[Bristol-Birds] Osprey Encounter at Ft. Loudon Dam

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "'Bristol Birds'" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2015 00:07:42 -0400

Well, had an interesting morning. Sprang up (OK struggled up) at 2:30 a.m.
to make a run from Bristol to below Ft. Loudon Dam in Lenoir City to fish
for stripers. The fish have schooled up and fishing is good.

The variety of water-related birds below Ft. Loudon is pretty impressive. I
have counted 16 Great Blue Herons sitting along the rails of the dam, Black
Crowned Night herons, tons of black vultures, Cormorants, gulls of various
descriptions, and did I mention, Osprey. Lots of Osprey. Last year, at one
point I counted 9 sitting around or flying. The baitfish, and fish that end
up chum that go through the 4 generators is obviously a big attractant.

We "free line" a small baitfish called an alewife, usually about 4" long.
Similar to a shad, but a different family of fish. This morning, around
6:00 a.m., we caught our first fish, and were trolling around the "Rock"
which is a marker below the dam. No generation at this point, nice quiet
water, few boats around, nothing special.

We see an Osprey bomb one of our baits, pick it up, and start to fly away.
Nothing uncommon here, we are in competition with herons all the time.
Except they use their beaks.

This little guy was exceptionally gifted, and in addition to grabbing our
alewife, he managed to get the hook stuck in the foot pad of one of his
feet. The bird was about 25' in the air when he realized that something was
amiss, and that as hard as he flapped, no progress was being made. Out of
the sky, and into the water. The bird rose again, and this time began to
circle the boat. Imagine one of the little remote airplanes you had as a
kid and stood there and spun around with the flight. Well, after about
three trips around the boat with about 25 yards of line out, I wasn't making
much progress in controlling the bird with the rod. One of the fellows on
the boat grabbed the line and pulled him toward the boat. The osprey fell
from the air, and quit struggling. We got him along side the boat, and then
the fun began.

The Osprey went into his defensive position, on his back, talons extended.
Talons, did I mention talons? I have over the years, handled many, many
birds of prey. I have scars on my hands from a Great Horned Owl that went
through a welding glove. Did I mention talons? This fellow was well
equipped. In the frenzy of trying to get the hook out of his foot pad, I
was exposed to the longest, sharpest talons I have ever seen. These rascals
were probably close to 3" long, and had a beautiful symmetrical curve.
Glossy black, and needle like. Easy to see that he could penetrate and hold
a slippery fish with the feet and his talons.

The fellow in the boat used two fishing rods to keep the free foot at bay
while I managed to get some long needle nosed pliers on the hook. The hook
released easily and we were free from each other. The osprey took a couple
of flaps in the water away from us, rose into the air, shook himself off and
resumed his hunting.

By this time, we had attracted the attention of several boats around us, all
of whom cheered when the bird took flight.

We managed to catch about 25 stripers, called it quits around 11:30 and
returned to Bristol. Would loved to have had some photos, but we were
rather pre-occupied!!

Ken Hale

Bristol, TN

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