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Friday, August 7, 2015

Ospreys of Pennsylvania

It was a long trip and I was almost at the end of my nine hour journey to visit my family in Pennsylvania. My brother had called me and told them to meet them at a specific exit and they would take us all out to eat as part of an anniversary celebration for mom and dad. I pulled into a parking lot just off the exit and got out of the car to stretch my weary legs.  It was a typical parking lot near a wooded area and gas station.  People were milling around, buying gas and also stretching their legs.
As I leaned back against the side of the car I heard a faint call to my right.  I wasn't sure exactly what it was, but I knew that it was a raptor.  I figured Rick and his family would still be a few minutes so off I went with camera in hand to investigate the activity.  I walked across a small paved road and started into a clearing just beyond the first row of trees and there they were.  Two ospreys in flight and two perched on nesting platforms. I put the camera to my eye and snapped a couple distant documentation shots in time to see my brothers car pull in near mine at the now distant parking lot.  Quite excited, I ran over and told him about the encounter.
We had a nice meal at the restaurant and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see my family once again and catching up, but nagging in the back of my mind were the ospreys.  I had determined as soon as I saw them that I was going back the next morning and capture what I could with my somewhat inadequate 70-300.  Although a good lens it is not good at tracking birds in flight or getting close to them for that matter.  My mom also loves birds so it was nice to also talk to her about them and let her know where they were.
The next morning as dawn broke I was on the road heading toward the parking lot and hoping that the ospreys were still there.  It was a beautiful morning and as I passed by the lake a bald eagle could be seen perched on a dead tree overlooking the lake.  Finally, I arrived at the parking lot, grabbed my camera and extra battery and cards and made my way through the trees and up a hill to the nesting platforms.  I worked my way up very slowly as to not startle the birds too much and finally came to a deer lay and settled in about 30 yards away.  It is important to note that it is against the law to be at close proximity to raptors and it also is stressful to be that close for any period of time.  I actually agree with this law and take great precaution to not stress the bird out and cause them to abandon a nest.  In this case they had already fledged their young and were just using the nest as a perch.
It was nice just to sit there on the side of the hill and take in all the scenery and sounds. I could hear and see the occasional tanager and gold finch and even a critter or two rustling through the underbrush.  The area was alive with wildlife.  One osprey was perched on the nesting box pole and was completely relaxed in my presence. The others flew off to do some fishing. About every 45 minutes they would return and I would snap a few photographs of those majestic birds. Some would circle, some would land and some would head back out to fish once again.  This pattern went on for several hours until the morning light was finally gone and I headed back to the car.
The experience was better by far than my photographs and my takeaway from this adventure is to always have your camera ready for the next encounter because you never know when the perfect opportunity will arise.  Now I have a location on my list where I can go back and be totally prepared. Below are a couple shots from the encounter.

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