Osprey on the Hunt!

There are many reasons I am inspired by birds and wildlife, but maybe the biggest thing that I am awe-struck by is when I witness their absolutely phenomenal physical abilities they display just in order to survive from day to day. This past Saturday at Keystone Lake in Armstrong County I watched this Osprey for several hours on his hunting forays and he was a fine example of what I am talking about. First off, Osprey, like all birds of prey, possess out of this world eye sight. If they don’t have this, they will never find anything to catch. Secondly their flight skills need a combination of agility and power to go after what they find. In the case of Osprey they are always going after a fish in the water which requires tremendous precision and strength. This Osprey I found was a juvenile by his dark orange eyes. The adults will change into light yellow eyes.

4146

Osprey when they are hunting will typically fly up quite high and do a lot of circling while constantly keeping a watchful eye to the water.

4029

Often when they are eyeing up a fish, they will hover in one spot, as was the case here.

4033

I watched this Osprey in the couple hours I was there perform at least half a dozen dives. Only once did he come away with a little fish. Perhaps with his young age he still needs to perfect his hunting skills. Most of his dives ended with him coming up empty.

4167

Osprey catch fish much differently than how Bald Eagles do. Eagles will circle around and come in very low right above the water’s surface and when they come over the fish, they’ll just stick their feet into the water and grab the fish out with their mighty talons. The only thing they get wet is their feet. Osprey on the other hand will dive straight down like a missile, stick their legs straight down with their talons pointing towards the water and plunge their entire body in. Then they have to lift their wings out of the water and power their drenched body out. Then once air borne again they do a big shake to dry off their feathers. Here’s this Osprey doing the dive.

4158

Which ends in a big plunge into the water.

4165

If they aren’t successful in catching the fish they go back up high and begin another search. Here his watchful eye is looking just beyond his outstretched wing.

4105

Looking even harder.

4149

4154

My money shot of the day is when I luckily caught this Osprey the split second before he impacted the water.

4208

And the second after impact. Unfortunately he came up empty after this spectacular plunge.

4209

I could’ve sat their all day and watched him. They are so fun to watch and you can’t be left but in total amazement with witnessing their breathtaking physical abilities. Here he flies off looking for another good spot to fish. Hopefully as this young Osprey ages he will perfect his hunting with great success!

4087

A fine day at Conneaut

If you’re an avid bird photographer from Western PA or Eastern Ohio, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Conneaut Ohio for the fall shorebird migration. It lies only a mile from the PA border on Lake Erie. The lake shore is a migration corridor for many migrating birds and come August the shorebirds are already heading south to their wintering grounds. Gull Point at Presque Isle is another good spot to catch the migrating shorebirds, but what makes Conneaut so great is that you can get incredibly close to the birds. You can drive your car right out on the sandspit and take pics of the birds without even leaving your vehicle! In late summer I always make a few trips there to see what I can find. I got there this past Monday at 8am and the first shorebird I saw was a group of Sanderlings. They have always been a favorite of mine. They have so much personality as they are constantly running the shoreline back and forth in front of the waves.

3536

This one came walking right up to me!

3328

The next shorebird I came across were some Lesser Yellowlegs. I got this one as it almost looks like he is staring at himself in the reflection, but really he’s just trying to find his next little meal.

2411

Other than those birds, there wasn’t a whole lot to take pictures of at that point, so I got some photos of this Great Blue Heron as he was completely focused on catching his next fish.

2396

And then there it was!! An American Avocet just flew into the sandspit!!

2619

Avocets are birds that breed in the Western U.S. and Canada and we only see them here in the East (if you’re lucky) when they are passing through in migration. They are not a common bird to see in Ohio or Pennsylvania so it’s always a treat when one shows up. This Avocet landed by the water’s edge and at first he was extremely flighty and every time I tried approaching he took off.

2526

But finally after awhile, this bird seemed to realize that all the birders and photographers there looking at him, meant him no harm. So then he just chilled out a little ways in the water.

3082

3163

3304

They are my favorite shorebird. They have an elegant beauty like no other in my opinion. During their breeding plumage their head and neck is a very rich cinnamon color, but the color was fading on this Avocet which is what happens in late summer. Eventually their head and neck will turn all white for their winter attire. Even with changing out of his breeding colors this bird was still a stunning sight to see!

3496

Occasionally I’d take aim at some of the other shorebirds present like this very fresh juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper.

3317

During the morning hours, the Avocet would occasionally take off flying, but he’d do a few laps around the sandspit and then settle back down.

2607

3381

Here a Barn Swallow for what ever reason decided to give him a little chase.

2914

I took tons of photos of this Avocet since he stayed the entire time I was there. So many times when you see shorebirds during the migration they only stay a short while, sometimes only minutes, so to have several hours with this fine bird was a pure delight.

3546

It may have been a dark, dreary day with rain off and on, but catching the sight of an Avocet will brighten any day. Here was my final photo of him with the Conneaut lighthouse in the background.

3592