Introducing This Season’s Osprey Chicks!

The Olivia Chronicles (S2, E2)


Regular readers of my modest scribblings know that I do not write blog posts in order.  (Too predictable for my taste.)  I publish the most interesting stuff first, then add the fill-in material later, if at all.

Today’s post is a case in point.  After a loooong wait, I finally have osprey chicks to write about, so I jumped to this story first.  I consider this to be a “living post”.  That is, I’ll add to it, as needed, when new pics are available.

As usual, the setting is just off the North Dock on the bay side of South Siesta Key.

Monday, March 2, 2020

My first glimpse of a new chick was actually on the previous day (March 1).  He was difficult to spot hunkered down in the nest, and even more difficult to photograph.  I wasn’t able to get a decent shot.

Today was worth the wait.  I spotted two chicks, and got some pretty good pics.

Introducing the new (as yet unnamed) members of our osprey family:

01 Two chicks 1This season’s new osprey chicks, as yet unnamed
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/1600 sec; f/8; ISO 400; EC = 0)

Note that these unsavory characters look like bandits wearing masks.  One of the key distinguishing features of an adult osprey is a white head with a dark brown stripe running across the eye.  The head of a hatchling is usually light brown or gray in color, but he possesses the characteristic eye stripe from birth.

Below is a family portrait, including their mother (Olivia).  It’s difficult to tell from this still photo, but the two chicks were actually fighting at the time (that is, pecking at each other).  Note that the smaller chick hovers close to the mother’s breast for protection.  This sibling combat was very entertaining to watch!  Like most mothers, Olivia seems unconcerned over what is probably a universal occurrence among youngsters 😆

02 Two chicks fighting 1Sibling rivalry among nestlings.  (See the text for the explanation.)
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = -0.3)

… or perhaps the above episode was simply a matter of the chicks being a bit hangry.  Shortly after the above photo was taken, the father (Oscar) flew in with a fish for the family dinner.  (Oscar is on the right in the photo below.)

03 Oscar Arrives with FishA scrumptious dinner has arrived!
(Nikon D5600; FL = 150mm; 1/1250 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = -0.3)

How do I know that Oscar (the male) is on the right in the above photo?  For me, this is partly visual and partly behavioral.  The bird on the right is the one who brought in the fish.  I’ve never seen a female osprey do the hunting.  As for the visual, the bird on the left in the above photo sports a delicate, brown “necklace” of feathers.  (You can see this more clearly in the “sibling rivalry” photo above.)  This feature is characteristic of the female.  The breast feathers of the male are typically a clean white.

Btw, it’s also true that females are generally about 20% larger than males (known as reversed size dimorphism), but this can be tricky to assess, unless you have an unobstructed view of the two birds together.

Back to feeding time…  Here is a close-up of Olivia feeding one of the new chicks.  You can see a morsel of fish in her beak.  She typically provides several mouthfuls to one of the hatchlings before switching to the other(s).

Feeding shot 2Fresh sushi for the hatchlings!
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/800 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = -0.3)

Of course, Olivia has to eat as well.  She tends to dine on the biggest pieces, which are too large and ungainly for small mouths:

06 Olivia feeds herselfOlivia takes her turn to eat
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/1000 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = -0.3)

Saturday, March 7, 2020

By the time I arrived on the scene today, Oscar had already done his familial duty and delivered the meal.  Below are a couple of additional feeding shots.  I include them in this post as well, because I feel I got a better look today.  As seen previously, Olivia tears off small pieces of fish that the chicks can handle.  She typically rotates her head 90 degrees, so that the two beaks do not clash with each other.

First, Olivia feeds the chick on the left:

01 Chick being fed 3Olivia delivers a small morsel of fish to one of the hatchlings
(Nikon D5600; FL = 270mm; 1/800 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = +0.3)

Then, the chick on the right:

02 Chick being fed 7The second hatchling eagerly anticipates his turn
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/640 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = +0.3)

The proud papa (Oscar) is perched in a nearby tree.  Note his (very sharp) talons firmly grasping the branch and his clean, white breast feathers (i.e., no necklace):

03 Oscar in TreeOscar perched in his favorite tree, near the shore end of the North Dock
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/250 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = +0.3)

You might have noticed that adult osprey have yellow eyes, while the chicks have orange orbs.  (If not, please go back and check out the photos immediately above.)  It takes about 3 to 5 years for a chick’s eyes to turn the bright yellow color of the mature bird.  For more on avian eye color, please see my previous post on the subject.

A Small Diversion

Sometimes, I come across an interesting shot that distracts me from my primary subjects.  Below is a turkey vulture (of which we have many!) soaring above the ground, looking for small prey:

04 VultureA turkey vulture riding the thermals
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300mm; 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 200; EC = +0.3)

These birds are actually quite graceful in flight, as they slowly glide along the thermal currents.  You can sometimes spot a disperse group of 5 – 10 birds, tracing “lazy circles in the sky” (with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein).  Very mesmerizing to watch!

Note: The alert reader will have noticed that this post is labelled Season 2, Episode 2. Where is the first season?  Just click on my link to The Olivia Chronicles and enjoy!

One Reply to “Introducing This Season’s Osprey Chicks!”

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