It was an eventful weekend for viewers of the RVA Osprey Cam. On the high side, we watched the parents dutifully dote on their first two chicks, bringing shad and ripping off pieces to feed the little ones. As a shad fisherman of the hook-and-line variety, it’s amazing to see the success rate of these born hunters in a river that, for many days, was swollen and muddy. These are conditions that wash out most shad trips for humans. Our friends didn’t seem to miss a beat. It reminds me of the stat I read that under the right conditions, osprey dives can be successful close to 80 percent of the time. Incredible.
But on the low side, we discovered on Friday afternoon that the third egg wasn’t viable. The mother pushed it out from under her at one point. It eventually broke, and there was no chick inside. Barbara Slatcher, with the Center for Conservation Biology, tells me this isn’t uncommon.
“Usually the cause is old age or weather or it was uncovered in the cold too long,” she wrote in an email. “My guess in this case is age. I am just guessing, but it looks to me this pair has been together a long time. They are both very experienced, and the male is very attentive and fish is no problem for them (which it was with the eagles downriver). Plus the nest is huge (old)! Two out of three is pretty normal, but young adults get 100 percent many times. They incubated fine, nothing has been disturbing them. Weather has been very good.”
So, we move on with two adults and two chicks who appear to be healthy and growing. And that brings us to our next big announcement: It’s time to name the parents!
Wait, why the parents, you ask, with all the excitement surrounding the birth of the chicks? Well, it’s simple: In six to eight weeks these babies will fledge. They’ll leave the nest on their first flight. For a month or two they’ll return to the nest frequently, getting stronger in the air and eventually learning to hunt for fish on their own. In other words, there’s plenty of show left, but as the summer winds down the young adults will leave the nest for good. They’ll have to find their own mates and territory.
The parents, on the other hand, are Richmonders. They’ve been returning to this nest site for years. How many I’m not sure, but I’ve watched them for three nesting seasons now. They’ll be the ones returning from their migration (probably to South America) next February/March ready to start mating/nesting/parenting anew. If all goes well, we’ll get to know them over the course of years. How cool is that?
So, here’s what we’ll do: For the next week — through Sunday, May 7 at midnight — we’ll be taking name suggestions. They have to be pairs. Think Ozzie and Harriet, Andrew and Freiden, Levar and Stoney. Anything! Well, not anything, but you get the idea. On Monday, we, along with our awesome partners at the Friends of the James River Park, will cull the list to five or six pairs, and voting will begin at RVAOspreyCam.com. We’ll announce the winning pair at the Friends of the James River Park‘s booth (and online) at Dominion Riverrock on Sunday, May 21 (you’ll also be able to vote at the booth on Friday and Saturday).
Let the naming begin!