And then, as he looked after him Telemachus saw the stranger change in his form. He became first as a woman, tall, with fair hair and a spear of bronze in her hand. And then the form of a woman changed too. It changed into a great sea-eagle that on wide wings rose up and flew high through the air. Telemachus knew then that his visitor was an immortal and no other than the goddess Athene who had been his father’s friend.–The Odyssey (Padraic Colum, trans.)
I recently learned that the bird often referred to as the “sea eagle” in translations of Celtic, Norse, and Greek myth is the osprey. This is a large bird of prey that nests along shorelines. Like the bald eagle it prefers a diet of fish, and at a distance it is hard to differentiate the osprey from the eagle. The osprey has a white head like the bald eagle, but it has a brown stripe across its eyes and its underside is white. It is slightly smaller than the bald eagle.Ospreys are fun to watch. I observed this pair fishing in Lake Champlain this past week, divebombing into the water and then heading back to the nest. The young, whom I could not see from the ground, squealed as the the fish was dropped from above.Eventually one of the pair – I could not tell if it was mama or papa – decided I had been hanging out near the nest too long and began swooping over me, probably intending to intimidate me rather than provide a photo op. While the osprey was distracted by my presence, two little birds decided to mob it in a surprise attack. Ospreys are not built for maneuverability; they are designed to pounce on prey from above. The big bird had no choice but to escape to the open water while I chuckled and got back in the car.