Monday, May 5, 2014

The Ospreys of Pelican Bay

In visiting Pelican Bay, one of the greatest treasures found on the beach was not brought in by the sea.

But by air...



Situated on a platform placed upon the mangroves that border the beach...



An osprey pair were raising their young.

There had been three eggs originally but by the time we had arrived, fellow birders reported that the most frail nestling hadn't made it.  Osprey eggs don't hatch all at once, with up to five days passing between hatchings.  The siblings are very competitive and dominance is often established by the first born who tends to win in all the struggles for food.

The remaining two appeared quite strong...



All week long as we visited the beach, my book remained unopened in my bag.

Reading couldn't hold my attention like the drama that I saw unfolding on the beach as I watched the male hawk as he repeatedly soared over my head to fish at the water's edge.



I found myself rooting for him every time he went out.

Ospreys can only dive three feet into the water so they tend to fish in shallow waters or in deeper waters where fish school near the surface.



Every time the babies saw their papa they would squawk in earnest, urging him to bring them FOOD.

I was feeling the pressure for him as his family grew bigger and were eating more and more.

I watched him fly out time and time again, day after day...



And bring back the fish...



I started taking my camera to the beach during the magic hour, a time that happened to coincide with happy hour.

And happy hour it was!   Luckily for me, I was able to photograph one of the moments when the hawk brought back a fish.

Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind.  Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish.  When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.  (source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

I watched him hold the fish and wait until it had ceased struggling.


He knew I was there and in a moment of pure cockiness...he flipped the fish out to the side to give me a clear shot of his catch...


A Florida Pompano.  Its like he knew I would publishing this shot on my blog and the word of his prowess would spread out into the world.

He stayed close and allowed me to continue to record his food prep techniques, consuming the cheek and head of the fish...


Before taking off again...


To deliver the fish to his waiting family.


The female then breaks off small, bite-size pieces to feed to her young.


Like many mothers who are raising their young, I could commiserate with the female who remained on the nest for most of the day keeping watch over her brood. I could feel her muscles and feathers tire of being in the same position, stuck on the same spot.  (It reminded me of my bead journal project a few years ago, Flight Delay)

Day after day she sat on the nest while the male hunted and fetched.


She would leave briefly to go to the water's edge to get a drink...


And on one particularly hot day (90 degrees or so), I observed her lifting her wings and spreading them  in the wind.  I wasn't sure what she was doing at first until I saw her repeat the behavior in the hottest times of the day.

She was cooling off!


This posture reminded me of my Mom when she was having hot flashes.   

It was winter and I caught my Mom with her bedroom window wide open, standing in front of it with her arms outstretched in a similar way while the freezing winter air gave her some relief.  She was wearing a sheer, sleeveless summer negligee while my Dad was shivering under a pile of six blankets on his side of the bed.  I had seen this behavior before!

Sometimes the heat would drive her to the waters edge to catch the cooler breeze down by the sea...


But always she returned to the nest.

The birds will hang around the nest until they become adept at flying and fishing and the nest no longer seems necessary.  I'm not sure if these ospreys stay here all year round but many parents will leave their young and migrate South.  After all, the kids are about the same size as their parents by that point.

The kids will eventually make their way South and hang out in the tropics for a year and a half before returning North in their third year, when their eyes have typically changed from the orange of their youth, to the gold of their parents.



And now you know why this was our story for the week.  

Many thanks to the Osprey family that allowed me to photograph a week in their life.  I'll never forget it.


Happy Happy Monday everyone!

32 comments:

Shirlee Fassell said...

Your pictures are amazing ...... certainly should be in a magazine!

gracie said...

Magnificent pictures...thank you so very much for sharing.

Teresa said...

All I can say is WOW! Those are fabulous pictures.

Mary Ann said...

Thank you very much for showing us some magnificent pictures :)

Lisa said...

Fabulous photos and such a lovely tale!

cucki said...

