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Osprey

Ron Richards, of Brule, got this photo of an osprey seconds after it plucked a channel catfish from the water. Richards was fishing in central Texas at the time. A great photo and even more impressive when you learn that he took the picture with his phone!

Anyone who knows me can testify that I am a student of nature. I always have been fascinated wildlife and the interrelations and interconnections in nature. That is probably what led me to get degrees in fields of biology.

I am particularly fascinated with birds of prey. These birds are both masters of the sky and masters of the art of hunting. Neither talent is an easy task to master, but when I see such a bird, I am in awe!

I have written about ospreys before. They are regularly seen around Nebraska lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Their population is strong today, but like many raptors, they were severely threatened and headed toward extinction half a century ago. The effects of pesticides, especially DDT, caused a decline of around 90 percent of the osprey population from 1950 to 1970. DDT and related chemicals were banned in 1972. Since then these birds have made a steady recovery.

Ospreys have the look of a hawk or small eagle. Because of where you typically find them, they are also known as sea hawks, river hawks, fish eagles or fish hawks. Identification is generally easy. Quite obvious is their white head with a black band that appears to go over the eyes like the mask of a bandit.

An osprey’s diet is almost exclusively fish…any fish! They will typically grab anything that swims up to maybe 18-inches long. They are also opportunistic and will take small mammals, birds, or reptiles. Adaptability means survival in nature.

You often see an osprey flying over a body of water, hovering in place for a few moments above the surface and then plunging feet-first into the water to catch a fish with its talons. The fish is not necessarily at the surface. Many times the osprey will go completely underwater.

Ron Richards is a Nebraskan and one of those individuals whom I aspire to be like. He is now retired and spends his time being a published author and travels the country fishing. Richards wrote a book called Camp Abahati that is a collection of stories from hunting camp. I listed it in my 2017 Christmas Wish List. Richards recently told me a story about fishing the Colorado River arm of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, near Kingsland, Texas. His story involved an osprey he watched hunt.

“I had seen two Ospreys in that area for several days and figured they probably had a nest nearby”, Richards said. “I was fishing a grassy bank and saw him circling so I started fumbling for my phone/camera.”

“I missed the splashdown but he went completely under in about 2 feet of water and came out with a channel cat. I estimated it had to be a pound to pound and a half”, Richards continued. “He had to struggle to get out of the water and then he came right towards me. I got about 15 pictures of him. He went back beyond a heron rookery. I imagine that's where they were nesting.”

I would have loved to have witnessed this with Richards. Not many people get this opportunity!

Here is one more amazing trait that ospreys have developed to assist them in carrying their prey more easily. After they grasp a fish, an osprey will rise from the water, often struggling from the weight of the fish. As soon as the bird is over land it will position the fish so that it is head first into the wind. Less drag…less energy expended. Ingenious!

Things like this is why I do what I do! I’m envious, Ron!

Kent Cartridge News

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