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Ospreys return to the Potomac River

Saturday - 4/19/2014, 7:24pm  ET

osprey nest (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Ospreys are returning to nests in the Potomac River. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- This is a great weekend to take a walk or ride along the Potomac River, where you'll likely notice some neighbors who left for the winter have returned.

They're ospreys, and one is perched on a nest on a platform at Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria.

"They start coming back in February," says bass fishing guide Capt. Steve Chaconas, who docks his boat at the Belle Haven Marina. "[In] March, they start getting close to their nests, and right now a lot of them are starting to lay their eggs. Usually you come by here in the morning or in the evening, it's lined up with photographers taking pictures of the ospreys."

A 24-hour camera pointed at an active osprey nest has been set up on tributary of the Potomac, Little Hunting Creek.

Decades ago, bald eagles were hard to find around here. Now, Chaconas says, it's a very different scene: "Now it's really cool, there's never a day that we come out here where we don't see several bald eagles. The nests are very prominent. They're huge.

"We see a lot of them in the wintertime, and in the winter they have to fend for themselves. But in the summertime, they love to see the ospreys come back, because the ospreys are better fishermen.

"And when they're carrying a fish, the eagles can catch up to them and steal the fish from them, so we get to watch those on-the-water or above-the-water acrobatics."

He's also starting to see beavers and freshwater otters on or near the river now.

Last year, Chaconas says he had an unexpected encounter with an otter.

"I actually had one climb on board last year. It probably got a little disoriented and was out in the middle of the river out in front of Mount Vernon. I saw it, stopped the boat, went by, got close to him. He climbed into the boat and just rested for a little bit. I took him closer to the shore, he got out, swam on his merry way and that was the last of that."

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