[Tweeters] osprey gets stuck, can't lift off the water...

Gary Smith gsmith at smithandstark.com
Sat Sep 14 22:05:13 PDT 2013

I can report that not all the Osprey have left Seattle for the winter, but
this afternoon I thought I might be watching one depart prematurely.

As I watched this osprey dive off Alki Point in West Seattle, it submerged
completely. When it surfaced, it seemed to take a while longer than normal
to get out of the water, and then began its troubles. It couldn't get
airborne. Several times it started flapping and partially lifted up, but
couldn't break free. I suppose the longer it stayed in the water and the
more it flapped in the water, the wetter it got.

It tried to lift off at least three times before I even saw the fish it had
caught, a Pink Salmon. Though not big by any means - I've seen Osprey take
fish this size or larger - but between its wet feathers and the fish in its
talons, it either couldn't get out of the water, or when it did, it just
couldn't stay in the air. As it fell back time after time, I watched in
gathering horror, fearing I might be witnessing its demise. (Should I row
out there? How do you help a drowning Osprey? Can I call someone?)

It never sunk completely below the waterline, just keeping its head out.
Finally, it seemed to stop struggling, and floated, for what seemed like a
long time. I thought perhaps it was just trying to catch its breath, to
regain strength, though I imagined it was thinking really hard.

Then it tried again to fly. It broke free of the water and this time
successfully stayed in the air. As I put the scope back on it, I saw it had
let go of the salmon. It shook itself several times, circled to gain
altitude, and flew over my house and into the neighborhood.

Gary Smith

Alki Point, Seattle

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