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Posts Tagged ‘ospreys’

What if you woke up one morning and your vision wasn’t the same?  How would you adjust your day, your work and your attitude?

Last week I crossed paths with a small garter snake that had only one eye.  Even though snakes rely on vibration and scent to track their prey, I wondered how it would manage.  Coincidentally, the next day, an eye infection left me with no vision in one eye and blurred sight in the other.  

Many wild creatures, such as the ospreys above, rely on good vision in both their eyes to make the fine judgements in distance required to capture prey.  Others rely on both their eyes to avert becoming prey themselves.  Humans who have lost sight in one eye quickly adapt to any loss in depth perception by moving their heads slightly in order to make a more accurate judgement of distances involved.  In humans at least, it would seem that the greatest benefit to having two eyes is simply in having a spare.  

 Blurred vision is another problem.  It can make a familiar walk in the woods an intimidating experience unless a much slower pace than usual is adopted.   Many of the beautiful details in nature are also lost when vision is blurred.   

However, when vision is impaired, sounds and textures can become a source of both information and pleasure.  The sound of rain falling, the soft texture of spring grass underfoot and the warmth of a spring breeze on your face can be soothing and refreshing in ways that may have been overlooked before.

Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul.
~ Ovid

Our immediate surroundings become more important when our eyesight is  impaired.  Unable to look clearly into the distance or quickly shift our gaze from one focal point to another, we’re also more compelled to focus on just one thing at a time.  Since everything seems to take more time to execute, there is a greater need to simplify and prioritize activities.   Fortunately, once limitations are accepted, the transition becomes easier, bringing with it a more peaceful existence. 

As my normal vision returns, I wonder if something that was found this past week will be lost again.  I’ll have to wait and see.

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sandpipers in salt marsh

Walking through the salt marsh, it’s easy to get distracted by the flowers growing along the trail and the small birds that flitter past.  Your eyes follow the sandpipers and kingfishers until they fly out of sight.  Even the changing color of the marsh grass can take your focus until suddenly you see them:  the raptors of the marsh.

osprey

Ospreys are unmistakable, even at a distance, by the manner in which they hover in one place as they target their prey in the water.  There are many fish here, some even breaking the surface of the water with their movements.  Once a fish is sighted, the osprey will dive head first into the water to get it.  They’ll do this again and again until they are successful.  They hit the water with such force that they can break a wing in the process.

bald eagleBald eagles have a more varied diet but still rely on fish for 90% of their diet. Unlike ospreys, they don’t dive into the water, but instead use their talons to catch fish that are swimming close to the surface.

Eagles are also known to steal fish from the smaller ospreys. Snowshoe hares, red squirrels, voles, snakes and ducks may also find themselves on an eagle’s breakfast menu.

This year I’ve seen as many as four adult eagles flying at the same time in the marsh.  I also saw four flying together last fall.  Immature eagles are brown speckled with white and do not have the characteristic white head and tail until they reach their fifth year.  There are probably some juveniles in the marsh as well.

It is not uncommon to see eagles in flight around the Salt Marsh Trail.  Unlike the gulls, crows and sandpipers, they are very quiet and will patiently sit on a roost for long periods of time.  It’s also quite easy to get distracted by the flowers and simply walk by them, unaware of their presence.

eagle

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osprey and chick

Once eggs are laid, Osprey couples ensure that there is always one of them present in the nest. While one keeps the eggs warm or looks after the chicks (usually the female), the other (usually the male) goes hunting and brings back food (usually fish) for the family.

I was able to capture this image of what appears to be a parent sitting on the edge of the nest while a chick (or could it be a sitting parent?) is in the nest itself.  Its head is barely visible but it is definitely there.  The nest is VERY high up on a pole at the entrance to MacDonald’s beach on Caldwell Road in Eastern Passage / Shearwater.

osprey nest at macdonalds beach

Although I did try to move closer to the nest, the calls made by the Osprey were so loud that I was concerned about getting dive bombed.  I was once attacked by a Blue Jay while trying to rescue a chick that had fallen from a nest.  Having a jay clawing at my head was bad enough.  I don’t think I want the experience of being attacked by a bird of prey. This one was noticeably agitated by my presence, so I quickly took my photos and left.

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ospreyOspreys are due to return to this neck of the woods in late March.  They are rarely seen in Nova Scotia during the winter.  During other seasons, I’ve often seen them at Rainbow Haven Beach and at the end of the Cow Bay River near the bridge, when the Gaspereau are running.  

They present a spectacular site as they hover in the air, tirelessly holding their position as they zero in on their kill.   They’ll dive head first at great speed into the water to capture their prey.  I’ve watched some do this over and over again, showing tremendous stamina.  Unfortunately, because of the force with which they hit the water, some birds will break a wing and die in the process.  Their diet consists only of fish, so it’s do or die for them.

ospreynest1

Yesterday, I went to the entrance of MacDonald’s Beach on Caldwell Road to see if the Osprey nest was still intact.  Last year I was lucky enough to see the Ospreys in the nest.  Unless it’s been severely damaged, a nest will be re-used again in subsequent years.  When the Ospreys return, the first order of work will be to repair the nest.  Hopefully this year they’ll not have to do too much work to fix it up.

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