The month of April reminds me that the Ospreys in Florida have already started their nesting season and that by now most of them have chicks that they are busy feeding. I see Ospreys in Utah but not with the frequency or ease that I experienced while I lived in Florida, here in Utah the Ospreys seem to prefer high mountains lakes, reservoirs or rivers to nest close to and I don’t see them all that often down here in the valley.
Honeymoon Island State Park in Pinellas County, Florida is a great place to see and photograph nesting Ospreys, not just one or two nests either, there are often quite a few. Just take a hike down “Osprey Trail” and you will see and hear the Ospreys. The nests are high overhead in the pines.
I was once accused of “photoshopping” the male Osprey into the image above when I posted it on a sharing site, the person making the accusation didn’t seem to understand how depth of field works with long lenses, what bokeh is or how it can smooth out the background and that things that are on a different field of plane than the subject can look out of focus. Hopefully they learned about depth of field if they continued photographing birds and wildlife.
I like this image because the male is sharply in focus, the perched female a little less so and how the billowing clouds, blue sky and of out focus trees in the background add a nice feeling of depth to the frame.
It can be challenging to determine the sex of ospreys because they look so much alike but there are sexual differences in appearance. BNA states this difference:
“Female. Similar to Definitive Basic male in plumage except dark markings on chin, breast, and sides of neck average greater, the subterminal marks on breast becoming larger, often distinctly paler at center of breast, where some feathers mostly medium brown”
The female in the two images above barely had any markings on her breast and neck but because of observations I made while watching and photographing this pair of Ospreys I could determine their sexes because as this female ate her fish the male flew by her with a branch in its bill then once the branch was dropped into the nest the bird flew back to the perched female and mated with her. The male had no dark markings on his neck or breast.
Females usually do the incubation of the eggs but the males do take their turn at it too while the female goes off to hunt down her food. Sometimes the male will bring her food after the chicks have hatched.
There are many locations across North America where Ospreys and Bald Eagles nest in the same general areas near lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers, both species do feed on fish though the Ospreys diet is nearly all fish while the Bald Eagles do include mammals in their diet. Great action can be observed when an eagle tries to steal a fish from an osprey or vice versa in action packed, high speed aerial fights. Have your shutter speed as high as it can go if you ever have the opportunity to photograph that behavior and interaction, you’ll need it!
I know that Ospreys are moving through my area now and I hope to see them soon. I love to photograph these “Fish Hawks” whenever I get the chance.
Life is good.
These images were all taken in 2008.