Even as the sailing season continues to rev up, osprey season is winding down. They arrive in May to build their nests in one week. They have their fledglings in June and teach them to fly and fish in July. By August, they’re out of here on the way to South America. Banding of osprey by scientists at VIMS suggest ours fly to Argentina, and overnight in Tampa.
Alicia Garcia took all this in as we motored out of Sarah Creek to the York River on a misty morning, between rain bands. Her brother bought her a sailing cruise to celebrate her husband Joe’s graduation from William & Mary with his doctorate in psychology. He’s getting ready to hang out his shingle in Williamsburg. Joe and Alicia took their son Sam along to see how he like sailing. He did fine.
As we passed a nest of three ospreys, Alicia said, “We just captured several ospreys who were too close to the flight line at Langley. They risk getting sucked into the jet engines. “I’m the wildlife officer for the Air Force base, responsible for 850 acres of woods and water. We flew the osprey to Montana, where they sit on the endangered species list. They’ll mate with others there and hopefully return to Montana as part of their seasonal migration.”
I showed her a very sorry nest that never got built right. “It could be a back-up nest,” she said. “The male sometimes builds two nests to see which one attracts a female. Osprey get along with eagles since they’re all raptors. Osprey are quite social and compassionate, actually. We have experimented by sneaking up and removing a fledgling for relocation at a nearby nest, and it worked. The other couple took in the baby.”
Isn’t that cruel, I asked? “No, because you want to be sure that if the parents died or went away that the fledgling would be okay in another family.”
After a few hours we ran into a band of warm, steady rain and headed back to port. We passed several nests where the ospreys sat tall, oblivious to the rain. One flew away and shook his body in flight like a dog shaking off the rain. “I’ve never seen a bird do that,” Joe said with some astonishment. “Me too,” Alicia said.
Let’s Go Sail, to see Ospreys
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Author: Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Retired newspaper publisher is now in his sixth season as a sailing charter captain. Visitors and locals enjoy the scenery and the sailing on the historic York River.
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