It’s Like a Soap Opera!

Sorry everyone for the delay in updating you on the drama happening with Coley II (C2).

Without ground observations of C2 and his mate on Yellow Bar Hassock, it is not easy to interpret the data we receive from the satellite transmitter. We can tell where C2 is at one instant every hour, but we cannot tell what he is actually doing or what he did between the hourly data points. Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe from the American Littoral Society has been our eyes and ears on C2 at Yellow Bar Hassock, which is located in the middle of Jamaica Bay, is only accessible by boat and is not very observable even with a high powered telescope. Don and his colleagues have a huge project replanting marsh grass to restore marshes destroyed by storm-caused erosion, largely from Hurricane Sandy. So each day, weather permitting, they go out to plant and can stop for a few minutes to observe and photograph C2 and other Ospreys in the area.

After days of nasty weather, Don was able to stop by Yellow Bar Hassock on Thursday, April 17th, and again on Friday, April 18th and took some great photos and offered some insightful comments. What follows are email exchanges between Don and me:

April 17th – Don Riepe to Bob Kennedy:

Hi Bob and group – So I went out by boat today and saw the female on the nest plus three other ospreys sitting nearby! After a while, one flew off to another nest about 1/4 mile away and joined with another already there, presumably, they are a pair. Of the two remaining I finally got a recognizable photo showing Coley2 with two bands: silver on right leg and green on left. He chased (?) the interloper (?) (see photos) from the log perch and was the only osprey remaining near the nest when I left. It’s not over yet!

Osprey trio getting alongphoto 1- Osprey trio (Coley 2 on marsh at left). They all appear to be getting along.

C2 (presumed) chasing interloper offphoto 2 – Coley 2 (note bands) coming down to land on log chasing (?) the other off – or just trying to land next to him. The other (interloper?) flew off.

C2 (presumed) showing green bandphoto 3 – Coley 2 (showing antenna and green band)

don-female-waiting-on-nest-2014-04-17photo 4 – female waiting on nest for Coley 2? Interloper? Both ? Could it be a ménage-a trois?”

April 17th – Bob Kennedy to Don Riepe:

Thanks Don for the photos – all very confusing. Actually C2 only has an aluminum band on one of his legs and unless he was caught and banded in Venezuela, he has never had a green band on his leg. I did not see the antenna in the picture. If that bird does have an antenna, it is a bird from somewhere else. We need to confirm that the bird with the green band actually has a transmitter on. Some of my colleagues are using color bands and it will take some searching to find out who is using the green bands.

So there were three males in the marsh. My reading is that none of them were mated with C2’s mate. Probably a group of bachelor males or males with nests elsewhere and they were just loafing in the marsh. I do not think that C2 or a mated male (the interloper if mated with C2’s mate) would allow other males that close to their nest and mate. I go back to my initial statement, this is all very confusing.

Don, I appreciate all of your photos. Hope you will have a chance to get back out to provide more observations and photos, and confirmation that C2 is back and in charge on his home front.

Total fun trying to figure all of this out!

April 18, late PM – Don Riepe to Bob Kennedy:

Hi Bob… OK, I think I’ve got it figured out.
C2 with antenna showing

C2 on nest, with mate on perch above

Banded osprey doing aerial display

Today, Coley 2 is on the nest platform with his mate on perch above. You can definitely see the antenna. The third bird (banded with both silver & green leg bands) is one that Chris* & I banded sometime during the last 3-4 years. That bird was conducting aerial courtship displays about 1/4 mile away. So, I guess Coley’s back with his mate. Is the banded bird displaying to Coley 2′s mate or seeking another? Both Coley 2 and his mate seemed unimpressed!

* Chris Nadareski is a biologist with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and has been studying and banding Ospreys throughout New York City for many years. He partners with Don to monitor and band the Ospreys of Jamaica Bay.

April 19, early AM – Bob Kennedy to Don Riepe:

Thank you Don, these photos confirm that C2 has re-Captured the Flag so to speak and that the Trouble in Paradise is over – All’s Well that Ends Well!

Interesting though that C2 is eating at the center of his nest with his mate on the perch. She seems to be fussing at him. As you know, males either eat before they come to the nest or deliver a fish to the female and then depart or go to the perch on the nest or nearby. This may indicate that things are not back to normal yet.

Thanks again Don – those photos made my day!

I wrote the email above on my cell phone after looking at the photos on my cell phone. Looking at them now on my computer, it may be that C2 was adjusting sticks on his nest, as his mate has a small sprig in her foot and seems to be waiting for the opportunity to weave that stick into their nest.

Each new set of observations will help unravel the “Soap Opera” happening in Jamaica Bay. It would be nice to see C2 copulating with his mate to confirm that things are well. But like another species we know, Ospreys may mate with another Osprey while maintaining a solid pair bond at home!