Sunday, July 28, 2013

First Flight

There are four major dates in the cycle of the ospreys' presence in our life:
April 11, they arrive at the nest near our home.
July 2, we see the heads of the babies for the first, and know how many hatched out (since 2010, it's been three).
July 28, in time for our wedding anniversary, two of the three the young ospreys make their first leaps off the nest (the last born is two to three weeks behind its siblings and seems to take more convincing to make that leap into the air).
September 12, the last of the osprey family of five leaves for the flight down south.
When I stepped out the door this morning under heavy, grey skies to take the dog for a walk, I heard a thick rustle of wings and looked up to see an osprey taking flight, low to the ground. I knew then it had been sitting on the ground or on one of the round bales of hay near the strawberry patch.
The main challenge for a young osprey on its first flight is mastering the land in a tree. This one tried several times to land on a tree top only to have it wobble, only to have to let go and fly on. By the time I watched and called to my husband and took photos, it was obvious rain was coming so both dogs got a walk up the lane.
Two young ospreys were sitting on dead tree limbs above the lane. First flight, check. Landing in a tree, check.
Next lesson: catching fish.

Empty nest at 6:30 a.m. (turns out, youngest hatchling hiding inside).
Not yet mastered the art of landing on poles or in trees.

Practicing. Lift! Lift!

When a parent returned with a fish, two young returned to refuel.

The dogs and I were coming back down the lane when one parent flew off a tree next to me and at the same time, I saw another parent approaching the nest with a fish in its talons. It looked like four ospreys in the nest but I had only seen three flying, and there is a difference between the adult's style and the style of the young; the adults are smoother and they flap their wings less.
When the fish arrived, my husband, sitting on the deck, saw the third and youngest hatchling pop its head up. In a few weeks, when the older two are confident in flight and fishing on their own, all attention will turn to convincing that last young 'un to leave the nest.
Or perhaps we'll find this year's baby will be bolder and braver than babies of the past.


We have new neighbours across the road and I hope they are appreciative of the experience of having an osprey nest so close. I thought of this last night as I walked the dog past their house and heard the now-incessant chittering of the osprey babies. They were particularly excited last night, I think, because they were ready to fly but it was far too blustery for a first attempt. They might not have had the control and the skill to return to the nest in a strong headwind.
It is such a joy to have the experience of these strong, beautiful birds living so close, being part of our lives every spring and summer that I hope our new neighbours realize the birds were here first.

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