Late on Tuesday, April 1st, I received this note from fellow Osprey colleague Don Riepe, Jamaica Bay Guardian for the American Littoral Society:
At 10am he [Coley II or C2] was in Virginia. At 10am I saw the female only on the nest platform [in Jamaica Bay]. However, at 6pm, there were two ospreys on the nest. Could it be that he [C2] made it here by then? I’ll check again tomorrow morning.
Hopefully it was him and not some young interloper stealing his mate! :>) Don
I responded with the following:
Thanks Don! C2 has done some amazing flying but even with a good 20 mph tail wind, it would take him a full 8 hours at 45 mph ground speed to get there. Chances are that it is another male moving in. All that said, love (a pair bond) is a powerful force and once C2 got moving today he probably sensed that home and his mate were not that far away. Will be very interesting to see what you find out tomorrow! Adds drama to an already dramatic story.
So here is the rest of the story! The last data point we now have for C2 is at 5 pm on April 1st, one hour before Don saw two Ospreys together on C2’s nest. At that time C2 was in Springfield, Virginia at the massive junction of I-95, I-495 and I-395 just southwest of Washington, DC. He was about 220 miles from home. In the 7 hours that he had been flying that day, he had covered 160 miles at an average speed of about 23 mph — fast, but not fast enough to cover the 350 miles necessary to reach his nest by 6 pm.
So we have some Bad News and some Good News.
The Bad News first. When C2 arrives home, he will find that another male is courting his mate. She has been waiting for C2 since March 18th or about 14 days before the new male showed up. Even though Ospreys mate for life, they do take on another mate when their mate dies or disappears. Each day that C2 did not show up decreased the strength of her bond with him, making her more likely to accept the advances of another male. So when C2 returns, he will have to deal with the “Interloper.”
Now for the Good News! C2 may have arrived at Jamaica Bay yesterday (April 2nd) late in the afternoon. It is not beyond his abilities to cover the 220 miles from Washington, DC to Jamaica Bay in one day. Or if he did not make it yesterday, he almost certainly will make it home today, April 3rd. This means that the new male will only have been around one or two days, not enough time to develop a pair bond as strong as C2’s with his mate. So, I suspect that when he comes home he will easily drive the other male away and quickly rekindle the bond with his mate. Does any of this sound familiar?
Day 17 – April 1st – C2 flew from southern Virginia to northern Virginia today and by our last data point at 5 pm, he was just inside the I-495 Beltway around Washington, DC. I am sure that he continued flying for another hour or two in which case he probably spent the night somewhere around Baltimore, Maryland. If so he only had around 170 miles to go before reaching Jamaica Bay -– very doable for a bird that has flown non-stop for over 500 miles!
Stay tuned as the drama of the Osprey “love” triangle unfolds!
C2 and Dr. Bob signing off.