Though rare in the past, the sightings of eagles and ospreys is becoming a more common sight.
It was supposed, without any intense investigating, that the use of DDT led to the almost extinction of many species and especially to the bald eagle. DDT was and is wantom and indescriminate killer. When the use of it was banned, even though dreaded diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, and the tick maladies had a complete resurgence, so did the bald eagle and the osprey. What was once a rare sighting in the inland areas of Delmarva has now become a common occurrence. There are various nest sights throughout the state and I'm fortunate to have a pair of eagles that frequent the Cypress Branch area.
To often, the Walt Disney era of wildlife has either distorted the truth or avoided mentioning the facts that the bald eagle, though a raptor and an efficient predator, is first and foremost a scavenger. Conversely, the osprey which sometimes becomes the prey of the bald eagle is the consumate fish eagle. This raptor can hover high above a fishery, spot its prey and then dive headfirst into the water to grasp it. It then resurfaces and uses its exceptionally long wings to pull itself up out of the water and fly with its catch back to its nest.
The tale that unfolded in front of me on Saturday was one that even if I'd had a video, would never have shown the battle for life that goes on in nature every day.
Riding south on US113 south of Dover AFB, a bird suddenly came rocketing from behind that small woodlot on the St. Jones. At first, the speed and distance fooled me and I thought it might be a crow when a larger bird appeared behind it. I presumed it to be a hawk after a crow who'd stolen some food along the way. As I drew closer to their crossing path, I realised that the bird up front was an osprey and the huge bird behind it was a mature bald eagle that was closing ground quickly. The osprey tried to climb but the eagle still gained ground as they reached several hundred feet above the marsh. The osprey chandelled toward Kitt's Hummock but was still losing ground as the eagle was within feet of it. Suddenly I saw the silvery reflection of a white perch in the talons of the osprey that I'd missed. The osprey, in mortal fear dropped the fish.
As soon as the fish dropped, the eagle folded its wings and tipped its head down in a dive. Scant feet from the marsh grass, it grasped the fish and then flared strongly as it glided back across the marsh before regaining altitude. I guess the eagle hatchlings fed well that night and the osprey had to resume its fishing to insure its young got fed.