Posted by: venajensen | March 28, 2010

An Ominous Osprey

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This morning I woke to the shrill voice of an osprey, a sure sign that spring is here.  Ospreys winter in Southern California and South America, and migrate back to the area late March, heralding the promise that sunny days are ahead, despite the interminable gray clouds and rain for which the Pacific Northwest is well-known. 

Fortunately, today turned out to be a sunny spring day, once the gray clouds from the morning blew over.  In the afternoon, while on the way to the Columbia River to take advantage of the chinook salmon spring run, I saw an osprey perched on top of a pier near the public boat ramp.  He appeared to be eyeing the boat traffic; I wondered if this was the same bird that woke me earlier in the day. 

Ospreys are magnificent birds, closely related to eagles and hawks.  The males sport mostly black markings on their backs and white in the front, with a distictive white head.  The females are brown and white, tradionally plain compared to the male. 

I live on a houseboat in Ridgefield, Washington on Lake River, about a mile south of the mighty Columbia.   As I watched the osprey take off in flight today it occurred to me that writing a blog to chronicle my bird and wildlife discoveries might be a good way to share my experiences as I learn about my new surroundings.

An ancient Chinookan village called Cathlapotle (Cath-la-pote-lay) was located here, sheltered from the harsh weather that haunts the Columbia River Gorge.  It is easy to imagine the native people living here, well-fed by the bountiful game and fish, roots, berries and plants grown in the rich soil.   I often imagine them easily navigating the waterways in their canoes; even today it is not uncommon to see groups traveling by canoe pass by our houseboat.

The Native Americans characterized the osprey (or fish hawk) as forewarning a potentially dangerous accident or injury, and sure enough, I pulled a muscle or tendon in my knee climbing back in the hatch from the bow of the boat after unhooking the anchor.  Luckily, it was a minor accident, although it has been difficult to get around since I got back from the trip.  My wonderful husband is taking good care of me and the house, which is giving me extra time to start this blog.

The appearance of the osprey today may have signaled an impending injury, as portrayed by the native americans of the region, but today he also symbolized a link to the ancient people who lived here, and to a warm, bright future spring and summer.   I am looking foward to pleasant, light-hearted days ahead, exploring this beautiful wonderland that is known as Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Columbia River waterways and channels – and to sharing my observations with you, dear reader.

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