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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Free To Fly, Scappoose Bay, April 2010

CLICK the picture above or here for a link to all of the photographs that accompany this post...

Nick and I purchased a canoe from a craigslist posting. My love for water travel has been reignited. I have been in Portland for several years now, and until recently, have yet to take my kayak out exploring the amazing waterways meandering throughout the Pacific Northwest. This recent purchase not only got me excited about canoeing, but it also took my kayak from deep hibernation and put it back into the water and under my weight. What have I been waiting for?
A month has passed, and I can't get enough paddling in. When coming back from a sunrise paddle, I am already making plans to return to the water. The most exciting experience paddling has earned me has to do with the perspective I gain on waterfowl and birds of prey. Most particularly, the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), which are in the process of building their nests for the summer.
The group of 3 Osprey from the colony I have focused on most extensively seem to be the slackers of the Bay. While most of the other groups have fully furnished and functioning nests, this particular group has been fussing with the same dozen or so twigs for two and a half weeks now. As asking them why they are taking such an extended time is impossible, I have to rely solely on observation. Which limits my educational guesses at this point, simply because I lack the required education to make such a guess. What I notice however, is their lengthy duels with the neighboring Bald Eagles. Maybe the Bay just isn't big enough for the two species.

I have seen the sky-dance performed by the male several times on my visits. Not while carrying food yet, but often when bringing twigs or sticks back for the nest, the few he seems to be retrieving anyway. From the little I have read thus far, the sky-dance is a display several hundred feet to within only a few feet above the nest in which rapid wing maneuvers and hovers take place while carrying nesting debris or food. This is thought to display territory and attract a mate and is usually done before the female arrives at the nesting site. It's quite the display that no IMAX theater could ever possibly capture.

The Osprey are unsure of my presence currently, and unsure for good reason. Humans very rarely mean good things are going to happen for them. After all, we did introduce DDT pesticide into the Ospreys food supply causing them to lay eggs with thin shells which break during incubation. My technique has been simple. I slowly work my boat to the shore a good distance from the piling they are nested on, methodically remove myself from the boat, or stay in the boat, and sit for a good chunk of time in hopes they start to ignore me. After several minutes of paying little attention to them and acting as if I don't care about where they are in relation to me, I gently lift my camera up to my eye. They always know that I am there of course, and are not yet comfortable with my presence, but they do let their guard down enough for me to capture images of them retrieving nesting materials. Hopefully, over time, I will be able to capture them hunting and bringing food back to the nest. Patience is the key, something I desperately need practice in.

I have posted several of the pictures I have made thus far and will keep updating you with my water journeys. Lets hope for a few hunting images to come.

This is a good link if you are interested in a quick overview of the Osprey.

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