Just who are Iris and Stanley? They are two beautiful Ospreys that share their lives with us on a daily basis thanks to the Cornell live bird cams. This can be a blessing or a curse for me. A blessing in that I get to observe the majesty of their bodies, their behavior and indomitable spirits. A curse because when tragedy strikes their family it saddens me to the point of tears. This is what happened this year as Iris and Stanley began to add more offspring to their large family.
Through the cam, we are able to watch as huge sticks are brought to the nest atop a platform located at the mouth of Hellgate Canyon near the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. They somehow manage to build those sticks into a nice nest with a cup in the center where the eggs will be deposited. Stanley is very proficient at supplying Iris with great sticks, both large and small. Many times he weaves them into the nest and later we may see Iris doing some “redecorating” as if she wasn’t quite satisfied with his building skills.
The eggs are laid and through the cams we anxiously wait to see just how many there will be this year. One, two, then three. As she tends to her important duties, Stanley proves consistently what a great provider he is. Time and time again he dives into the river, catches huge fish, removes the head and brings the entire fish to the nest for Iris. But, he goes one step further. I have actually seen him tear small pieces of flesh from the fish and tenderly feed them to Iris. There relationship is solid and they will remain with each other until one of them dies at which time the remaining one will seek another mate for life. The drive to preserve the species is quite strong.
Iris and Stanley both tenderly care for their eggs keeping them warm, protecting them from the elements. I have seen her spread her wings and act as a “Mombrella” to shade her chicks from the sun or rain. This is exactly what she did one day when a freak hail storm began pummeling the nest. She and Stanley spread their wings in a futile attempt to protect their eggs. So close to pipping when disaster struck. All of the eggs sustained damage even though both parents valiantly fought to protect them. Faced with this tremendous loss, both parents instinctively knew it was too late to begin again. They must wait for next Spring. Hopefully next year they will meet with success and their offspring will fledge from the nest and begin their own journeys.
My heart was so heavy the day I watched the video and read about their loss. I shed tears and the sadness followed me for several days thereafter. The drama of watching them build, endure, suffer loss and carry on is a lesson from Mother Nature to us all. Never give up, keep trying and success will eventually be yours.
Photos grabbed from live bird cams courtesy of Cornell University.