Osprey On South Padre Island

On Friday morning, I met up with Clay Taylor and WildBird on the Fly. Clay had a little time in the morning for some digiscoping before working the Swarovski booth at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Fest. I was anxious to really give my new Fuji FinePix E900 a good workout (thank you again National Camera Exchange for finding one for me). Clay suggested a trip out to South Padre Island. We saw many cool species, but one of the coolest observations we made was of the above osprey.

It flew right over the 3 of us, only about 15 feet above our heads! We could tell it had something in its talons and at first assumed a fish since the bird landed and appeared to be picking at it. However, when we got it in our scopes, the osprey just had a stick. We wondered what that was all about. Did the bird mistakenly grab a stick out of the water thinking it was a fish and started to eat it, only to find it kind of nasty to rip apart?
The osprey kept staring down at the stick, trying to work something out in its tiny little brain. Was it confused about the lack of fish on the stick? No. It suddenly dawned on us what was going on. Maybe this will help:

It hopped on a nearby by branch and began to bite it. Is this osprey going for some massive fiber in its diet? No. We think it's starting a nest. Notice how the added stick fits among the sawed of branches. I wonder how far it will get with this endeavor? I always wonder what a bird sees that makes it think, "Yes, this rocks, I can totally turn this spot into a safe nest!" I know with osprey, they like to to have a good lookout from all sides of the nest, but what factors do they look for that would make them think that a few hundred pounds of sticks would fit there just nicely.

It was fun to watch the osprey's nictitating membrane (extra eyelid that birds have that they can see through) come over its eye as it chewed on the stick, to protect the eyes from debris flying back in.

The osprey kept hopping back and forth between the crotch holding the start of the nest and the nearby perching branch. Take a look at those massive talons on the bottom of those toes--osprey don't play around, they are all business when it comes to fishing. I just love those crazy, big feet.

Here's a video of it trying to work out what the next step should be (although, the video looks better if you go to the YouTube page itself and click on on "watch in high quality.":