Sunday, January 11, 2015

And yet another tribute to the osprey

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog titled "A tribute to the osprey". I feel it is time to pay tribute again, to this wonderful bird. While spending several days in the Everglades recently, the osprey was a constant companion. Often, I hear the osprey before I see it. It's high pitched call sounds melancholy, as if the bird is worried. But then I see it dive to the water with speed and precision unlike any other, and capture a fish in its powerful claws. Not worried at all, it is an amazing predator and does a great job passing its skills on to its young. Consequently, the osprey is one of the Everglades success stories.

On my last trip through the Everglades, I sited over 20 osprey nests. On one day, I spotted over five nests. Keep in mind, I am not out looking for osprey nest, I am just passing by in my canoe. Given my record, it is likely that for every one I spotted, another one was missed.

The one nest that got my attention most was for the obvious reason that it was located a short walk from one of my campsites where I spent three nights. I was able to walk around the island toward the nest when tidal conditions allowed me to do so. The nest was built high on a dead mangrove tree, among many. The first time I came upon it, I noticed the male osprey parent first. He was guarding the nest while perched on a nearby branch. That's when I noticed the nest with the female osprey in it, about 20 feet away from the male.

I quietly and slowly approached, but immediately he spotted me and took off sounding his high pitched call. Shortly after, the female left the nest; now both in flight and soon out of sight. I stood in place for awhile, only to spot one of the birds fly over one time. Soon after, I left and walked back to camp, resolved to come back with my telephoto lens.

I returned in the afternoon with the sun to my back which provided a nice front light on the birds and nest. I attempted to walk a further distance away to hide behind the driftwood that littered the low tide shoreline. The male was again on sentry duty. Despite my stealth (yeah, right) he immediately saw me and took off. Who am I to think I can hide from an osprey, the same bird that can spot a fish in the water from a 100 feet above.

In the meantime, I noticed both parents were in flight, going in and out of sight. I crouched low behind some driftwood and waited. A couple minutes later, one of them returned with a nice sized branch. I tracked the bird as it flew towards the nest. Shooting continuously, I captured the scene as the bird assumed a landing pose.

But, instead of staying in the nest to deposit the branch, it flew out with the branch and continued flying around. It made one or two landing attempts, but did the same thing each time. Not knowing where the other osprey parent was at the time, I quickly surmised that the birds were disturbed by my presence despite my being hidden (or so I thought I was).

It would have been easy to have continued staying there waiting for the bird to come back to the nest. But I believed that as long as I was there, they would not. I have photographed osprey nests from many locations, mostly while in my canoe. I have seen this behavior only one other time. Despite being a hundred feet or more away from the nest, my presence had an obvious affect. Why it wasn't on many other occasions is unknown to me.

Upon realizing that the birds would not act right until I was gone, I left them and never returned.

Enjoy these images, including some from other locations, of the noble osprey.

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