Friday, March 25, 2016

Ospreys Nesting on the Merced River

We made a quick afternoon trip a few weeks ago up the Merced River. We hadn't planned to, but we ultimately reached Yosemite Valley as the sun sank below the horizon. Along the way we stopped at Merced Falls, a Gold Rush era settlement built at the point where the Merced River flows from the Sierra into the Great Valley. It was nearly spring and we wanted to see if the Ospreys were doing okay.
Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) nest high in sturdy trees or on telephone poles. In many areas, platforms on poles have been built just for these birds, and there is one near Merced Falls. We didn't see any birds on the platform, but an old telephone pole near the bridge serves as a second nesting site in the area. Much to our delight, a pair of Ospreys were there. One was guarding the nest and the other was soaring over the area, keeping an eye on things.
Ospreys feed almost exclusively on fish, so the Merced Falls site makes sense. There is a forebay (a shallow reservoir) that provides some excellent fishing opportunities for the birds. We've seen them do their graceful dive into the water and they usually come up with a meal.

Ospreys are a recovering species. They were almost done in by DDT back in the 60s and 70s, but once the pesticide was banned, they started returning to their old habitats. It would have been a shame to lose them. They're a beautiful sight soaring over our local lakes and rivers.

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