Fish Hawk in Evening Light

One evening last week two local fishermen were successful, one because it caught a filling meal, the other because he could share in the experience through observation.

Ospreys are large, streamlined raptors, incredibly well designed for finding and capturing live fish near the surface of lakes, ponds and other surface waters. They circle, hover and dive, feet first, to capture their prey, then retreat to a suitable perch to dine.

Long, curved, needle-sharp talons and small, spine-like projections on the bottom of the feet provide a secure grip on slimy, slippery captures. When I first arrived on the scene, the tail of the fish was still flopping around but neither the position of the bird – or the fish in its grip – changed during a half hour of feeding.

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Feeding was slow and methodical, with frequent breaks for swallowing, scanning for threats and feather fluffing. The entire fish was consumed, one small bite at a time, head to tail.

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At one point, a solitary crow made a quiet, feeble attempt to investigate and harass  the Osprey. Seemed like a death wish to me, but the encounter was brief and uneventful.

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A few minutes after devouring the fish, the Osprey took flight, banking up and away from the bright evening sun. The scene was reminiscent of my first sighting of a Snowy Owl in flight: stunning, disproportionately large wings filling the sky and leaving me spellbound.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.