March 2010 Bird Photo of the Month

Catch of the day © John J. Waite
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Technical details: This photograph was taken at Blue Cypress Lake with a Canon Rebel XT/Canon, 75 to 300 mm lens. Modifications, especially of the background have been made in Adobe Photoshop.

This powerful photograph, taken by John J. Waite at Blue Cypress Lake, dramatically shows the character of the Osprey…aggressive, ready to defend his kill, devourer of fish, boldly calling out to let others know of his triumph.  With the sharp curved bill used to tear flesh apart, penetrating eyes to spot fish while hovering as high as 50 feet above the water, powerful legs to dive dramatically feet-first immersing themselves fully under the water to catch their prey, sharp talons to secure fish while rising from the water shaking the water from its body and wings, or holding onto the fish as he circles the nesting area boasting of his catch…conveys the primary features of the Osprey well. Osprey and Owls can grasp their prey with two toes in front and two back; the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible. Very useful when flying high with slippery fish!

Sometimes mistaken for a bald eagle because the osprey is large, has white on its head and is brown, but a closer look reveals the brown headband, the white chest and belly and brown tail feathers, unlike the eagle. Most females have a wider brown “necklace” unlike males. Their diet consists primarily of fish.

Appropriate for the Month of March as Ospreys are very busy these days sitting on their eggs, defending them against marauding crows and other invaders or humans who get too close. Ospreys may return year after year to the same nest site. Hundreds of nests atop Cypress trees can be found at Blue Cypress Lake, but they fish in salt, brackish, as well as fresh waters. Some in residential areas confine their fish eating to storm water ponds…why we need to be particularly careful of our storm water runoff as the fish eaten absorb and eat plants with the fertilizers, pesticides, detergents, chemicals we flush off our yards and down our drains.  It is one of the few birds that have spread worldwide, found on all continents except Antarctica.  Our ospreys breed here now but during our hot summer when juveniles are grown enough, many will migrate south to cooler climes.  They have been tracked even as far away as Brazil!

Juanita Baker,
Coordinator for the PIAS Photo of the Month

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