I heard an osprey cry. And it didn’t come from the nest. I looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Right there in front of me, in the shade under a tree, was Lofty. The oldest of the three Osprey chicks. The day before he’d flown only from one side of the nest to the other.
And now he was on the ground. Next to a busy road in the park. Being harassed by several black birds.
Such a beautiful bird. But why was he on the ground? Was he injured? Was he resting after his first flight? Right at that moment Lofty looked at me, flapped his wings and flew up over the salt marsh. Tightly followed by his tormentors.
I’d call that baptism by fire. He flew several rounds around the salt marsh, even over the nest, and cried. He didn’t attempt to land. But Mama Sandy communicated with him. I guess she advised him to fly towards the ocean.
And that’s what he did. His harassers didn’t follow. He disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico. That was the last I saw of him.
Until several hours later. Looking with my binoculars from our terrace, I saw he was back in the nest with his two siblings, Aspire and little Sindile. Having dinner. All was good. That was last night.
This morning I was curious to see if he would be in the nest. But wasn’t prepared for what I came to witness.
It was a gorgeous morning, almost clear skies, light winds and low humidity. Walking from the beach towards the nest, I was greeted by a Roseate Spoonbill and a Snowy Egret, both enjoying the peace of the morning.
Approaching the nest, I could see Mama Sandy there with two sleepy chicks, Aspire and Sindile. The breakfast was over.
Suddenly Lofty flew in. I later understood he came to tell Aspire it’s time to fly. They had a short dialogue. Mama Sandy just listened. Sindile closed her eyes.
Shortly thereafter Aspire flapped her wings vigorously (I’m assuming for now that Lofty is a boy and both Aspire and Sindile are girls…that might change later). But she didn’t fly. Lofty got beaten right on his head in the process, but took it in stride. He wanted to go flying with Aspire, and proceeded to demonstrate how easy it was. The rest is in this two and a half minute video clip (Lofty is the one to the left, Aspire is in the middle and little Sindile on the right). It’s wobbly and noisy, but I think a few of you might still enjoy it.
Aprire was also attacked by several black birds, just like Lofty yesterday. She flew a few rounds around the marsh. And even considered landing in the nest, but changed her mind. Her baptism by fire. Finally she shook them off and flew with Lofty towards the bay.
You may wonder if Papa Stanley is still around providing for his family. You bet he is. One morning earlier this week, I was walking in the park just after sunrise. And there he was. Making a quick breakfast delivery. Came in, handed the fish over to Sandy, said hi to the chicks, and left.
Very soon he’ll have one additional task. To teach the chicks how to fish. Lofty and Aspire will be coming back to the nest for food at least a couple more weeks, after which they’ll be good enough fliers to start learning how to fish for themselves. When they’re not successful, they’ll come back to the nest and wait for food brought in by both Sandy and Stanley.
The chicks typically follow the male on fishing trips to learn how to spot, evaluate the size and dive for the fish. While an Osprey can carry a fish twice their own weight (record in the bird world!) they may drown if they put their talons firmly on a fish that’s too heavy. So Stanley, and Sandy too, have one more important teaching role once the three chicks become confident fliers.
I hope to catch glimpses of them carrying a fish at some point, but for now all eyes will be on little Sindile. It looks to me she’ll take her time before she fledges. But I’ve been wrong before.
Have a wonderful weekend. Fly free like a bird.