Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fish Eagle!

Yes! Last Thursday afternoon. Right here in Rocket City, USA. My son and I watched as an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) make a couple of dives into the lake at Brahan Springs Park and come up with a fish dinner. Osprey will often fish by just snatching the fish out of the water, but they also fish using the diving technique, sometimes diving as much as three feet deep. These YouTube videos show the two techniques.


Unfortunately, I did not have any way to make photos to show the dive action step-by-step, so I've had to get a few from some Internet sources in order to show you this awesome bird. My thanks to the great videos from the YouTube contributors and to all the contributors at Photobucket and Public Domain Pictures who share their wonderful photos.

The osprey is also known as a fish eagle, fish hawk, or sea hawk. They are eagle-sized raptors, standing about two feet tall and having a wingspan of five to six feet. They are common worldwide, but are not year-round residents everywhere. In the Southeast, they are found throughout the year from the Mississippi Delta, eastward along the Gulf Coast and all of Florida, and through coastal Georgia. The rest of the Gulf Coast sees them as winter residents. I've seen them fishing along the coast near San Francisco, at Cape Canaveral in Florida, and also fishing in an inland pond near Panama City, Florida. In my part of Alabama, they are migratory. I had never seen one here before. I wonder if the bird we saw was just passing through or if it--and maybe some companions--were spending a few days here as they passed through on their way north to their summer breeding grounds in the northern regions of the U.S. and in Canada from their winter resorts in South America.

An osprey leaving the nest.

Our visitor first caught my attention when it dropped out of the sky as I sat in the car reading by the lake. With a splash it was completely submerged, but it quickly surfaced and in an amazing maneuver, swept its wings back and rose out of the water, flying away with a large fish in its talons. Unfortunately, it dropped the fish. Its loss was my gain, because I got to see it repeat its fishing technique. It made a few circles around the lake, hovered, dived headfirst into the water, came up with another fish, and flew away to enjoy lunch. It was amazing. These great photos will give you an idea of what it was like, but you really had to be there to get the full effect.

Hovering just before a dive.

Beginning the dive.

About to hit the water.


Heads up!

Lift off!

Here comes dinner.

Two-fisted fishing.

Is that lunch in its right foot?

Drying off after a dive.

Some parting shots

A close look at the wing.

And those talons and beak.

For more information on osprey, visit these sites:

Thanks to and

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nature's Art

Some time ago I found this photo of the Pacific coastline after a storm, taken by Ray Atkeson in 1967, on the American Heritage website ( I wanted to share this beautiful example of Nature's art. Many thanks to Mr. Atkeson. I hope you enjoy it.