Have you ever wondered which birds build the giant nests on channel markers, power poles and other high structures around Lake Norman?
Some think they are bald eagle nests, but actually they are the spring and summer homes of the osprey, a rather large bird whose primary diet is fish.
The nesting activity of the osprey - known to some as the fishhawk - begins in early March on Lake Norman. Within a month, the female lays two to four eggs. The incubation period is about five weeks. Since the nest, made primarily of sticks and branches, is very deep, the chicks do not show themselves until they are ready to leave it sometime in July.
The osprey finds its prey from high above, then dives to snatch it from the surface of the water with its talons. If the prey is deep, it will dive into the water to snare it. The bird makes the captured fish aerodynamic for flying by positioning it so that the head faces forward.
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Osprey populations have increased in recent years, to the point that the Lake Norman Wildlife Federation has placed a dozen or more nesting platforms around the lake, near islands and away from boat traffic. It doesn't take the birds long to find the platforms. One was recently positioned beside the island near Marker T3 in Davidson Creek. Within hours, an osprey was perched atop the new structure.
As the nesting season winds down, be on the lookout for adult birds that flap their wings vigorously and chirp loudly. That is the indication that they are teaching the young to fly. The young birds will eventually begin to move their wings and leap from the nest. Some hit the water first, shake off the droplets and fly away. Once the parents' work is done, they leave the lake for a long-deserved vacation. Like people, many spend the winter in Florida and in Central or South America.
When you see an osprey circling overhead, it has likely spotted a fish swimming near the surface. It shouldn't be long before it dives to capture its quarry. What follows is worth watching.
Light House Marine Services will offer an eight-hour boat and personal watercraft safety class at 9 a.m. Saturday at North Point Watersports, off Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville. Registration is $49. For details or to register, call Scott Spivey at 704-587-0325 or visit www.Lmservice.org.
The summer heat has fish seeking shade or deep water during midday and afternoon. With that in mind, fish in the morning or after dark, when the water is cooler.
Stripers are biting in the river channel at the south end of the lake. Flathead fishing has improved, particularly where schools of white perch are found. White perch fishing is unbelievably good. The bigger fish are holding in water to 50 feet.
The lake level is about 2.5 feet below full pond, and the water surface temperature is in the 80s and low 90s.