Aerial Combat

We have had several ospreys in the pond area lately taking advantage of the fish which we often see jumping out there. We also have a pair of bald eagles that are frequently seen standing in trees at the back edge of the marsh. The eagles are more then happy to sit around and let the osprey do all the work, and then come swooping in like a pirate to plunder the goods!

Earlier this week an osprey plucked a small fish out of the marsh pond and it wasn’t a huge surprise to see an eagle come flying in with the intention of relieving the osprey of it’s catch. A mid air battle ensued and although the ospreys will use every evasive maneuver in their playbook, they generally are no match for the larger and more aggressive bald eagle. So, as is typically the case, this osprey was coerced into giving up and dropping it’s fish…and if you look carefully at the last two photos you can see the fish about to be scooped up by the victorious bald eagle. 

Osprey Fishing

Osprey Fishing

Osprey Fishing

Osprey Fishing

Eagle Chasing Osprey

Eagle Chasing Osprey

Eagle Chasing Osprey

Eagle Chasing Osprey

40 thoughts on “Aerial Combat

  1. Oh my gosh Phil! Catching both the bald eagle and the osprey in full flight, coming and going. What an awesome sight. It also brings up that terrible choice photographers have to face everytime you see a scene like this: Do you take the shot or do you just stare with the images going straight into your eyeballs? Thanks for opting for the former and sharing them with us!

    • It’s so amazing you brought that up! Many a time I have just watched such a scene in awe basically forgetting to even bring up the camera because I am thrilled just being able to witness the action taking place. In many cases I do indeed just watch especially since the action usually takes place fairly high up and in the distance. These were quite a ways off and I almost didn’t even go with them but figured I would post them as documentation shots if nothing else.
      So glad you liked these!

        • What I post here is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg as far as the images I have on file not to mention the ones still on memory cards I hope to get at someday. But I suppose that’s the good news, if I had nothing to observe and photograph I’m sure I would complain about that. 🙂

          • That’s the nice thing about digital. You can shoot and shoot and shoot and not have to change rolls every 24 to 36 shots, or cut up sheet film and reload every shot. (It’s nice, at least, until your card or drive craters.) Was just cleaning off one of the memory cards wondering, did I REALLY take 200 shots at a fencing tournament? 🙂

    • The ospreys are around in significant numbers right now, both along the ocean and in at the marsh. I think this also keeps a few eagles sticking around since why would you want to have to work when you can get somebody else to do it for you?! Thanks for looking Emily.

  2. Wow. Was the eagle able to snag the fish in mid-air or did it have to wait until the fish hit the water? It’s amazing to see this kind of aerial combat in photos and it must be truly riveting in person.

    • The eagle did indeed snag the fish in mid air and brought it back to his tree. Several times I have seen an osprey drop the fish over trees and neither bird ends up with it. I suspect some raccoon will be walking through the woods at 3am and stumble into a fish jackpot!
      These scenes are thrilling to watch and many times I have simply watched and taken no photos just because I want to soak up the whole event as it happens.
      Thanks Mike.

    • Thanks so much for your very kind comments Adrian and I’m happy you enjoyed these photos. Several times I have witnessed a similar scene and had to just watch as it unfolds rather then attempt any photos. These were quite a ways off and pretty much just documentation shots but figured I would go with them anyway for subject matter.

  3. This tends to bring to mind Ben Franklin’s comments about the Bald Eagle being our national symbol (little did he realize how apt it might be in certain cases).
    Franklin’s Letter to His Daughter (excerpt)
    “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
    “With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . .
    “I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

    • We were thinking that generations of bald eagles have likely been sitting in those same trees stealing fish from generations of unfortunate ospreys. Although there of course has been development in the area, the marsh is the same, the ocean is the same, so this activity has likely been going on since the days of Ben Franklin and before that.

  4. It takes long waiting for the right moment and even more time to organize and select for posting. Your efforts enables us to enjoy these awesome photos almost every day. Thank you so much, Phil!

    • I really wish they were closer, I needed a heavy crop to get something out of it so I more consider these as for subject matter rather then for image quality. But it was fun to watch and at least I came back with something to show for it.
      I’m very happy you enjoyed these, thanks!

    • Glad you liked these Maggie! I have seen the osprey successfully defend it’s catch and get to keep it and the eagle will turn off and discontinue the chase. But often the fish gets dropped somewhere into the trees and neither bird gets to have it.

  5. I think of all the birds – the Osprey is my favourite stunning flying lines and wonderful colours – power and grace all in one. I hope to get to see a display as close as this once in my lifetime

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