Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just When You Hoped for an Osprey-free Post

Hah, not yet, my friends!

On Friday, September 9th I had one of my closest encounters ever with the Osprey family, so we're not quite done yet with them. My morning visit found one of the babies working away at his piece of sushi:

Given the freakishly sick and addictively high amount of time that I've spent observing their behaviour (write a book already for BSC!), I learned a lot about Osprey that day. As soon as the baby begins to struggle with and have trouble handling and maneuvring its prey when there's less and less of it to grab onto, it begins to whimper like a big wuss, poor baby!

Did you ever wonder if they eat even the tail of the fish?  

Yes, indeedy, this baby sure does, down the hatch!


Most of the other photos that I took during that morning visit have since been deleted, as my return visit at the Golden Hour was one of my most memorable ones ever, as well as most stressful and graphic. As mentioned in an earlier post, these beautiful birds will be heading south soon, so when I go to the nest these days I expect nothing. And sometimes that's what I see there, nothing, no birds, no parents, NOTHING, nada, rien, zilch.

But on Friday evening, both babies were at the nest, but to my dismay, one of them looked a bit ruffled up:

Although the photos didn't show it, there were other dishevelled feathers on its right side, so my initial fears were that it had been grazed by a car. My camera was quickly replaced with my 18 x 50 binos to check it out, as well as to see how the baby was behaving. I didn't have to wait too long to see that it was fine, as dad made one of his hasty food drops and the babies went nuts:

The baby that successfully fought for the fish left the nest with it tightly clenched in its talons, so I heaved a sigh of relief that all was well. It sits panting in the heat in one of its preferred feeding trees:

...checking me out with those gorgeous amber eyes that I've already seen a colour change over the past few days:

The odd "underwing" feather (okfine, BSC will have nothing to do with me if I cannot even call it by its proper name!) had re-aligned itself when the baby took off from the nest, so that was a huge relief for me!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch nest, the other baby was just sitting there whining, trying to come up with a better strategy to get that fish the next time, so I lost track of where the winning baby was. Suddenly my peripheral vision kicked in and by a total fluke, I spotted him further up the road flying into a dead tree (and no, he did not hit the tree ;-) ) , this being a brand new eating spot for him, so off went the Car Lady to watch him enjoy his meal.

He paid me no heed, so I quietly pulled in quite close to him and began taking more photos. It was only when I was checking my camera settings that I realized it was in fact THE FATHER  and not the baby! The adults are far more skittish than the babies and usually immediately fly off when approached, but this guy had other things on his mind- and under his talons.

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: the following contains medieval-like scenes of extreme graphic content, incuding blood, guts, gore, made all the worse when you know that the fish was still alive and thrashing around:   

Yes, it was sadly at this point that I saw the fish still squirming:

As I'm watching him continue the slaughter, I'm also hearing a cuckoo calling in the background, I was far too focused on this close encounter with the Osprey dad to pursue the cuckoo. Then again, the irony of this was not lost on the cuckoo Car Lady ;-)

The other background noise was that of the two babies constantly whimpering for this fresh meal to be delivered to them back at the nest!

He takes a chomp, but all the while is totally aware of his surroundings, constantly looking around:

Yum, most of the head is gone now as his meal prep for the babies' food drop is almost complete:

And off he goes to the nest with the remnants of the fish, directly over my car:

I could not believe my good fortune to have been so close to an adult, BEST TIME EVER!!!

So this was the winning baby with its fresh meal:

Struggling with the tail again...

...good to the last bite:

Another new observation for me that day was the post-meal beak and talon cleaning, it was time to get rid of all of that blood, guts, and fish slime, I suppose. Even though the next three images appear to all look the same, if you double-click on them you'll see how the baby is rubbing its beak back and forth on the branch as well as its talons:

The baby returns to the nest and they continue to whimper and beg for more:

But it was time for me to leave, so I went to turn the car around up the road, only to find Father Osprey in the very same tree as before, merrily eating away again on a fresh catch. I literally groaned out loud, but of course stayed another thirty minutes watching him as he gleefully ate more of the fish this time before delivering it to the nest full of begging babies:


WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: the following contains medieval-like scenes of extreme graphic content, incuding blood, guts, gore, but this time at least the fish was mercifully dead:

Dad has a piece of fish skin in his beak...

...but decides the juice ain't worth the squeeze to swallow it, so let's it drop:

Hannibal Dad says: "Got Chianti?"

Constantly on the look-out while eating (unlike the babies when they eat, I might add!), the only threat he had to his meal was numerous flies that surrounded him. I've also learned that not always does the father do the head removal as part of the meal prep, as the fish has been delivered whole on other recent food drops I've seen:

As members of the Pooparazzi Club well know: they eat, they poop. End of story.

And off he goes to the nest with the remnants, straight over my car again!

Dad is certainly a good provider to his babies in such a short period of time! Mom hasn't been seen for a few weeks now, so I suspect she's already left on her southern journey.

And so ended my phenomenal Golden Hour evening at the nest with not only both babies, but also dad, an unexpected treat, as well as my closest encounter ever with an adult. What an amazing night that I'll never forget, especially when I expected to see nothing!


Jeremy Medina said...

Incredible photos!

janice.melendez said...

Thx, Jeremy, I adore these birds!