Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dad has returned

In the last post, I told you the ospreys hadn't returned to the nest at the Harbourside Drive lookout in North Vancouver, but I was wrong. My first clue was a comment from JoAnne, a friend of Grandpa Wayne. Wayne observed just about every stage in the osprey pair's life. He saw the initial nest building, meeting, mating, and chick-rearing. He and I spent quite a bit of time marvelling over the osprey family. I became as attached to them as he was, and named the chick, Rose. I followed her story quite closely over the summer, even being present at her maiden flight. (Any thoughts about naming Mom and Pop?) JoAnne's comment was a few posts back, and I missed it at first, but then, a comment by MarianneBill in the most recent post, and word from my friend Dianne, confirmed that at least one osprey is hard at work rebuilding the nest. Thank you to all of you for keeping me informed of the exciting news!

So, yesterday, in spite of rainy weather, I had to go check things out for myself. I arranged to meet Dianne, and hoped that a long overdue visit with her and her dog, Haley, might also yield the bonus of an osprey sighting.

The day didn't start out so great. As I rolled my bike out of the courtyard, everything seemed normal. But, when I stepped down on the pedal, a mystery chain ailment told me I wasn't going anywhere yet. After a frustrating 15 minutes or so of trying to correct the problem, I decided to walk up to 10th avenue to West Point Cycles, a bike shop I haven't used, as Don and his expert staff at Ride On Again have always gone the extra mile in giving me extraordinary service and care. However, with Bill away for a few days, and with Dianne expecting me, there was no time to walk to Don's shop. I have to say, the staff at West Point were great. They gave me soap to clean my grease-covered hands, fixed the bike right away, and would not even accept payment. I am more convinced than ever that bike loving people are honest, smart and just plain salt-of-the-earth good.

But, the ospreys!

Actually, only Dad showed up yesterday. But, what a show he put on! Dianne and I were treated to a spectacular display, one which I did my best to record. The rain stopped just enough for some rather dark, but still, fairly decent shots, and to say we were thrilled would be quite an understatement.

Just ready to take off.

Lift off.

Although I learned quite a bit about ospreys last year, I realized I still have a lot of questions, so spent some time googling last night. This site explained that the male usually arrives a day or two before the female. He begins work on the nest, and displays his fine aerial technique by catching sticks and fish. We didn't see any fish caught yesterday, but there were lots and lots of sticks. The next four shots are in sequence.

1. Just before the dive.
2. The pick-up.
3. Stick balanced in talons.
4. On the way back to the nest.

This shot gives a fair view of the talons. I learned from this site that an osprey is the only raptor with one opposable talon. Here is a small quote from that site:

Both eagles and osprey have three front toes and one back toe. But one of an osprey's front toes is opposable, like our thumbs, and it can rotate backward.
(Enlarging the pictures can be done in two stages. Click on the picture once, and it goes to medium size. Once more, and it goes to large size. The back browser will take you back to the original.)

The next eleven photos are another sequence. This stick was longer and heavier, and the osprey struggled a bit.

1. Pick-up and attempt to lift.
2. Dragging the stick.
3. Turned, and headed toward the nest.
4. Coming to the nest. Just a bit of blue sky behind this one, and you get a slightly better view of the talons wrapped around the stick.
5. Placing the stick just so.
6. It was fascinating to see how much care went into the correct placement. What appears to be haphazard to us is quite a different story to the osprey.
7. I hadn't noticed an action like this last year. A kind of spreading out of the wings, perhaps to flatten down the sticks?
8.Tail goes up as the front end lowers even more.
9. Wing tips up, and tail even higher.
10. Front end lowers more, and nose down.
11. Nose right down. I don't know how deep the centre of the nest is, but do know that last year, there were times when it appeared the nest was empty. Then, up would pop one or the other of the osprey family.

A different type of nesting material here. Clump of mud, perhaps. (Haley, Dianne's dog, is doing her spring shed, and we left a clump of some of her hair for the osprey. I wonder if it will be used.)

And, still another type of stick material. This one, in a series of three shots to show the effort in its placement.

There was one persistent seagull yesterday (next 4 shots) that kept following the osprey. I looked up seagulls, wondering if the motivation was to steal sticks for its own nest. I learned that seagulls do build nests from sticks (and grass), and that they often steal nesting material, or even entire nests, but there was nothing about stealing from raptors while they are flying. Surely, that has to be quite risky?

I leave you with one final shot of Dad, with his beautiful wing patterns showing up quite nicely. I would like to go back today. I imagine he and Mom may be doing aerial ballet as I write, but the weather is not cooperating for now. Hopefully, it will settle a bit by the afternoon, and I'll be able to see them together.

Small Heron update:

I stopped in Stanley Park on the way home yesterday, and all was quiet. I could see that Sue was being very, very careful in her nest. She was also quite restless, getting up, turning around slowly, and oh so gently lying down again. I am guessing she is either tending eggs, or possibly, even chicks. It was dark and rainy, so I took only one very poor picture of her preparing to settle down.

The rain seemed to bring out the best in many of the flowers. I took these two shots by the heronry.
Gentle shades, hopefully harbingers of a smooth road ahead for our heron and osprey friends.


  1. Wow what great shots. It was so exciting yesterday to see all the activity and actually watch the nest being built with such care and precision. I love the energy I feel from your joy and excitement at being able to photograph all these goings on.

  2. Seagulls beware! I sure wouldn’t want to mess with those talons. Wonderful osprey shots, Carol. Especially loved seeing the liftoff of this hardworking Dad.:)

  3. Wow, could you tell me where to find the osprey? I haven't been out shooting for weeks. Thanks!

  4. The male osprey has such wonderful feather patterns. The first picture immediately brought the name Sherlock to mind. He looks as if he is a problem solver who is rather debonaire!! I cannot think of a name for the female! Just a suggestion!

    You are certainly having fun on your holiday! Phyllis

  5. Wow, unbelievable pics of Mr Dad the Osprey. It is such good news to see him back despite the loss of the other pylons from last year. I can hardly wait for Mom to return and to read about it in your blog.

    The suggestion of Sherlock as a name for Dad made me think of Shirley as a female name; maybe too long to type. Jason and Jewel are a bit shorter.

  6. Thank you for the photographs and information. We think we will throw our camera away and rely on Carol - those pictures are so good. Does anyone know why the nest of the youngsters at the east end of Harbourside has been destroyed? Also, the "swimming pool" and resting place for the seals have gone - anyone know why?

  7. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and name suggestions. They are much appreciated! I have put a poll on the blog where you can vote for names. It is terribly difficult to see and the font colour could not be changed, but I hope you can make it out enough to vote.

    Graemej, you can see two osprey nests in North Vancouver, from Harbourside Park. The most accessible one for photo taking is from the lookout. The other one needs a great telephoto lens. Even at 500 mm, it is very small in the viewfinder. It is by the shipyard, quite high, and on a platform at the top of a tower.

    MarianneBill, I think the nest you mention is the one I have been photographing. That one seems to get going later than the one by the shipyard. It was down to just scraps, but is now being rebuilt. I don't know why they (city of North Van?) took away almost all of the pylons. There are now only a few seals coming by - most disappointing.

  8. Awesome shots of teh Osprey! Well done, loved the post.