Ospreys are Back … Kinda

Yesterday  (2/21) it was very foggy here in town and over most of this area. But when I got to Fort  Pickens around 11 a.m. the air was much clearer. There were even a few patches of blue sky. Nothing to get excited about. But it was a pretty damn nice day for mid-February.

And I simply HAD to go see if there were any Ospreys out there. As I drove in, checking right and left for any signs of them, I began to worry that I was in for another disappointing day.

My first stop was at the Battery Worth picnic area where Big Mama has been ruling the roost (so to speak) for quite a while now. She’s certainly the one Osprey I’ve photographed more than any other. But no luck. She hasn’t returned yet. I’m just hoping she’s survived the winter, wherever she was, and will be back in a few days.

But that stop was going to be a good one after all. Back in the far northwest corner of that area there’s another huge nest that’s also been a favorite of mine for years. And they were home!the-old-couple

As always in the past, they seem not to like me very much, and began screeching at me when I was still pretty far away. As I approached (still at least 300 feet away) she sprang up off the nest, dodged through the pines, then directly over my head at a pretty low altitude — just to let me know I was not welcome. So I left.

Farther down the road I parked near the fort and set out on foot, toward Turtle Bridge. I wasn’t expecting any far away activity so I left the huge 200-500mm lens behind and set off with the 70-300 zoom on the Nikon and my trusty little Canon SX40, in case I did spot something far, far away that was worth recording.

There were two Snapping Turtles at the bridge and a young Blue Heron just hanging out in the reeds. The beaver has apparently decided that that huge cedar tree is more than he wants to handle, so there were no new tooth marks on the tree. And, of course, I still haven’t seen him!

But look at what I DID see!

GBH-EGG-

There in the water beside the bridge, on a little island of brush and floating debris was a very large egg. And I swear, when I got the image home and blew it up it DOES NOT look like a fake plastic egg, as someone passing by seemed to think. It looks exactly like a Great Blue Heron egg.

How it got there I have no idea. And it will probably be gone by the time I get out there again – after all, it’s surrounded by Snapping Turtles and other smaller ones, and there are plenty of egg thiefs in the area. I wonder if a female GBH was just flying by and had an emergency landing to make a quick delivery that simply wasn’t going to wait until she got back to the nest.

And so … that was the adventure around Turtle Bridge.

But the day wasn’t over yet.

I keep a good eye out for Osprey activity as I’m driving along. And I always drive with my windows down and no radio playing – so that I can hear their distinctive screech. I had just passed the large clump of dead pines where so many Ospreys nested in years past – the ones whose tops were largely stripped bare during Hurricane Michael so that now there are almost no places to build. And there’s this scrawny little pine snag that a pair tried to build on last year but finally gave it up because the supporting limbs are just to short to be good nest bases. This is the tree that’s pretty close to the entrance to campground A on the north side of the road.

testing-the-nest

I drove past and almost missed the sight of a single Osprey low down in that sad little clump of nest. So, of course, I had to make a U turn to go back and get another look. And just as I stopped the car and put on my blinkers, raised the camera to my eye, zoomed in, and focused, there was an attacker swooping in from the left.

the-invader

The female on the nest reared up in defense, but the aggressor literally knocked her off the nest.

fell-out-of-the-nest

But she came back immediately, attacked agressively, and drove the attacker away … for the moment.

fighting-back

I didn’t wait to see what happened next. But it’ll be interesting, as always, to see how the Osprey community shakes out due to the loss of so many of their favorite building spots.

Stay tuned. And let’s all hope that Big Mama gets home soon.

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