A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Osprey by the Bridge

    Last year, about this time, I was keeping my eye on two different herons, nesting on the west end of the island. Unfortunately, around the time the eggs were due to hatch, one of the nests was vandalized. But, the other one was a success, with two chicks, growing up to be healthy young herons.
   This year, I've been watching some Ospreys nesting on a pylon, by the bridge going to St. George Island. The nests are made out of sticks and usually built out in open spaces. But they're built strong enough to survived the likes of storms like Debbie, and Isaac, that came through here a couple years ago. 
They're the only large raptor with an unmarked white belly
The flowers are a nice touch!
   Ospreys, also known as sea hawks, fish eagles, and fish hawks, are in this area, all year around. And you'll always find them near the water.They're by the salt marshes, rivers, and the bay. It's common to see their nests on telephone poles, channel markers, water towers, and even man made platforms.
    The number of Osprey crashed, starting in the 1950's. For example, from the 1950's until the 1970's, between New York City and Boston, 90% of the breeding pairs, disappeared. But when many pesticides were banned, mainly DDT, they made a tremendous comeback. And although they are still rare in some places, Ospreys exist on every continent except Antarctica.
They do well in populated areas
   Fish make up 99% of the Osprey's diet. They've been known to eat 80 different species of fish, both from salt, and fresh water. And as long as they're around water, they'll never go hungry. They'll catch a fish on 1 out of every 4 dives. Sometimes even having a 70% success rate. Like a pelican, an osprey will dive for fish from 30 to 100 feet up. 
   Even though Ospreys are here all year around, they're a migrating bird. And if they live out their full life, of 15 to 20 years, they can log over 160,000 miles in a lifetime, with some of their migrating paths being from the east coast, to South America.
The "aerial sky-dance" with a needle fish 
   During the breeding season, the males are very protective, and possessive, of their nesting area. They will do what's called an "aerial sky-dance". Or,as it's sometimes called a fish-flight, where they'll dangle their legs, often clasping a fish, or nesting material, and alternates hovering, with shallow swoops, sometimes 600 ft. above the nesting sight.
   The nesting period for Ospreys is 50 to 55 days. This pair didn't have a lot of work to do, with the nest already being there. But, after the male finds the nesting sight, there's always stick repair, and remodeling to be done. 
The proud parents

   Three eggs is the average number that's laid, and this pair was no exception. The eggs don't hatch all at once, but sometimes, up to 5 days apart. And it's not uncommon for the oldest chick to keep food from the youngest, causing it to starve to death. This was also true with this pair. But, the two surviving chicks didn't live long. 
   When I thought the time was getting close for the chicks to hatch, I stopped and checked on the nest. Sure enough, the male and female were both sitting on the nest, with two chicks. The chicks were just born, so I decided not to bother them, and didn't stop for several days. Then I noticed what I thought to be the female, flying just above the nest, with several sea gulls flying close by. I decided to stop, and what I saw, made me very sad. There were two dead chicks, with a plastic bag wrapped around them. There's a good chance they were suffocated by someone that was careless with their trash. Whether it was tossed out, or blew out on it's own, doesn't really matter. And who knows where the garbage might have originated. One thing's for sure, it didn't belong in this Osprey's nest.
A sad ending
   This is not the ending I would liked to have written for this post, but, I'm hopeful it will make a difference. Maybe people will think twice about what they do with their trash. And with as many nests that were occupied this season on and around St. George Island, I feel certain we'll have plenty of young Ospreys taking to the sky very soon.

Fly So Free





  1. This just breaks my heart, Jo, but thank you for writing about it. Maybe people will read this and think about the consequences of their actions.

    1. I hope so Debbie. The sight of it made me so sad.

  2. Very sad about the babies. Just don't let them pick up you skinny ..... for food.