Where: Richmond, VA • James River
Notes: As I was sitting on a rock at the edge of the James River that runs through the heart of downtown Richmond photographing some Great Blue Herons that were fishing in the rapids, this Osprey flew overhead past me heading down stream. Suddenly, the hawk slowed and turned its five foot wingspan back up stream. It hovered for a moment and looedk down, then quickly went into a head-on dive towards the turbulent water (left). As it reached the surface it extended its long talons and slapped the surface of the river. Out of the splash came with a six inch fish in its grasp. It flew past me and then landed in a tree across the river with its catch. I had seen these magnificent two foot tall "fish hawks" perform this feat before, but this time I was fortunate enough to have my lens and camera preset for action. Since the Herons I was shooting were so active, I had already set the shutter speed fairly high and the auto-focus setting to tracking mode (AI Focus), which is great for panning and movement shots.
Ospreys (and Bald Eagles) went through a period of great decline in the 1950 -1970s due to DDT poisoning. A pesticide that rain carried into the water and then into the fish that make up nearly all of their diet. The poison thinned their eggshells making them too fragile for the chicks to survive. But this is a conservation success story! Since the ban on DDT was implemented, populations have rapidly increased and most states have taken this raptor off their endangered species list.