Coley II (C2) made it to Long Island around 11 am on Saturday, April 5th. It is wonderful that he finally made it back without serious mishap along the 2,700 miles from Lake Valencia in Venezuela to Long Island, a trip that took him 20 days and a few hours. Surprisingly though, when he did arrive on Long Island, our first data point for him at 11 am was east of John F. Kennedy International Airport and not at or near his nest on Yellow Bar Hassock. By 3 pm he was at Hempstead Lake State Park further east on Long Island. The first data point we have for him at his nest site was 6 pm Saturday afternoon, 7 hours after arriving home.
We have no idea what reception he received when he did get back to his nest. But strange things continued to happen. At first light or before on Sunday morning he was out fishing. By 10 am he was back at the nest, perhaps bringing a fish to his mate, part of the courtship process. He was off again soon thereafter and showed up at the Garden City Country Club by noon. One data point at 11 am has him out on Long Island at Rocky Point, about 50 miles from Jamaica Bay as the Osprey flies. This point is not accurate and is based on a 2-dimensional fix and not on the accurate 3-dimensional fix. Anyway, he stayed out of Jamaica Bay for a few hours and returned to his nest around 2 pm. He departed after 4 pm, returning back to the Garden City Country Club, and then headed to Hempstead Lake State Park where he spent the evening.
So what does all of this mean. Hard to tell without observations of C2 and his mate at their nest site. However, here is a possible explanation of what this back and forth flying might be.
As I mentioned, male Ospreys bring fish to the female as part of their courtship behavior. In fact, when males arrive at the nest with a fish during courtship, they will often perform a spectacular aerial display a few hundred feet about the nest. This behavior, often called Sky Dancing, is a series of U-shaped loops in which the male dives down 50 to 100 feet, then pulls up regaining most of the altitude to do it all over again. After a bout of Sky Dancing, he will land on the nest with the fish and offer it to the female. If she is receptive, mating usually will take place.
When C2 arrived on Long Island, he may have bypassed his nest so that he could catch a fish before arriving home. Or he may have stopped by between 10 am and 11 am when we had no information about his whereabouts, greeted his mate, and then took off to the best places where he knew he could count on catching a fish. With either scenario, when he arrived at his nest around 6 pm, he may have had a fish to offer to his mate. And his early fishing activity on April 6th and his return to the nest at 10 am, and again at 2 pm, were likely C2 returning to his mate, performing aerial Sky Dancing and rekindling their pair bond by offering her a fish.
As for staying away from the nest last night (evening of April 6th) it likely means that he did not catch a fish before dark and thus did not want to go “home” empty handed.
Except for the times that he was at the nest, the behavior I have outlined could have happened but did not necessarily happen. And whether C2 is “happily” courting his mate or battling the Interloper, we will not know until we can get confirmation from observations at Jamaica Bay.
Welcome Back C2, hope that all is well on Yellow Bar Hassock!
C2 and Dr. Bob signing off.
The map above is a Google Earth snapshot of C2′s flight path from April 5th through 6th EST (or 5th-7th GMT). Below is the interactive map showing his movements since March 31st.