Soaring high in the clouds, diving to get their next meal and bellowing their mighty call are the raptors of our millennia, the Ospreys. I have always been so fascinated by these creatures. Their voices ring constantly in my memory when I am far from home. When I see them in their large nests bringing food and water to their babies, I feel a sense of happiness. I’ve never been close enough to one to actually analyze its beauty, that is, until just a few weeks ago when an adventure I never dreamed of called me.
About two weeks ago, my parents and I were on the boat heading towards the Ten Thousand Islands for some much-needed sun, sand and salty air. When we reached the mouth of the Barron River something caught my dad’s eye. Ahead of us in the water, flapping its wings frantically, was an Osprey drowning.
“Quick! Van, get the dip net!” yelled my dad.
I jumped up from my seat and ran to the back of the boat to grab the net. Running now to the bow, I eased the net into the water, waiting for the current to carry the Osprey into the net. The current was too strong and wisped the bird away right past me. I moved the net over so it was able to at least grab on to it and carried it in the water over to my dad, whose body was halfway off the side of the boat. My dad was able to get the Osprey in the net and we drove over to one of the docks by the airport to get it out of the water.
After finally reaching the dock, we placed the bird on the concrete and tied the boat up to make sure it was okay. The poor thing was soaked, frazzled and scared. He let out multiple chirps and screeches before finally calming down. I noticed that its left eye looked swollen and its pupil was dilated. We instantly knew something was wrong. The minutes passed as we tried calling multiple people and places to help us get in touch with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), but alas, we could not reach anyone. With the pandemic going on, a lot of places are closed, which means it’s harder to contact people than usual. By sheer luck, however, I saw a Coast Guard boat coming around the bend of the river. I climbed on the back of the boat and waved them over to us at the docks.
Once we told them the situation, they got through to FWC and stayed with us for an hour or so while we waited for someone from FWC to show up. The Coast Guard finally left, and the hours passed by with still no one showing up. We had been docked by the airport with the Osprey going on four hours. The Osprey was panting similarly to a dog from being on the hot concrete and in the sun for so long. I knew he needed to drink something, so I picked up my dad’s empty Tapioca pudding cup, cleaned it out and put fresh water in it. I sat it on the dock and with our push pole, pushed it slowly in front of him. It just looked at the pudding cup confused and continued panting. My parents continuously called more people while I stayed near the Osprey and comforted it with a soothing voice. Every word I breathed it would tilt its head to look up into my eyes. I wasn’t going to give up and neither were my parents. This Osprey was injured and needed help. I felt a connection with the Osprey, almost like if I had an animal spirit guide looking out for me, this was it. Its dark brown feathers were glowing against the sun’s rays. Its’ bright yellow eyes reminded me of sweet lemonade on a hot summer day. With every second I felt more and more comfortable being in its presence. Its sharp talons that pierce through fish weren’t so intimidating.
All of a sudden, I heard my mom’s joyful yelp—she finally reached the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. They said they would have one of their volunteers meet us halfway if we could catch the Osprey and place it in a box. My mom, nervous the Osprey would claw me with its talons, instructed my dad to grab him with a towel. The Osprey was so calm as my dad walked up to it and did not even attempt to break away when my dad gently scooped it up into the towel. It was swaddled and innocent as a newborn baby. I called the Conservancy to let them know we were heading up to meet the volunteer. Without missing a beat, I sped off home on the golf cart to retrieve the truck after arriving at our dock. Unable to find a box anywhere around the house, suddenly a lightbulb went off in my head. I grabbed the plastic laundry basket out of my room, dumped out the unfolded laundry and ran outside to the truck. My dad carefully placed the swaddled Osprey in the laundry basket, and we were off to meet the volunteer. Its beak was sticking out of one of the square holes and its eyes were fixed on me. I bent down and began talking to it again before I stroked its beak a few times to let it know everything was going to be alright. I know it might seem crazy to believe, but it was so relaxed in the basket I swore it was smiling.
The volunteer was so thankful and happy that we rescued it from drowning and placed it in a large blue box with holes so it could breathe. When I watched her drive away towards Naples to take the Osprey to the hospital, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness with my happiness. Even though I only spent several hours with it, my connection with the animal was so strong I felt sad to see it go. But knowing it was going to be nursed back to health by good people made me feel so grateful. A few days later, I called to check up on it. Even though they’re not supposed to give updates the girl I spoke with specifically worked with the Osprey that morning and she told me it ate an entire fish the night before. I felt a weight being lifted from my chest knowing it was doing better, they told me as well that once it is fully well, they will release it back where we rescued it from. I hope birds remember people like dogs and cats do, because I would love to be heading out of the river again and see it soaring above and screeching a hello or two. Even in the tough times there is always hope that things will turn out okay in the end.
If you happen to see an Osprey whether it be in the Everglades or your backyard, be sure to acknowledge and appreciate the gentle but fierce creature with a smile or a wave.