Saturday, 26 September 2009

Osprey at Chew Valley Lake


Here's something from ten years ago – August 24, to be exact – when ospreys were still a bit of a novelty:

"I had got up early to catch high tide at Severn Beach. I walked out of the door at seven to the start of some persistent rain and changed my mind instantly. There were hides at Chew Valley and I would at least stay dry. There is nothing to be gained from peering through droplet-coated binoculars while getting soaked and probably blown about into the bargain.

"A good decision. Within moments of settling in to the Stratford Bay hide I saw a large shape above. Great Black-backed Gull was my first thought. I had never seen one at Chew, so that wasn't too bad. An instant later better was to come. The bird turned to reveal splayed wing tips -- way too splayed for any gull. I knew that I could only be looking at an Osprey.

"I watched it hunt and thought how expensive an operation it was. No gliding or soaring in this weather. More or less continuous wing-beats and turns punctuated the odd plummet as the bird saw something only to pull out as its prey disappeared. Once it continued its dive, thrashed around and came out with... Well, was there something? The binoculars did not resolve anything and the Osprey continued its quartering.

"A second dive, thrash and lift-off definitely produced a wriggling victim. I was in a state of tension. Would the bird hold on? This fish definitely did not want to be caught. I could see the Osprey try to straighten its catch as I knew it must before it could fly efficiently. I looked out for gulls that might try to harass the Osprey. Eventually it had its cargo stowed to its satisfaction and powered off overhead and away behind the hide.

"You can see all this stuff on the TV but you will always miss the emotional involvement provided by being there and witnessing the whole chase. I felt nearly as exhausted as the Osprey must occasionally have felt after a hard day's work."

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