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:
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.
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.
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.