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.
11:20 a.m. After seeing that at least one of the two chicks had fledged when I last observed this nest almost a month ago, I decided to watch again for awhile since it was on my route.
As I pulled into the access road that leads to the tower and the solar farm gate, I heard a lot of loud calling. It sounded like it was a chick call not an adult and seemed to be coming from the thick foliage to the north of the access road. I observed two birds flying around the tower as I drove in and stopped half way to the tower from Strykers Rd. I believed I saw one osprey fly off the tower, but while driving it was difficult to tell for sure what was happening. For sure I saw at least two ospreys.
I saw nothing on the nest looking up through the structure on the access road so I continued around the tower and down toward the gate. As I turned the corner around the tower, I saw one of ospreys flying over the field to the northeast through the gap in the trees. It appeared to have something in its talons.
About halfway from the tower to the gate, I backed into the grassy field so that I was well positioned to mount my camera and scope on my car window to watch the tower. As I was still setting up, I saw the bird which had been flying all around and vocalizing loudly, land on the structure below the nest.
Through my scope I was surprised and pleased to see that it was one of the fledglings and that it had been carrying a nice, big fish around with it!! I also saw that this was a nice, big, healthy looking female.
This fledgling has been flying free for almost a month, but I wondered how she came to possess this fish! Did she mantle and steal it after an adult dropped it on the nest? Did she steal from a parent or from her sibling somewhere off the nest? Did she actually catch it in the river by herself? I also wondered if the second bird I saw leaving the tower was the parent and had just dropped this fish in the nest. If that was the case, perhaps the fledgling was upset by the intrusion of my car so close to her nest and fish. Perhaps she had been eating on the nest and, disturbed by my intrusion, took off with her fish, flew around calling with alarm, and finally landing back on the tower once my car was stopped far enough away? No way to know, but it certainly made me wonder.
She continued to call loudly for quite awhile even after landing on a narrow "L" shaped metal strutt. She had quite a challenge perching with one foot while holding the fish with the other. There was no good flat surface on which to lay the fish and I was afraid she would drop it! She also made some attempts between calling, at opening the head of the fish, "Mom, please come and help me eat this!"
Eventually, she not only opened up the fish, but ate the entire head, and half of the body. She used her wings when she lost her balance, and eventually found she could stand and wedge the fish on the horizontal part of the "L-shaped" piece of metal. Once she had eaten a lot of the head end of the fish, it became a bit easier for her to handle/hang onto. She ate continuously for over an hour! At 12:40 to 12:45 she took a bit of a break, just standing there with her fish. Then she resumed eating! She gobbled up a big long piece of skin that she had hollowed out.
I loved watching this show and was happy she had a good, big meal. But by 13:00 I really had to go to my next nest! I had been afraid of driving past the tower for fear of upsetting her again, but now she seemed to have stopped eating so I slowly approached. However, when I got almost to the tower, she flew off and I saw that she had her fish with her! I hope once I was completely gone from the area that she returned with her prey to the nest where she could relax and finish the meal when she wanted to.
11:40 a.m. After driving all the way east to the river under the Outer Bridge Crossing and attending to the falcon, I returned and drove up the access road. I got a great glimpse of a mature chick sitting tall on the nest and looking down at me through the structure. I could see its scalloped feathers and its red eyes. It appeared to be a female with its brown "necklace."
I moved to the position around the other side of the tower on the road to the gate and set up my scope and camera.
I could see the head of what I assumed was the chick sitting up on the far side and the legs of another bird. I didn't know at first if it was the second chick, or if it was the adult female. The adult male was still on the post below the nest! Then this bird lowered its head and picked up something in the nest bottom and I could see its red eye. Two chicks for sure were confirmed in the nest!
About the same time I had confirmed two chicks I spotted the adult female on a post at the top of the tower so both adults were accounted for and two osprey chicks were in the nest.
11:55 a.m. To my delight, one of the two chicks flew off and circled the nest showing off nice flying skills. It stuck a landing on a top post then flew off and around the tower past Mom and Dad some more before landing back in the nest!
No way to know if the second chick has also fledged, but I guessed that it had. Both chicks look very mature and healthy with beautiful flight feathers. I also assume the fledging took place some days ago based on the skill and ease of flying and landing that the fledgling displayed. I doubt I witnessed a first flight.
As I left I took one more photo from the access road of the fledgling and its sibling sitting tall on the nest and looking down at the access road through the structure.
8:45 a.m. I drove up the access road and could see the male on a post below the nest level of the tower. I could also see that there was another osprey on the nest, but it was mostly hidden. I heard calls from several of the osprey, but couldn't tell which were calling. I continued up the access road, around and under the tower, and down the road toward the solar farm gate where I turned around and positioned myself to set up my scope and camera on my car window. From there I had a clear view of the male. I also saw part of the back/wings of the female with her solid brown feathers. I caught a glimpse of a chick's head with its read eye!! I thought there were two chicks because I also saw a brief flash of a chick's back/wings with brown feathers scalloped with white. The many wires, posts, and braces of the structure are in the way of a clear view! This nest is positioned in a mostly hidden location on the top of the tower this season! I saw shadows and could tell that the 2 or 3 birds up there are moving around. I heard lots of calls.
At about 9:05 a.m. I got a message from Kathy Clark that there was a peregrine falcon with a broken wing in Woodbridge. As I was near I-78 I texted her that I was on my way, and left Strykers/Solar Farm osprey nest!
2:20 p.m. The female was on the nest in the usual place looking down through the tower structure at the lane where I was watching her. She stood and turned around. I heard and saw her calling. After she turned she was facing away from where I was watching so I drove down toward the solar farm gate and positioned myself, but I can see nothing from there this year. The nest position is way over on the northeast side of the tower and the view of it is blocked by the structure. I have yet to see any nestlings. It seemed like the female was "attending" to something which I couldn't see because her body blocked the view. I am hoping there are some nestlings.
