Interested in a change of scenery? Look up.
If you think about it, how often do we look up at the sky? It’s not just a big empty space. It’s a highway, and you never know what you might see.
The other day, while driving to the post office, I was looking up — and what a great sighting. Coming right over the car, and at a fairly low altitude, was my first osprey sighting for this spring. Fortunately, the bird flew so low that I could still keep an eye on the oncoming traffic. There wasn’t any.
The bird was on a course that would take it straight to last year’s nest site. That particular nest was in the news a lot last year. A pair of osprey chose to build it on one of those tall light standards used to illuminate ball fields. Power companies have been very helpful over the years. They don’t chase the nesting birds away, and in some instances they actually build a nest platform in the same general area, hoping the birds will accept the new site. It takes a lot of work and effort to pull this off, but most of the time the birds cooperate.
It has always been frustrating for me to see how much is missed because we don’t look into the sky overhead and catch the action that is always there. When our ears are attuned to the sounds of nature, we do look up more often. Geese honk and call out when they are passing above us. Eagles, osprey, great blue herons, kingfishers, terns, gulls and all manner of avian fauna are often vocal while flying. There is more than one reason for this.
Birds, especially gulls and crows, make a lot of noise when they discover food, especially food that someone else has. Gulls just can’t abide any of their fellow feathered friends getting food they aren’t willing to share. They will protest long and loud. Terns do the same but also make a lot of noise when they are chasing another bird, trying to make them, “give some to me!”
When eagles or osprey are calling overhead it could be communication between members of a pair or it could be a warning to someone they don’t want in their territory. Eagles and osprey don’t get along, and they don’t share nesting territories. They also don’t like others of their own kind trespassing in the same fishing territories.
It’s one of those special birding moments when you look into the sky and watch either of these large birds communicating with one another. They will chase each other and maneuver through the air in a wonderful way. One can be diving at its opponent and that individual will suddenly flip on its back with talons extended upward. This discourages the diving bird, then the one underneath quickly flips right side up, and the chase continues until someone gives up and leaves.
One of the most interesting sights high in the sky is when a group of birds pass overhead. We are the most familiar with migrating (or not) flocks of geese flying by. However, other flocks of birds are also on the airways. Cormorants fly in long lines instead of v-shaped flocks. Turkey vultures travel in large groups known as “kettles.” They move north or south but are also spiraling upward, riding the moving thermals that travel in the direction they are headed.
There is a lot to see if we remember to look skyward, and it’s good for the soul. Better to be looking up than staring down at the ground. It does give you a lift, and I hope you try it right now while there’s so much spring action — literally — in the air.
Write to Joan Carson at P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org