Art and Ospreys September 18, 2018

Posted by GGAS in How To..., Nature Education, Osprey Cam, San Francisco Wildlife

by Alisa Golden

When San Francisco Center for the Book asked me to submit a design for Roadworks, their annual steamroller printing festival, it didn’t take long to choose a subject. What could be better than an Osprey three-feet high? I was smitten with Rosie and Richmond, the Osprey pair visible on the GGAS web camera, so Osprey seemed a natural choice. I looked through screenshots I had taken from the camera and chose a dramatic image of Richmond with his wings up from May 15, 2018, 7:30pm.


The screenshot image

You can see Rosie behind him, keeping the days-old chicks warm. For the square format, it seemed best to focus just on Richmond, so I drew him on a nest of books. It had to be reversed for the carving. My rough drawing was accepted; Richmond it would be! I enlarged my drawing, divided it up, printed it out, and taped it together.

The drawing enlarged

After transferring the drawing to the large linoleum using artist’s carbon paper I began to carve, referring back to the screenshot for wing details. It was an exciting and terrifying process. There would be no undo.

Computer screen and work in progress

Before I began watching GGAS’s web camera I had never seen an Osprey, didn’t know about them, and last watched a web cam during the Shiba Inu craze of 2008. But I like a good story, and the daily bird behavior fascinated me. After two years of being captivated by the Ospreys, I feel they are family, and this family, like any other, has been through changes, joys and its sorrows. It was quite curious seeing the interaction among the siblings; we missed it last year when one of the two fledglings was injured and did not make it, even after excellent human intervention and treatment. This year we were surprised and amused when one of the fledglings commandeered another Osprey family’s nest at the Richmond Yacht Club; it was a short flight from her original home, a nest on the whirley crane by the Red Oak Victory ship.

Prior to beginning the large linoleum, as a test of some new carving tools, I made a small print of this year’s brood (currently exhibited at Piedmont Center for the Arts). The three chicks were banded with both silver and blue bands, after which we could identify them more easily: VW (named Roemer, who is the chick in front), VU (Victory) and VV (Brisa, in back). This image is based on a screenshot from June 21 at 12:22 pm, which I’ve titled, “The Osprey Chicks Are Looking Up.” Rosie was just flying back to them. They had been banded that morning.

Screen shot of chicks

Osprey chicks print

The couple’s relationship also changed. Last year, Richmond didn’t quite know what to do with himself; this year he seemed happy to sit on the eggs, taking his time relinquishing the job to Rosie when she came back from a stretch. This year with three hungry chicks, Richmond reliably brought fish (mostly striped bass and jacksmelt) to the nest, but Rosie periodically delivered the take-out as well. Last year she stayed on the nest and called loudly for sustenance. And for the second year in a row, Richmond showed his interest in red objects, and Rosie nudged them over the edge.

I was excited to see the new developments, and it was fun sharing them with the Live Chat community where we also exchanged information about birds, food, cats, fish, art, music, ships, trivia and puns. Executive Director, Cindy Margulis checked in, too and revealed her playful sense of humor. The Osprey cam generated all kinds of creative work: one person compiled a glossary, others wrote stories, poems, and songs and created visual jokes. An End of Season party—a community meet-up of Chatters, Lurkers, and Osprey Lovers who live in the area—will be held September 30 at East Brother Beer Co., 12:30 – 3:30 pm.

In the larger carving I wanted to include some text in cursive to look like waves, but I hadn’t yet figured out what that would be. As I took a walk it came to me: Richmond is talking to his offspring. In a conversational tone I could include what I had learned from the Live Chat group, from what I’d read in several books, and what I gleaned from talks by experts Tony Brake and Diane Rooney, on a GGAS Osprey mini cruise, and at two Osprey Days hikes with Marcia Grefsrud on Mare Island.

I inked up the linoleum so I could see what it would look like when printed. Here it is reversed, so you can get an idea of what the final will be. The title is, “How to Build a Nest.”

Because she is an awesome bird and such a good mom I finally made a small print of Rosie. She has a favorite spot on the rail next to the nest where she can watch her family, wait for Richmond, preen, sleep, and rest, solid against the wind.

Rosie on the rail

Rosie card “All Due Respect”

Since March of 2017, the web camera at has inspired art, provided a forum for new friends, and encouraged appreciation and concern for Ospreys and other birds. If all goes well, the Rosie and Richmond show will resume the beginning of March, 2019.

In the meantime, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, September 23, you can stop by to see “Richmond” being inked up and printed by an antique steamroller. The large prints, by four featured artists, will be sold as a benefit for San Francisco Center for the Book. I’ll have a booth at the fair and be there all day, from 11am to 4pm. A free, block-long book and print festival. With birds.

More info

SFCB Roadworks Steamroller Event

Piedmont Center for the Arts / California Society of Printmakers

SFBayOspreys Live Chat


Alisa Golden works with ink, words, fibers, and books, and looks for neighborhood birds, particularly down by the bay.

Tags: Bay Area birds, bird art, nesting behavior.