Herring’s Horror

For the second year in a row, I have stood on the banks of the St. Georges river in Warren, Maine, watching osprey circle, hover and dive for the herring that swim upstream to spawn. This event occurs around Memorial Day, every year, and timing depends on weather, water temperature, tides and factors that I cannot imagine. Usually a 3 week window, from mid May to first week in June, is the sweet spot for this behavior pattern. A fish weir (net with “doors”) across the river in Warren creates a holding pool for the alewives (herring). At times the river can be “boiling” with fish driven by instinct to get upstream to spawn. A Cooperative of lobster fisherman controls the flow of the alewives, which they use for bait in their lobster traps. The osprey are here for the feast.

I wrote about this wildlife event in a previous post last year in:

Osprey Dive Catch and Kill

This post is more about the photographic challenge. Sometimes the osprey dive too far away for good photography. At other times they dive so close that they make you jump from the sound, if you are not ready. One bird approached from behind me and dove just 20 feet from the shore. I never saw it until it hit the water with a big splash, startling me. At one point I counted 15 dives in an hour at the peak. Others more like 3-4 per hour. Then there are those times when it’s zero dives per hour.


Fatal Finish for a Fish

Fatal Finish for a Fish

Canon 7D Mark2, Canon 100-400, f/4.5-5.6, IS II, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, iso 500, EC-1, hand held

I use a Canon 7D Mark2 with a Canon 100-400 IS II zoom lens, handheld. I find this combination to be the most flexible for me to “find” the osprey in the sky, zoom in, and follow it to splash down. Many photographers use a 500 and 600 mm lens to catch the action. Whatever equipment is used, the challenge is to sight a bird circling and follow it down as it dives to the water surface. The “holy grail” image is talons out just before the osprey hits the water. I managed to capture a dozen such images in 5 days, 3 of which were acceptably sharp. Having a camera body that shoots at 10 frames per second is a big help, but the dominant challenge is the skill level required to follow the bird at the increasing speed (and it is accelerating from almost 0 mph to 35mph at the water surface) and holding the Auto Focus point on the bird the entire way down.

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I find that “practice makes perfect”, and a week of practice improves my chances.


~ by richardseeley on July 11, 2016.

2 Responses to “Herring’s Horror”

  1. Nice shot Rich,You have really perfected your birds in action photography.We will see you this Friday.Rod


  2. Beau travail Rich ! Très belle photo et prise de vue


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