Some days, itâs just not worth leaving the nest. At least, thatâs probably what one young osprey thought recently. Instead of gliding smoothly from his home base atop an old cistern behind Key Westâs Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and winging his way gracefully around the Old Town neighborhood, the hapless fledgling found himself crashing embarrassingly into the grill of a car.
Luckily, one of the islandâs talented street artists spotted the stunned osprey, helped extricate him and called the savvy folks at the Key West Wildlife Center. The director of animal care there examined the bird and determined that he was unharmed by his crash landing. Nevertheless, he spent a few days at the center salving his wounded dignity and (probably more important) receiving nourishing meals of fish and a dose of vitamins.
Come to find out, the young osprey had been under observation for a good while by the staff of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (FYI, a must-see one-of-a-kind facility full of early shipwreck artifacts and treasures).
âFor the past few months, we have been admiring an unusual treasure of the sea,â recounted the museumâs education coordinator Shannon Burgess. âAt the very top of the cistern behind our building, a large jumble of twigs has housed a pair of osprey chicks and their hardworking parents.â
For reasons perhaps best left unexplored, staffers named the chicks Nathan Jr. and Edwina. It was Nathan Jr., practicing his flying skills, who had the unfortunate collision with the car. Shannon, who has a degree in biology as well as expertise in education, figures he was probably either diving for food or learning to navigate in the wind when his mishap occurred.
Unlike some spots, Key West is a place where the fate of one awkward bird matters to a surprisingly large number of people. So when representatives of the Key West Wildlife Center came to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to return Nathan Jr. to the wild â choosing to release him from the buildingâs top-floor balcony close to his nest â most of the staff and a photographer from the local newspaper were on hand to watch.
However, as Shannon Burgess related, Nathan Jr. didnât seem too keen on the whole process. Despite his sister Edwina issuing cries of encouragement and one of his parents bringing a bribe of food, he hesitated uncertainly.
The museumâs executive director, Melissa Kendrick, said he looked like a reluctant celebrity about to attempt a high dive on the new reality show âSplash.â
Finally, Nathan Jr. made his move.
âHe stumbled off the top-floor balcony, hurtled towards the ground and then lifted off to a nearby roof,â reported Shannon. âHe looked fine; we looked traumatized.â
Of course, since this took place in Key West (where things often unfold a little differently than they do in less fortunate spots), the story wasnât over when Nathan rejoined his feathered family. In fact, itâs not over yet. Nathan and Edwina, Shannon advised, are likely to be spotted âbumbling around Old Town,â sticking pretty close to the ground until they master the intimidating art of flying.
If you happen to see them, feel free to watch their practice sessions (and donât worry if they seem a bit wobbly).
But please donât get too close or try to feed them, because the winged âkidsâ must learn to survive on their own.
Sincere thanks go to Melissa Kendrick for bringing this avian adventure to our attention, and to Shannon Burgess for chronicling it. Nathan Jr. and Edwina, may you have many years of safe flights around Key West!