Bye Bye, Ospreys

Alert — and very environmentally conscious — “06880” reader Wendy Crowther writes:

At 6:45 Wednesday morning, as I drove to work, I noticed that the giant osprey nest that had been perched on top of the utility pole at Fresh Market was gone.  It had been there very recently.

I want to reassure everyone who, like me, enjoyed watching this nest all summer that everything is okay. The osprey family (mom, dad and their matured hatchling) flew the coop a few weeks ago. Since mid-August the family was spending less time in the nest – often perching high up in a large, dead tree behind Fresh Market that was more spacious than their nest had become as the young one grew.

I haven’t seen any of the ospreys in their nest for a month, although I would still see (and hear) them flying overhead above Winslow Park (near my home). I don’t know whether ospreys migrate or roost elsewhere once their young ones mature. Maybe someone out there in the “06880” world knows.

I want to thank the utility companies and Fresh Market property owners for being sensitive to the presence of these birds all summer long, and for allowing nature to take its course.

The osprey nest near the  Fresh Market parking lot, earlier this summer.

The osprey nest near the Fresh Market parking lot, earlier this summer.

I loved driving by this nest every day. It was fun to see the young chick grow to adulthood. It was fascinating to watch the parents soar in with fish in their talons, or observe the fledgling patiently waiting for its parents to return. The young one would screech when it saw a parent in the distance, and fluttered its wings when mom or dad dove from on high and came in for landings.

The nest provided a unique opportunity to observe wildlife close up, while allowing the birds to remain totally wild. My heart felt a bit of a pang when I saw the empty utility pole. But the birds had moved on, as do we all.

I couldn’t imagine why such a magnificent creature would choose the top of a Post Road utility pole for its nesting site. It was a fascinating  juxtaposition. But I, for one, thank them for providing me with amusement and a lesson in nature.  I hope they’ll return next year, although I’m sure Fresh Market and the utility companies feel otherwise.

(NOTE: Connecticut Light & Power workers relocated the nest to a higher utility pole — one with fewer wires 150 feet away — earlier this week, after the birds flew south for the winter. The hope is that the ospreys return to the relocated nest in the spring.)

8 responses to “Bye Bye, Ospreys

  1. The birds may be gone for the season but the nest is not “gone.” It was relocated a week or two ago to a utility pole between Fresh Market and Terrain in order to keep the birds (should they return) away from the high-voltage wires along the post road. You may remember they caused a power outtage over the summer. Kudos to the power company and town for making this happen.

  2. Joyce Barnhart

    Here’s a little natural history about ospreys: It is usual for the adults to leave the nest once the young are able to hunt for themselves. The off-spring stay on the nest for a time after the parents are gone. “Fish hawks” are often confused with bald eagles, but there are interesting differences. Ospreys nests can be in an exposed site at the top of tall structures (trees, of course, before utility poles) because the parents, usually the mother, stays with the eggs and young to shield them from the sun and predators. To be successful bald eagles must build their nests where they are shaded at least part of the day because both parents leave to find food, often stealing from osprey. (Our national symbol is very beautiful but its behavior is not very admirable.) The male osprey does most of the fishing and he will take his catch to a perch near the nest to eat his share, usually the very rich brain material, before taking the rest to the female who will share it with the chicks. Notice the next time you see an osprey flying with a fish. The fish are almost always pointed in the direction the bird is flying – more aerodynamic that way. They are interesting birds, for sure, and I share Wendy’s enthusiasm and interest in having them here, in such a visible place.

  3. It’s time to say good by to the egrets, andf hello to the buffleheads from the north.

  4. Here’s some general osprey information. I will have more to come after next Wed. night after I attend Ct Audubon’s event honoring those of us who became citizen scientists for Osprey Nation for these special birds in our home towns. I was responsible for reporting on two nests, one seen on the beams across the rr tracks, upon exiting Rte 95 north Exit 18. The second one was in the marsh behind Sherwood Island Nature Center which I directed during the summer. There were a lot of other ones…2 upon Longshore’s exit road, one near Canfield Island. Osprey are a top fish-eating predator. Considered a sentinel species of environmental health, Chesapeake scientists are studying their diet and behavior to understand the effects of chemical contaminants on the ecosystem. One of the most widespread birds on earth, osprey can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Patterned with brown, black and white, it has a black stripe across its yellow eyes. When it spots perch, shad or menhaden, it hovers while beating its wings and dives feet first to capture its meal. When it caches a fish, the osprey grasps the fish with its talons so the fish is facing forward, reducing drag so it is easier for the bird to fly. The adults you may see have maybe be the same ones that have been returning to the same area for a few years. Monogamous, males arrive before females. Come back to these nest sites regularly to watch for courtship behavior, nest building and egg laying which usually happens between late April and late May. Incubation lasts about 38-42 days and, once hatched, the nestlings are fed fish for about 50 days until they learn to fly, often through July. Adults begin to migrate to wintering grounds as the fledglings become independent, but the juveniles usually migrate the end of August. The juvenile at Sherwood Island marsh area was there until late September! We are excited to see them in our area. Their populations have slowly recovered over the last 50 years when use of the pesticide DDT created thin shelled eggs, causing a decline in their populations. An important success story…nice to hear after all the horrible news on TV. I will post more next week after the event honoring those watching nest sites!

  5. The DDT analysis has been much criticized. You can find more recent and accurate research now.

  6. Thanks to all contributors for the lesson on ospreys! And to CL & P for their sensitivity to wildlife. I watched these birds all summer, too, and feel lucky to have avoided rear-ending the car in front of me many times! I believe there were more than just 1 young in the nest – possibly 3. I’m looking through my photos, none of which are as good as the ones you posted here, Dan.