Monday, July 20, 2009

Talons versus Tilley

To fully understand the title of this story, you must know that I wear a Tilley hat.
While camping in Stanley Idaho last week we enjoyed watching an Osprey nest with two chicks in it from our camp. The chicks were about 3/4 size, demanding a great deal of food. One of the parents was out hunting constantly. Occasionally the other parent would also join in the hunt. It was great to see them consume their fresh sushi! One meal appeared to be much tougher to rip apart leading us to believe that it wasn't fish. Ospreys are known to eat mostly fish, but occasionally rodents and other raptor food.
On our final day in Stanley I got this great idea to climb the hill behind the nest and photograph the chicks from there. Since the hillside was further from the power pole their nest was on than the highway, I did not believe there would be any disturbance. Cattle graze this hillside, further convincing me that the Osprey would not mind. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I approached the nest from a location which was concealed from their view. Gaining the elevation that I wanted, I moved around the hillside to view the nest. The female Osprey screeched in protest as her chicks hunkered down in the stick nest out of site. The faithful mom flew straight toward me screeching away.
Female Osprey.
She circled around me and into the sun. I could tell she was getting closer, but I could not tell how close.
Female Osprey.
I felt very vulnerable and began my retreat.
Female Osprey.
My retreat was not sufficient. She continued to circle in closer and closer, using the sun to her advantage. She continued to shreek in protest.
Female Osprey attacking.
I expected to lose my hat at any moment. She never got quite that close. Once I retreated a significant distance away, she returned to the nest. Needless to say, I didn't get the casual photo of the chicks I was hoping for.
On the morning we left, Karyn and I returned to one of our favorite wetlands. No salamanders, but we did find a frog.
Northern Spotted Leopard Frog.
Karyn then points out a black bird swimming in the water. What is it? My mind raced through all of the black birds that I knew. Nothing. Then I noticed it had black downy feathers, not adult feathers. It was clearly a chick of some sort. Probably a Rail or Sora.
Juvenile Virginia Rail.
We then spotted the parent and it was clear that this was a family of Virginia Rail with 4 chicks! This is a life bird for me and here were 5 of them! Very cool.
Adult Virginia Rail.
That concluded our excellent week of vacation. We returned to Boise so that I could report to the Idaho Bird Observatory for 6 weeks of songbird banding, my next summer adventure.

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