Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
The Osprey, also known as the fish eagle, sea hawk, and the river hawk, is a large species of the raptor family of birds. With a diet consisting mostly of fish, primarily living near large bodies of water, the Osprey has specialized physical characteristics and uses unique techniques to hunt prey. Armed with several adaptations such as, closable nostrils to keep out water during dives beneath the surface, a dense plumage with an oily coating to withstand waterlogged feathers, and barbed-like scales facing backwards to help grip prey, the osprey is a highly adaptable species ranging the world in its entirety.
Breeding near lakes and river and occasionally near brackish water, osprey typically mate for life and lay two to four eggs from the months of September until October in the United States. Due to being a common species on a global scale, breeding occurs at different seasons at different latitudes. The eggs are incubated for approximately 35-40 days and newly hatched chicks are fledged in 8-10 weeks, relying on a five month partnership from the parents to be raised and fed.
Conservation efforts from several different organizations have brought these majestic species back to thriving numbers. In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, because of egg hunters and the hunting of the adults, along with other birds of prey, the numbers had been reduced significantly. In the 1950's and 1960's populations began declining again in what appeared to be caused by the toxic effects of insecticides like DDT. Since the banning of such chemicals in the 1970's the population has recovered significantly. Platforms have been built up and down the coastal regions to aid in nesting site, which also has helped increase the numbers.
While driving I happened to spot a platform with two large birds perched on top, after confirming them through binoculars I came to the conclusion that they where Ospreys. I walked down a trail about 20 yards until I came to a small patch of cat-tails. Pushing my way through the cat-tails I came to another trail at which the Osprey took flight from the platform soaring above me. I was able to snap a photo of the predator in flight (the first photo). The bird circled above for a few minutes until retreating back to the nest, landing to allow me to take a final photograph of the pair.