The Tale of the Cowlitz Fish

Some very intriguing events happened on the Cowlitz PUD Osprey Nest the afternoon of 12 June. I mentioned some of these in an earlier posting today. As I continued to watch the behaviour of the birds on the Osprey nest, it seemed that everything needed to be placed in some kind of order – however chaotic that might be. The Cowlitz PUD Osprey Nest has two cameras with sound. There is a re-wind feature but, for the life of me I cannot see a clock! Because of that I can only infer that this story begins on or around 14:30.

Electra and Wattsworth are the two adult Ospreys. There were three hatches in 2021. The first on 27 May, second on 29 May, and the third on 30 May. The third chick did not survive. Shortly after hatch it somehow got stuck to Electra’s wing and was tossed from the nest and died.

This is an image of the two surviving chicks being fed on 2 June:

This is an image of the two chicks being fed on 8 June:

Today, Big Bob is 16 days old and Little Bob is 14 days old.

Here they are looking out over the rim of the nest. The oldest will actually go down into the twigs.

When the fish arrived on the nest, one of the Bobs was on the top far left of the nest at the very edge. The other Bob was on the nest but watching the one in the twigs.

In the image below, the chicks have started moving towards the nest bowl when they see the fish arriving.The chicks begin to make their way to the nest bowl. Please note how thin the chick closest to the fish appears.

Shortly after Electra brings the fish to the nest, Wattsworth arrives. He is beginning to really annoy me. He reminds me of Louis at the Hellgate Osprey Nest with Iris. Louis is always coming to the nest to try and steal the fish Iris catches for herself.

In the confusion, the chicks go to the centre of the nest where they begin fighting. It is straight forward food competition. While the chicks are fighting and not demanding food, Electra is eating. Wattsworth is on the other side of the nest wanting to take the fish. Does he seriously care so little for his family?

It has been roughly 36 hours since the chicks had any food. They went to bed food begging last night. Their heads are very big. Their bodies have become very thin. I actually worried that they were shrinking before our eyes. At their age they would be moving into the Reptilian Phase but it seems that their thinness could be attributed to being under nourished.

Electra ignores Wattsworth and feeds both of the chicks. Electra has eaten the head off the fish before bringing it to the nest. She has also been eating while the chicks were fighting. She will now turn all her attention to her babies.

It is good to remember at this point that the chicks have not had regular meals and have not had a feeding all of Friday. They may eat and feel full and stop which is precisely what they did. If you look at the image above and the one below you can see how the crop is filled.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Electra thinks she is finished with feeding her chicks. But…

No. They would have let the food into their stomachs and the chicks begin to cry for food again and walk over to the fish. Electra feeds them again.

Meanwhile, Wattsworth is getting impatient. He would like some of Electra’s fish!

Electra continues to feed the chicks til they are full. Wattsworth seizes the moment and moves in to take the fish.

Wattsworth moves the fish off the nest.

Electra broods her babies while they have little fish dreams.

A few hours later, Wattsworth returns with what remains of the fish. He had a nice feed off that big mid-section but it is very good that he returned the fish so Electra and the babies could eat again.

The second that fish hits the nest the two chicks are ready for another feeding! Electra begins to feed them. One of the chicks gets full and goes back to the centre of the nest to sleep.

Then they are both full and sleepy.

Wattsworth would like the rest of the fish but Electra decides she is going to keep her talons on it and not let him take it away. This was a real stand off. Did the Bobs sense that the fish was going to leave the nest again? Something prompted them to move up between the two adults. The entire time they are food begging. The crop is smaller. They have allowed it to drop to fill up their stomach and get their digestive system working again.

Electra feeds them. The chicks get full again.

They go to sleep. Electra still has her talons on that fish. It is not going anywhere!

The fish scuffle wakes the chicks up again!

There is a tug of war with the fish between Wattsworth and Electra. During this time the chicks are food begging really loud. I wish I could get that sound on this page.

Electra won!

For a bit it looks like Wattsworth is going to leave but no, he wants that fish and gets into a fish fight with Electra.

Electra held her ground for a long time. Was she waiting to see if the babies wanted some more food or was she hoping to hold on to that fish for later.

Eventually Wattsworth takes the fish. Electra broods her sleepy chicks and then it begins to rain. They are all full. Electra will keep them warm and dry as the rain falls.

It was a real miracle that Electra went out today and brought in such a big fish so that her and her babies could eat their fill. At the same time I could not help but be more than annoyed with Wattsworth. He is not injured so there is no reason that he should not be fulfilling his role as provider and security for his family.

At the same time, while watching this nest so closely today, I could not help but look at the disarray of the sides. I am truly hoping that this is the camera angle and the walls of this nest are much higher than they appear. At the beginning when the one chick was well off the floor of the nest proper and into the twigs it looked like it could easily fall off.

My heart really goes out to this mother and her two chicks. I hope that Electra will take the initiative tomorrow and go out and fish if Wattsworth does not have fish for them early in the morning. As I sit here I think of all those Ospreys nests in the UK where you know that Blue 33, Laddie, Idris, and Dylan are going to be right there – responsible – with fish in hand as dawn breaks.

Thank you for joining me as I recount the fish battle on the Cowlitz PUD Osprey nest on 12 June. You are probably shaking your head as much as I am at the behaviour of Wattsworth – and sometimes Electra. She has allowed Wattsworth to take fish off the nest when her babies were starving and crying for food. Hopefully she will stand her ground and will go out and fish again if it is needed. The proper growth of the chicks feathers and their internal organs depend on the hydration of the fish. Researchers can actually look at the feathers of food deprived birds and show you when those events took place. —— Well, take care everyone. We can all go to sleep feeling good for Electra and her babies. One day at a time.

Thank you to the Cowlitz PUD for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots.

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