story and photo by Derek Doeffinger
What provides the best summer wildlife viewing in the Finger Lakes? Ospreys, of course. With nearly six-foot wingspans and fearsome talons, ospreys look fierce and threatening. But for us, they’re pure entertainment. Best of all, they’re easy to find and easy to watch. Here’s a preview of our article, “Ringside Seats at the Raptor Show,” in the soon-to-be delivered July/August issue of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.
Osprey nests abound in the Cayuga Lake basin. They’re especially concentrated on the north and south ends of the lake where they fish the shallow waters. Now’s a great time to see them because their young are getting big and active, and constantly clamoring for food. Ospreys dine almost exclusively on fish. With the babies in rapid growth mode, the father will spend much of his day catching and carrying fish to the nest. Nearly all the nests are on manmade platforms placed on telephone poles alongside a road. Up high and in the open, they’re easy to spot and easy to observe.
When he’s not fishing, the male continues to build the nest. Sounds boring. But it isn’t. His aerial transports range from hauling in bits of moss and short sticks to branches four feet long, which he may struggle to position correctly in the nest.
Stick around and you’re sure to catch an aerial dogfight. During my viewing a week ago, an intruder swept in trying to intimidate and drive off the resident male and take over his nest and mate. He responded forcefully. Leaping off the nest, he took to the air like a jet fighter, rocketing after the rival, and diving and wheeling in full pursuit until the intruder fled, thwarted for now.
In the magazine article you’ll get the full osprey story, including a map with easy-to-find nest locations. From now until late August, osprey watching makes a great day trip for any nature lover.
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