at taguay@severnriver.org