Wednesday, October 8, 2014
MASKED YOUNG WARRIOR
Lagoon Sunrise, Kiawah, SC
Osprey Nest, Kiawah, SC
I was returning from photographing the mystical moments of a colorful sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. As I crossed the beach access bridge, two women walking to the beach noticed the Nikon strapped around my neck. As they passed, one of them asked if I was going to photograph the singing Osprey across the way. That hadn’t been my original intent, but then, I was on beach time. I could faintly hear an unfamiliar bird song in the distance but didn’t recognize it. The call sounded like a frenzied “cheereek” and became more urgent as I followed the call over to another backwater lagoon.
Fortunately I found a wooden access bridge over the lagoon and was able to position myself so that I could focus my telephoto lens high overhead to the top of a dead tree. The forked branches were embracing a variety of driftwood, sticks and seaweed coated with a green algae. The immature osprey may have seemed to be singing to the women, but as I watched the young raptor, three black crows approached the nest and landed in the overarching bare branches. These same crows may have possibly taken the lives of the young osprey’s nest mates before they could defend themselves.
But now this masked sea hawk of the low country skies had outgrown the ominous, threatening crows that hovered overhead. The young sea hawk was making his presence known and finally putting these scavengers on notice that the tables were turned at last. The osprey had inherited the keen gift of a precision hunter. He was now able to spot fish from up to 100 feet with his golden eyes and dive headlong to the water’s surface. Only he and his cousin the owl have an outer toe that is reversible, allowing ospreys to grasp prey with two toes in front and behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish which they will turn headfirst to reduce wind resistance in flight.
The osprey is considered the king of birds in Buddhism. A king in Greek mythology became an osprey so that he could harass his daughter when she fell in love with the king of Crete. And medieval folks believed that the masked osprey could so mesmerize fish that they would turn belly up in surrender when the winged hunter approached. Shakespeare noted this observation in Coriolanus when he wrote; “I think he’ll be to Rome as the osprey to the fish, who takes it by sovereignty of nature”.
I intently watched the drama of the black crows and the immature osprey play out as the sun began its daily march across the heavens. But then, much to my surprise, the gallant young warrior suddenly took wing and sailed out of sight, leaving the crows to ponder the role reversal and their new destiny.