In one more sign that spring is settling in along the Front Range, the Boulder County Fairgrounds’ female osprey has arrived at her newly cleared nest, and is expected to lay her eggs in mid-April.
Osprey watchers say the female returned on Saturday.
Following the unfortunate death of two osprey chicks last season, local experts and Boulder County officials dismantled the nest in February in hopes of clearing any harmful bacteria or parasites that may have affected the chicks.
“We hope that would create a fresh start for osprey to build a new nest,” said Boulder County Parks and Open Space web administrator Nik Brockman. “If there was anything in there, we don’t know and we never will know if that was what caused those two chicks to die last year.”
The father of this year’s eggs, however, has yet to make an appearance. While it isn’t unusual for the male to arrive later than the female, his absence has allowed a new male to help with the nest. This new osprey, characterized by dark legs and a dark undercoat, arrived on March 30 and has brought in sticks and even a fish to share with the female.
Boulder County osprey chat volunteer moderator Jasmine Finks believes the new male isn’t the most experienced, but is relying on his instincts to care for the female. Finks said it’s still possible for the father to return but it’s looking less likely as each day passes.
“Osprey love to keep us guessing/learning and we hope we are pleasantly surprised with his presence,” Finks wrote in a post on Wednesday. “If he does show up he will claim back his nest and displace the male with dark legs.”
The occasional visit from a non-resident raptor isn’t out of the ordinary according to Brockman.
“We frequently see nonresident visitors show up to the nest,” Brockman said. “In the previous years, we’ve had visiting females, visiting males and currently right now, this male who is not the resident male.”
Brockman said that if the resident male doesn’t show up “nature will move on” and he expects the new male will take over. He added that while osprey typically mate for life, they are more loyal to their nest location.
Last year’s resident female arrived on March 22 and her first chick hatched in mid-May. It’s still unknown who will play dad this year, but the new male appears to be making the most of his opportunity.
“We want dad to return home to mom,” Finks wrote. “But also rooting for the male with dark legs to learn as much as he can so he can too become an established breeding osprey someday,” Finks wrote.