Monday, May 28, 2018

The Lost Osprey

On the wood pile by the fire pit in our backyard, in early May.

 A week ago, on the holiday Monday, I said to my husband at the end of the day, "The only time I saw an osprey flying around today was when the one on the nest flew off to chase away an eagle."
The other osprey did not bring any fish to the nest during the entire day and that is not merely unusual, it is wrong.
Because that's what ospreys do: they fish and they lug that fish back to the nest for whomever is sitting on eggs, or later, for the new babies. It happens two or three times a day, at least. One is fishing for two.
"Come to think of it, the last time I saw the other osprey was Sunday morning," Dwayne said. "He was sitting on the tree outside our bedroom first thing in the morning. He was soaking wet because it was raining." 
I saw him too, and that was our last confirmed sighting of him. 
Because there is no way to tell them apart, we simply refer to the one on the nest as "she" and the one bringing in fish as "he". After the babies are born, it's a crapshoot as to what pronoun to use because both parents take turns bringing in fish.

Only this year, for the first time since the first baby was born in 2009, there won't be any babies. Mid-week, the one on the nest - she - abandoned the nest. She couldn't feed herself without leaving the nest, and the eggs couldn't survive that long with her body. What could she do? The eggs had to be sacrificed.

One osprey in the nest, waiting, hoping, hungry.

 But in the meantime, before she'd given up, other ospreys showed up. Not to help her, unfortunately, nature doesn't really work that way, but perhaps to claim the nest. How did they know there was a crisis here?
It's simply not possible to know who is who: who is original, who is new. We've always claimed to know "our" osprey because they are not afraid of us; they sit in the tree outside the bedroom, they fly low over our house and look directly at us sitting on the deck.
The two who were sitting in the nest yesterday morning flew off as soon as I appeared in the yard with my camera.  "Our" osprey were not camera-shy.

One of the new tenants flew away into the cut after I appeared in the yard.

Ospreys mate for life, unless one mate is lost. Then they will find a new mate.
We have no way of knowing what happened to our lost osprey. Did an eagle kill him? Did he get tangled in discarded fishing gear? Did someone with a trout pond shoot him? We will never know, and that's hard to accept.
What is saving our sanity is the presence of these other ospreys. On the post and wheel my husband installed on our river lot across the road a few years ago, someone has laid the foundation for a nest. Perhaps this other pair who is flying around? Yet there is also an osprey sitting in the nest every morning. How sad if it is her, the one who lost her mate, the one who can't help but return to their nest. Just in case.
That's what I think. Just in case. If only hurt, the lost osprey might have been found by someone, taken to the local wildlife rescue centre, and saved. After rehabilitation, the centre always returns rescued birds to the location where they were found.
Always that hope for a happy ending.

The nest across the road shows signs of interest.

It's all very confusing and upsetting, to be honest. It throws the routine of our days out of whack. Our world revolves around the presence of these birds. First thing in the morning, we look at the nest; at sunset, we check the nest and the tree. Even without being conscious of it, we listen for the sounds of a fish coming in. We always hear the ospreys chirping at each other, for food, for flight, and for warning (of an eagle approaching).
Back in August of 2015, when the eagle killed the three fledglings, it was such a shock to suddenly not hear the ospreys any longer. Their voices are the soundtrack of our spring and summer.
And now, at the end of May, their voices are silenced again. It won't seem like summer if there are no ospreys chirping in the nest and in the sky.

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