Jerry’s Journal: SLNC Campers Discover the ‘Fish Hawk’ Raptor
Every two weeks SLNC will be submitting content about the flora & fauna, events, and/or topical stories highlighting one of Bucks County’s “Jewels” to inform the public of all that SLNC has to offer. Jerry’s Journal will be a part of the sharing agreement and will run from time to time
Penned by Jerry Kozlansky, Director of Silver Lake Nature Center.
The grey skies hung low, pregnant with rain that could fall at any moment. The young SLNC Summer Nature Campers in this fishing class stood at the edge of beautiful, vast Magnolia Lake while water lapped at the muddy shore. The children eagerly eyed their bobbers waiting for a fish to strike their bait dangling beneath in the dark water.
Time passed as the group waited with ever-mounting despair; the fish were not biting. “Will any of us catch a fish?” asked the young boy standing next to me. As I began to respond, a streak of white and grey feathers flashed before the group causing an impactful splash, talons first, into the water just beyond our fishing lines. The children, startled from this event, screamed and shouted all at once while pointing at the large bird. A great flapping of wings began and water came shedding off of feathers in all directions. This magnificent creature then rose from the water effortlessly, a large fish held in its talons.
It was an Osprey, of course! Another name for an Osprey is a “Fish Hawk” because they are the only raptor to consume fish exclusively. This graceful bird with its four-foot wingspan had just given us a lesson in the art of fishing. All ten children watched in awe – and even a bit of jealously – as she flew across the lake to her large nest of sticks overlooking the water.
Osprey are found on five continents and have been taken off the endangered species list due to their now thriving population.
Osprey have special pads on their feet and a reversible toe for grabbing fish, as well as eyes that can see underwater and special nostrils that can close when submerged, making them the perfect fishing machine.
The same pair of Osprey will return to their nest site year after year, often near human habitation. They are devoted parents for the first ten weeks, after which their chicks usually fly away from the nest. Due to lakes freezing in the north, Osprey migrate south in the winter, sometimes as far as South America.
Walking back to the SLNC Visitors’ Building, the children, disappointed by their lack of fish, had heads hung low. Then the smallest girl in the group exclaimed, “Yes we did catch a fish, a really big one, the Osprey did!” With this new found realization of success, we marched happily back through the falling rain, each one of us bursting to tell the story of “the one that got away.”