The Day I Rescued an Osprey Photos and Story

in #photography5 years ago

I photographed an Osprey nest, only to end up rescuing one of their chicks from certain death!
A Ranger invited me to photograph a nesting Osprey pair. Over several weeks, I visited the nest every weekend. There was a slight issue however, the nest is on an isolated island, more than 1 km or .62 miles off Garden Island (Navy base near Perth, WA). I found a good vantage point on a cliff top and set up a hide so they were not aware of my presence.

I didn't own a long focal lens to cover the distance, so I hired a Sigma 800 mm fixed lens and, for a few shots, used a 2 times converter.
The Osprey pair, prepared their nest, which is around 60 years old according to the island's Ranger. Each week I visited the pair and watched their progression. I was at work during the week when the Ranger called to tell me the eggs had hatched, but I had to wait for the weekend.

Again over a few weeks, I visited the Osprey pair and their chicks. They hatched 10 days apart, and that time means everything to a chick. The firstborn was large and healthy, but as time passed, it became apparent that the youngling was not.

The time came to leave the nest and fly for the first time. Large healthy chick flew with its father for a few minutes before landing on the next island over. Dad returned to the nest and encouraged the 10 day younger chick to fly, but he fell out of the nest and landed on the rocks below. Dad didn't seem to care and flew off to healthy chick.
I looked on in horror, but I knew this was how the animal kingdom works. The weak do not survive. BUT.... WAIT....

The injured chick was still alive and flew a few metres to the ocean. It was on a submerged reef. He was in bad shape, and the tide was coming in fast. I couldn't stand there and do nothing. I scrambled down the rocky path and waded into the water. We eyed each other. His talons were huge, and I already knew the power of the beak (from having birds myself).

Here I am wading in after the not so small chick. The tide came in over his chest.

A friend had accompanied me this time, so she took this photo.
The tide continued to rise and the injured bird was not moving. I had to come up with a strategy, but those talons and beak made me stop and wonder if I would come out injured. Then I had an idea, so I took off my shirt, waded over and wrapped my shirt around its back. I stood there holding an osprey chick wearing my jeans and bra and I didn't know what to do with him next.

My friend panicked and threw my camera gear in the back of the car. I carefully walked over the rocks and back up the steep path. I felt something strike the leg of my jeans. I looked back and found a tiger snake. My heart almost stopped! I did not drop the bird. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realised the snake had struck my jeans and not broken my skin. If it had, well, I would not be retelling this tale!

I somehow climbed into the back of the car and we hurtled over the dunes to the Ranger station. The entire way, the osprey swivelled his head and stared me in the eye. He fought madly until I talked to him in a soothing voice. It worked! He settled down and stopped trying to bite me. Mites from his body climbed up my arms. It was something akin to a nightmare. If I let him go in the car he would surely attack. So I held on.

We pulled up at the Ranger station, but the Ranger was not there. I told my friend to get us to the Naval Police post. Upon our arrival, three Officers emerged. I looked up to see a security camera and knew this would be on film. More emerged one by one to see the bird, but I totally forgot I was only wearing a bra! They didn't know where to look first, the huge osprey chick or the chick wearing a bra!

Realisation hit me, but there was nothing I could do at this stage. I told them the story and a large box appeared. I place the osprey inside and rubbed the mites from my arms and body. One Officer gave me a t-shirt, which I gratefully accepted.

The Ranger was not answering his radio, so the local wildlife rescue was called. An hour later the rescue people turned up. Upon first inspection they confirmed he had a broken leg and wing.

Over the weeks I received updates on Ozzie's health. They asked me to name him and I had made it up in the back of the car when I soothed him. Ozzie Osprey.

Ozzie Osprey living in the Raptor Rescue Centre

Well Ozzie is still alive today at the raptor rescue centre in Margaret River. I visited him a few times a year (5 hour drive). Now I've moved interstate I don't get to see him, but I know he is OK. He recovered from his injuries and although the staff at the centre tried to rehabilitate Ozzie to fish for himself, he couldn't. He will remain in captivity.
Still today, I'm not sure if I made the right call in rescuing him. Should I have left him to the law of nature? Now he gets to spend his life in captivity with no ocean.

Ozzie's Mum

Rusty and Me

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