Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Awesome Osprey

In Florida last month, I was astonished to find a familiar Utah bird in awesome numbers - the osprey. We have them in Utah; in fact, I once spotted an osprey hunting along the river a mile from our old house, and a pair used to nest on nearby Utah Lake, but they're not so common here. In Utah, ospreys are only summer guests, and fairly uncommon to sight regularly, but in Florida they're year-round residents and much more thickly populated within that range.

We were along the central coast of Florida, and as we traversed the Indian River on one causeway after another, it seemed there was an osprey perched at regular intervals along the electric poles, or else on the bordering rocks or soaring over the river looking for its next meal. At the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, there was a family of ospreys near the visitor center (including one very insistent youth badgering its parents for more food), and we saw several along one of the refuge's auto tour loops, including one perched no more than 30 feet away that seemed perfectly content to pose for photos. On another sighting, we saw an osprey with its prey at the top of a pole, patiently squeezing the fish it had caught (the fish was not happy with it quite yet).

These are lovely, powerful birds of prey, equipped with long wings and vicious talons. They are piscivorous (eating almost exclusively fish), and are excellent fishers. I'm thrilled that even far from my own backyard, I got the chance to study and delight in a bird from home!

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