While on our beach vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in early April I took full advantage of our location just off the beach. In the afternoon the sun was at my back and the birds on the beach and over the water were perfectly illuminated for some nice digiscoping opportunities. Terns, gulls, pelicans, gannets, and ducks all made their way past and all were digiscoped to within an inch of their lives. But none were quite as fun to shoot as Osprey.

This Osprey flew by particularly closely and I was pleased to get several shots in a row in focus.

Whether they were carrying prey, actively hunting, or just flying past I didn’t pass up the opportunity to click away with my Swarovski digiscoping rig and I ended up with some fun shots as a result.

This Osprey is carrying a Houndfish. Thanks to Nate for the identification. (It’s the same bird as the one at the top of the post.)

My favorite experience was on a day with really strong south winds. One Osprey made its way into the wind, just off the surf line, obviously hunting. On its first attempt I managed to get a couple shots of it on the way down though it was rather far to my south by this point.

Here the bird is on its way down, about to flip its feet down. Note that the feet are already open.

And here it’s about to hit the water. Look how close its feet are to its head. Makes it more difficult to miss.

On the first attempt it the bird did manage to miss but on the second try it nabbed a fish.

Here the Osprey is struggling to get clear of the water, a task made more difficult by the fact that the fish is backwards.

When the fish is caught with the tail facing front the Osprey has to spin the fish around to make it more aerodynamic and it has to do so without dropping it.

Here the fish has been spun so it is being carried sideways. Almost done!

As the Osprey focused on readjusting its grip on the fish the south winds blew it closer and closer to me.

Now with the fish in a good carrying position, the Osprey starts to beat its wings again, heading off to the southwest where I assume it has a nest.

I had always heard that Osprey only carry their fish head-first but I had never seen one actually catch one the wrong-way-round and have to readjust it. It was fascinating to watch and fun to capture through the digiscoping rig. I can’t even imagine catching a fish without the aid of a bunch of tackle, much less hold onto it in strong winds while trying to adjust my grip while flying through the air. I guess the key is to choose one skill and to focus on it completely and Osprey sure have gotten good at catching fish!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.