The first four weeks of our osprey’s return to paradise has been quite eventful…
Oscar and Opal, as you may recall, returned to the Naval Academy in mid-March. Other than chilly weather, all seemed to be well… at first. About five days into their summer sojourn, another osprey arrived. He was less muscular than either Oscar or Opal. He hung around on adjacent light posts, buzzed the family nest, and just made himself a nuisance.
One morning, Oscar seemed to be fighting with the new guy in town. They flew around each other making arcs and circles. The new guy would perch, and Oscar would fly down as if to knock him off his perch.
I began to worry that this new osprey might be a serious contender for primacy. After all, Oscar is getting pretty old. On average, osprey live to be 20 or 25. They don’t mate and begin breeding until they’re three. So, if I have watched Oscar and Opal nest for 17 years, maybe he’s near the end of his life. Was I watching Oscar being displaced?
One cold morning, I saw Opal but not Oscar. And, I didn’t see the younger male either! I thought, “Oh, goodness. Oscar’s been chased off. He’s flown away or fallen into the Bay. Opal will starve, and that young osprey will take over the football field!”
As I finish my walk, I pass a lovely garden in which a large pond brims with plump goldfish. That morning, my heart heavy with concern for Oscar and Opal, suddenly, overhead, I heard the distinctive cheep-cheep call of the osprey – vocal sonar, perhaps. I looked up just in time to see my old friend Oscar rising out of the walled garden, a large, gleaming goldfish in his talons. “Go, Oscar.” He headed straight for the Academy and home.
A few days later, I saw the young osprey perched on a light post over the soccer field. (You may recall a few years ago when Pablo and Pearl nested over the soccer field, until their nest was disturbed by the replacement of the lighting system.)
Over the next few days, the new guy, since named Raul seemed to get comfy in his new territory. He began a feeble attempt at nesting, carrying up twigs and branches to weave into his new home. And then, to my delight and his too, I suspect, Ruby came to town. Since her arrival in early April, Raul has steered clear of the football field where Oscar and Opal live in decorous splendor.
Raul’s nesting skills haven’t improved. What’s passing for his nest looks more like a giant pin cushion or a poorly moussed punk hairdo. But, Ruby seems content. Like Opal, she’s a fairly regal gal. She sits majestically on her light post, high above the boats and cars and runners below. Raul races around trying to impress her with this twig or that fish catch. We’ll see how this goes.
And Oscar has been, it seems to me, setting me straight on his prowess as top-bird at the Academy. For three mornings in a row, as I approached the football field, Oscar has come flying down over my head – each morning with a large fish! The fish, wriggling in his talons, has been as big as his own body. I’ve watched him fly around-and-around the field, waiting for the fish to stop struggling. I think he’s saying, “Don’t count me out yet, old girl!” And I certainly will not.