Great x

FloridaBird said...

Ha, ha.. I saw one of the babies "rearranging the furniture" (sticks).

Linda said...

You never cease to amaze me with your fascinating posts, and this time is not an exception. Thank you for starting my week with such a great story and pictures.

xo Linda

Jeito Mineiro de Ser said...

Uau! Estou encantada com seu relato e suas fotos! Incríveis!
Muito obrigada!
Um abraço!
Wow! I am delighted with your story and your photos! Incredible!
Thank you!
Hugs!
Egléa

Lauren said...

Your photos are so clear. Thanks for sharing them.

Judy S. said...

Great photos, Susan! I agree that they are definitely magazine worthy. We have ospreys here, enough that often platforms are made for them to keep them from nesting other less convenient-to-man places.

denise said...

I wouldn't have picked up my book, either. Beautiful photos. The animal kingdom fascinates me.

Amy Bingham said...

Thank you for sharing your amazing photos. Such beautiful shots. Love the shot you got when "dad" showed off his catch.

Oxford Branch said...

WOW! No wonder your book stayed in your bag, I would have been transfixed, too. Thanks for the great photos and additional info.

The red kite, once common in Britain, was nearly hunted to extiction in the last century. They were completely wiped out in England and Scotland and only a few breeding pairs survive in Wales. There in breeding was becoming a problem. About twenty years ago a program began to reintroduce the kites about 30 miles from my home. The program has been a huge success and kites are now common place in this area. Some of the young chicks have been moved to other parts of Britian to establish new colonies. A really success story! In recent years we regularly see a kite or two flying over home and I am thrilled every time I see them.

Anonymous said...

What a great photo-story, Susan! Your skill as a photographer just get better and better! You really have to know your camera to get the technical shots, but it took some real listening/watching chops and behavioral research to catch some of the more interesting aspects of the story. It's like seeing a short story unfold in front of me. Neat job! Thanks for sharing. :) ~ Sheila I.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Thank you!
Your photography is amazing. This was truly a once in a lifetime week and I can't think of any other nature show that would have been more meaningful, amazing or meaningful.

Sometimes nature gives you a visual experience that you relive time and again. This is a great one!!
xx, Carol

liniecat said...

Stunning photos, such magnificent birds!

Sara Kate MacFarland said...

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful photo-story. Your photographic skill is truly amazing! You've absolutely made my day!!

margaret said...

what a wonderful story you have shared with us all today and how lucky were you to witness this spectacular time. Photos are glorious too so clear, they should be shared with the whole world as they really are remarkable

Estella Star of the East said...

WOW!!

Dee said...

I love reading your posts and rarely comment. I had to stop by and say WOW! those photos are incredible. At first I thought you had downloaded them from a professional source to accompany your story. I soon relayed they were your own pictures.
The pics you take of your embroidery are good but of course it doesn't move. ;)
Lovely story. Sounds like your holiday was a good one.

Ann at Beadlework. said...

Thank you for sharing an amazing sequence of photos.

Rachel said...

What a fantastic sequence! And such a contrast, too, with taking real close ups of delicate embroidery!

Renata's arts and crafts said...

Your pictures are brilliant and the story is very catching .
I love in special the one with the fish

deb* said...

wonderful photos!

nelda said...

Outstanding pictures! Thanks for much for sharing these pictures and the link to the osprey nest cam. I have enjoyed watching them.

Carole M. said...

this is an incredible series; I loved it!! How wonderful your experience and your fabulous lens!

Francesca said...

Such a beauty...thank you !

elmsley rose said...

Very very cool. Thankyou.

Allison Aller said...

Absolutely stunning photography, Susan. But with all your skill and your keen eye, it is your love for your subjects that gives these images their power!

Suztats said...

Fantastic photos, Susan! Thanks so much for sharing them. Sounds like a wonderful week at the beach!

Catherine said...

An absolutely wonderful experience to see this all unfold. Fantastic photos!

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