There is a park in Long Beach California, El Dorado Regional Park, a favorite place for photographers and fishermen. In the winter the lake is stocked with nice, plump, healthy, Rainbow Trout. It's obvious why people like to fish there...
Photographers flock to El Dorado for the osprey action. Usually a day after each stocking, the south west shore of the lake is lined with tripods and long lenses. The park has some very contented resident opsreys. There are areas of the lake where they fish very close to the shore, providing wildlife photographers with that much desired opportunity to get close-up photos of an osprey fishing. There are not that many lakes that offer a consistent chance of being so close to the action, although it's never guaranteed, in fact most of the time the bird will drop too far away, or fly off in the wrong direction. But we all love the challenge... And this year I won the osprey fishing lottery. :-)
It was a cold Saturday in January. As is the case so many times... we were just about to leave, after several unsuccessful hours of waiting and hoping, when we saw the osprey hunting and thought we would give it one more try.
He seemed really determined this time, I started to get hopeful...
An osprey's vision is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air. Prey is first sighted about 130 feet above the water, he hovers momentarily, then plunges feet first into the water.
I didn't think I would be able to track him all the way down through the air and catch him again when he surfaced so I sacrificed the dive and plunge to be ready and focused on him when he exited the water.
He hesitated for quite awhile before he flew out of the lake with his prize. He took a lot longer than usual to grab his meal, I was expecting to see a really big fish when he eventually raised up, based on how long it took him to secure his catch.
My heart was beating up a storm now... Here comes the moment photo dreams are made of...
Not only did he score extremely close to us, but he flew off in our direction! You just can't ask for a better photo op.
Oh boy... looks like a big one...
Osprey and owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when grabbing slippery fish.
They have backwards-facing scales on their talons which act as barbs to help hold the catch.
Their nostrils close to keep out water during their feet-first dives.
Their wingspan is about 5 feet across.
Yup... that's one big trout!
Exciting moments like this seem to have a surreal seal to them, meaning time moves very fast and very slow at the same time.
The camera is bursting away, I'm seeing life explode before me through the viewfinder, sometimes it all happens so fast I have no idea what shots I got till I look at them.
Other times I can see the images actually evolve in real time through the viewfinder. But most of the time it's just one big rush that takes my breath away. Then I can't wait to look at my photos to see if I got any keepers.
As the osprey was making his way off with his lunch, he flew right by us! I had absolutely no idea if my camera was getting anything or not. The lens I use requires a minimum distance of 11 feet from the subject. It sure felt like he flew by too close...
Was I surprised and totally thrilled to see that I got the shots! (Although I wish I hadn't cut off the bottom of the fish...)
Unreal how close he was as he flew by. My heart still flutters, months later, as I relive this to post it.Up into the air and off to eat his fish. We paused for a moment taking it all in, thinking that was it, realizing we just experienced the ultimate osprey fishing event.
Then, if what just happened wasn't fulfilling enough, the osprey started circling overhead with his trout...
Many times they will circle once or twice before flying off to perch and eat. Today we got the Powerball prize of photo opportunities!
As the osprey circled, a big white pelican appeared and was very intent upon stealing the fish.
Look how the eagle-sized osprey is dwarfed by the pelican.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing, pinching myself while pressing the shutter.
The osprey was chased around and around, but he made a clean get away. He worked way too hard to loose his fish to a freeloader!
Gallery Photos: http://www.kimmichaels.com/OspreyWithTrout