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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Gotta Getta Fish!

Air Date: Week of

An osprey snags a fish out of the water (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, shares the story of a juvenile osprey striking out on his own to find his first meal not delivered from his parents' beaks.


CURWOOD: By mid-summer many species of birds are fledging the nest and striking out to find their first meal not delivered by the beak of a parent. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, has this story of a juvenile osprey doing just that on the Connecticut River.

Gotta Getta Fish!

Fog, drifts.

A knife-edge divides the dawn. Above, clouds and darkness. Below, the darkling sea, at rest. Quiet remnants of a storm that came in the night and left in the night. How the lightning must have terrified him, the young osprey, on the nest on his own. Where he slept alone. The first time in his life. And the night was long. And woke alone also to the terror that is hunger.

Fog lifts.

Now Young Osprey makes for the Bight. Where the eddies churn all along the sand bar and to the left and the right the signs are good. The water is cool. The bait will rise. menhaden, and snapper blues! The tide is running to the lee and the sea will be smooth as waxed stone. A place he will see for the first time all in the glow of the knife-edge line. Known before only against his feathered skin by weathers coursing over the dune front and heard, all along the shore in the waves’ roar. Beneath a sun dull as molten iron he cannot hear it anymore, only the blood, hammering in his ears:

fish – fish – fish – fish – fish – fish

Gotta catcha fish,
Gotta catcha fish,
Gotta catcha –

Tipping of the tail, Flashing of the scales

- Gotta catcha - Gotta getta - Gonna find a -

fish – fish – fish


- and rises -


- and rises -

A juvenile osprey hovers (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Shaking, the water slaking, a rain of his own making, taking, his life’s force away from him a drop at a time, all for nothing. He circles then hovers the ocean covered granular and dark as emery cloth.

He must! See! Through!

Must! See! This! Through!

fish – fish – fish – fish – fish – fish


Osprey struggles, falls back up to his neck and shoulders, wings outspread around him and the weight of the wet keeping him bound. While the gray of the sky and the blinding eye of day both ignore him. It is all will, he is all in, it is never, or it is NOW:


- And in his talons -





CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender. For photos of the young osprey visit the Living on Earth website, LOE dot org.



Mark Seth Lender’s website

Find the field note for this essay here

Thanks to Destination Wildlife

Smeagull’s Guide to Wildlife

Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge 50th Anniversary event, July 23, 2022


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