Soaring above, high in the sky, the osprey circles the 64-acre campus of the Environmental Learning Center. One of the larger birds of prey, the osprey's wingspan averages at about five feet.
The osprey, also known as a sea hawk, eats 99% fish, making the Indian River Lagoon the perfect location to call home. The species is around 11 million years old, so it is very well adapted to hunting fish. Some of the characteristics that differentiate ospreys from other raptors include nostrils that can be closed during dives under water, an oily, waterproof coating on it's wings and hooked talons with an outer toe that can be positioned backwards to grip onto fish better.
You can oftentimes see osprey at the Pontoon Boat Dock in the early morning near sunrise. The osprey perches on the wooden dock post by the boat, resting and looking for a quick bite to eat for breakfast. Once an osprey catches a fish, the large black bill with a sharp hook makes it easy for them to consume. The stillness of the water glimmering in the first moments of sunlight makes this site a spectacular one to witness.
Though the dock might just be my favorite place to see an osprey, there are several osprey nests on campus at the ELC. If you ever stop by for a visit, another spot you might want to look to catch a glimpse of these raptor species is right by the Wabasso Bridge-- they have a large nesting area on top of a pole.
Lastly, in the heart of our campus, another osprey nest sits. An osprey's nest is made primarily out of sticks they have picked out nearby. Visitors may sit on a bench nearby and enjoy this peaceful location, while taking in the beauty of this incredible species and their habitat.
Now, if you do happen to come to campus and check out all of these spots and do not find one, I highly encourage you to look up and keep your eyes open! You never know what you might see!