The Osprey Attack

Late July, early August is fledging time for our osprey population around Saint Anthony. Every year I watch for when the young ones test their wings and this year was no exception. Only this time, I decided I would photograph the moment.

osprey photo

What made you think this was a good idea?
Photo by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region

The nest is on a light pole on a softball diamond, only two blocks away. I get my camera, tripod and telephoto lens and hike myself down to the field…it’s a
beautiful day and I feel like a nice walk.

I set myself up under the nest, about 30 yards away, aim the camera and wait. There were three heads bobbing up and down in the nest and Mama was sitting on the edge. This is tranquility at its best. She’s making her staccato whistling call, and because there wasn’t much to do but wait, I learn a pretty good imitation. This goes on for about thirty minutes, whistling back and forth, and I snap a few shots of her to boot…sure enough, tranquility at its best.

I’m feeling pretty good…communing with nature, and talking the talk.

All of a sudden, Mama opens her wings an launches.

osprey pooping photo

Except from the sky.
Photo by Don Johnson 395

This is it! She’s going to call out the chicks.

I’ve got my camera trained on the nest, waiting for the little ones’ debut, when I hear a wet “ploop” about 18 inches to my left. I notice that it was particularly goopy, and I go back to watching the nest thinking, “That was close.” Mama circles around again but I’m blissfully unaware of her mood.

I’m still trained on the nest when I catch her out of the corner of my eye just as she flies overhead, a little lower this time, and lets fly another bomb. I look up just in time to see a big glob of…well…osprey poop making straight for my head. As I dodge that expulsion, I’m beginning to get a dim idea as to what she’s really doing…but…like I said, it was DIM. I figure I’ll just keep one eye on the nest and one eye on Mama, no problem. Oh wait, better idea…I’ll just take the camera off the tripod and photograph Mama flying!

Just as I get it loose and fire off a shot, I hear a sound that I have never heard an osprey make.
And she’s making it from a proximity that, until now, I’ve never BEEN to an osprey.
She makes a turn, quick and low.

The aforementioned unfamiliar sound is the voice of an osprey attacking. It is now in concert with an utterance I am intimately familiar with,
as I seem to have occasion to use it often…”Oh, damn, oh damn, OH DAMN!!”

Apparently, she ran out of poop and NOW the realization pushes its way to my consciousness that I am dealing with a seriously pissed off osprey. I’m standing there, dumbly holding my camera, trying to comprehend what the HELL just happened…and gaining a fairly good understanding of what a prey item must feel like.

She’s coming at me with feet the size of ship’s anchors.

osprey photo

I SAID – What makes you think this was a goddamned good idea?
Photo by Fifth World Art

Those feet miss me only because an instinct buried since the time sofas were invented – called “survival”, I believe – manifests itself and urges me to hit the ground. I raise myself to a crouch and attempt to gain the safety of the shrubs but Mama will have nothing of the sort. I feel the wind in my hair…from her wings or my hasty, crab-like retreat I’m not sure. It’s all still a bit blurry. I DO know that my distress call was a lot louder than hers.

My tripod is still out there, marking the exact spot of my monumental act of stupidity and I need to retrieve it. She’s on her nest and if I run fast enough, I can grab it and be gone. Her feet miss me a second time because I am now ROLLING for my life back to the shrubs, poking at her with my precious tripod.

After keeping me captured in the shrubs for about 20 minutes (allowing me to contemplate this second display of idiocy), she no doubt figured this crawling,
rolling, squeaking thing isn’t much fun anymore and flew off to I don’t care where. With not a shred of dignity left but
physically intact and slightly wiser, I made my way home, tripod held to the ready…just in case.

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One Response to “The Osprey Attack”

  1. I must say I have never heard of such a thing, and at the same time I’m surprised this has never happened to me. Wow.

    I have a blog about ospreys (www.penelopeyoung.wordpress.com)

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