Fishermen aren’t the only ones who notice when elvers and fish start swimming up streams and rivers in the spring. Local wildlife also take notice, and therefore, the streams and rivers become the ideal spot for wildlife watchers and photographers.
I didn’t realize this until my friend Sharon, an avid wildlife photographer in the Bangor area, told me how much she loves to watch osprey fishing in the springtime, especially near dams. So when the time came, I joined her of a few outings to nearby dams where we brushed elbows with local fishermen (she always stops to chat) and photographed the hungry raptors.
Not only did we have the opportunity to see upwards of 10 osprey diving into the water for fish, we also watched gulls fighting over the plentiful food, and even had the occasion to see seals, which tend to follow the fish upstream. And of course, there’s always the chance of spying a bald eagle, though we weren’t so lucky.
I was absolutely amazed at the osprey’s ability to hover high over the water and all of the sudden dive down — feet first, wings bent — and disappear with a splash, then, a moment later, rise up out of the water with a gleaming fish writhing in its talons. With a few powerful beats of its dripping wings, it would lift from the water and arrange the fish in its talons so it faced forward (to decrease wind resistance). And as the successful hunter gained elevation, it would often make an arc in the air, offering us plenty of opportunities to take photos, then find a suitable tree to eat its prey (usually away from the prying eyes of nosy wildlife photographers). The osprey were so accurate that we actually made a bit of a game out of it, osprey vs fish. The osprey won.
While watching for several hours, I witnessed a fish, clutched in an osprey’s talons, stretch back and bite its enemy on the chest while airborne. Or at least that’s what I think I saw! I also saw an osprey dive in the water and fail rise back up. We waited in suspense as we watched the osprey linger in the water, only its head and shoulders showing, and we realized that the fish was probably giving it trouble. It was either too big for the bird to carry or it was swimming downward with a determination that in the end paid off because the osprey eventually left the water with empty talons.
Here are a few of the photos I’ve taken this spring while traveling with Sharon and other photographer friends to local streams and rivers.