Tag Archives: osprey

Herring from Heaven… in Maine

Our recent New England trip took us to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Schenectady NY, and for one afternoon to Massachusetts. We drove like we were playing hopscotch on the blue highways to the Back of Beyond.  Good thing I had picked up a map from our local AAA office before we left because GPS coverage was spotty, and T-Moible coverage was non-existent.  So there we were a couple of weeks ago, strolling along the trail around Mac Worth Island, just off the coast of Portland, Maine… when a live fish fell out of the sky.  Whoa.  Not sure who was the most surprised, us or the fish.


"Herring from Heaven", mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2015

“Herring from Heaven”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2015

Moments earlier, a shadow had skimmed through the maples and pines above us.  Griff wondered aloud what kind of bird would make such a big shadow.  Three steps further, and there was a 12-inch fish gasping in the middle of the trail, a brilliant red puncture just behind its gills.  The trail was on a cliff, at least 20 feet above the ocean, and we were at least 10 yards from the edge of the cliff, so no way did it jump out of the ocean.  If we had been a few seconds earlier, we could have been conked on the head!

Another hiker appeared with his dog, and we all stood there puzzling over the wet, silvery creature.  No fish hook or injured mouth.  Beautiful blue and silver scales.  (I learned several days later that it was an Atlantic Herring.)  “An eagle must have dropped it,” the hiker suggested.  That would explain the shrieking we heard after the shadow passed, maybe an adolescent Osprey cursing his bad luck.  We left the fish there, thinking the bird might double back to retrieve its lunch.  A little later, past the fairy houses (read on, that’s in the next paragraph!) and at the end of the island, sure enough there was an osprey repeatedly diving into the ocean, but coming up with empty talons.  Glorious to see those dives, though!

So about the fairies… this island was clearly enchanted.  All along the eastern edge, there were tiny dwellings tucked into every nook in the forest.  Paths paved with snail shells, walls built from bark strips, elaborate woven twig roofs, each one unique and built of only natural materials.  You had to be sharp-eyed to spot them, but once we started really looking, we discovered dozens!  These were works of arts in themselves:

We met that hiker and his dog again as we finished the loop – he said he’d returned to where the fish was, but it had vanished…  herring for lunch after all?

Sitting Ducks

paintng of boat ramp

“Sitting Ducks”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The urgent cry of a young osprey is immediately recognizable, “Mom!  Mom! Wait for me!!”  As my Plein Air class painted from the small dock at the Crystal Lake Drive boat landing in Corvallis, we heard it several times from across the river or from above us.  I kept anticipating that they would make a dive into the swift river and fly up with a fish, but eventually I decided they must be waiting for just the right moment to snatch a meal from the gravel bars mid-river.  A small flock of ducks there was barely visible from my vantage point – I was glad the ospreys didn’t make their move while we were there!   A slow parade of boaters came and went on the ramp, yanking on starter cords of old outboard motors, one carrying a bow with arrows tied with fishing line for hunting carp.  An otter was sighted briefly – or maybe it was a nutria, hard to tell.

When we arrived at 5:30 p.m., the sky was overcast, the light was flat, the river was a dull brownish green, and I was thinking to myself that it wasn’t the most dazzling spot for painting.  But as the evening progressed, the mood changed dramatically.  The cottonwood trees began to quiver, it rained a bit off and on for a few minutes.  The clouds above us gradually parted, emerald trees glistened in front of black thunderclouds to the east, the river shifted between blues and greens and silver.  It was impossible to figure out where to look, what to paint.  Was it Buddha who said, “Change is inevitable.  Get over it.”?  As we propped up our work for a critique session at 8:00 p.m., a rainbow shone above us in the gathering dusk.  Just another glorious August evening on the Willamette River!