Do Not Upset Breeding Ospreys at Feeding Time
Early one morning I borrowed my host’s Mountain Bike, adjusted the Nikon D200 around my neck and took off for a ride, exploring the outer edges of this magnificent former waterfront plantation, that in less naturally endowed parts of the world would be a Nature Preserve, instead of a magnificent Bird Sanctuary.
When we drove to the villa the night before we had already spotted a coupe of Pink Spoonbills and an Osprey Nest across one of the bridges that connect the islands in Oyster Bay to the mainland residential area, also called Waterway Oaks. So on this morning I set out on the bike to find the huge Osprey nest on the pole at the end of the bridge and while turning a corner in the development designated for the newly designed Cottages, I was welcomed by a frantic screeching noise. Not at all like the evening before when one bird nonchalantly peeked over the edge as we drove by in our little convertible.
Oh no…this morning it was a different ball game. I’m on a bike which in their eyes must be just an extension of a human body and therefore an imminent danger. Frankly after taking some 200 photographs of the entire outlines of Oyster Bay Harbour, weaving from one tree lined quiet road to the next, I did not expect this kind of welcome from my feathered friends. I figured they would have babies, so I was planning to photograph some of the feeding action between mom and dad and the young ones. The nest was by my estimate at least 40 ft straight up in the air, with no chance to take a picture inside of the nest unless I happened to be an old fashioned telephone pole repair man with spiked boots.
Well the breeding pair must have heard me coming from a distance, because the moment I turned the corner onto the little bridge, a tumultuous ruckus breaks out and in a matter of seconds they actually dive bomb me like they were Blue Jay’s on steroids. One from straight up front and one from the side.Ospreys are not native to my native country but coming at you with those hawk like beaks, stretched out talons and a four to six foot wingspan, even unsettles a 6’3″ 220 lbs guy like me. Only later do I learn that these beautiful seafood eating birds of prey only weigh between 2 and 4.5 lbs in total, but they are also known as Sea Hawks or Fishing Falcons. And that in itself is why they demand a healthy respect from anyone. So right at that moment I see two of this examples of this formidable species coming at me in a very orchestrated way. These two understood each other’s moves blindly and perfectly; so perfectly in truth that I had to do a substantial background check on Wikipedia on these birds, which taught me that Ospreys mate for life, they are life partners, which explained a lot to me.
The last moment, probably about 10 feet out, they pulled up simultaneously like two wings of a plane in an aborted landing effort, made a perfect opposite semi circle and stately landed back on their nest. Subconsciously I noticed that they had screeched in the dive part of the attack, but turned instantly silent on their return to the nest, where they were now quietly sitting and waiting for my next move.
I was warned that I had invaded their space an they didn’t trust my motives. I could cautiously proceed at my own risk of another dive attack or smartly turn back. Either way they would keep an eye on me. Good for them. I decided to turn back and leave them and their babies at peace.