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.
5:40 p.m. I was passing by with my equipment so I decided to stop and observe. As it was Sunday, the Ecological Facility was closed and from the entrance, on the Princeton Pike side (southeast) by the gate, I was too close to see anything since no birds were perched on this edge of the nest. I then drove to the farm lane on Fackler Rd and through my scope could see one fledgling sitting high on this side of the nest (northwest). The head of the second (presumably) fledgling was also visible, just sticking up from where it was sitting more to the center of this nest. I assumed it was the fledgling not one of the adults as at this point in chick development the adults would not be spending much time with them at the nest.
Not much was happening and I did not stay to watch long. I did not see either adult flying to or from the nest. This is a huge nest covering the entire top of the very tall tower. The terrain in this area is very flat so it is difficult to find a spot high enough to see "into" the nest. In fact, the view from the farm lane is very far away and it is only with my scope and a zoom lens that I can capture any reasonable views of the osprey family! The views from the Eco-Facility are closer, but I can only see the birds if they are perched on the nest edge or the tower structures below the nest.
7:15 a.m. I arrived as the gate was opened early. Before setting up, I spoke to Joelle, the reception girl who is a summer temp, and to Steve, who apparently works for the township. He says this nest has been here for at least 5 years. I gave him my card and discussed some information with him. He told me he sees the osprey all the time--sometimes perched on the piles of compost. After our long conversation yesterday about how to tell the adults from the chicks, I gave him some photos illustrating the difference in plumage and told him he could call or email me if he sees anything I should know about. I discussed the difficulty of seeing into this very tall nest which is not visible from higher ground, and only from a great distance away. He knows the main goal is to see the chicks and to have an accurate count. He told me he saw an osprey fly to the nest earlier carrying something in its talons.
I then parked in the far southeast corner. One chick was perched on the edge of the nest facing my position. I didn't know at the time if this was the fledgling, or if both had fledged. It was calling constantly as though it expected or wanted a food delivery.
8:40 a.m. The single chick that I had been watching and listening to, flew off, circled the tower, and landed again calling constantly while it flew--persistent and frustrated no doubt. That confirmed that both chicks have fledged as the other is surely not motionless in the nest! I got this demonstration of flight, wing flapping, and calling all on video.
At 8:53, this single chick flew off again and then flew back almost immediately. It did not stay long this time, but flew off toward the east (toward the D & R Canal). After it left, there was silence. I did not see any additional movement and am convinced that the rest of the family had been elsewhere all morning while I watched, and now the remaining chick was also gone.
7:25 a.m. I was early but the gate was open. As I approached I saw a bird perched on the eastern edge of the nest facing Princeton Pike. As I turned into the driveway at the Ecological Facility I realized I could no longer see the bird because of foliage and the angle. I did a quick U-turn and pulled back onto Princeton Pike, over on the grass at the side. Through my scope I could see it was the adult female with very little bit of quite light brown on her breast. I also saw a big wing stretch from behind her so I knew that there was a chick in the nest with her.
Since I was facing north, I thought I would take a quick drive up to the farm lane to see if I could see the female from there, but that was a huge mistake and waste of time although it took less than five minutes. As I was driving on Fackler Rd I saw a bird fly off from the nest and from the farm lane I couldn't see any birds at all on or in the nest!
I drove back to the Eco Facility and parked in the far southeast corner. The adult female was no longer perched on the edge of the nest.
I could hear loud calling and lots of vocals as I parked. Once parked with equipment up and ready, I could see nothing at the nest. At 7:50 I heard many loud and persistent calls and saw one fly to the nest from the woods. It landed on the edge and faced the Eco Facility. It was a fledgling! As it sat there the head of another osprey popped up and I am sure this is a sibling which was already in the nest. It is impossible to tell if both have fledged or just the one.
The fledgling remained perched on the edge of the nest and occasionally the head of the other sibling could be seen but most of the time this chick was down low out of sight.
At around 8:02 a.m. the parent flew in with breakfast! Of course the chicks both dropped into the nest to self feed and were no longer visible to me down below! The parent did not stay after dropping the fish, but it flew off and around the nest to the third tier where an adult had been yesterday after noon "saving" a fish for the off spring. This adult proved to be the female, the same parent that I had seen sitting on the eastern edge of the nest when I first arrived. She was soaking wet and I surmised that she was quite submerged when she caught the breakfast fish. She sat on the structure and preened and hung her wings out to dry for at least a half hour or more as her chicks self fed in the nest, hidden from view.
