Here comes breakfast!

July’s cover of The Pender Post features Myles Clarke’s photo of an Osprey doing family chores. Clarke, a Vancouver resident, has been coming to Pender Island for years, first as a part of his job and now just because he loves the island, the pace of life, the artistic community and, well, he “gets” Pender.

Any photographer will tell you that sometimes a photo just presents itself…action, lighting, the whole thing is literally a snap. Usually, and this cover photo was a “usually” event for Clarke, the photographer waits and waits and hopes the necessary factors present themselves. This day there were two Ospreys and eventually a fly-by moment when one Osprey, fresh catch, lighting, angles and direction all came together.

If we did not know before, the July cover just confirmed that Ospreys when transporting the Catch of the Day adjust their talons so that the prey can be carried parallel with the bird’s flight path. To my knowledge, no Osprey has ever been seen in a Physics class, but one glance at Clarke’s photo confirms that the bird clearly recognizes the most efficient way to carry its prey in flight. It’s all about physics.

Just because Clarke got his photo doesn’t mean that all went well that day for the Osprey. Sometimes the fish has other ideas and sometimes other birds of prey see an opportunity for a free fish dinner. A few years ago a friend, we’ll call him Derek, was walking a trail on South Pender enjoying one of those “ain’t it great to be alive” moments when, literally out of the blue, he was clobbered from above by a salmon!

It is no stretch of the imagination to say “He never saw it coming!” Derek suspects that an Osprey dropped its meal when harassed by a Bald Eagle. As stately as Baldies appear, they are scavengers, bullies and opportunists, and they like nothing better than dining on another bird’s catch.

I have watched Ospreys climb and climb until they disappear from sight. The relentless seekers of truth in our Research Department confirm that Ospreys can reach an altitude of 183 metres (600 feet). Our truth seekers also confirmed that an Osprey can carry a fish breakfast payload of about .64 kilograms. Sadly, our researchers were unsuccessful at determining the height at which a salmon faints, but we can assume that the salmon did realize that his unscheduled flight was not part of a carnival ride, and that he no doubt was about to meet his maker. What a surprise to learn that he instead was about to meet a guy named Derek.

This is all serious stuff so let’s think about Derek’s plight for a moment.

Young Garth from the Research Department advises that if the Osprey fumbled a .64-kilogram fish meal from a height of 183 metres, our friend Derek could have been clobbered by a fish traveling at 215 Km per hour (133 MPH). Derek never was very tall but I saw no reduction in his height from the event so we can assume the hurtling fish hit a few branches before smacking Derek.

Next time you see an Osprey, looking as dashing as our cover Osprey, think of Derek and why he now wears a helmet when walking in the woods.

Mike Wiley

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