Osprey Nest Mobbed (Pt. 3)

Osprey and crow take a timeout

This series has followed the mortal combat between a nesting pair of osprey and a marauding pair of crows. Round one was a draw. Round two began with the male osprey at a disadvantage although he quickly turned the tide. To begin round three the osprey took a break on his favorite perch.

For perspective the osprey nest is located center-left of his perch and sits upon one of four light standards. The female remained at the nest for most of the fight.

What I found curious was that one of the crow followed the osprey to his perch and sat a spell, but only for a moment. (Click photos to view in optimum scale.)

No sooner had the crow landed that it hovered above the osprey …

… and repeatedly struck the defenseless bird.

The osprey, given no quarter, was pummeled by the crow’s assault. After several failed attempts the osprey was able to gain lift and the chase was on once again.

The next few shots were out of range so the image quality is lacking, but they captured an amazing display of aerial precision. In an evasive maneuver the crow rolled over and was literally flying upside down. The osprey, in an attempt to follow, was subjected to intense G-forces. Its body rippled under stressful torque as the crow was forced into a death defying dive.

Birds regularly endure up to 14 gs of positive and negative G-forces. The average person can withstand up to 3 gs before passing out. The Blue Angels, who fly without G-suits, experience up to 8 gs during an air show demonstration.

Having escaped near death the crows once again retreated. The osprey returned to his perch unaware that the crows were about to change their tactics.

Realizing that they couldn’t overcome the male osprey the crow targeted the nest.

At this point, I stopped taking photos because the assault was too shocking. When the male osprey glided over to shield his mate he was clawed by the frenzied crows and began flapping his massive wings to deflect the crows attack. He was able to gain lift and the crows retreated. The osprey was once again on the offensive, but the crows eluded his strikes by flying into the palm trees.

The osprey soon grew weary of the chase and executed a rather unconventional tactic that ended the stalemate once and for all — he crashed into the palms at collision speed.

The impact was loud with a whole lot of thrashing as the osprey clawed the crows with his powerful talons. As noted in the last post this is the worst image of the lot. It was out of range and obscured by a fence. I’m embarrassed to even share it, but it’s hard to imagine the scene without a frame of reference.

The crows emerged with visible injuries. One had a thread of feathers dangling from its left wing while the other had a wingtip that was thread bare. They made a final retreat and the fight was, at last, over.

Male osprey crashing into palm tree.

This photo series was quite an experience. Action photography requires that you anticipate each and every shot. I had to turn, point and shoot as the stage was 360° and mostly non-stop. It’s not the same as taking photos of a heron or egret that can stand motionless for thirty minutes or so.

Two things, in particular, would have improved image quality and the number of usable shots — a longer lens and adjusting the camera setting to burst mode. There was enough lag time that I missed most of the in-flight strikes. As for the lens, the 55-250mm only cost $185 compared to the 100-400mm prime lens priced at $2000.

Is it worth the extra cost? I’ll let you be the judge. Thanks for following this adventure.

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