The clash of the osprey and the eagles at Ririe Reservoir
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“Kur-splash,” I heard as I parked my truck at the Juniper boat ramp at Ririe Reservoir on Tuesday morning. In the pre-dawn light, I could barely make out the osprey as it struggled to get airborne with a fish in its talons.
Of course, the successful fisherman had to brag about its success and like most ospreys do, it sent out a victory call and within seconds six eagles were chasing it. With three mature and three immature Bald eagles in tow, the osprey dropped the fish and as it hit the water, one of the adults picked it up. It was the first of seven fish harvested by ospreys that eventually ended up in the bellies of the eagles.
It appeared that the adults were teaching the immatures how to be thieves by chasing the ospreys until the fish were dropped. Only one of the seven fish was picked out of the air by a mature eagle as three attempts by the immatures were unsuccessful, but they did pick them up on the water.
When an adult would steal a fish, it would take it over to a mud flat on the west side of the reservoir where up to nine immature birds would be waiting for the delivery. It reminded me of the Walmart employees gathering groceries for the non-shoppers. Even the gulls got into the action by chasing the ospreys when they captured a fish and the immature eagles when they would steal a piece of rotten fish from the noisy birds.
Just as the sun came up, there were 24 eagles in the air, mostly down by the dam. The Kokanee spawn is mostly over and as the fish were dying, up to 40 eagles showed up for the easy pickings.
“About 10 days ago, we saw thousands of ‘reds’ swimming on the surface as they were dying,” my friend, Kent Lundin, told me on Monday as we watched the ospreys and eagles. “You could have had a lot of fun taking pictures of them.”
But the Monday kokanee-skunked day for us, convinced me to be at the reservoir early in the morning on Tuesday. The ospreys were catching both kokanee and trout just under the surface as the sun came up. But by 9 a.m., they became less active and I did not see any fish harvested from 9 through 10:30 when I left. As the sun pushed the fish from the surface and below the range of the fish hawks, the eagles positioned themselves on cliffs or trees overlooking the water waiting for fish to go belly up on the surface. Even the young eagles headed for the cliffs and trees.
On Monday around 10:30, we watched as seven eagles chased another eagle that had found a fish somewhere. As it consumed the fish, the other eagles gave some space for it to enjoy the meal.
The eagles will soon disperse to other food source areas, leaving Ririe Reservoir for the ospreys to enjoy before they migrate south. The pair of Golden eagles, with one youngster, were high on the cliffs across from the floating toilet near the powerline. But we did not see them join in on the thieving operations.
I wish that I had been at Ririe a week or two earlier to watch them, but I got some great entertainment for the two days I observed them.
From my observations, many of the hummingbirds have migrated as well as most of the warblers, but we are nearing the gathering of the Swainson’s hawks before they move south. Also, it is time to try to enjoy the elk bugling as they enter their rut. Hopefully, the heat will soon moderate so we can enjoy the great outdoors in the cooler temperatures.
Fishing on area lakes and reservoirs should also improve.