Osprey Dive, Catch and Kill

•June 1, 2015 • 10 Comments

The osprey, also known as a fish hawk, is an amazing raptor to watch and photograph. They are the only raptor that will dive underwater to catch fish. They will dive from as high as 100 feet and plunge talons first into the the water at speeds of 50 mph to grab a fish. Often they will go as much as 3 feet deep to hook a fish with their talons.

I had the good fortune to find a location in Maine, where the osprey fish in a concentrated area on the St. George river, within photographic range. A fish weir in Warren, Maine creates a “traffic jam” as millions of alewife (herring) swim upstream to spawn in Lake Saint George. The “jam” is so thick with fish that it turns the river to a shade of black. The osprey and seagulls have a feeding frenzy.

While looking at the images on my camera, I was startled by a loud splash 50 feet from where I was standing on the river’s edge. An osprey dove right in front of me. Had I been paying attention, instead of reviewing images, I may have had that “killer” shot. But I did get a few good images. Some of the best ones are in the sequence below, which hopefully tell the story:

Hovering - Spotting the Fish

Hovering – Spotting the Fish

Dive

Dive

Plunge

Plunge

The osprey has a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane that covers and protects the eye as it plunges into the water. It is transparent and can be seen in the image above.

Splash Down

Splash Down

Emerging

Emerging

Watching an osprey emerge from under the water surface, at first using its wings as paddles, then with enough momentum to use them to get lift, dragging a fish along the surface and finally into the air, is like experiencing the poetry of nature.

Got Fish?

Got Fish?

Getting Lift

Getting Lift

Gaining Momentum

Gaining Momentum

Caught One!

Caught One!

Heavy Lifting

Heavy Lifting

Full Payload

Full Payload

Up Up and Away

Up Up and Away

Delivery to Nest

Delivery to Nest

The osprey will orient the fish so that it aligns with the slipstream to reduce drag. Next stop is usually to a tree or to the nest where it is consumed.

Hope that you enjoy.

Rich

 

Osprey Mating Call

•May 19, 2015 • 3 Comments

I am very fortunate to have 6 osprey nests within a 30 minute drive of my house. All appear to be active. I am able to observe at least one of these nests on a daily basis and occasionally even photograph them. It is always a thrill to see a pair return to a nest as a harbinger of Spring. They will settle into the nest, build it up with new nesting material to make it a comfortable home, then begin the process of starting a family.

Now I am not a voyeur, and osprey sex is not on the top of my list of events to photograph, but when this unique mating opportunity presents itself, I am ready with my camera as the images and video below will attest:

Approach

Approaching The Nest

 

Ready to Land

Ready to Engage

Chicks Under Construction

Chicks Under Construction

 

 

 

I am happy to report that at the last few observations of the nest,  it seemed that at least one osprey was on the nest continuously – a good sign that eggs may be incubating.

 

Stay tuned.

 

Rich

 

 

Home Delivery

•April 20, 2015 • 6 Comments

I wish that I could say that this was a carefully planned shot. But no, it was just luck.

I was focused on the one parent bald eagle in the nest with its eyes just above the edge of the nest. It was a snowy, overcast, cold morning and I was looking to capture an image of the bald eagle in a snowy nest. So there I was photographing the eagle in the nest when its mate just flew into my viewfinder frame and landed in the nest. I did not see it coming. Fortunately, I just was in the midst of a series of shots (at 10 frames per second) for about 1-2 seconds when this happened.

Eyes Over The Snow

Eyes Over The Snow

Home Delivery

Home Delivery

 

Luck can happen. Especially when I discovered that the previous frame had the wings clipped at the top of the frame, and in the next shot after this one the eagle had landed.

Also, for my photographer friends, I was about to lower the shutter speed to 1/1000 sec for the portrait shot of the eagle in the nest in order to lower the ISO, which was very high. Again, fortunately, I did not adjust the setting before the surprise arrival. At 1/1600 sec, the shutter speed is a bit slow for good bird-in-flight photography. Fortunately, it was slowing down to land and wings were up (slowest wing velocity) and 1/1600 sec worked. At 1/1000 sec it would have been blurred. Double luck.

Lower ISO would have been much preferred, but I am impressed at how well the 7D Mark 2 handled the noise at ISO 3200. Camera Raw noise reduction was applied.

Maybe it makes up for all those thousands of missed shot where planning was involved.

Canon 7D Mark 2, Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS, Mark 2, handheld

1/1600sec, f/5.6, iso 3200, @400mm.

Home Delivery – It’s a cold snowy morning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, but our bald eagles continue to deliver the goods.

 

Rich

 

 

Home Improvement

•April 7, 2015 • 3 Comments

How does an eagle land when its talons are full of home improvement building material? The bald eagle normally extends its talons as it approaches for a landing. So when it is carrying building material to the nest how does it manage? It’s a question that I had never thought about until I watched a bald eagle approach a nest with its talons full of grass.

