There are some animals, like ospreys, that we are able to’t get sufficient of. And every new nugget of data that we find out about these lovely birds appears to make us recognize them much more.
Recently, I traded emails with filmmaker Jacob Steinberg, producer and director of the PBS Nature program “Season of the Osprey,” filmed in Old Lyme’s personal Great Island Marsh over a seven-12 months interval.
Our alternate elevated my data of ospreys tenfold. Here are some excerpts of our dialog. I hope you get pleasure from them.
What is it that you simply like most about ospreys?
“Ospreys are truly remarkable birds. They are unique, yet globally ubiquitous. That is a rare thing in Nature, and truly extraordinary when considering the diversity of raptors found world-wide.
“It is the only living member of its own taxonomic family. That means that over millions of years, evolution carefully crafted the perfect fish-hunting raptor. No modifications necessary. It’s the same ‘model’ – from the highlands of Mongolia to the coastal shores of the Bahamas, or the saltmarsh of the Connecticut River.
“Evolution is constantly adapting to gradually refine its designs as necessary, but in the case of the osprey, it achieved perfection. That is truly humbling to consider when spending so much time with them.
“To immerse yourself in ‘osprey time’ is to not only recognize yourself as part of an ecological process, a web of interconnected beings and systems, acting and reacting, learning, refining, but that you are in the presence of a true master, a creature that has reached the pinnacle of its evolutionary journey. They are a privilege to witness in everything they do, a window into an ancient world that existed well before our species, our rules, and the need for everything to react to us.”
Why do they matter ecologically?
“Osprey have had a tremendous impact on our ecological and conservation consciousness. First and foremost, they are apex predators at the top of their food chain. That makes them critical indicators for imbalances found in the food system below them.
“As seen with their historical connection with the abolition of DDT, they also serve as indicators for certain chemical contaminants affecting large ecosystems.
“But their greatest achievement in affecting human environmental consciousness is the extent to which they allow us into their lives. Increasingly tolerant of humans, osprey have adapted to human encroachment on their habitat by utilizing our structures as nest sites.
“They have thrived by routinely using our telephone poles, billboards, cell towers, and channel markers, as we continually develop their preferred coastal habitats of choice. Furthermore, they allow us to put live-feed cameras into their nests so that we can enjoy their familial antics from the comfort of our own homes.
“Millions of people around the world have felt inspired by or closer to the natural world because of their experiences, witnessing a live osprey nesting close-by, or by seeing osprey chicks grow over the course of a season on their computer screen.”
What are a few of your key messages within the movie?
“Like most predatory animals, raptors, ospreys included, often get a bad, if not misguided rap. Usually most appreciated for their ferocity, hunting ability, or otherwise dangerous qualities, there are many overlooked, or misunderstood characteristics to these animals.
“I try to highlight some of these qualities in the film, namely their dedicated parental roles, their patient, often nurturing and gentle demeanor, and their complex and sophisticated social interactions.
Therefore, while it is true that osprey, as apex predators and masterful hunters, are most recognized for their ferocity and prowess, as far as their prey and most spectators are concerned, when one can peel back the curtain and share an intimate experience with them — as is the case with this film — one begins to appreciate them more as individuals, familial units, or characters with relatable qualities rather than “Nature’s perfect killing machines.
“While they were designed perfectly to hunt and kill fish, they were also designed perfectly to cross continents, maintain life-long partnerships, provide for, and protect their families, and leverage everything their collective experience and evolutionary biology bestows to give that family the best possible chance of survival.”
Steinberg’s movie aired nationally on Oct. 27, 2021, on PBS. Locally, The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center offered an interactive Zoom with Steinberg on April 7.
A preview of the movie could be considered at www.seasonoftheosprey.com.
Bill Hobbs is an avid yard birder. He lives in Stonington and could be reached for feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org