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Posts Tagged ‘Osprey’

Some of the newly-returned Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy on Friday building or renovating their nests. In past years I have seen ospreys make nests in a wide range of locations, both natural as well as man-made. This osprey was ferrying out sticks to a nest on a distant channel marker in the bay, where its mate waited patiently for each new delivery.

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds return silently in the spring and you have to search hard to find them. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), on the other hand, make their presence known as they soar overhead, often calling out in their loud, high-pitched voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology compared to “the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.”

I spotted only a few ospreys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some of which I managed to photograph, but know from experience that they are only the advance guard of a larger group of osprey that will arrive soon and begin to build or repair their nests. As you may notice in the second photo, trees in our area are being to produce buds and it won’t be long before leaves begin to complicate my efforts to spot birds.

Osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is the time of the year when warblers are moving through the area in which I live and bird photographers have been congregating at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a local hotspot for warblers and other birds that, unlike many other parks, has been open during this shutdown. Not wanting to risk contact with so many people, I have been avoiding this refuge for the most part, even though it is my favorite place to take photos.

Last week, though, I made a trip to the wildlife refuge on a weekday morning when the weather was less than optimal. As I had hoped, the weather kept most of the other photographers away and I was able to visit some of my favorite spots. I checked out several osprey nests, hoping to see some baby ospreys. The ospreys were no longer sitting on any of the nests, but I could not tell if there were baby ospreys in them or not.

Peering through the branches near one nest, I spotted this perched Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a fish in its talons. The osprey was at the stage of consumption when quite often it will take the remaining portion to its mate. I never did see its mate, but was happy to capture this shot before the osprey flew away.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It has been almost a month since I last checked in on the Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Last month they were busy collecting materials to build or repair their nests. Last Friday I spotted several nests that had grown considerably in size and the ospreys in the nests appeared to be sitting on their eggs.

I captured this image when one of the sitting ospreys had lifted her head to the sky, looking with hopeful expectation for her mate to return. Maybe he would be bringing her a fresh fish or perhaps he would be spelling her a bit from her maternal duties or could it be that she simply longer for his presence.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Sometimes Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) will renovate preexisting nests, but often they have to build one from scratch. This osprey couple that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was trying to build one in what seemed to be a rather precarious location.

I learned about the location of the nest only when I spotted an osprey flying by me with a stick in its talons. In my zeal to track the osprey, I neglected to pull back on my zoom lens, so I ended up cutting off its wing tips in the first image in which the osprey is delivering the stick. In the second image, you can see the nest-to-be as the osprey attempts to arrange the sticks. The final shot shows the osprey arriving at the nesting site with another stick. I like the way that the osprey almost hovered in order to land softly with its delivery.

I don’t know it the osprey couple will manage to jam enough sticks in the crook of the tree to be able to form a stable nest, but I will be sure to check their progress in future visits, as long as the wildlife refuge continues to stay open.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Land prices are so high here in Northern Virginia that you have to be creative. Yesterday I spotted this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) couple building their tiny house on one of the boundary channel markers off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The osprey perched in the back, which I believe is the female, remained in place while the other osprey flew off to forage for building materials. Sometimes they were only small twigs, but occasional the male osprey would return with a fairly long branch, as in the second photo. In the third shot, the male osprey has successfully landed with the long branch, but has not yet let go of it.

Multiple osprey couples are busily constructing nests all of “my” wildlife refuge and I hope to be able to share some images of their constructions sites.

 

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even though we were at more than an acceptable social distance, this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) seemed to be communicating a message to me with its direct eye contact on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—something like, “Please leave so I can continue working on my nest.”

Most of the time I will try to avoid photographing a bird head-on, because it has the potential to distort its features a lot. With this osprey, though, I think it worked out pretty well, perhaps because of the size and shape of its head.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A week ago I did a retrospective posting on some of my favorite photos from the first half of 2019 and alerted readers that a second posting would appear “in the next few days.” Here at last is part two—click here if you missed the first installment. As was the case in the initial posting, I went through my postings month by month and selected two photos for each month. I have provided a link to the individual postings in the captions of the photos to make it easier for interested readers to see the images in the context of the original postings, which often include additional photos and explanatory information.

If you look carefully at the dates, you may notice that I did not include any photos from November in this posting. As many of you may recall, I was in Paris for three weeks in November. After my first posting, one reader suggested that I do a separate posting for Paris, rather than be forced to select two photos from the many that I posted of my adventures in Paris. I decided to follow that recommendation, so hopefully there will be  a third and final posting of my look back at 2019 sometime “soon.”

