Dec 132013
 

I was on the way back to my car after a long morning hike when I noticed an unusual looking bird flying high in the sky. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about this raptor that struck me as different, but I could tell that it was not one of the birds I would typically expect to see soaring at this altitude. It was not a Black Vulture or a Turkey Vulture. It was not a Red-tailed Hawk.

So what was it?

In cases like these I will often take a couple of pictures with the hopes that I pull out enough detail to make a positive identification by processing the photograph in Adobe Photoshop. These first two pictures are good representations of how the bird looked to me when I photographed it.

Osprey - Tiny

Osprey - Tiny

At home, I first tried to simply enlarge the photographs in order to have a better look. Though I was amazed at how well the enlargement held up, the picture was still too dark to make out any significant detail.

The nest step was to lighten the photograph. I accomplished this by adjusting the brightness control in Photoshop. This helped significantly as you can see in the inset below. Even some additional enlargement was useful after this step.

Osprey - Tiny

The second photograph I processed revealed even more detail. Still, only so much could be expected from these techniques. When I looked at the adjusted picture what I believed I was seeing was a white bodied raptor with a dark patch on its breast and large white patches near the ends of each solidly colored wing.

Osprey - Tiny

Many birding books include pictures of raptors from this perspective for the very purpose of identifying high flying birds. But a quick once over of my reference materials revealed no likely candidates.

It took a little imagination to finally see the bird for what it was. I had to picture striped plumage as solid darks in order to realize this bird was likely a high flying Osprey. The picture below was taken on a different occasion. It is of an Osprey which was flying at a much lower altitude and under much better lighting conditions.

Osprey - Tiny

The last photograph in this post shows the two birds side by side so you can make your own judgements!

Osprey - Tiny

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