Tennessee Aquarium naturalist John Dever took these pictures of osprey, Pandion haliaetus, in the Tennessee River Gorge. He says passengers aboard the River Gorge Explorer are getting some great wildlife viewing right now. Several osprey nests are active this year, including one at the downstream end of Williams Island. This pair has successfully raised chicks every year except last year. It appears that their nest was impacted by the April 2011 tornado outbreak. Fortunately they have rebuilt in this location this year and seem to be tending eggs right now. From the topside observation deck, guests not only get great views, they can also hear the birds vocalizing. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a nice recording of ospreys here.
John captured these scenes of successful fishing expeditions by these awesome birds. His "eagle eyes" spot the birds whether they are rather well-concealed among the treetops or soaring overhead. He and other naturalists help our passengers not only see, but learn about, these beautiful raptors.
"In addition to the ospreys, green heron have been seen patrolling the river banks while swallows buzz the Explorer's observation deck," said Dever. "The high-flying broad winged hawk is also frequently seen above the river lately."
Dever adds that the comfortable temperatures combined with spring color and these animal sightings make for very pleasant cruising right now.