Stewardship 4-Watching and Waiting
In my last blog I documented the rebuilding of The Johannis North Platform and the building of a new platform in the Jacob’s Point Marsh. After finishing both projects, all we could do was sit and wait. In all likelihood the birds, especially the males, had left South America before I actually started to build anything. It takes them about 3 weeks to make the trip. After both platforms were done, I began the process of checking both platforms every few days.
Although we built a new platform, this male and his mate started building in a nearby tree.
For me, it’s kind of like waiting for your kids to come home from the prom. The new platform, if it gets taken, will be new birds. The Johannis North nest is another story. I feel like I know these birds. I have been watching them for 6 years now. Last year they were the most prolific pair in the state, raising 4 fledglings. When the fledglings were nearly full grown, there wasn’t a lot of room in the 40 inch x 40 inch platform.
Joanna with her 4 kids last summer.
I kept checking both platforms every couple of days. On March 19, 15 days after we had finished the Johannis North platform, I walked out to the marsh – binoculars in hand. When the platform came into view, I didn’t need the binoculars to verify what I already knew – Notch was back! I put the binoculars to my eyes to get a better look. He was sitting on the perch adjacent to the nest.
After several trips to the nest with no activity on March 19, I found Notch on his perch.
While I watched, he flew up onto the platform and walked around, no doubt checking out the new digs. The males arrive up to 2 weeks before the females. They establish ownership of the nesting site. The birds mate for life and return to the same nest every year. While the pole and place were the same, the platform was new. Would they accept it? Only time and Joanna’s return would answer that question. As time passes, there probably will come a time when I return to observe a platform in the spring and no one will show up. It’s a long hazardous journey between Columbia, South America, and the East Bay of RI.
Notch on a pass over the kayak
It includes a 460 mile crossing of the Caribbean Sea, twice a year, once during the height of hurricane season. They have monitored birds making the trip. One bird, from Jamestown RI, flew from Cuba to South America – 460 miles in the air and 26 hours flying time – with no stopping to rest, eat, or drink. Next time you go out for a jog think about this.
Notch takes off on a fishing trip...
The new Jacob’s Point platform became a real hit in a short time. Situated along the East Bay Bike Path, it is visible to everyone who uses the path. That, and the local paper running a front page story on the installation of the new nesting site, gave it instant notoriety. I really didn’t have to check this one because people were calling and emailing me everyday with updates. It didn’t take long for an osprey to be spotted sitting on the platform. This raised everyone’s hopes for a nest being built this year. At the same time the birds were being spotted in the platform, a new nest started taking shape in the top of a tree about 200 yards south of the platform. There had been a pile of sticks there last year that may have been an aborted attempt to build a nest, but it was never active. Apparently it will be this year. Over the next 10 days or so the pile of sticks grew into a nest. I watched the male bring in dried seaweed and the female position it in the nest. The platform sits empty, and, barring some last minute activity, will likely remain empty this season.
Although we got the platform built just in time for this year's breeding season so far no takers on the new paltform
Meanwhile I was returning to the Johannis North platform every 3 or 4 days. Notch was lording over his new digs and I could see sticks beginning to show over the edge of the 2×4’s. About a week to 10 days after Notch’s return, we walked out into the marsh. The first thing I noticed was Notch wasn’t alone, Joanna-had returned. Together, they began to build in earnest. The platform began to show the nesting material above the sides of the 2×4’s. On one of our trips out to see what Notch and Joanna were up to, we were able to witness something few people see. Joanna and Notch were flying above the nest. She came in low into the wind and landed. Notch was right behind her, reminiscent of fighter planes coming into a carrier. She raise her tail and he landed on her back. They were going to mate. The males will ball up their talons when landing on the female in order not to injure her. We watched as they mated and then he flew off again, in typical male fashion, probably going fishing.
While checking the nesting platform we witnessed the pair mating.
So as of this writing, the Jacob’s point platform remains empty but there is a nest in a tree nearby. Notch and Joanna have mated. Soon she will lay her eggs and the long incubation period will begin. Once Joanna lays her eggs, she will remain on the nest until the chicks fledge. Notch will fish and feed her and the fledglings. Once again it becomes a waiting game.
Other articles in this series
Stewardship Vol. 3 – Rebuilding
Stewardship Vol. 2 – Return of the Osprey
East Bay images