Independence Day Eagles & Osprey

 July 4, 2011. Independence Day. For the second year in a row, I have spent the early hours of Independence Day on the James River looking at bald eagles. This year may have been better than 2010, but that’s probably because it’s so fresh in my mind. 

There seemed to be an abundance of immature bald eagles flying about in Jefferson’s Reach. A few are probably eaglets of Jefferson’s Reach from the past few years, coming back to celebrate their status as a national symbol with their parents. A number of them are likely migratory eagles, here for the summer from Florida. The migratory eagles arrive in the Bay region in May and will stay until September. 
Something that caught my eye over the past few weeks has been the osprey. There seems to be more osprey on the James each year. Osprey nests are now on every channel marker in the main channel from Henricus downriver to Presquile Island. There are also nests on the old light poles along the river and even in trees along the riverbank. The osprey nests on the channel markers are fun to watch, as you can pass by them on a regular basis and watch their young grow. My favorite pair, who lives on channel marker 146, near the Deep Bottom Cut Channel had one young osprey this year, and on July 4, this bird fledged, or flew for the very first time.   It awkwardly leapt off the nest, flapped and just flew around. Now this young bird likes to perch on the bluff of the cut through, just as the previous young osprey from years past.
Just downriver of Jefferson’s Reach, below the Deep Bottom cut channel another pair of osprey had two young birds. The last of the two also started to fly on July 4. This one, we watched for minutes flying around, apparently looking for a place to land. Once off the nest, mom and dad flew to its aid, flying close to their offspring.   They flew pretty far to the south shore and we lost sight of them eventually. A little further downriver, another pair of osprey have three chicks. All three were lined up next to each other, chirping and fluffing up their feathers as we rode by them at a comfortable distance.  As of July 5, none of these birds have fledged.

One thing I can’t help but love about the osprey chicks is the color of their eyes. They are a deep orange, or reddish. Their eyes eventually change into the adult color of bright yellow. When looking through binoculars you can really get a good look at this. Or with a good camera, you can get a great pic, as in the image taken by Dave Parrish.
The Photos Stories?  Top Right:  Photo taken of a mature female osprey.  You can tell she is a female by the 'necklace' of brown feathers around her neck.  Greg Mika took this image, to see more of his work, click here.  -- Photo by Greg Mika.
Bottom Left:  Another outstanding image by Dave Parrish. This one is of a young eaglet that just showed itself for the first time.  Most of the young osprey have shown themselves quite often, even as little chicks.  This one showed unexpectedly.  This big chick lives in a nest on a channel marker on the north bank of the James, just upriver of the 295, Varina-Enon Bridge.  I had previously thought the pair that lives in this nest didn't have a chick until this pic was taken on July 3.  Amazing.  To see more of Dave's work, click here.  -- Photo by Dave Parrish.