I wasn’t going to do this because I wrote about crows last week. Then I witnessed an osprey extravaganza.
Rabia and I had just bid adieu to Olive and Brian, frequent morning pals along the lakefront. Olive is a black Labrador Retriever (Rabia a blonde) with the sleek beauty of a South American panther and the pleasing personality of a friendly Barista. Brian is just a human being so we won’t talk about him.
Anyway, Olive and Brian went their way, which is to walk a far stretch down the shore. Rabia and I went our way, which is a very short walk to “our” bench. There we sit and see what we can learn from the slice of the world in front of us. Actually, Rabia gets her tummy rubbed. I hate to say this, but I am pretty sure she is not a deep-thinker. This is when and where the show began.
The first osprey appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The wind was from the south and blowing fiercely. Waves were crashing white against Long Pier. Wind and waves tangoed so vigorously that I could see white froth spraying high against the breakwater more than a mile up the shore. The challenge to the osprey was immediately clear as I watched it struggle to catch and then pierce the air currents where it might normally have hovered above a potential catch.
From the size of it I guessed it was a late juvenile, and from how many times it dove with a splash into the waves and failed to come up with a fish, it seemed a good bet. Then another appeared, each soaring then fluttering against the wind on its way to an occasional dive, splash, and recovery without a catch. Back and forth from Long Pier to the Hobart William Smith Boathouse they flew. Rabia was impervious to anything unless I stopped rubbing her belly, so I don’t think she noticed. But I was cheering for them, hoping their laborious and exhausting efforts would be rewarded.
Suddenly high-pitched cries directed my attention toward Long Pier. A larger, likely mother bird, flew our way with it’s powerful wings outstretched against the wind like a large silent drone. In its claws was a massive fish, held like a single bomb to its underbelly.
Behind mother came a smaller one making the noises, crying for a piece of that fish. But on the larger bird flew over 5 & 20 and out of sight, the younger one capitulating and returning to the lake. Now there were four younger osprey circling, wafting, fluttering, swooping, and diving with a splash into the water. Always they came up with empty talons. I kept thinking about how much energy and strength they were exerting and wondering if the sustenance and protein of one fish could equal all that effort. We left before witnessing them succeed.
As I wrote this column, little yellow September Butterflies darted erratically from plant to plant near my porch. Their proper name is Cloudless Sulphur but I call them September butterflies because they will be the last ones we see eking out any remaining bit of life from a dying world of fading grass and leaves. Like the inevitability of a birthday, the seasons are shifting and soon those ospreys will winter in Venezuela as the yellow butterflies feed the earth.