Here’s what I saw on the beach yesterday morning at 6:00 AM. I had looked out the window to check out the smoke and saw something that definitely didn’t look like a rock or a log. I raced upstairs for the binoculars while the guys slept and realized my visitor was an osprey.
One who didn’t want to move off of his rock.
You can see from the picture that after I threw on some clothes and hustled down the hill with the camera and the phone (these pics were taken on the phone) he let me get pretty close before trying to fly away.
Flying away didn’t work and I felt sorry that I had disturbed him. He didn’t get in the air, landed in the lake, and swam a few yards before turning around and swimming back to his rock.
By this time I was halfway up the hill to the house, hoping that my departure would calm him down.
Banjo Man was awake by then, so I told him we had a visitor whose wings looked fine but couldn’t fly.
Time to call the rescue groups and find out what to do! After some googling, I left a message with “Birds of Prey Northwest”. And then left a message with the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation based a few miles east.
The Birds of Prey guy called me back in a few minutes and I explained the situation.
“He’s probably a young osprey just out of the nest that has gotten himself in trouble. It happens a lot. They’re fully grown but they’re young and stupid. We’d be glad to come pick him up,” he said. “I’ve got volunteers who will get him and drive him here. But you’re going to have to get him in a box.”
“Get him in a box?”
“It’s not as hard as it sounds,” he assured me. “Just throw a blanket over him and put him in a box, keep the box in a cool, dark place and call us.”
“Wow,” I said. “I can’t imagine throwing a blanket over an osprey and getting him into a box.” Meanwhile I’m thinking what the hell is he talking about!!
“It’s pretty simple,” he continued cheerfully. “You’d better wear gloves. Just watch out for the feet. That’s the ‘business end’ of the bird and can do some damage. Call us when you’ve got him and a volunteer will pick him up.”
“Uh, thanks,” I replied. And as I relayed the information to Banjo Man I added that I wish a volunteer would come catch the osprey and I would be the one driving him to St. Maries. Driving a bird in a box seemed a lot easier than putting a bird in a box.
Don’t you agree?
The AHWF lady called. I explained the bird’s behavior. I thought one leg was a bit wobbly but his wings were fine. He just didn’t seem to be able to fly.
She thought he might have gotten into trouble while fishing and was simply resting on the beach for a while as he tried to recover. By this time he’d been resting about three hours, which was a bit excessive.
“Well,” she said, “you need to get him in a box and we’ll pick him up.”
We were back to the box again.
“I don’t know about that,” I hedged, not having been born a falconer.
“Throw a couple of towels over him,” she said. “He’ll flip over on his back and try to defend himself with his feet. But once he feels the blanket he should calm down. Wear gloves and a puffy jacket. Oh, and approach from the water to create a barrier with the towel so he doesn’t fly into the water again. You want to trap him on the beach.”
I thanked her and said we would do our best but I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off.
“Just call me as soon as you have him.”
I thanked her, hung up and explained the process to Banjo Man. By this time I was on my second mug of coffee, the osprey was still on his rock and the smoke was lifting to reveal a pleasant day.
“You know,” he mused. “I think I want to try. I think I’ll catch the osprey.”
Huh? You think you can put a huge wild bird in a box???
“Come on,” Banjo Man said. “I have an extra pair of leather gloves for you and we have that box from Pier One, the one the seat cushions came in.”
Which was a huge box. Big enough to hold an osprey wrapped in a blanket.
So we changed into bird-trapping clothes, donned our water shoes, retrieved old blankets from storage and headed down the hill.
We weren’t even halfway there when the osprey turned its head to look at us, saw the box and took off over the water. He managed to fly about two feet above the lake as he did a figure eight close to shore and then headed west to the neighbors (we assumed).
Banjo Man was disappointed. I worried about the bird. We put all the Bird Trapping equipment away and then I called both rescue groups and told them what happened.
Everyone was happy for the osprey and relieved that he could fly.
He returned later on yesterday afternoon. He sat on the beach for an hour and then was gone. I do think he’s young and inexperienced and probably not a very good fisherman. He could have been weak from hunger. He could have hurt his leg trying to catch a fish. I wouldn’t think all this smoke in the air would make it easy to spot a meal.
It’s a cold, cruel world.
But Banjo Man and I are standing by. We have a box and we know what to do.