What a great drenching kayak trip to go birding up Broad Creek located in Washington, North Carolina. We were hoping to see Ospreys and any other wildlife out on the creek that morning. The balmy, sweltering humidity preceded the impending deluge of rain we were destined to experience. It went straight downhill from the moment we arrived. Nevertheless, kayakers will brave the rain anyway to see some great birds!
Ahoy on the Broad Creek Nav Marker!
We stowed our cameras and gear in the kayaks, and immediately put into the creek. Slowly, we began paddling our way out to the center of the creek with the plan to turn right and head upstream. When we made the turn, sitting atop of the navigational marker straight out in the creek, was the nest of some Ospreys. These birds of prey live near the water and this particular nest covered the entire marker top.
Ospreys will bring sticks, pine cones, grasses and Spanish moss to feather the nest for their eggs on these markers. They tend to select pilings, poles, or dead trees with the top broken off and other similar type structures that are open to the sky. Their nest can get rather large over time as they like to use the same nests each year. In addition, you cannot remove an active nest with parents and their young. Should you have concerns about one, contact the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Commission in your area.
Upon our approach to the marker, a parent shrilled out the “you’re getting into EYE-GOUGING proximity, go away” warning and took flight. (This behavior distracts a predator from their eggs and young.) The other parent buzzed about while the their baby just perched there. You should try not to agitate or disrupt birds when birding, especially when nesting. Binoculars and zoom lenses will keep YOU safely at a distance for observation, and THEM from feeling threatened.
Check Out the Feet of Ospreys!
Talons on their feet are completely round, as opposed to other birds of prey that have concave talons with a groove on the underside. An Osprey’s diet consists mainly of fish, but can, on occasion, be small mammals or reptiles when fish aren’t plentiful. Spicules on the pads of their feet aide in gripping slippery fish to eat. Ospreys are seen often in flight with a fish clasped securely in their talons and the fish head pointing forward to aide in wind resistance.
Ospreys, Stormy Weather, and a Bridge…Oh My!
Dark clouds approached quickly and the raindrops were falling on the creek advancing towards us. There was no way to avoid the soaking rain, thunder and lightning soon to befall us. As a result, we paddled swiftly as possible up a side creek. We were holed up in this smaller creek for an HOUR under a bridge. Drenched, we safely rode out the thunderstorm with it’s accompanying lightning. The trusty camera and binoculars were securely tucked into a dry bag during said storm. Soon, it stopped and we paddled safely back to shore. Although soaked and hot, I was eager to get back home to check out the photos taken of the Ospreys.
I submitted this last photo to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology Facebook page. They selected it as one of their 10 photos to the 2014 Community Photo’s Part One series today. Check out my photo of the Osprey and several other fantastic photos submitted by other photographers that show how truly cool birds really are! It’s my second one they have selected.(See the photo of the Black-Crowned Night Heron taken in Miami in the blog on this site.)
Safety When Birding by Kayak
When you get the opportunity to kayak, it’s always a good idea to do the following:
- Check your weather forecast before going. Check the radar if there IS a chance of rain with embedded thunderstorms so you can adjust your trip accordingly.
- Leave a “float plan” with someone you trust. Let them know where you’re going, how many in your party, and when you plan to return.
- Wear an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) recommended for kayaking.
- Install your local weather station app on your phone. Then, set up alerts so you can be notified of impending danger. If need be, you can seek safe shelter.
- Carry an extra line or rope, first-aid kit, drinking water and some snacks.
- Take a hat, sunglasses, rain gear, and water shoes. An extra change of clothes isn’t a bad idea either. Keep it light and stowable.
- Consider purchasing a dry bag for phone, keys, camera or other items you want to keep dry.
- Let your person with the float plan know when you are back from your adventure and off the water.
Kayaking can help you observe Ospreys and their habitats up creeks and small rivers. You will be able to see them, as well as OTHER birds and creatures in their habitat near the water. Also, you might take a small sketchbook to draw your own map of where you were, what you saw, and the weather conditions that day. Don’t forget to date your trip!