Conditions: Variable showers
It’s been a day of great contrasts: on the same afternoon that we saw the season’s first hummingbird, Ari turned us back early on our afternoon walk, presumably so that we could get back to the fire in our woodstove. That’s where she’s sitting now, curled up like a damp sled dog.
The real news this week, though, is in big bird land. Earlier this week in Lincolnville (a town we formerly knew only as the site of Ari’s agility school), a juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was released after spending a year convalescing at Avian Haven, a really wonderful rehabilitation center in our area. A photographer from our local paper covered the event and took some great photos:
Today, we joined our good friend Khyra in cyberspace and watched a live stream of the annual Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) chick banding in Khyra’s home state of Pennsylvania. Ari didn’t care much for the sound of protesting chicks, but she stuck around for the entire banding process—including adorable questions from even more adorable grade school kids—before seeking out a more peaceful place for a nap elsewhere in the house.
The biggest excitement for us this week, though, is our first osprey (Pandion haliaetus) spotting. Each year at about this time, the giant raptors return to their massive familial nests, some of which are over 100 years old. Here’s an example of bird and next, taken from Animal DiversityWeb:
We love everything about the osprey: their bellicose good looks, their pronounced sense of place, even the way that males bring females breakfast in bed each day during their roosting season. It’s their family life, though, that has really earned osprey a special place in our hearts.
For the first several years Greg and I lived in Maine, we rented a 19th-century Cape Cod cottage across from a dairy farm. Years earlier, an osprey pair had built a massive nest on a utility pole in one of the cow pastures. Much to our delight, they returned each summer and never seemed to mind a few voyeurs around. Each day, we’d walk our beagle, Kinch, past the nest to check on the family. Once the chicks prepared to fledge, we spend a good part of most afternoons watching flying lessons and subsequent hunting classes.
The chicks were understandably clumsy at first. Luckily, they had patient instructors. Mom and Dad would start by bringing them fish tails to carry around in their new talons. If the number of dropped fish ends around the pole were any indication, this was a tough learning curve. Eventually, though, they'd master the tails; then, the chicks would be given whole dead fish to negotiate. That’s when the fun really began. The rain of fish was frequent enough to warrant wearing a sturdy hat on most days. Once, a chick dropped a whole alewife directly on our understandably perplexed beagle. Luckily, he had a penchant for seafood. And, in spite of his grouchy demeanor, even Kinch seemed to miss the family when they'd all leave at the end of the summer.
We live in a different house now, so Ari hasn’t had the chance to get that intimate with our favorite bird. Still, she’s become pretty adept at picking them out as they soar above us on our walks. And she’s learned to be patient—if not interested—when I slow down the car at each osprey nest I see. She might even agree to head out again this week to check on our most recent visitor—that is, if I can get her to abandon her cozy spot next to the woodstove.