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly, July 6, 2019 Sable Clubtail

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant dragonfly July 31, 2019 Perching Halloween Pennant

Osprey

Osprey, August 3, 2019, No sushi for me

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly, August 5, 2019 Getting down with an Eastern Ringtail

 

crab spider

Crab spider, September 7, 2019, White-banded Crab Spider

Handsome Meadow Katydid

Handsome Meadow Katydid September 10, 2019 My favorite insect?

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly, October 2, 2019 Blue-faced Meadowhawk in October

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle October 16, 2019 Bald Eagle Takeoff

Hooded Merganser duck December 7, 2019 Hoodie Season

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe December 24, 2019 Portrait of a Pied-billed Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) spotted me about the same time as I spotted it and immediately took to the sky with its half-eaten fish yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately I had heard the osprey’s cry a few seconds earlier and was able to capture this image as it prepared for takeoff. Like another shot that I posted recently of an osprey, this image was captured using my 180mm macro lens.

This osprey was definitely not interested in sharing its freshly caught fish with me. If I want sushi, I’ll have to find it on my own.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking along a trail last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I heard the cry of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) that sounded like it was really close. I looked up, reacted quickly, and managed to capture this sequence of shots.

In many ways I should not have been able to get these shots. I had the wrong lens on my camera. Instead of a long telephoto lens, I had my 180mm macro lens. My camera settings were more appropriate for a static portrait than for a moving subject. Fortunately I almost always have my camera set for continuous shooting, so I was able to fire off a quick burst and was pretty pleased with the results.

These images remind me of the importance of taking photos whenever and however you can. Conditions may not be optimal and your gear may not be perfectly suited to the task, but I think it is best not to worry about that when you find yourself presented with a photo opportunity—just shoot it with what you have.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The sky was mostly covered in clouds yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) decided to fly right at me after it had caught a fish.

I love the look of a head-on shot of a flying bird, but capturing such a shot is not easy. First, the bird has to cooperate and most of the time, it seems, birds like to fly away from me and not toward me. Secondly, I have to be able to capture and maintain focus on the bird as it is approaching, which can be a challenge with a heavy telephoto zoom lens. Finally, I have to calibrate my shooting speed so that I don’t fill up the buffer of my camera before the bird gets close.

Things worked out pretty well for this shot. If you click on the image and zoom in on it, you will see that I managed to keep those yellow eyes in reasonably sharp focus and even the beak is in focus. You don’t get a very good view of the fish—you will have to wait until I capture of profile shot of an osprey with its catch.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to choosing a nesting site, Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seem to be opportunistic. Some lucky couples are able to snag pre-existing nesting sites that require only minor improvements, while others are forced to build entirely new nests.

This past Thursday I photographed a nest that is annually built on top of one of the duck hunting blinds in the waters off of the wildlife refuge. Earlier in the season, the ospreys would fly away as I walked by on a trail, but now that the trees are leafing out, the ospreys have a bit more privacy.

The nest in the second image is a new nest, built in the last couple of weeks and probably still under construction. It is adjacent to the location where the nest in the third shot used to be. For reasons that are not clear to me, that nesting platform has disappeared and only a part of the post remains. I believe that the new nest may have been built by  the couple that occupied that nesting platform earlier in the season.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in my area have been building nests in all kinds of places, including on some channel markers in the Potomac River off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I personally don’t really think that there is enough space there for a nest, but the ospreys seem to think otherwise.

I am amused by the “No wake” sign that they have chosen. During busy periods, I would think that “No sleep” would be more appropriate.

Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I observed two large birds consuming large fish using very different techniques. The first, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), carefully positioned the fish and then swallowed it in a single big gulp.

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), pictured below, used a much slower and methodical approach, tearing small chunks off of the fish. It takes a lot of bites to finish off a fish in this way. In between bites, the osprey would often look around to make sure no other bird was approaching and attempting to steal its catch.

When it needed to tug extra hard on the fish, the osprey would sometimes extend its wings in what I assume was an effort to stay balanced and keep from falling out of the tree. I believe that is what was going on at the moment when I captured this image.

Osprey

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I captured this image this past Tuesday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was starting to take off from its perch high in a tree with a partially eaten fish firmly in its grasp. I had watched the osprey consume the top portion of the fish and hope that it was carrying the remainder to its mate.

I am somewhat romantic, so I want to believe that this is a story about love and sharing and caring—and maybe it is. It is also possible that the osprey is selfish and fearful and is seeking a more secluded, secure perch when it can enjoy the rest of its catch without having to worry about it being stolen by eagles or potential predators like me.

