Monday, 2 February 2015

B.O.T.D. Osprey

B.O.T.D. Feb 2, 2015

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

From a distance, the soaring bird might be mistaken for a gull. But the wings seem too broad, the head is too small, and ... wait a minute. Gulls don't dive! No, but the osprey does, with breathtaking mastery. Form heights of 100 feet or more it searches for fist swimming near the surface of a bay, a lake , air an ocean - then folds in its wings and dives headfirst like an incoming missile. The target is not quite where it seems - refraction on the water distorts the picture - but the osprey knows this and takes it into account during the dive. Just before hitting the water, the bird throws its taloned feet forward. If its aim is true, the hunter will emerge with a fish clutched firmly in his hands.

The nest to which the "fish hawk": returns is a bulky affair. An osprey pair will use the same nest season after season, adding material until the overburdened structure collapses in a storm. House-hunting birds keep an open mind when selecting new house sights. A dead pine beside some island lake is ideal; along the coast, a cedar is the preferred setting. But telephone poles, duck blinds, channel markers and lighthouses serve nicely too. Sticks are the main building materials, but all sorts of things find their way into osprey nests: canticles, muskrat skulls,discarded toys, plastic webbing from deck chair - even, superfluously enough, fishing lines and lures.