Ospreys and Life

We spent the better part of the morning watching four ospreys fishing on the pond. They hovered, wheeled, dove and made grand diving attempts to catch fish, successful and unsuccessful. The pond borders a piece of property my grandfather bought on the East end of Long Island in the 40’s. My aunt lives there now.  I grew up there, even though we lived in New York City. Once, on the way home from the beach in the early 60’s an Osprey dropped an alewife on the road in front the car. My dad picked it up from the roadway and I remember thinking that the talon marks in the fish were pretty cool.

By the time I was in my late teens, seeing an Osprey was a pretty rare thing, and I’m not sure that they ever completely disappeared from the East End, but between my 20’s and 30’s I don’t remember seeing one. Rachel Carson is ultimately responsible, with help from her friends, in setting society on a course so that those four Ospreys were out there fishing on the pond now that I’m in my 60’s.

One of the Ospreys appeared to be a juvenile. It was persistent.  The bird hovered in place and appeared as if it was intently surveying brunch.  It swooped around the borders of the pond making the flight look effortless.  It dove and looked ferocious and emerged from the water with empty talons.  Frequently, one of the other Ospreys would soar, hover, dive and emerge with a silvery fish and fly off.  As I watched the juvenile, I tried to compare its actions against the older, more successful birds.  Did it hover too long? Did it start its dive from too high?  Is there an ‘Osprey Fishing Techniques’ book out there somewhere?  Eventually the juvenile caught a fish, and then flew around with it in it’s talons as if it were confused. I know that Ospreys seem to prefer flying with their catch facing forward, firmly grasped with both feet, but our persistent fellow seemed to have it right, but who knew? I’m not as Osprey.

There is a rhythm in nature.  Things change.  My grandfather’s property is the same place, but not, where I lived my youth.  The pond has changed over 60 years, and the crabs and alewife’s have been replaced by Carp and unknown silver fish.  In time, our juvenile Osprey will be the one catching fish in short order.  It will have grown up.  While watching those birds, I realized that I’ve outlived trees that are no longer on the property.  I’ve changed, the pond changed, the property changed, the world changed.  In my youth, I never would have spent a morning watching a bird not catch fish, but today, a beautiful faux spring day; in a beautiful world, it was the best way to spend a morning.