Whatever the reality of the actual situation, I love the way that this image shows off the osprey’s impressive wingspan and how the v-shape of the wings is repeated in some of the branches and in the tail of the fish.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Saturday morning at dawn I noted than an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) had already claimed the most prominent nesting site at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several man-made nesting platforms scattered through the wildlife refuge and there are usually some additional osprey nests in trees and one on the top of a hunting blind on stilts in the water. This particular nesting platform is visible from the parking lot, so it was easy to check to see if it was occupied.

osprey

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How do you mark the beginning of spring? For some, it is the time when crocuses and daffodils begin to bloom. Here in the Washington D.C. area, one of the signs of spring is the blossoming of the cherry trees.

For me, I consider spring to have sprung when Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) reappear. These impressive raptors, sometimes referred to as fish hawks, depart in the autumn and throughout the winter I eagerly await their return. Why? I gladly spend countless hour in fascination and enchantment as I watch osprey soaring through the skies, hovering in the air, and occasionally plunging feet-first into the water to catch a fish. It is also fun to watch them gathering materials to build or repair nests.

Yesterday I spotted my first ospreys this season while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on an unusually warm and sunny March day. Here are a couple of my favorite shots from those encounters, which mark the return of the ospreys for 2019.

Osprey

osprey

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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are really cool and I have been photographing them quite a lot recently.  However, they can’t quite match the majesty of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), like this one that soared almost directly over me on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I never cease to be thrilled by the mere glimpse of a Bald Eagle and it is always a joy to capture an image of one in flight.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge are busily building nests high in the trees, but at least one chose a location that is almost at eye level. The nesting site is on top of a duck blind not far from the shore. The blind is essentially a small wooden shack that sticks out of the water on stilts or pilings.

The nice thing about seeing a subject at eye level is that it gives a very natural perspective that helps you, I believe, to engage more directly with that subject, literally seeing eye-to-eye. That is why it is usually recommended that you bend down to photograph children and pets.

In theory, it is easier to get a shot like this that to shoot upwards into a mass of foliage. In reality, though, I had to find a big enough break in the vegetation and shoot over a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, while moving stealthily so as not to disturb the skittish sitting osprey. I ended up stopping by the spot multiple times during the day before I finally got a shot that I liked. (For what it’s worth, I am not sure what the object in the foreground is—at first I thought it was a partially eaten fish, but now I don’t think that is the case. Any ideas?

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like many other places, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge has some raised platforms on which ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) build nests each year. Sometimes violent winter weather destroys much of a previous year’s nest, but quite often the nest survives pretty much intact and all that is required is some spring cleaning and minor renovation.

The latter seemed to be the case with one of the osprey nests that I spotted this past Monday. An osprey was in the nest and appeared to be moving around some of the branches. In the first shot you can see some of the man-made elements of the platform on which the nest is constructed and get a sense of the relative size of the nest. I couldn’t get a really good look at precisely was it doing, though, because the nest was high in the air on a tall post, as you can see in the second photo below.

As I was watching the osprey, a bald eagle flew by and seemed to startle the osprey. The final shot captured the osprey just after it took off from the nest and really emphasized the massive wingspan of the osprey.

osprey

osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) were really active yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, including this one that was gathering materials to either build or repair a nest.

Initially I was standing next to a field that had been cleared some time ago, when an osprey swooped in and snatched up some branches lying on the ground. I was surprised and remember wondering if the osprey would return to the readily available supply of building materials. The osprey returned two or three more times and I was able to capture some cool shots of the osprey transporting some pretty large branches. I was pretty fortunate that the osprey had to fly almost directly over me when it was making its return trips to the unknown nesting location.

There are several nesting platforms in the refuge for ospreys and later in the day I spotted an osprey in one of them. The nest seemed to be pretty much intact from last season, though the osprey seemed to be busily making adjustments and probably was doing some spring cleaning. That may be the subject for a future blog post.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ospreys leave our area in the fall and spend their winters in warmer locations in Central and South America. Around this time of the year, I keep my eye open for their return and this past Saturday I spotted my first one of the year. The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was perched in a tree with branches that partially blocked my view. As I tried to maneuver to get a clear shot, the osprey took off, giving me a view of its massive wingspan. As you can see from the two images, it was an overcast day and color is mostly absent. If you look closely, though, you can just get a glimpse of the yellow of the osprey’s eye.

osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was being harassed relentlessly this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge by a flock of crows and was eventually forced out of what I assumed was its nest. Fortunately I was able to capture a couple of shots before the eagle left the nest.

When I posted a photo in Facebook, a more experience birder pointed out that the nest is probably an osprey nest, not an eagle nest. He added that eagles at the refuge often will perch on osprey nests when the ospreys leave the area for the winter.

