The Olivia Chronicles follows the progress of the osprey family at the end of my North Dock on South Siesta Key. The family consists of the father Oscar, the mother Olivia, and this year’s sole hatchling, Dino. My plan is to follow their lives over one complete breeding season. This is the third installment in the series. The first two can be found here and here.
The next big event in Dino’s life will be his first flight. In a previous post, I speculated that this might occur around the end of April. Based on today’s observations, I think he is definitely on (or maybe ahead of) schedule.
Over the past week or so, I have spotted him testing his wings in the nest for about 5 – 10 flaps, without becoming airborne. I have also seen Olivia fly out of the nest across the bay, only to return a few minutes later. I suspect the reason for her brief excursions is to provide an example for Dino to follow. I say this because there seems to be no other agenda for her absences. Olivia is only gone for a few minutes, doesn’t appear to land anywhere, and returns empty-handed (i.e., without a fish). The burden is on her, since Dino is an “only child”, and the father spends little time in the nest.
Here is a video from a few days ago (8 April), in which Olivia returns from one of these sorties. Watch her slowly emerge from the center of the clip! (Dino is in the nest, but hunkered down. His head is barely visible on the left, and he is facing Olivia.)
“And that’s how it’s done!” — Olivia demonstrates the fine art of flying to Dino.
You may have noticed that Olivia flies low over the water for much of the return flight (within one wingspan of the surface). This is called compression gliding, and many birds do this in order to save energy. This technique usually isn’t used over land, due to ground clutter (trees, shrubs, rocks, etc.).
Today, I witnessed Dino’s best-ever attempt at flight. It was quite blustery on the North Dock, hence the wind noise in the video below. The periodic gusts, however, seemed to spur Dino on. He was more active when the wind kicked up.
Dino is getting the hang of flying. Not a bad attempt!
A Family Dispute over Dinner
Mealtime generally begins with Oscar returning from the hunt with a fish in his talons. He then settles in his favorite tree near the shore end of the North Dock, where he dines alone on the head of the fish. When he has eaten his fill, Oscar then flies to the nest where Olivia and Dino are anxiously awaiting their meal.
This afternoon’s repast started off no differently. Oscar was happily dining on his familiar tree perch. For some reason, however, the next step took longer than usual. It was a good hour before Oscar decided to leave the tree and fly to the nest with dinner for the rest of the family. During this time, I noticed that Dino seemed to be munching on nest twigs (not part of an osprey’s normal diet). I got the decided impression that he was famished. His incessant shrieking between wooden bites reinforced that idea. Olivia was more reserved, but she did her share of strident complaining.
When Oscar finally arrived on the scene, Olivia and Dino fairly jumped at the meal. A comical interlude then ensued, in which Olivia and Dino fight each other for the fish in a veritable tug of war:
Dino (center) and Olivia (right) battle for the fish, while Oscar (left) looks on bemused.
As expected, mommy won the skirmish, and Dino had to be content with being spoon-fed. Despite losing the tug of war, he nonetheless utters a squeal of approval each time she gives him a morsel:
Olivia (right) provides Dino (left) with his evening meal.
Notice that Olivia looks my way every few seconds to make sure I keep my distance. (I did.) In the end all was forgiven, and the family ended the day well-fed.
Final update of this breeding season:
Shortly after publishing this post, my wife and I went on a scheduled trip to Europe. By the time we returned, Dino had successfully completed his first flight, and was no longer spending much time in the nest. I still see him in the area from time to time, but he is officially on his own. Vaya con dios, Dino! ΩΩΩ