This spring I am observing an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nest near Crystal Lake (Shasta County CA). In late March and early April an osprey pair repaired a previously used nest on top of a ponderosa pine snag. And in mid-April I was lucky enough to watch the osprey court and mate. If the mated female laid her egg(s) around that time, the chicks should have hatched in late May or early June. Osprey have a 36 to 42 day incubation period. Although the pair continued to tend the nest, I never saw a baby.
Last week I spent about five hours one morning watching the nest. (This nest is an hour from our house, so I only get there once a week or so.) Although the female remained on the nest most of the time I was there, the male continuously left the nest and returned. Sometimes the male returned empty taloned and other times he returned with what I assumed was bedding – small sticks and even what looked like lichen. (One photograph shows the male returning with the lichen.) The female would either immediately toss the proffered stick out of the nest or would appear to arrange it in the nest bottom. But still no sign of chicks!
Once the male returned with a fish that he left in the nest. Was he bringing food to his offspring and mate. I got excited that perhaps there were young in the nest. In the photograph of the male bringing the trout the female was in the nest but completely hidden in its depths. The osprey nest is very large and deep. If the mother can disappear beyond its rim, small chicks would never be visible until they climbed out onto the edge.
Finally!! I saw motion in the nest!! There ARE chicks!! And motion was all I saw. At one point both parents were away from the nest and I briefly saw movement at the rim. It was only for a moment, but something moved in the nest and it was not an adult. I was so excited! Later as the female sat on the edge of the nest I again saw some motion in front of her. I have no idea how many chicks there are or how mature they are. Yes!!
Osprey fledge in 50 to 55 days. If the eggs were laid shortly after I saw the pair copulate, the juvenile osprey should be ready to leave the nest in one or two weeks. Of course, I could be totally off with my guess. I plan to observe the nest as often as possible in the next weeks.
The picture of both osprey on the nest was taken as one parent returned to the nest and the other simultaneously flew away.
How I hope that I can see the young osprey when they first leave the shelter of their nest.