The final photo, taken through the trees, shows the crows occupying the nest after forcing the eagle to leave the exposed position.

bald eagle

bald eagle

crows on nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The loud cries of an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) echoed though the early morning air yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was never able to figure out what was bothering the clearly unhappy osprey, but did manage to capture this image of the screaming bird just before it flew away.

screaming osprey

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This majestic osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was keeping a close watch on a fellow photographer and me as we pointed our long lenses in its direction as it perched high in a tree early one morning this weekend at Huntley Meadows Park.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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An osprey circled and circled overhead early Monday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park and finally made a strike, pulling a good-sized fish out of the water. I captured the first shot as the osprey flew by me with its catch, which is just visible between the wings. In the second shot, the osprey was flying away over the trees.

Ospreys have recently reappeared at my favorite local marshland park and these are my first shots this spring at this location. The last couple of years they have shown up regularly enough that I wonder if there might be a nest somewhere in the park. I have wandered about in many remote areas of the park, but so far have not located a nest for the ospreys or for the bald eagles, which I also see pretty regularly in the park.

osprey

osprey

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When I first spotted an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) yesterday afternoon, it was perched at the top of a tall tree at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. Suddenly it began a series of what seemed to be warm-up, stretching exercises. The position reminds me a little of the obelisk position that some dragonflies assume to avoid excessive exposure to the sun. A short time later, the osprey took to the sky.

As I attempted to track the osprey circling overhead, I found myself shooting in radically varying lighting situations. The sky was blue, but there were large expanses of gray and white clouds. Some of the time I was also shooting directly into the sun. As a result, the two in-flight shots below look almost like they were shot on different days, when in fact they were taken only seconds apart.

osprey

osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I inched my way forward yesterday when I spotted this bird in a tree at the edge of Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. Gradually I came to see that it was an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) lunching on a fish. When I moved a few steps closer, however, it detected my presence and its reaction was quicker than mine—I couldn’t quite keep the osprey within the frame of my camera.

I have included an image of the osprey just before it took off to give you an idea of what I was seeing as I was doing my best to be stealthy. The eyesight and reactions of raptors is so good that it is really tough to get even this close. I suspect that in this case the osprey was slightly distracted because it was eating.

The osprey did not fly completely out of sight but perched in the highest branches of a tree on the other side of the small lake. There the osprey was able to continue its lunch without further interruptions.

osprey

osprey

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I was thrilled when I caught an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in action today at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. I had seen one there a little over a week ago, so I was somewhat ready when I saw one circling overhead this afternoon. It didn’t take long for the osprey to pull out a pretty good sized fish—I think the lake is stocked with trout, though I really don’t know fish well enough to know if that is the type of fish that the osprey caught.

Although I knew that the osprey would eventually dive for a fish, I was a little slow in reacting when it finally did. In particular, I had difficulty reacquiring focus after the big splash so images like the final image below are a bit soft in focus. I was fortunate that there was a lot of sunlight and I was able to get some sharper images when the osprey flew higher in the sky.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

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A loud smack in the water yesterday afternoon at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia caused me to turn my head and I was shocked when I saw an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) pull a fish out of the water—I though that all of the osprey had gone south for the winter months ago.

This encounter was a real test of my ability to react quickly. I had been watching some small birds in the bushes at the edge of the water when I heard the osprey’s impact with the water. My brain went into overdrive as I tried to figure out what had caused the sound, but simultaneously I was raising my camera to my eye and pointing it in the direction from which the sound had come. I didn’t have time to change the settings on the camera and was fortunate that they were more or less ok. My focus was set for single shot and not continuous focus, so many of my shots were not in focus and my shutter speed ended up at 1/500 sec, a bit too slow to freeze the action. Still, I am thrilled that I got a couple of decent shots out of the encounter.

After I posted a photo in a birding forum in Facebook, several local birders noted that osprey often return to the area in mid-February, so this osprey is only a bit of an early bird.

osprey

osprey

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It’s hard to get an Osprey ( Pandion haliaetus) to cooperate in posing. When I asked this osprey to smile for me this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, this was the best look that it would give me, which looks more like a smirk than a smile to me.

Osprey

I was shooting from quite a distance away, waiting and waiting for the osprey to take flight. The osprey was in no hurry, however, and when I moved on, the osprey was still perched on the branch. I had the impression that the osprey wanted some solitude, because the osprey would periodically glare at me with this look, which suggested to me that my presence was not really welcome.

I am not sure how long the ospreys will remain with us. I have seen them off and on throughout the summer, but have never spotted a nest in the park. As we move into autumn, there will be a big turnover of birds, with some migrating south and others arriving to winter with us in Northern Virginia. Readers will probably notice too a changeover in the content of the blog postings, with fewer insects and more birds.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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