Eye contact

After the rousing success of a week previously, I went down to Jordan Lake to see if I could accomplish more of the same, and test out another slight change to my shooting habits. But for reasons unknown, activity among any of the bird species was supremely lacking; two osprey (Pandion haliaetus) performed lazy and distant passes over the lake but neglected to dive for anything, and an even-more-distant eagle cruised straight through without even a faint bank to add better framing opportunities. Last week I was sure that the young had hatched; this week that surety has faltered quite a bit. Nothing seemed significantly different, but the behavior of the birds certainly was.

One thing missing last week was activity in the one osprey nest nearby that I’ve been keeping an eye on, and I was suspicious that it was unoccupied, despite earlier indications. No one could be seen in the vicinity, and no one brought fish by. This week, however, I heard osprey calls from that general direction while no one was visible, and I fired off a few frames for closer examination.

osprey Pandion haliaetus nest showing no signs of occupancy
I could see nothing in the viewfinder, which was considerably more distant than this crop, and no protective male seemed to be in evidence, but someone was calling; the screening pine needles don’t help anything. Eventually, I gave up on the location and decided to try another, see if there was more activity there and if perhaps the woodpeckers were nesting. On the way out, however, I took a small side hike to the spot where the nest could be seen from underneath. That was a bit more productive.

osprey Pandion haliaetus on nest glaring at photographer while calling
She was still calling, which at this distance was almost enough to confirm the direction (it still could have been in a nearby tree,) and favored me with some eye contact as I fired off a few frames, though she also looked around a bit too. No other bird was in evidence, so I don’t get the impression this was territorial calling – perhaps she was reminding hubby that it was time to eat. But I also know that the osprey are acutely aware of me when I’m at this vantage, so I only do brief checks.

At another one of my regular haunts, a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) was sunning itself atop a light pole, self-consciously closing its wings as I drew within view. Not quite spooked enough to take flight, it was certainly wary of my presence.

black vulture Coragyps atratus eyeing photographer warily
Because birds have a very wide field of view, I rarely get such dead-on (sorry) perspectives; they can often be looking right at the camera while still providing a profile view, and it’s just our eyes-front bias that makes us believe only now is this one making eye contact. But I heard you asking for a detailed vulture head shot, and I obliged.

Really, there was very little activity anywhere, including the woodpeckers – not a sign or a sound from any. I soon gave up on the day, but not before finding a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) checking out an inviting hollow tree.

Carolina wren Thryothorus ludovicianus apparently looking directly at photographer
I have over a dozen frames as this one called and twitched about as they do, but it was the straight-on views of the other birds that made me check carefully to see if I had one for this guy too; at least I got that out of the day.