September is a difficult month for us. Like parents sending their oldest child to school for the first time, we have to watch ours leave the nest behind as well.
It's the time when the ospreys fly south for the winter.
The anticipation and tension we experience in mid-April, waiting for their return to the nest next to our home, wondering how they fared over the winter and through the migration, fearing this might be the year they don't return, is nothing compared to the worry that consumes us in the first few weeks of September.
Because all that is left in the nest is one lone osprey.
It's been sitting there, only rarely flying off, for the past two weeks; obviously the others are gone. There has been one other osprey bringing in fish but it seems that even that one has now departed for its winter home (Texas?). This one is all by itself now, and we don't even know if it's eating.
Osprey eggs are born about a week apart so three eggs means a two week difference between the first born and the last; is it enough to account for one osprey, the youngest, the baby, remaining here for so long? Does it get so used to mother and father bringing in food that it is slower to learn to fish for itself? Does it need another two weeks to mature even though it is living alone, crying out for the constant companionship that has now deserted it?
This causes my husband much anxiety so I posited a new theory last week: perhaps one osprey always remain in
the nest to protect it from eagles looking for new real estate. This
might not even be the youngest; there is always one osprey who arrives
first and alone so perhaps this is the same one, staking its claim until
the very last moment. Maybe this is how they keep returning, as we believe, to the same nest year after year.
The first time we witnessed this lingering was in 2010, the first summer the osprey pair had three offspring. They've hatched out three eggs ever since so every fall, my husband worries about the remaining osprey flying south in time (in 2010, I think he was considering driving the bird to South Carolina...). But I know from this summer cycle, from the laws of nature, that sometime next week, this bird will, literally, fly off into the sunset and we will wake up the next morning to the sound of silence.
That's the hardest part about saying good-bye to these birds. They are such a part of our daily lives for six months. Every morning, we hear two sounds: the rooster crowing and the osprey chirping. Some day soon, when my husband takes his coffee out to the deck with its view of the osprey nest, it will be empty, the air will smell faintly of frost, and there will be slightly bitter taste to the coffee that morning.