11:45 a.m. The weather has cooled somewhat and it is partly overcast with a bit of sun. I set up in the farm lane. I thought I might have seen the head of one of the opreys moving around in the nest, but the heat waves are intense so I can't be sure.
12:00 p.m. I moved to the Eco Facility and parked in the rear corner in some shade. I could hear calling and spotted the adult on the lowest tier of the tower. I also realized that I could not see anything but the very top of the tower from the farm lane! The lower tiers were all hidden by foliage.
The adult flew off and I saw it was carrying a fish. It didn't stay away long and I heard calls when it was gone. It returned to the perch still carrying the fish. I assume the (two probably) chicks have fledged and the adult was saving the fish for them. This adult did not have any brown on its breast that I could see. I expect when (s)he flew off and around, calling all the time, (s)he was searching for them or maybe enticing them to come get it. About the time (s)he returned to the perch on the lower tier, I saw two raptors soaring very high up over the nest. It might have been the fledglings, but no way to know for sure.
1:30 p.m. The girl at the check in house said that I should come early (7:30) and that they feed them then and are very noisy. She said she has seen the adults coming and going to the nest. She thought there were "at least two" chicks, and that they stayed in the nest. I expect even if they have fledged that they would be in the nest for breakfast. I will have to return early and hope to actually see the chicks flying since I can't really see into this super tall nest!
7:30 a.m. I was hoping to catch a glimpse and get photos of two chicks, instead, I saw nothing, not even the adults! It is possible these two have fledged. It is slightly possible that they were lying down, but not likely. I will review the video I took where I saw one chick for sure and thought I might have seen two.
1:17 p.m. Because I have been away, I headed out to see this nest as soon as I could even though it was not a great day for observing. One adult was on the nest, but I didn't see any sign of chicks.
This tower is extremely high. You can't see anything in the nest from the Eco Facility because you are too close to see up over the edge. I was hoping when the chicks got big they would perch at the edge and could be seen. I have not been able to get an accurate chick count yet. I definitely saw a chick head and wing stretch, but it could be from one or from two. From a farm lane off Fackler Rd I can get photos, but it is quite far away from the nest so details are impossible even in good light.
8:20 a.m. From the farm lot on Fackler Rd, I saw the female on the edge of the nest. The male flew in with a stick and arranged it before quickly flying off. I didn't see the chicks nor any movement in the nest. I didn't stay long as there didn't seem to be much action.
9:55 a.m. After checking the peregrine falcons at Bordentown boat ramp, I returned to check this nest again. The female was still on the edge of the nest, but flew off at 10:00 a.m. as I was taking a video. I still did not see the chick(s) even at 10:02 when an adult (I couldn't tell if it was the female returning or the male) returned with empty talons. I did not observe feeding or eating. I observe this nest from quite far off so details are difficult to confirm such as the definite gender of the adult. If the adult female is facing me and the light is good, I can see she has some brown on her breast.
11:40 a.m. From the farm off the south side of Fackler Rd I saw one chick head and a chick wing. It could possibly be from the same nestling, but I believe there are two. Will see when they get bigger.
12:15 p.m. I was again returning from Bordentown Beach and pulled into the office complex on the east side of Princeton Pike not long after exiting I-295. I saw an adult sitting up on the nest, but it is too far away to see chicks or even to see the adult clearly. I did not bother to enter the Eco facility but went straight to the farm lane off Fackler Rd. There are a few barns, a gravel lane and a small parking area. No one ever seems to be around and there is no private home on that (south) side of Fackler Rd. From there I can set up my scope and get a much better view of the tower and the nest. It is still quite far off, but not nearly as far as the other spot. As I watched I was sure I saw one chick and then two! I will wait to report it until they are bigger and I can see them better.
12:30 p.m. I committed to reporting on every osprey nest west of Morristown and north of Trenton. Thus, this is a new nest in my area. I located this site on my way home from Bordentown Beach (peregrine nest check).
The Ecological Facility is easy to access but the tower is very tall and even from the farthest corner of the site it is difficult to see into this nest. I drove up and down Princeton Pike looking for another view point farther away, but with full foliage, the tower is hidden. I did find one spot, right after exiting I-295, but that is very far away. I did see an adult on the nest, but was unable to see any nestlings.