A large bird, similar to seagull in its colouring, hovers above the shallow water near the shore. After a while, it pulls back its wings and plunges into the water with a loud splash. The osprey rises from the water, but has no prey. New attempt, the osprey’s gaze is glued to the fish swimming close to the surface and, immediately, the osprey plunges back into the water. Only at the last second its feet push forward and its sharp talons prepare for the attack.
Water droplets fly everywhere as the osprey dives underwater for a moment, struggles with a fish, and then, finally, rises back into the air. From the water rises a silver-scaled bream, caught in the osprey’s claws. After catching such a handsome prey, the male bird rises higher and brings the bream straight to the nest where the hungry female and nestlings are waiting.
The osprey is believed to have been a sacred bird to the ancient Finns and it has been chosen as the regional bird of the Kanta-Häme region. The osprey is also a cosmopolitan bird species that is encountered as subspecies in different parts of the world. Finnish ospreys winter mainly in West Africa.
Back in the day, the osprey was believed to be a fish thief and there was a bounty on its head. In 1926, the osprey was protected with a decree and in 1962, with a law. The nest and nesting tree of an osprey are also protected.
Since then, environmental toxins became the reason for the poor nesting of the species. Thankfully, the situation improved and now the Finnish osprey population is full of life and has 1,200–1,300 nesting pairs.
The patient and long-term conservation work has been effective, but it still requires annual monitoring of the nesting population, undisturbed nesting locations and trees suitable for nesting. Nowadays, people hold ospreys in positive regard and they want to actively participate in the conservation of the species.
Ospreys in Finnish folklore
There are dozens of lakes, bays, hills, archipelagos, islands, wilds, and swamps in Finland, and in the Häme, Satakunta and Savo regions especially, whose names begin with either the word sääksi or sääks, both of which refer to the osprey’s Finnish name sääksi.
The locations have been named after ospreys’ nesting or hunting places. The osprey’s fishing skills in particular have caught people’s attention.