Home Improvement

Home Improvement

 

It does an air drop. It drops the material into the nest as it approaches, thus freeing up its talons to land. This requires timing and space to land the material into the nest.  In this case our bald eagle dropped the material a bit too soon, and missed the nest! It must have surprised that bird on the branch just below the trajectory of the drop.

Air Drop

Air Drop

 

Landing in the nest is further complicated by the limited space that the eagle must have to maneuver. There are many branches and tree limbs that obstruct its landing. Dropping its payload is understandable.

I am happy to report that the bald eagle pair appear to be “pregnant”. The nest is constantly occupied. The eagles take turns sitting in the nest and hunting, a sure sign of eggs in the nest being incubated.

Proud Pregnant Parents

Proud Pregnant Parents

 

Rich

 

Pink Sands National Monument

•March 21, 2015 • 10 Comments

It might be called White Sands National Monument (Alamogordo, New Mexico), but one magical morning, I saw pink. As the sun rose over the mountains, the sand dunes and clouds were bathed in a soft, pinkish light that made the dunes glow. That is how I remember it and fortunately, my camera did too.

To me, it should be called Pink Sands National Monument!

Pink Sands Pano

Pink Sands Pano

In one fleeting moment we could see the earth’s shadow (dark band between mountains and pink clouds).

Pink Waves

Pink Waves

 

As the sun rose above the horizon, the pink color faded and the magical light lit up the dunes in a golden glow.

Dune Glow

Dune Glow

 

At sunset, a dramatically different scene was created, with shadows on the sand wrinkles and ripples.

Wrinkles and Shadows

Wrinkles and Shadows

It is a wonder that any plant can survive the extreme temperatures, gypsum based soil, dry conditions and the constantly shifting sand at White Sands National Monument, but the Yucca plant seems to do just that. Photographers from around the world are thankful for this hardy plant species, as it makes for some vivid compositions.

 

Yucca Wind Wrinkles

Yucca Wind Wrinkles

Two Yucs

Two Yucs

 

And with a full moon, a little serendipity!

Yucca Balancing Full Moon

Yucca Balancing Full Moon

 

My heartfelt thanks goes to Russ Burden and his White Sands Workshop for his ability to scramble to all of those “secret” locations among miles of dunes to get that killer shot!

http://www.russburdenphotography.com/

 

Best

Rich

 

 

Bald Eagle in Osprey Nest

•March 10, 2015 • 2 Comments

This is the second time that I have seen and photographed a bald eagle sitting in an osprey nest. The osprey have migrated south for the winter away from Summit County, Colorado. They will be back in late March, early April. Wonder if they will be surprised to find bald eagles in their nest.

Why are the bald eagles using the osprey nest?

 

 

Bald Eagle with an eye on this photographer

Bald Eagle with an eye on this photographer

Most likely the bald eagles are using the nest as a high viewing perch. They do not seem to be making a permanent nest there. Bald eagle nests tend to be much larger (my unscientific observation based on nests in Summit County), so the osprey nest sitting on a platform is probably too small for them and a growing family. The particular nest in question overlooks the Silverthorne-Dillon Water Treatment pond. The pond does not freeze. It is home to a number of ducks. Could they be potential prey for a hungry bald eagle?

 

Eagle departing nest

Eagle departing nest

 

 

Eagle departing nest

Eagle departing nest

 

 

I have seen and photographed an eagle diving and grabbing a seagull from the ocean. It would not surprise me if the bald eagles grabbed a duck. It would be an amazing sight to see and photograph. Come to think of it, the number of ducks in the pond has been decreasing over the winter.

It makes me wonder?

Eagle departing nest

Eagle departing nest

 

Below is a photograph taken in 2007 in Seattle with an older camera and lens. The image is not as sharp as I would like (shutter speed is too slow), but it does illustrate that eagles will dive and grab seagulls and ducks, if hungry enough.

This eagle could be either a juvenile bald eagle or a golden eagle.  They are sometimes difficult to tell apart.

What do you think?

Eagle Grabs Gull, Carkeek Park Seattle

Eagle Grabs Gull, Carkeek Park Seattle

 

Rich

Golden Eagle and Road-kill

•March 4, 2015 • 9 Comments

I am of two minds about this image. I love the opportunity to photograph a Golden Eagle on road kill right from my car window, but hate the thought of the numerous mule deer that have been killed by vehicles and the risk to the drivers that have hit them. Wildlife overpasses and underpasses across highway 9, in Summit and Grand Counties, Colorado have been funded and construction should start this year. Happy about that.

https://www.codot.gov/projects/sh9wildlife

http://www.summitdaily.com/news/13690580-113/project-highway-wildlife-animal

http://www.grandfoundation.com/page/50/citizens-for-a-safe-highway-9/

 

 

 Golden Eagle on Road Kill

Golden Eagle on Road Kill

 
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