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Osprey

In Carpenter Lake, north of Lillooet, osprey nest on platforms on very tall poles stuck into the lake, put there so the birds will not nest on power poles in this remote area. The lake is low in the spring and if you approach the nest site the osprey will circle, screaming and try to defecate on you. The two osprey nests that I know of in Ladysmith are both on sawmill sites. These birds are oblivious to the people, machines and noise that surround them. One of the mills has a very tall pole with a nesting platform that has been used successfully for years by a pair. The story that I was told was that the mill was having some dredging done. The mill went out on strike and the dredge was left idle. When operations resumed, it was found that ospreys had built a nest on top of the dredge’s boom. The wildlife people would not allow the dredge to be used until the babies had left the nest. The mill put up the platform to prevent a reoccurrence. Or maybe the employees just liked having the birds around. The nests are huge bowls made of sticks and twigs that are added to and reinforced each year.

Opsrey nests

Opsrey nests. Photo: Rob Pinkerton

These hawks feed entirely on fish. They cruise above the water and when a fish is spotted they hover then dive, entering the water feet first. Grabbing the fish in their talons, they rise up and flip it in the air so that so that it rides fore and aft. The pads of their feet have a hard scale that assists the bird holding on to a slippery fish. I have seen them cruising the harbour but the lakes are much more productive; stocked by Fisheries with fat rainbows and cutthroat. If I am on the lake and hook a trout, an osprey may circle and watch the performance but will not try and grab it, unlike some nasty, lazy bald eagles I have known. Eagles have been seen chasing an osprey until it drops its catch. The fish is taken to the nest where the female carves it up and feeds it to the 2 to 4 young who patiently wait their turn. When the chicks are old enough to rip up the fish themselves, they take turns and do not compete aggressively for food. This seems unusual in the bird world. One of the parents stays with the nest at all times to guard against eagles, ravens and crows that are ever on the lookout for a meal of baby bird.

Osprey, white below dark brown above with dark barred wing are about the size of a large seagull and are therefore easily overlooked. The head is white with a brown stripe running through the eye. In flight, the wings are long and angled back like a gull but with the open feathers at the tips like fingers. These birds are found on every continent and winter in the southern ones. They were on the critical list for a while as pesticides and DDT were affecting their health and breeding but seem to be making a comeback. Osprey are elegant and beautiful birds and I am always partial to a fellow fisherman. 

Osprey   Photo: Rob Pinkerton

About the author: Rob Pinkerton

Rob Pinkerton