Friday, February 15, 2013

Osprey Takes Flight

Florida 2013 continued...

On our way to Rotary Park Tuesday morning I spotted this osprey pair in a tree in someone's backyard, at the end of a street very near my grandma's house. For purely selfish reasons I was excited to see the birds nesting on something other than a man-made platform--to get photos of them in a natural setting. It seems to me that a platform would be more sturdy, but hey, who am I to say? I pulled the van over and took a few photos, making a mental note to come back later and set up the tripod.

Osprey are birds that have become fairly common in Florida, and we have begun seeing them around our home, especially at Appleton Lake, where we go to fish and watch the sandhill cranes. That wasn't always the case, of course. Like most raptors their populations were devastated by the effects of DDT poisoning. The ban of that chemical in the early 70's--along with the work of many dedicated volunteers--allowed the osprey and other top predators make an incredible comeback.

A few months back I started a project to sort and organize my bird images. My primary reason for shooting birds had always been to get subject matter for my art. It has since turned into a quest to photograph every bird I see, a sort of visual life list. I decided to open a Flickr account (see the thingy at the top right of this page) and upload my best image of each bird I've photographed. I also decided to get them printed and put together a photo album because I'm a paranoid freak and will never quite trust digital files.

Anyway, I was surprised to see that in many cases, the more common the bird, the fewer the photos I had of it, like the American robin. I also discovered that in some cases the photos I had just weren't very good. I expect that with a species like the yellow-billed cuckoo, which I've seen only once and then very briefly, which I'm happy to have gotten any images at all. But with birds like the osprey, which I have taken oodles of pictures of, I was disappointed at how poor my images were--blurry, back-lit, you name it. So one of my goals on this trip was to get better images of birds I've already photographed. This was a great opportunity to improve on my osprey photos.

Boy, was I right!

Later in the day I walked down to the corner with my camera and tripod and set up on the edge of someone's yard, under a big pine. I'd only been there a few minutes when an osprey flew up the to tree where I was standing. I thought it was going to land on a branch about 15 feet up on the opposite side of the tree, but instead, as it approached the branch, it jabbed its feet out, breaking it off. The bird whirled around with a small part of the dead branch in its talons as the remainder thudded to the ground 10 feet away!

I managed to get the camera on it as it approached the nest.

Osprey with building material.

 He perched for a few minutes, calling out to his mate--LOUDLY.

"Hon!! Where do you want me to put this? Hon? HON!!"

And then...magic.

I would swear this bird is looking right at me.

 He lifted his wings...

...spread them wide...

..and with one powerful thrust, took the the air...

...flying for a moment right at me.

He quickly veered to my right and out of the frame. I was breathless with excitement!

I stayed for a while longer and watched while as many as five osprey were visible in the sky above me. Some few by with fish clutched in their talons.

This bird has a small fish in its left foot.

I was to receive one more gift from these gorgeous birds. After talking to some of the neighborhood kids, who where understandably curious about me and my doings, I had another bird fly right at me and into the tree beneath which I stood, clutching a good sized fish. She landed not more that five away, perhaps 12 to 15 feet up the tree. I got a stiff neck trying to watch her. What a treat!

Mmmm.  Not sure what kind of fish. Perhaps a snapper?

Bon appetit!

Next: Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary and the wood stork.

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