Ospreys — Nature Never Quits

Tom Poland

Posted June 14, 2021

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Noon sharp, a hot, humid Monday. Just twenty yards away a tremendous crash like a rock hitting water got my attention. There sat an osprey with spread wings, its lunch too big to lift. The look on its regal face said, “Well, damn, what now.” Seconds later it released the fish and flew off.

I was in a natural blind of trees and I photographed the osprey sitting in water. In the foreground were rocky shoals spider lilies. It’s the most unique photograph I’ve taken. I got a shot too of its empty talons as it flew away.

“Boy, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” That’s what Grandmom Poland would say when I’d heap too much food on my plate and not eat it. Well, the osprey’s keen eyes were too big for its talons on this dive, but a few minutes later I saw the bird’s shadow hovering, hovering, then dropping. It plummeted into the Broad River at Anthony Shoals but I couldn’t see it. Trees were in the way. I heard it crash into water but never saw if it had a fish or not. I’d wager it had lunch this time.

Three times the fish hawk dove near me. Only once did I get the chance to photograph it. Sitting in water might its wings might get too heavy to take off I wondered, but ospreys’ wings, I learned, are adapted for liftoff in water. Its talons, sharp as razors, have adhesive pads. When an osprey seizes a fish, it’s not going to escape, although it might get released, pardoned by its weight.

That hot Monday two ospreys’ piercing whistle sounded again and again. They were hunting the shallow shoals. I could have watched them all day. These raptors, these hawks, eat nothing but fish and they eat them right away. Too bad for the fish, being yanked from water to sky to be eaten alive, but that’s nature. She can be ruthless.

I look for ospreys when I’m near water. It can be a salt marsh, river, pond, or lake. I have seen bald eagles, a variety of hawks, ospreys, and one unforgettable sighting of the swallow-tailed kite, an especially majestic bird of prey. Ospreys nonetheless get my attention more than all the aforementioned competitors. It’s mesmerizing to watch them drop from the sky.

Come spring I watch a big nest of sticks at Crooked Bridge back home. I know they’re nesting, raising another brood of one to three, sometimes four chicks. A word to the wise. Don’t throw away twine, string, and fishing line etc. Dispose of it in a safe way. Ospreys will use your twine string and so forth to build their nest and the chicks’ feet can get entangled preventing them from leaving the nest. They’re doomed to starve.

Such beautiful birds, these fish hawks that mate for life. Unable to dive to more than about three feet below the water’s surface, ospreys frequent shallow waters, deeper water on occasion when fish school near the surface. The water outside my blind was shallow. Lilies were putting on a show of their own when this magnificent bird dropped in.

I hated to leave this aerial show, but I left aware that somewhere beneath the Broad River a big fish had puncture wounds and somewhere in the air hungry ospreys were hunting anew, for nature, she never quits.

Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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