Several photos that show an hour in the life of an osprey family I photographed in the Exumas yesterday. The nest was situated on a tiny cay (island atop a reef). Anchored in a skiff roughly 50 yds away, with a Nikkor 600mm and 1.4x TC, I first needed to make sure they were not alarmed by our presence, and watched for any change in behavior or vocalization. It helped that we could position along a well-used boating channel, for the ospreys were used to boat traffic.
The 2 chicks were sitting with their mother. It was clear they were near fledging. Several times one would lean down, raise his wings in a tight high vee behind his body, and then unfurl them, lifting up into the strong wind and hovering in place. I wondered if the family were waiting for the father to return with fish, and they did seem to have expectant postures, looking off in the same direction. Suddenly, the mother looked alert, moved her body to face the other way, and began crying out in that plaintive osprey way. The chicks looked in the same direction, and--my own excitement mirroring their own--the father appeared behind the nest, flying in with part of a fish, something streaming from it. I couldn’t tell if this was plant matter or part of the fish, perhaps its skin? He dropped it in the nest, and the female ripped into it, and began to feed it to the young. Soon, the male took off, and circled back to somewhere behind the little island, out of view. We motored to the other side and found him bathing in a shallow pool. Careful not to disturb him by approaching too closely, we sat and watched him for a few minutes as he bathed, and then lifted up, with one final shake mid-air. The last photo shows him just after take-off.
If these Bahamas ospreys look slightly different to you, it’s because they are a different subspecies of the osprey Pandion haliaetus. The North American one is P. h. carolinensis while the Caribbean one is P.h. ridgwayi. In the ridgwayi, the eye-mask is absent, and the facial/nape markings are less pronounced. The breast and underparts are white in both sexes. The upper-parts are lighter, as are the underwings.
Thanks to @rolling_harbour
for some of this i.d. info.