The Olivia Chronicles (S2, E3)
The arrival of mealtime in the osprey world calls for quite a celebration. The fresh sushi entrée is eagerly anticipated by mother and chicks for an hour or more before the meal is actually delivered. In the present post, I will document this hallowed raptor tradition to show the reverence with which it is carried out. It also gives me an excuse to demonstrate my newly acquired televideo skills using a Nikon D5600 camera and 300mm zoom lens. It was a bit tricky mastering all the fine details with this equipment, but in the end, the results were well worth the effort.
Prelude to the Luncheon Itself
It may be helpful to provide the reader with a bit of a lead-in to this little drama. In the osprey world, the adult male (Oscar in this case) ventures out over the nearby waters in search of the Fresh Catch of the Day. (Live fresh- and saltwater fish constitute 99% of the osprey diet.)1 After a successful hunt, he then returns to his favorite tree at the shore end of the North Dock, and proceeds to eat the head of the fish:
Oscar eating the head of his catch before bringing the rest of the fish to his hungry family.2
Luncheon Is Served
I should point out that today was a rather breezy day on the North Dock, so I apologize in advance for the wind buffet. Despite the annoying gusts, I decided to include the audio in the video clips, so that I can capture the excitement among the family members as the meal arrives.
Here is Oscar, triumphantly entering stage left with his booty:
The osprey family squeals in delight as Oscar swoops in with the headless fish. (Video taken with my Nikon D5600 and a 300mm telephoto lens.)
Feeding the family is hardly a genteel process for Olivia. Rough and tumble is more like it. In the video below, the two chicks jockey for position near the mother. Towards the end of the clip, one of the siblings snaps at the other for scarfing a particularly juicy morsel:
Each chick makes sure he gets his share of the meal. (Video taken with my Nikon D5600 and a 300mm telephoto lens.)
There is plenty of food for all, but you may wonder where the drinks are. It is widely believed that ospreys take in enough water from the fish that they eat. This makes sense to those of us who have baked or grilled fish in the kitchen. There is plenty of (mostly) water left in the bottom of the pan when you are done.
A Final Note
When I’m photographing or filming animals in the wild, I sometimes capture unexpected behavior. I may not even realize this until I throw the files up on my computer screen later in the day. Here is Oscar cleaning his beak on a twig in the nest:
Oscar (left) cleans his beak on a nest twig, while Olivia (right) grabs a few morsels of the just-delivered fish. She will shortly feed the chicks, shown in the previous video. (Video taken with my Nikon D5600 and a 300mm telephoto lens.)
The above clip is part of a much longer video, and I was unaware that I had captured Oscar’s hygiene habits. The practice is, indeed, very useful, as Oscar has just dined on the head of the fish, which is hardly an elegant process.
As for cleaning the talons, I have often spotted an osprey flying low over the water, raking his talons just beneath the surface. The bird may, in fact, do this several times in succession before he is satisfied. I have seen articles that ascribe this behavior to a need to cool the talons off, but I have only seen this procedure done shortly after either eating a meal or delivering fish to the nest. ♦♦♦
1 If desperate, they might relax their lofty standards and feed on fish carcasses or small land animals, but this is pretty rare. I, for one, have never seen it.
2 Truth in blogging: I took this video with my iPhone 6s a few days before the other clips shown in this post (which were all taken on the same day). This was necessary, because I can’t outrun Oscar to the nest and set up my tripod in time for his arrival with the rest of the fish.