My Best Day with the Osprey

It was without a doubt my best day ever with the osprey since finding their nest in Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this summer. The two little ones were already hatched by the time I learned of them and it was pretty special to get to watch them grow, learn to fly and now learn to catch fish for themselves.

One other time when I was set up along the river further downstream I spotted one of them trying to fish in the calm waters where the river widens, but I wasn’t able to capture a very good picture… it was just too far away. My buddy and I have been regularly camped out at the nest trying to capture all the action, including the daily feedings as the parents bring fish to the nest. It’s quite an exciting event for  little ones, they begin squawking loudly and flapping their wings when they see the parents approaching and it is a blast to photograph the delivery of the fish. It doesn’t take long and if you can get high enough on the other bank you can see them ripping off strips of meat with their powerful hooked beaks.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But since the little ones have learned to fish for themselves the feedings are few and far between and there is little action at the nest. I have been noticing that they are flying downstream and I surmised they were probably fishing in the calm water on the south side of the dam. So yesterday I decided to take a chance on hanging out at the dam, the risk being that none of them ever show up and I get no reward for my efforts.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived at sunrise and went directly to the dam, biding my time photographing the peregrine falcons that frequently fly over the river to attend to some kind of falcon business on the other side of the river. Then I heard it, the loud call of an osprey. It was one of the juveniles and I grabbed a few images of him as he flew a few laps around the calm water. Eventually he landed on top of a dead tree overlooking the glass like early morning water of the South Platte River. He probably perched for about a half hour, looking all around and occasionally letting out a squawk, I assume to let his sister know of his whereabouts. Osprey can turn their heads completely around so you have to be careful if you are photographing them in the tree to make sure they aren’t looking backwards!

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

Then all of a sudden he took flight, making another lap and then descending toward the water. I desperately tried to follow him with my long lens but I lost him as he neared the water. I just kept moving my camera and shooting until I found the water and there was the majestic bird in a great struggle to catch is breakfast. At one point he was almost completely submerged, which caused me a bit of concern. If he were unable to escape the water he would be carried over the dam where he would surely perish 😦

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But as it turns out the young bird had everything under control and soon burst out of the water in triumphant flight. Unfortunately it appears that he only managed to capture some seaweed so breakfast would have to wait. He returned to his perch in the tree and soon his sister arrived and took up a perch in their other favorite tree. One more unsuccessful attempt was made before the pair flew together downstream where I know they have had success in the past.

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

The osprey weren’t my only success on the day, I was astonished as a doe mule deer and her fawn crossed the river in the beautiful light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise. Fortunately both of them in the light at the same time, as I set my exposure and focused on the pair for a perfect capture 🙂 Then to top it off on my way out of the canyon I spotted the Great Blue Heron walking in the calm water as if he were striding through a mirror. And much to my surprise there was a purpose to his slow stroll through the water. Apparently the huge birds slowly walk along until they find a fish which they quickly grab and eat with their powerful beaks.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

With over 600 images to process I will be working on this adventure for a while! But these are a few of my favorite ones, many of which I have uploaded to my website for purchase.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Sunrise on the South Platte River

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