Second Valley Osprey Nest: A Garden of Earthly Delights – July 2016
On the hillside parallel to Second Valley a breeding pair of osprey return each year to nest atop a towering dead fir capped by a nest the size of a bathtub. In past years 1-2 chicks hatch and sometimes do, sometimes don’t, make it to maturity. This year at the end of July we are amazed by 3 hulking chicks crowding the nest and filling the valley with their long raucous cries of hunger. The parents land with a fish in claws, the same size as their full grown offspring clamoring for food. Osprey are the only raptors that survive solely on fish so they build a nest adjacent to water for their concentrated buffet. Through observation we learn some interesting avian parenting tips. Camera poised as a parent approaches, she hovers with a large fish in her grip then turns abruptly away as the chicks, quieted and poised at her approach erupt in hysteria as she flies off with their anticipated dinner. We erupt in laughter at the clever “fish fake” maneuver to entice them to fly. Hiking up each day to enjoy the show, 2 chicks fledge, while the last lingers for another two weeks in the nest screeching mournfully. The siblings return to the nest for the next 2 months as parents teach them to fish and to keep the last chick company. One sibling brings fish to the nest and the other sits on the lower branches. The scenario reminds me of the advantages of growing up in a larger family, learning lessons from those fledged before us, and enjoying the benefits of spoils left behind while having older siblings close at hand. Fledged chicks stay in the nest as parents roost nearby imparting hunting lessons and learning the lay of land and water. In late autumn they will begin the 2700 mile flight to South America to their wintering grounds where chicks will mature for another 2-3 years before they make the flight back for mating in their birthplace on this National Seashore. I realize how essential it is for humans to preserve habitat for wildlife to share this range of life. Finally the last chick, the last egg laid, fledges and she hovers over the valley for weeks screeching it seems with sheer joy to the world, “I can fly! I can fly!” We are privileged to be her witness.