1:20 p.m. The female was sitting on the nest. I didn't see the male. The female was down quite low so if there were nestlings, I couldn't see them. At 1:35 p.m. the female still hadn't moved although she began vocalizing loudly, perhaps in response to crows which were flying close to the nest harassing her.
2:45 a.m. The female was on the edge of the nest looking down at the access road, before the 90 degree turn to the solar farm gate. This is the best view for seeing in the nest, but I only saw the female. I did not see any nestlings. Today I could see nothing from the other view, looking north toward the tower from the lane to the solar farm gate.
3:35 p.m. As I am watching, one adult flies in and perches on a post below the top level where the nest is. It appears to be the male again, with all-white breast. I haven't seen the pair here together. I wonder today if the female is perched low, incubating on the nest. I won't be able to tell without coming here early some morning and staying long enough to see both.
12:02 p.m. When I arrived, I saw an adult which appeared to be the male, perched on a post. It then flew to the nest, then back to a lower post. I have yet to see two adults at one time on this nest nor have I been able to confirm for sure that this is the male, although it has an all-white breast--no "necklace." It is impossible to see into the nest because when one is far enough away to the south, along the solar farm access road, the materials/posts of the tower block the view of the nest. Otherwise, one is too close to actually see into the nest.
12:50 p.m. There was a truck blocking the entrance to the access road so I parked next door. After setting up my scope and camera I spotted an osprey flying in with a stick. I believe I also saw its mate sitting on the structure where the stick was placed, but I can't be sure because from my vantage point, the second adult was hidden behind the structures.
9:45 a.m. This nest was empty! Apparently the two chicks have fledged and were off the nest hunting or following the parents. I saw no sign of any of the osprey family during the time I watched. I watched from both locations.
3:15 When I arrived at the access road off Strykers Rd, I immediately saw the male perched on one of the tower posts. As I got closer, and could look up to the nest, I saw the female (left in the photo) and two chicks. One appeared to be female, with a "necklace", the other chick seemed to be a male. The three of them looked down at me! Proceeding to the 90 degree turn toward the locked access gate, I couldn't see the nest nearly as well as I could from that place last year.
4:35-4:50 p.m. I drove to the position I found best last year--the dirt road leading to the locked gate. I also looked from the access road leading to the base of the tower. I could see a nest, but could not see in it. I saw neither adult so I don't know the status of this nest yet.
5:10-5:30 p.m. When I drove into the dirt road that leads to the tower, I stopped and looked from a distance and saw two osprey flying circles above the nest, and heard them calling. I saw another perched on the lower level. I wondered if it was the parents flying and calling, upset by my intrusion. If so, one of the chicks must have flown to the lower. The light from this position wasn't so good. I continued to the tower, turned toward the gate to the solar farm, and turned around down at the end of the road by the gate. I positioned my car across the road so I could look directly at the nest using the window mounts for my scope and camera.
To my surprise, both chicks were now "branching" as they were perched above the nest on pillars and parts of the tower. They both looked prepared to fly, and in fact, I realized the two I saw flying circles above the nest were actually these two chicks--fledglings now! I did not see them land on their perches, but when I started the car to leave, one after the other, they took to the air again and flew high above me! Apparently it was one of the parents I saw perched on the lower level, but I never saw it again after the first view.
11:20 a.m. I drove east on the dirt road leading to the tower and around to the locked access gate for the solar farm. I turned around so I was facing the nest sideways and set up my scope and camera on my window mounts. One adult was perched and eating prey on a post on the lower tier of the tower. The other adult was on a post above the nest and I could see one large chick sitting upright! That was good news because on a prior visit I had been unable to confirm any nestlings! Soon, I saw the one chick even more clearly and it must be at least 5 weeks old or more! Even better, its sibling, which was hiding behind one of the posts, did a big wing flat and then walked out so it was visible. These are two BIG, healthy looking nestlings! I watched for awhile and took photos, then decided to drive out. The movement and engine noise of my car caused a huge ruckus! One parent (Dad) flew from its dinner on the tier below to a post above the nest, and the other parent (Mom) squawked an alarm. The nestlings lay flat! I left at once in order not to disturb them any further!
3:10 p.m. As I drove toward the tower down the dirt lane, an adult flew off the tower, and around the area calling, obviously upset at my intrusion. I continued all the way to the end of the lane, by the gate to the solar farm, and turned around. From there I set up my scope and camera looking north. I was about 100 yards from the tower in my car. The agitated adult calmed down and landed back on one of the tower posts, perching over the nest. I could see slight movement way down in the nest. Photos show a slightly rounded dark area that was the head of the other adult sitting in the nest as if incubating. As I left, driving back past the base of the tower again, the male left its perch and again squawked its annoyance at my presence. That told me that there must be eggs or chicks under its mate. I was able to capture just the head of the female on the nest, fully zoomed in and therefore not very clear!
10:20 a.m. I have been locating nests in North and Central Jersey that have previously or recently not been followed, in order to have those chicks counted in the state's nest-count reports. I will at least attempt to report the number of chicks and successful fledging. This tower is behind Berry Plastics, but the nest is small and flat, on the east side of the tower, furthest away from the road. I could see no sign of a nest from Stryker Rd. I discovered a dirt lane to the base of the tower and on around the corner to a gated access to the solar array. From under the tower, I could see the bottom of the nest. I thought I heard an agitated osprey calling as I drove along the lane, but until I turned toward the north and looked at the nest from that angle, I saw no sign of the pair. Looking north from the dirt road, I saw two adults working in the nest, either arranging nesting materials or attending to hatchlings.