When an osprey goes on the hunt and takes a meal, the display of power, skill and courage can be awe-inspiring. A colleague up the coast told me an osprey story recently that painted a stunning visual in my mind.
Julia took a break from her job at the beach to stand outside and enjoy the coastal scenery while breathing in the sea air. There were the usual seabirds and shorebirds foraging, but a large raptor caught her eye. It was a young (think teenage) osprey flying low over the surf zone with its head lowered to intently scan the water. She watched that bird make three passes over an area the length of a football field.
The young bird’s head swiveled to focus on one particular spot ahead, and its huge talons instinctively opened from their clasped position under its belly. With those long, sharp talons open the bird suddenly looked like a lethal weapon as it swooped low over the shallow water just a couple of feet ahead of an incoming wave while its legs and talons stretched to reach deeply into the water.
Just as the wave was about to inundate the bird, it flexed its back muscles, captured a pocket of air under its wings and pushed itself into the air as the water reached up to splash it. Julia could see the bird use all its strength to lift a huge barred surf perch up through the water and continue to muscle its way above the crashing wave.
At an estimated length of 16 inches, that barred surf perch was nearly as big as the body of that young bird and probably weighed nearly as much, yet the osprey had learned its hunting and flying lessons well and emerged from the dangerous surf zone with talons dug deeply into a bragging-size fish.
Lifting the heavy fish slowly higher along the way, the osprey flew up the beach, across the road and landed on top of a power pole. It shook itself robustly and hundreds of water droplets sprayed wildly. The bird had survived a close call with that wave to snatch its meal from the sea.
With that out of the way, the young raptor planted one talon firmly on the fish while holding the pole with the other and began ripping into its meal with the power and pride of a predator.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.