Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ospreys manque

Last night I took a glass of wine out to the deck for that dusky hour between dinner and dark. I knew from past years that these warm late summer evenings are perfect for watching osprey fish the bay, and it's really been too cool and wet, certainly from my point of view and probably from theirs, to do so until now. I was happy to find that the pleasure was still intense even without the bittersweet edge of having to leave Maine in a day or a week and go back to work.

The ospreys, however, weren't there even though the conditions were good for patrolling the calm, warm water. In fact, we've only seen a few osprey this summer, and zero thrilling dives. I had to be content with the gulls and terns and their insolent flights overhead, and the fast-cooling air, and a cadre of dragonflies canvassing the space above the lawn.

These last are the 5-inch monsters that look like they too could plunge into the water and snatch up fish for the little ones back in the nest. But presumably they're after smaller fry like gnats and the tiny vicious mosquitoes of August evenings. They look agile enough to catch anything, with tremendous zigging and zagging, speed to burn, stopping so quickly in mid-air that they look like they're going backwards.

I used to marvel at the endless hours of work expended by the osprey in circling and flying and diving, just to catch a mackerel or two. Now I wonder about dragonflies. Are they such perfect machines that endless work does not tire, that bugs in quantity do not sate, that acrobatics are passe? Do they never rest on branches and just sit back with a drop of dew and watch, say, the finches fly for fun?

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