Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Osprey with Skills

During nesting season and the period when they are raising chicks, the male osprey fishes for the family.  He will catch a fish and take it to a tree where he will eat the front half of the fish.  Once he is done, he will take the remainder to the female and give it to her to eat.  Seems to me, she gets the better half of the deal but, hey, what do I know?  In this first image, the male is flying around with the fish in it's talons.  Not much of a fish, but still...  As is often the case, he flew right over me, looking me over. I'm not sure if they do that because they are fearful I may take it from them or they're bragging or what. I just know that even if they have the whole river to fly over, they will make a pass or two over my location and give me that bug-eyed stare.  I finally realized that the reason they fly around so much after catching a fish is to allow time for the fish to expire.  Try to imagine attempting to land on a tree branch with a wiggling, slippery fish in your paw and you can understand why.

Finally, though, the male lands in a tree to eat the fish.  You can see the fish under his right foot. This sycamore is within eyesight of the nesting box and pretty much at the same level as the nest, so he gets to keep an eye on his mate while he is eating.  It lets her know how soon she will be eating and it also allows him to defend the nest against aggressors.  I watched him chase an eagle away the other day that intentionally flew just over the nest to check it out. 

The nesting box is at the top of an electrical pole and was erected last year by the electric company. More about that in another post.  There are a lot of people that like to walk along this road, enjoying the view of the river and marsh while getting some exercise.  The female doesn't like people walking under her nest and will get to complaining when they do.  There isn't much that can be done about it. They chose this location and they are going to have to put up with the activity.  I don't think she liked me being on the dock either.  In this image, she is staring directly at me, but I am probably a couple hundred feet from the nest.  Does she have eggs?  I would expect that she does. 
When the male was done eating, he flew what was left of the fish over to the nest, landed and gave it to her.  She took it in her mouth and did something I have never seen before.  She took off and flew with the fish in her beak instead of in her talons.  I'm not sure if she did that without thinking it through or what, but after she got airborne, she decided she really should be carrying the fish in her talons, and tucked her head under her body while flying and transferred the fish to her claws.  After having never seen this before, on the following day, I saw her do exactly the same thing.  So, take a good look at the one with the fish in her mouth because you don't hardly ever see that.

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