Fish Hawk – Osprey
Limited Edition of 200, 26″ x 20″ – $150.00
Open Edition 10″ x 8″ – $30.00
The Osprey is neither an eagle nor a hawk but is the sole representative within its own genus. Like eagles and hawks, it is a diurnal raptor – feeding during the daytime. It is characterized by powerful grasping feet with long piercing talons and a sharp, hooked beak for tearing flesh. They nest and live close to open water as their diet is almost exclusively fish. Clear unpolluted water abounding with surface-swimming fish of reasonable size, and shores lined with tall trees which can serve as look-out perches, create the ideal habitat. Once a fish is sighted, the osprey hovers high above its prey, then folds its long wings and plummets downward. With legs fully extended, it enters the water feet first and usually emerges with a shimmering fish wriggling in its talons.
King fisher of the raptors, the osprey, commonly called the “fish hawk”, is successful on nine out of ten dives. Know-how and body adaptations are responsible for this success. The osprey has learned to carry the fish with the snout pointing forward to prevent drag and the futility of flying with the tail fin flapping to and fro. Their long wings allow them to carry heavier-weight loads in relation to body size than other birds of prey. Adults can haul fish weighing as much as four pounds up and out of the water. Besides the wings, their feet are well suited to the task of fishing. The talons are long and sharp and the pads beneath the toes have little spikes for holding on to a slippery fish during the aerial ascent. Also, the outer toe is able to swivel both forward and back. When the outer toe is back the configuration of two toes forward and two backward provide a much stronger grip than does the conventional configuration of three toes forward and the rear toe back.
In the composition, “Fish Hawk”, the Osprey is about to land on the nest with its quarry. The nest is a jumble of sticks and branches cradled in a crotch formed between two spruce snags which are part of the old growth forest surrounding Mitchell Lake – a remote lake in British Columbia. Year after year, as the ospreys have bred successfully, they return to build a new nest with repairs and additions on top of the old one. The view is westward and the rays of sunlight through the clouds are symbolic of the Osprey’s struggle for survival. Almost completely eliminated by human blunders – hunting and the cumulative effects of pesticide poisoning, their numbers fell as they were unable to weather the storm of abuse. Upon seeing the light, legislation was passed to protect against harassment and habitat pollution. Recently, such rays of enlightenment signifies that the clouds do have a silver lining and that the days ahead are filled with optimism as numbers are slowly recovering. Hopefully the Osprey will continue to be sighted at Mitchell Lake and forever grace its skies over clean water.