Osprey Catches Fish Right Before My Eyes

Photos series of an Osprey shown hovering and then diving into water to catch a fish and flying away with its prey. I was very lucky to have witnessed this behavior closeup.

An Osprey hovers over the water as it spots a fish before diving down to catch it at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved
An Osprey hovers over the water as it spots a fish before diving down to catch it at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved

Prior to this, I was walking down a wooded path one early morning at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge here in my home state of Pennsylvania. In case you haven’t figure out by now, The John Heinz NWR is a place I like to frequent about once or twice a month on the weekend, as it’s a bit of a drive from where we live to visit on a more frequent basis.

As I was walking among the trees, I wasn’t finding much to photograph. It was quite slow going. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of small song birds all around, but because I lost my hearing in my left ear years ago, it’s impossible for me to locate anything directionally using my hearing. I have to rely on my vision and my ability to notice the smallest of movements that are out of place. Meaning: I can notice a small bird moving from branch to branch and know that it’s not a leaf twisting about in the breeze, or a small black spot on a blade of grass and recognize it as a jumping spider.

So I decided to head back to where the water is, to see if any ospreys, herons or other wildlife were active so I could kickstart my motivation and excitement to photograph. You can wander around and not find any interesting subjects to photograph and it can actually be somewhat demotivating and make you question why you’re even bothering in the first place.

Osprey floating on the surface of the water just moments after diving down to catch a fish at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved
Osprey floating on the surface of the water just moments after diving down to catch a fish at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved

I walked back towards the boardwalk that I know spans the open water which is surrounded by land on both sides. The boardwalk serves as both a shortcut to land on the other side, and also allows you to stop and see any wildlife activity going on in the water that you might not be able to observe if you were on land. You have the chance to see almost anything closer than usual, from the Osprey pictured here, the occasional Eagle, turtles, swallows, herons, cormorants, and of course even fish.

As I got to the boardwalk, I noticed an Osprey was circling overhead fairly close. Usually they are much further away and higher in the sky, but the one pictured in these photos was closer than most I’ve photographed thus far since I started photographing birds for the first time in my life this year (2022) with my new equipment (which includes a Sony 200-600mm zoom lens). I was more than happy that I was able to capture some photos of the Osprey as it glided and hovered around lower in the sky than usual.

Osprey using its wings to lift itself out of the water as it begins to fly away with a fish in its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved
Osprey using the power of its wings to lift itself out of the water as it begins to fly away with a fish in its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved

The next thing I know the Osprey starts to dive, and the angle that it took made it difficult for me to track with my camera, but I was able to reposition myself in order to obtain the photos you see here of the Osprey as it lands into the water. Mere moments later, the Osprey takes off from the water with a fish in its talons. I was ecstatic! These are the very lucky, once-in-a-lifetime moments that I live for when it comes to photographing wildlife, be it an insect or animal.

Osprey flying back up out of the water after diving and catching a fish with its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved
Osprey flying back up out of the water after diving and catching a fish with its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved

I can’t imagine the sheer strength of the Osprey to be able to launch itself into the air after being submerged in water. It’s an evolutionary marvel when you really stop to think about it. This animal that’s evolved to navigate the world by flight, is not only able to dive into the water with wings that have evolved in such a way as to not get water-logged, but the bird is then able to use the sheer strength of its wings, while holding onto a fish with its talons, to lift itself back up out of the water and fly away with its meal. Meanwhile I can barely tie my shoes some days.

Osprey flying away after diving into the water to catch a fish with its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved
Osprey flying away after diving into the water to catch a fish with its talons at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Pennsylvania, USA © Copyright All Rights Reserved

I don’t know if I’ll ever get this lucky again since I only photograph once a week on the weekend, and not every weekend, let alone visiting this refuge only once or twice a month. If I was a visitor every day, I’m sure there would be more wildlife photography opportunities like this. It’s moments like these where I wish I could go out every morning to photograph wildlife, then return home to marvel at the details and behaviors I was lucky and fortunate enough to capture.

View the series on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CegLUfdOxOu/

View the series Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ephemeralrift/52127941022/in/dateposted-public/


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