The osprey nesting off the beach at Sandy Point Beach Park are a photographer’s dream. They’re used to the presence of people, and for years, they’ve successfully raised young in a nest they’ve built on old dock pilings that people can walk out to at
low tide. While many osprey nests are located too high to observe, this nest is low enough so you can see the chicks’ heads from time to time. It’s great, but sometimes people don’t keep their distance, which is really important.
Wildlife need their space, and that’s something every wildlife photographer should take into account. While you want to get that close-up photograph that shows the texture of the birds’ feathers, it’s not always possible. As a rule, I try to stay under the radar. If an animal starts to notices me, it will act differently, and I back off.
Last weekend, I visited Sandy Point Beach Park to bask in the sun and watch the osprey family. I sat down on the beach and photographed what I assumed was the mother, sitting on the nest. Then, the father swooped in carrying a fish! I was delighted. He landed on a piling near the nest, clutching the flopping fish in his formidable talons, and stayed. The mother cried out, possibly imploring him to come to the nest with the meal? But he wouldn’t move. He just sat there. Then it dawned on me — I was too close. I was making him nervous. So I moved up the beach, away from the nest, then flopped back down on the sand. And guess what? He brought the fish to the nest. Two little heads popped up, and the family of four began their meal. I took some photos from far away. They aren’t great because I only have a 300mm lens, but I don’t mind because at that distance, I was able to watch the birds act naturally.
A few minutes later, a man walking down the beach asked me what I was photographing. I pointed at the osprey. He pulled out his iPad and started to approach the nest. The father flew off and the mother remained but wouldn’t eat. She stared at him as he approached and snapped some photos. He was too close for comfort, but fortunately, he didn’t linger. He continued down the beach and the father osprey returned.
But then, a few minutes later, a group of beach-goers approached the pilings. I don’t know if they even saw the osprey. A little boy in the group was skipping rocks, and I don’t think the birds were impressed because the father took off again and the mother stopped eating. It was evident that while these osprey are used to seeing people, they will always be wild animals and they’ll always need a certain amount of space to feel comfortable.
When I told my boyfriend Derek about it later, we got to thinking — maybe a sign should be posted on the beach, perhaps on a nearby piling, telling people to give the osprey some distance? They’re a joy to watch, and it would be nice if they could eat in peace.
So I encourage you to go to Sandy Point Beach Park in Stockton Springs. Here are the directions and some information about the park and the trails there. Lay a blanket on the sand and watch the osprey from a distance. (You can always bring binoculars.)