Saturday, June 8, 2013

Osprey




They were immediately upset when we arrived.

One Osprey was on the nest, the other one was circling it.  We were already within their comfort zone and only a hundred feet from the car.  

We hadn’t learned their boundaries, yet. Fred took cover behind the ball diamond’s dugout and I looked for a spot that would make them happy.

The sign informed us the Green Lake Lakers played baseball here.  It was quiet at 8:30 in the morning.  High atop the left field light standard two Ospreys had built a nest.  With their high angle view they saw everything coming or going.  We had no hope of arriving unnoticed.  I wondered about their choice of nest sites…busy town, ballpark, bright lights…seemed odd.  Not the ideal place to raise a family. 

It’s likely Ospreys don’t know anything about baseball.

Soon both were circling and calling in harsh grating voices, expressed their displeasure at us.  I wondered what they did on game nights with the lights lit and the crowd cheering.  

Oddly, after putting up with game noise, why would two quiet guys with cameras upset them so?

The Ospreys watched us intently.
They only quieted down when I moved further away from their nest site.  My friend, Fred, leaning on the dugout wall, was less conspicuous.  When their hawk-like vocalizations stopped I assumed they were satisfied.  
Osprey pairs look alike.  I can’t tell which is which, although one looks darker than the other. One bird is missing a feather on its right wing...noticeable in flight.  'Who's who' is known to them anyway…really.    I only became interested when it involved the sharing of a fish.   
Osprey #1 caught a fish and landed on a small manmade perch, nearby Osprey #2.  He/she landed with the fish and looked around, clearly in the mate’s sight.  The mate didn’t cry out for a share, but watched intently.  Osprey #1 proceeded to eat it. He/she ate the whole fish!  Bit-by-bit it was gone!  If he/she didn’t intend to share, why did he/she return to eat it in front of the mate?  Had the mate already eaten?   Maybe that’s putting way too much human emotion onto a bird, but for me it became an interesting observation…without an answer.  Now full of fish he/she made a couple of circles around the nest and disappeared for a half-hour. 

A possible answer came when Osprey #1 returned to the nest with a fish for the mate.  The transfer was made out of sight, but Osprey #2 leaves grasping a fish in its talons.  

Osprey #1 now settles down for a turn at incubating eggs. 

Ospreys are beautiful birds to watch.  They are sculpted, graceful and elegant in flight.

With a five to six foot wingspan they are not difficult to identify. They are mostly white under the wings, the 'armpits' and breast. 

Their wings make an M shape in flight.  

Capable of hovering, this unique species of hawk can wait for the precise moment to plunge into the water, feet-first for a fish.  They prefer shallow water, and can reach a fish three feet under the surface. 

Begrudgingly gracious in the long run, the Ospreys made Fred and I wait six hours for our pictures. 
We didn't complain though…not much. 
  
Allan