The day started with a Red-shouldered Hawk breakfasting on a squirrel.
Katherine and I were at Natural Bridges to look for owls. We had not even entered the park before Katherine spotted a Red-tailed Hawk, perched on a Eucalyptus branch, tearing at a small rodent.
I took several pictures of this hungry raptor, each more gruesome than the last. Gentle Reader, know that I’ve spared you by not showing pictures that allowed me to identify the hawk’s prey!
The Hawk was now eyeing us suspiciously, so we continued into the park to look for owls.
Surprisingly, I soon spotted a Great Horned Owl in the tree where we had last seen them. (I say “surprisingly,” because Katherine is a much better Owl Spotter than me.)
This owl is camera-shy; both times I’ve seen him, he has a branch in front of his face.
As we were admiring the owl, a woman with a very large lens mounted on a monopod arrived. We quickly ascertained that she was also at the park to see owls.
“We’ll show you ours if you show us yours,” we said.
Okay, that’s not what we said.
But, we did show the woman, Karen, the owl we’d spotted. She said it was the father (which jibed with what we’d been told before by Henri). She then showed us where the juvenile owls tended to perch. We walked around for a bit, chatting, until we spotted a juvenile on a branch almost directly above us.
Which doesn’t make for a great picture.
Which explains why I don’t have one.
Karen told us about a nest of Ospreys that she was going to visit at 10am. She gave us directions and encouraged us to check it out. Katherine and I said we would. In the meantime, Katherine and I walked over to Antonelli Pond to see what was happening there.
A lot was happening–especially if you like Herons. (We do.)
We’ve seen Herons at Antonelli before, but not not like this. We saw multiple Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Black-capped Night Herons and Egrets (which, while not Herons are in the same family). It was like an Ardeidae convention but without the Bitterns.
We also saw bunnies. They were young, exploring the area and chasing each other.
The above video was taken by Katherine with her phone (iPhone 7 Plus). Watch for the jumping bunny near the end!
I was nervous about the bunnies running around out in the open. I worried that I’d end up with a picture of a bunny being snatched up by sharp Hawk claws. Luckily, that didn’t happen.
Eventually, Katherine and I pulled ourselves away from the almost irresistible rabbits and headed over to see the Osprey nest. After a couple of false starts due to some misunderstanding between Karen and us about the exact location, we arrived at Harkins Slough.
Karen was set up there with her large lens mounted on a tripod aimed at the Osprey nest. She was hoping to get a shot of the father bringing lunch to his three (remember this number; it’ll be important later) offspring. She’d been there for an hour and the father hadn’t shown up. The mother and the juveniles were getting restless. They kept a sharp eye out overhead, eagerly awaiting his return.
The juveniles would occasionally spread their wings as though they were thinking about flying, though all their flight feathers had yet to grow in.
Occasionally, unrelated Osprey would fly too close to the nest and the mother would yell at them. Her alarm call, however, was not very impressive for a bird of her size. Apparently, the strange Osprey agreed, and the mother was forced to fly at it to drive it away from the nest. After the strange Osprey flew away, the mother felt safe enough to take a bath. She dunked herself in the water, flew around for a moment and repeated three more times.
When I downloaded the pictures, I saw that in the one above, the Osprey appears at first glance to be flying upside down. But like the Forster’s Tern, she had her head turned all the way around.)
While all that activity was fun to watch, it was getting late. Katherine and I had been out birding since before 7am and now it was after noon. We had said we’d give it another half hour about an hour before.
“The father usually brings food by now,” Karen said. Katherine and I said we’d give it another half hour.
And then another.
We continued to watch the nest and take pictures of any activity by the mother or the juveniles.
Luckily, Karen turned out to be full of information about where to find birds which she readily shared with us (apparently, some birders don’t share their sites). She also gave me advice about equipment. I asked her what was the difference between her lens and mine (both 600mm). Mine was a third-party brand (a Tamron) while hers was a Sony.
“About $19,000,” she said.
(Okay, no she didn’t say that. But it was probably the truth.)
Karen did say that her lens was “feather-light.” She allowed me to heft it, her camera, scope and tripod all together. It was about the same weight as my camera and lens alone.
Meanwhile, after many false alarms (due to the other Ospreys in the area) Katherine spotted the much anticipated return of the father.
“Coming in low, on your right!”
Karen swiveled her tripod and I raised my camera. Bingo! The father came flying in with two fish in his claws.
I know what some of you are thinking.
Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they drew straws.
We thanked Karen for showing us this great spot and sharing her knowledge with us. We headed home after a long, fun and informative day of birding.