An Osprey Day

Ready for the unexpected.

Story & Photos By Lorna Rae Daniel-Dupree, Lorna Rae Photography

Broken away from the mainland at West Harbour Bluff tands a sheer, sharp faced coral rock—a 30-foot high tower protruding out of the ocean. Nestled on top, safe from human intervention, perches an osprey nest complete with  a pair of chicks.

It is January 1, 2021. The day started as an excursion to see the Pirate Cove with my mum, dad and brother. This is my fourth visit to Providenciales, but the first time I am going to the cove. To say the least, 2020 was a strange year for everyone. After being separated from my family for an entire  year, across three different countries, we were finally able to reunite over Christmas in the Turks & Caicos Islands. I was only supposed to stay for a week, but that week has turned into a month.  

This pair of osprey call home a nest perched on a rock tower above Pirate’s Cove on the southwest point of Providenciales.

I grew up in South Africa but now live in Los Angeles with my husband. We are both photographers and filmmakers who love going on adventures and being in nature observing wildlife. I have been fortunate enough to photograph many amazing creatures and it is a thrill every single time.

There is nothing better than starting the year with a thrill. We arrive at the coordinates on the map. A stoic osprey is perched on a nearby rock. Admiring the sight, I think it is just a lucky coincidence. We continue towards the path to the cove when my dad points out in the distance a nest with a bird in silhouette. I think to myself, “That’s beautiful. I wonder how far that is?”

We are exploring the cove when curiosity gets the better of my mum and me. We decide to venture towards the nest. Ill-prepared for hiking, we make our way over the coral rocks in flip flops, fighting 24-knot winds. 

There it is. The nest atop its tower.  

Looking across the 20-foot gap are the nesting birds and below them is the tumultuous turquoise ocean. I must admit, I am nervous as I approach the edge. It is a far drop and I surmise it would not be a pleasant fall. I get down onto my stomach and rest the camera against the ledge so that the lens is completely cantilevered.  

It takes a few minutes for the mother osprey to accept my presence. I wouldn’t say she appreciates it much, but it’s probably a comfort for her knowing that I can’t get any closer. The chicks chirp and fluff their feathers as the mother keeps a beady eye on me. 

Suddenly, she starts calling out—loud and aggressively. I wonder, “Is she calling a mate? Or is she telling me to back off?” 

The male osprey is bringing a freshly caught fish to feed the chicks in the nest.

As I lift my head from the eyepiece, I notice something in the distance. A wide-winged bird is flying towards us. It takes me a second to realize that it is the male carrying a fish in his talons. In a flush I keep repeating in shock, “I can’t believe this! Mum! He has a fish!! He has a fish!” 

He lands in a majestic swoop to chirping chicks. He hands the fish off to the mother who inspects it as he stands aside looking around the nest. As quickly as he landed he takes off, on the hunt again.  

We receive a phone call from our hungry father and brother waiting patiently at the car. I pack up my camera and crawl to a safer area before standing. One last look over my shoulder helps me absorb the beautiful moment.  

Lo and behold, the osprey mother is now feeding the chicks. 

  “I can come back,” I say to my mum. She convinces me to seize the moment and without much persuasion, I am back on the ledge with my camera.  

The mother osprey carefully breaks off small bits of the fish to feed the hungry chicks.

I am being squawked at feverishly, but I stay still. With what seems like a puff of frustration mama osprey stops and side-eyes me while continuing to pick at the fish. The chicks are demanding their servings in turns while the mother sneaks a piece for herself every now and then.  

The phone rings again. I’ve lost track of time and now my family’s bellies are grumbling for some food too. I say goodbye and thank you to the birds. It seems cheesy but it’s important to me. We make our way back down the path, excitement and exhilaration running through our veins from what we just witnessed.  

If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, it is: Always expect the unexpected. It can seem laborious to lug camera equipment around for what seems to be a quick excursion but honestly, it’s worth it every time.  

Hopefully on my next trip to Providenciales, the nest will still be there with a new family to photograph.

To see more of my adventures around the world, visit my Instagram @LornaRaePhotog.

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Aysha Stephen is Grand Turk’s newest artistic sensation, renowned for her iconic “Cool Donkeys” paintings. Her creations are quite the hit with visitors to TDB Fine Arts Gallery. It recently opened within the Turks & Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk and is dedicated to showcasing art “Made in TCI.

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