This nest has been used for the past few years, but observations were sporadic due to kayak-only access in the shallow creek. We've discovered a good land-based vantage point, so will be able to submit data and photos on a much more regular and hopefully useful basis.
What to look for
Look for 2 adults on the nest. The adult pair will show pair bonding behaviors such as vocalizations, aerial sky dances, and the male feeding the female fish. You may see the pair copulating, which typically begins 14 days before laying eggs.
Females will lay 1 - 4 eggs at a rate of one egg every 1 - 2 days. After laying, incubation starts. Look for adults taking turns sitting low in the nest incubating eggs. The incubation period can last 35 - 43 days.
Chicks hatch ~39 days after incubation begins. Look for adults bringing food to the nest and making "head bows" into the center. Chicks typically can't be seen until they are 2 - 3 weeks old, so feeding behavior is the only way to know chicks are there.
Around 4 weeks after hatching, look for the heads of chicks to show over the rim of the nest, particularly when adults bring food to the nest. Other times they lie flat and are harder to see. Count the number of chicks in the nest before they learn to fly
Chicks begin flying around 7 - 8 weeks old, and are still fed by the adults. Count the number of chicks who have successfully fledged the nest and are observed flying.
Chick Last Observed
4 - 10 weeks after fledging, chicks begin leaving the nest area to migrate south, once they have learned to fly and feed themselves. Record the date that the last chick left the nest.
Look for signs of nest failure like adult abandonment, adults no longer incubating eggs or feeding young.
Paddled out to this nest today and found that both fledglings were perched in the immediate area of the nest. Watched both do a few loops around the area - wonderful to see them both flying and landing with such strength. Looking good!
6/30/12. Wow, did I pick the right time to check on this nest! I made my approach via kayak and arrived to find one of the chicks perched in a tree near the nest. A fledgling now! I watched this chick fly around the nest area, landing in several different trees. Suddenly, the fledgling flew back to the nest - turns out that one of the parents was coming in with a fish. The parent landed in the nest, stayed for a few moments, and then flew away from the nest with the still-wiggling fish in its talons. The parent perched in a tree near the nest and held the fish between its toes (?) while vocalizing repeatedly. Seemed clear that this was an attempt to get the chicks to explore outside the nest for their food, although they stayed put in the nest. After 5-10 minutes, the parent gave up, dropped the fish in the nest for the chicks, and perched in a nearby tree. Was fascinating to watch this "coaxing" process take place!