Few things in nature are as rewarding as seeing a young bird leave the nest for the first time, we recently had this rare opportunity at York River State Park.
The parent birds returned to the nest behind the Visitor's Center at York River State Park in March. Not long afterwards, one egg was laid and successfully incubated. On July 12, a juvenile osprey made its first flight from the nest.
Time for junior to leave the nest
Young osprey are distinguished by the light brown spots on the back of the wings and the down-like feathers on the back of their necks. Unlike bald eagles, these birds feed entirely on fish and feed on whatever species are predominant. The hatchlings begin feeding on spawning herring and shad. They will catch their own croaker and white perch.
A little uncertain
Thomas Wilder, a member of the Williamsburg Photography Meet-Up Group, and me began the day with images of the Taskinas Creek valley. Three green herons perched themselves on a dead tree high above the valley floor, which is odd for this wading bird. We then made our way to the VC to see the activity on the osprey nest. Strangely, there were two recently laid eggs on the nest and the juvenile perched as if it was ready to try to fly.
One of three Green Herons seen on a high perch
Walking down to the seining beach, Tom and I were treated to the breathtaking moment of a first flight of an osprey. The bird began with a few flaps of its wings and then stopped. At a moment where we both were checking the images we already captured, it leaped, started gliding, and rhythmically flapped its wings to cruise over a short stretch of the river along the beach.
Cruising the York River
Luckily, the osprey didn't fly far. Tom and I walked along the marsh-like shoreline and spotted the bird perched on a dead tree. The juvenile seemed more interested in its unusual surroundings than fearful of a couple of amateur shutterbugs. It was perched beside a couple of trees and above a stand of tall cordgrass. The osprey nest is on a platform surrounded by a shallow stretch of the York River. After flying to another tree along the cliff, the juvenile returned to the nest.
On a different perch
As a ranger, we sometimes see unusual things as we are familiar with our surroundings. Green herons at a distance from the shoreline, osprey eggs in July, and a young bird's first flight; by spending time in the outdoors, anyone can find such oddities and opportunities. Visit your local Virginia State Park and other natural areas frequently.
The power of flight
If you want to visit my York River State Park:
From I-64, take the Croaker Exit 231B. Go north on Route 607 (Croaker Rd.) for one mile, then right on Route 606 (Riverview Rd.) about one and a half miles to the park entrance. Take a left turn into the park (757) 566-3036.