East of Siberia: An Osprey, Until It Wasn’t

A wounded bird survives a broken wing — and then survives the well-meaning ministrations of humans

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This bird was fed fish for weeks Credit: Photograph © Jonathan C. Slaght

I took a look at this bird under the artificial light of the entryway. The bill didn’t seem right — not blunt and hooked like it should have been — and the whole body shape seemed off.

Ospreys are uncommon in Primorye. I’d only occasionally seen these fish specialists over the years — adults hovering, then diving for mullet or redfin in the brackish waters of river mouths along the Sea of Japan. And I’d never seen a young one before. From my vantage point across Sergei’s camp, it looked quite different from an adult but had the similar, familiar, black-and-white plumage pattern that adults did.

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A rare, light-morph Oriental honey buzzard. Photograph © Jonathan C. Slaght

The honey buzzard looked up at me intently when it was done, like a dog that knows I have more bacon. The final portion was consumed with equal gusto.

Armed with this new information, I searched the village stores for honeycomb and took home a honey-soaked block of it about the size of a candy bar. I cleaved this hunk in two and tentatively offered one half to the Bird Formerly Known as Osprey, which reached out a slender leg to gently accept my gift in its needle claws.

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