Readers’ wildlife photos

I was just interrupted by a huge duck fight: the new hen and her mate were swimming and eating happily in Botany Pond, and then another male flew in. Pandemonium ensued, followed by a vicious neck-biting drake fight with the hen taking off, flying in circles above the pond and quacking constantly. It’s going to be a stressful summer.

But let’s relax with some wildlife photos. I’m running just a wee bit low, so don’t forget to send in your good photos. These lovely photos are by reader Tom Carrolan, whose notes are indented:

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), like the Peregrine and Bald Eagle, had their populations decimated by DDT. While all three species have recovered, the Osprey did so without artificial intervention by humans. There was a small program that brought Ospreys from Scotland to Great Britain in the mid-90s.

In my Syracuse NY area, every telecommunications tower within a couple of miles of Onondaga Lake has an Osprey nest. In areas with wooden telephone/power poles, companies either remove the nests or have attached a platform several feet above the top of the pole and wires. There was a minor issue with birds getting electrocuted by landing and having their wings “complete the circuit”.
First, here’s an Osprey in the midst of building a nest on a pole in a remote area of Northern New York State. Their nests, like Bald Eagles, can either be built from scratch or built upon nests from previous years. . . Fall and Winter storms can remove all of a nest from the previous nesting season.
[9 April 2004, Cape Vincent NY]

The Osprey is a hawk that looks like a gull with tapered pointed wings. There’s even a gull-like bend at the wrist. The bird is best identified by this and the black “W” or “M” along the underwing. There is also a pronounced black wrist. This Osprey is a male with a clear white throat. There is molt underway here: on the tail, there is a new short feather starting to come in. On the lower outer wing, we see a couple of shorter new feathers emerging. Also, we see a couple of long pale, unmolted feathers.  [24 August 2006]

Here’s an adult female in early Spring migration along Lake Ontario. Note the dark upper breast markings (absent on the adult male). [10 March 2004]

This is probably another female, although young birds can have these markings too. Fresh-plumaged young Ospreys have brown on the throats and a mixture of brown and white speckling on the back. Adult Osprey are fairly early Fall migrants. [10 September 2007]


Seeing an Osprey hovering over a river, lake, or the ocean and then picking a surface-feeding fish up is a thrill. We sometimes see Osprey carrying a fish in migration. Sometimes half a fish. In the case of half a fish, the first half was eaten when caught and rest carried for a later meal. When packing, an Osprey must watch out for Bald Eagles, which will try and steal the fish directly or cause the Osprey to drop its catch. I have seen Eagles then catch the fish before it hits the water!
At Cape May NJ, a world famous hawk migration site, there are also commercial fishermen who come to watch the hawks. We talked about developing a guide book to “Fish in Flight”. This would aid in identifying fish in the talons of Osprey and Bald Eagles. I am not a fisherman. Here are some images of Osprey packing a meal for later along the shore of Lake Ontario. I have no idea what these freshwater fish species are.

In this hemisphere, except for Florida Osprey, the migration takes this species to South America. In eastern North America, instead of going via Mexico, like the Broad-winged Hawk, our salt and freshwater Ospreys follow the Atlantic coastline then cross open ocean (during hurricane season!) to reach South America. How they get there and back was speculation until satellite telemetry came into play (also, working with biologists in Cuba was hit or miss for a long time).
You can follow many birds nowadays from your desktop or mobile device using Animal Tracker. Zoom in and pick a bird — in North America they have tracking for Bald Eagles, Osprey, Turkey Vultures, Great Blue Herons, and some ducks and geese. When you pick bird, a link for Activity shows at the bottom of the window. You can watch either two weeks or twelve months. When a bird is greyed out, either the GPS transmitter or the bird has ceased operation.
Here are two screen captures of Ospreys in migration. The first is a juvenile bird showing its first successful trip to and from South America. On the southbound journey, this Osprey does what a lot young birds do: it stays over land for as long as possible and makes the shortest water crossing possible. So it flew along Cuba and the DR, then crossed. On the northbound trip, with experience under wing, the bird left South America directly over Cuba to Florida (I know this from watching Animal Tracker lay down the trip). The second map shows an adult Osprey. In Fall an adventurous over-water and direct crossing the DR to South America, with quite a bit of time away from land. In the Spring, a direct line over Cuba back North.

For those interested, there is extensive literature about water crossing by all manner of birds showing work over oceans around the world. Also lots has been studied about shorter water crossing (or avoidance of) over the Great Lakes, the Mediterranean Sea and other water obstacles to migration.

I have ten “Hawks on NEXRAD” entries on my own website. They all involve discussions and animated screen captures of hawks avoiding and/or crossing water. Check (also see my weather page for my early entries on using weather radar for birds and insects).

Finally, some lagniappe, also from Tom:

Here’s a fun Woodcock image from 24 May 2015. It’s a female with chicks right on a roadside of my local wildlife management area. She thinks I can’t see her!?


  1. Dominic
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Here are some osprey webcams for fans

  2. Mike
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I love Raptors, they’re such elegant and beautiful Birds, but their nests can get a bit messy.

  3. Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink


    But… “from Scotland to Great Britain”? Scotland is part of Great Britain!

    Sorry, opportunities for pedantry rarely present themselves to me, so I’ve got to take them when they arise!

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Some very nice photos. The fish might be bass.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Very informative. Thank you Tom.

  6. Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Fascinating! I learned a lot from this. Had no idea that osprey will ‘pack their lunch’.

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink


  7. Jeff J
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Great photos and notes!

  8. Debbie Coplan
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for photos and information. I downloaded Animal Tracker and excited to use it.

  9. rickflick
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Lot’s to learn. So little time…

  10. Mark R.
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Majestic birds…too bad they don’t make it to the Northwest. Cute Woodcock photo to boot.

  11. John Dentinger
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    For the fish, I’m gonna go with Cisco, formerly known as Lake Herring, Coregonus artedi.

  12. Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Great photos with the fish!
    For the last photo, my first thought when I looked at it was, why does this frog has a beak?

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