BPW: Osprey Catching Fish

by John Briggs on May 18, 2009

in Bird Photographs, Bird Photography Weekly, Blog, Weekend Birding

Osprey with fish - Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Click photo for larger view

Osprey with fish - Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Click photo for larger view

Saturday dawned with mostly cloudy skies and threatened to ruin our plans to go to Damariscotta Mills, Maine for the annual Alewife run and the opportunity to photograph Osprey catching the fish.

I called fellow birding friend Bob Malbon at 5:15 a.m. and told him the skies did not look good for photography. As I live only 18 miles from Damariscotta Mills, I was the point man on the weather. Bob had an hour and twenty minutes traveling time. Satellite views showed the hope for brief periods of sunshine during the first few hours after sunrise. We decided to go for it.

The decision was an excellent one! Shortly after arriving, the skies cleared and the action was just beginning. The tide was falling and we could see the fish stirring on the surface of the pond that leads to the fish ladder.

We set up in the lower parking area and waited for Osprey to dive into the pond to catch Alewives. A few photographers were on the small bridge above us. Bald Eagles soared high above us, and a Great Blue Heron landed in a spruce tree along the road.

Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Click photo for larger view

Damariscotta Mills, Maine | Click photo for larger view

Each year, it is a Womerlippi tradition to visit the alewives during their run in late May at Damariscotta Mills.  Alewives, also known as river herring or sawbellies, are anadromous.  They spend their life primarily at sea but return to freshwater en masse to spawn.

The photo on the right shows the pond where the fish congregate before heading up to Damariscotta Lake via the fish ladders. I photograph the Osprey from the concrete pad on this side of my car, at the corner. The entry way to the fish ladders is just behind the building. To help make the 42 foot vertical ascent from the Great Salt Bay to Damariscotta Lake as easy as possible for the alewives, members of the Friends of the Alewives, Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association and the Damariscotta River Association joined together to restore the fish ladder. The original fish ladder was built in 1807.

I can not even begin to convey to you the exhilaration from being up close and personal with the Osprey and their fishing techniques! We were fortunate to be in a location where the Osprey would dive, catch a fish or two and head straight for us. Once the Osprey had a fish and cleared the water, the bird would seemingly pause in mid-air, shake water from its feathers and then continue on.

Photographers

Photographers - Damariscotta Mill, Maine | Click photo for larger view

All in all, it was a spectacular morning! I nearly filled two 8 gigabyte CF cards. Photographers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were present, with 35 in all. There were a lot of smiling faces Saturday morning!

The action will more than likely last through Memorial Day weekend. Bob and I planned to go again this morning, but the skies were very uncooperative. Tomorrow promises to be sunny and we will give it a try then.

Even if you are not a photographer, this is an event you don’t want to miss. Please  remember to obey the posted signs and only park in designated areas. If anyone needs directions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment on this post.

There is other bird activity at Damariscotta Mills. We watched a Baltimore Oriole chase an Orchard Oriole. Barn and Tree Swallows were numerous, along with Warblers, Kingbirds, Cormorants, Herons and Egrets, Bald Eagles and common birds.

Enjoy the photos of the Osprey!

Before you view these photos: Press the f11 key to open your browser window to its fullest size. Some of the photos that were cropped long will not show full size if you do not do this. If using IE 8, click the broken page icon on the right side of  your address bar before clicking photos.

Osprey carrying fish | Click photo for larger view

Osprey carrying fish | Click photo for larger view

 

Osprey with fish closeup | Click photo for larger view

Osprey with fish closeup | Click photo for larger view

 

Osprey coming at you | Click photo for larger view

Osprey coming at you | Click photo for larger view

 

Osprey overhead | Click photo for larger view

Osprey overhead | Click photo for larger view

 

Osprey clutching two fish | Click photo for larger view

Osprey clutching two fish | Click photo for larger view

Happy birding!

 

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