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Morning photo: Ospreys

Magnificant hawks are back for the summer

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Osprey soaring.

FRISCO — Along with the well-known osprey nest along Highway 9 in Silverthorne, the majestic hawks have also set up housekeeping at several spots along the shoreline of Dillon Reservoir, building sturdy stick nests atop fragile looking beetle-killed lodgepole pines.

The size of these raptors is always take me by surprise when they swoop nearby. Getting a close look at their huge talons makes me think they could easily pick up a small dog. But they won’t since this member of the hawk family feeds primarily on fish, with only a few reports of osprey eating small mammals. Osprey can dive completely into the water to catch their prey, whereas eagles generally just wet their talons as they grab fish near the surface.

The osprey that nest in Summit County probably spend the winters in Central or South America. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one osprey flew 2,700 miles from Martha’s Vineyard all the way to French Guiana, South America in a 13-day peregrination. The average bird may log 160,000 air miles during its 15-20 year lifespan.

Osprey live on every continent outside of Antarctica and they are making a comeback after being decimated by DDT. In fact, osprey studies were crucial to show the harmful impacts of the toxic chemical on the food chain. Ospreys are still listed as endangered or threatened in some states.

The nest from a distance.

Seeing the bird atop its nest from a distance gives some idea of its size.

Osprey nest

Guarding the nest.

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Pure aerial grace.

Pure aerial grace.

Look at the size of the talons!

Look at the size of the talons!

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