Osprey often take stand on branches of Bald Cypress trees. The trees grow and die at the edge of Chocowinity Bay, offering a good view of the water. The dead trees, stripped of their leaves, are no hindrance to their flight.
Many people value trees only as board feet. There is no profit in a dead snag. Osprey see it differently. Dead trees are wondrously minimal. Nothing unneeded, nothing superfluous, a place for their talons to grip and their hunger to focus. The fish hawks wait with patience sharp as their talons and then fly.
Water flows sluggishly through the wetlands at the head of Chocowinity Bay. Spanish moss filters the sunlight and shadows recline on the water.
The wetlands at the head of the bay are less than a mile from home. I paddle the winding leads through bald cypress trees and sawgrass meadows several times each week, watching the seasons change, the foilage thin, then thicken, the storms come and go. It’s a place that grounds my sanity when the world seems insane and humanity seems intent upon its own destruction.
Most osprey nests are built high in the forks of cypress snags, ideally one rooted in the water to avoid snakes and raccoons from raiding the nest. A moat is an adequate defense from terrestrial enemies but the water itself can become an enemy.
This nest was built less than six feet above Chocowinity Bay’s normal level. From its size, the nest had been occupied for successive years. Then the storm came, driving the water before it.
After Hurricane Florence, nothing remained but the bitter end of some roots.
The osprey that inhabited the nest had already migrated south for the winter. If they return, they’ll have to begin again…or steal another bird’s nest.