Monday, June 3, 2013

Osprey Trio

June 3, 2013 10 a.m. Pond Report:

Three osprey are circling Elmira Pond, high in the thunderheads that are mushrooming over the Selkirks to the west. I have it on good authority that osprey typically hunt solo (my daughter Allison is a Science Source fellow for J-School at UM Missoula and she's working with the university's Osprey Project).

So I grab my camera to document the trio. By the time I return, only two remain. But that's not solo, so I shoot pixels of the gliding osprey duo and wait for the show to start.

Sometimes, the osprey hovers, flap-flap-flap and then glides away, circling ever wider and higher until he's merely a speck of dark ash on the wind. And other times he hovers, flap-flap-flap and then drops like a feathered cannon ball feet-first into the pond. SPLASH!

Today, the two osprey chatter. Who knows what one osprey says to another? Do they tell guy-jokes or fishing lies about last week's catch? Maybe they swap home-improvement ideas, sharing stick-nesting tips. Maybe--and this is my unproven theory--one osprey is "Dad" and he's teaching "Sonny Boy 1" how to hunt. And "Sonny Boy 2" said, "This is lame," and flew off to do his own thing, his way.

If that's so, it's definitely Dad who poises in a hover and dives. He's good, he's osprey-spectacular-good. And he's successful. SPLASH, then flap-flap-flap inches above the water, taking flight over a goose, clearing a pasture fence and rising up into the cloudy-blue sky to circle tall pines a ranch away.

I can see something dangling beneath the grasp of his padded feet, even the photo I clicked reveals "something." The experts and observers estimate that osprey mostly eat a diet of fish. But I am hoping they eat bull frogs, too. It's mating season and the bullfrogs are sonorous as a 10-year old learning to play the tuba. Mergansers and blue herons dine on frog legs and all, so perhaps its okay if the osprey just fish.

A few days ago, one of the younger osprey (if my theory holds water better than sand) dove no less than ten times unsuccessfully. It was great for me, a perfect bird-nerd moment, but disappointing for the bird. He might have hooked something that last time, but he went over to the dead snag in the stand of pines to the west and sat on a high branch.

Having stood witness for both hunts, I can tell you that each bird hunted differently. Today, Dad took a higher approach and made a faster dive. Sonny Boy 1 kept diving from a lower starting point and his splashes were larger.

Interesting to note that Blue Heron was also hunting the shoreline reeds during the ospreys' visit (title caps refers to my bird buddy who lives near Elmira Pond; not an original name, I know, but oddly it dignifies him). And the two goose couples with 14 goslings under guard floated the edge of the pond and seemed peaceful in osprey presence. One photo shows Dad taking flight after his dive with a goose gliding close by.


Hunting Duo
Osprey Over Elmira Pond


Bowing Wings to Hover

Hovering, Flap-Flap-Flap


Dive Recovery

Flying off with Meal (note the goose to the left)

Catch Gripped by Feet
Circling Before Taking Nest or Perch

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