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The Eagle Has Landed......Badly (28 July 2013)

contributed by iandsmith
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It was just a normal walk; but then, I forgot, ďnormalĒ isnít something I do. There was no plan, except maybe to get a shot of the osprey that regularly soars over Moonee point.

The south wind stiffened on the open ridge before I sauntered on through the rainforest from whence all winds are banished. The sea was calling with familiar roar down the corridor of light that danced on the trail that leads to the headland and beckoned me forward as I reached the last bit of track that opens onto the exposed hump and the grasses that swayed in the stiff breeze.

Another couple with dog came and went as I angled across to the North Sapphire side, hunching my shoulders as if that would offer some protection from the icy blasts. Then I saw it hovering, held aloft by the rapidly moving airstream; the osprey was on the hunt.

He drifted rapidly from the furthest point to the base of the headland, as Iíd often seen them do, and then rolled over to the northern side. Sometimes they return, sometimes they donít. I waited and got lucky. He repeated the dose and I shot quickly, not realizing my camera settings were incorrect until heíd gone again.

I reset them into ďbirdingĒ mode and crossed my fingers. Would I get thrice lucky? I would, and did, though I had moved to the extreme eastern part this time as he cruised swiftly across the rocks before rising again with fixed gaze and talons exposed. He saw prey and stooped but pulled up short before stooping again, this time powering beneath the surface of the sea.

As his head popped up a wave broke and the tumbling foam sent him on an erratic ride in the white water. I thought maybe a struggling fish had held him down but when he tried to fly his claws were empty and then he was hit again, getting pushed further, ever shoreward.

His futile attempts at flight were taking him nowhere and the surf dictated his direction until he clambered up on some rocks. I surmised he would dry out and eventually soar once more but, no, he jumped in the water again and tried to swim to a rock bed of lower height. It was an ill fated move. The wash ripped him off his hoped-for sanctuary until, mercifully, he was near the shore.

He cut a forlorn and sorry figure as the sand came between his toes; but at least, in a way, he was safe. His bedraggled unbalanced appearance as he clambered up the beach was in stark contrast to the soaring magnificence of the raptor in his element just minutes ago.

He didnít get very far and was in obvious distress as I scrambled closer along the rock face down to the beach. I wondered what to do, if he would stay put while I got help but then I espied the couple with dog and I flagged them down and walked over.

They were from Bairnsdale in Victoria and had also wondered what happened to him because they had seen the osprey flying earlier. I explained all and they luckily had a phone and rang the Moonee Beach Caravan Park. How fortunate that someone there was an animal carer and, lo, within 10 minutes came to our aid with a cat box.

She explained that she didnít have raptor gloves, something I thought everyone should have (must order a pair), but the towel she had did the trick after he tried briefly to run away and soon he was in the cat box, leaving a smell that would no doubt torment the next feline in the same compartment. He was on his way to good health and, hopefully, happier landings next time.

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