Monday, June 7, 2010

False Hopes for Osprey

Cruising my neighborhood looking for red-tail hawks, I spied this Osprey dipping down into the old Georgia Pacific lot on E. Michigan Avenue, picking something up. My first thought was prey, but soon realized it was picking up sticks. It was a rare sighting and momentarily raised my hopes.

Drawing my camera, I snapped some prime photos as he/she flew almost directly overhead, perhaps checking me out.

I was hoping that it was repairing the nest on the telephone pole across the way for a forthcoming brood. Two Osprey settled in on top of that pole last year and become a local attraction, drawing periodic crowds right off Kings Highway.

But the nest has been vacant all Spring, making it highly unlikely the Osprey would be returning.

My hopes for a late nesting on the pole were dashed when the Osprey flew off in the opposite direction.

I'm guessing it has a nest further up stream, probably near Morrow Pond.

I had a feeling the Osprey would not return this year, or maybe ever, because of the constant onlookers gathering outside the fence only about 50 yards away. The give-away for me were the constant cries from the female, uneasy with the sudden traffic. And well meaning and excited fans thought the fence barrier kept them at a respectable distance. They also couldn't interpret the females anxiety coming from her cries.

What happened was the birds found the old Georgia Pacific lot to be an island of isolation, void of almost any foot traffic. The property was not only fenced off, but a no-man's land ever since the paper mill was razed years ago. Although the chosen telephone pole was next to Kings Highway, people would just drive on by.

Little did the Osprey know that they were setting the stage for a perfect drive-up viewing opportunity, like a drive in movie. Once people started seeing what they thought were eagles nesting right out in the open, cars started pulling over into the old driveway and checking out the widlife. It was perfect for us, but the Osprey's anonymity and isolation was completely blown. Despite all the sudden paparazzi, the Opsrey were committed to the location with three eggs.

The complications of that location were further compounded when a meth bust just east of the lot drew swarms of local media who were let into the old lot at the gate right next to the nest. The media and the gatekeepers were oblivious to the Osprey. The Osprey, however, were stressed.

That same day, a local township officer who'd been keeping an excited and close eye on the birds sadly found two of the fledglings dead at the foot of the pole. He later saw the parents and one successful fledgeling working the Kalamazoo River, which was only twenty yards away from the pole.

Why the two others died is still unclear, but one out of three is still a success story in my book.

I doubt we'll ever have the Osprey back in that zone again, but it was a rare treat for an amazing cross section of people to watch and appreciate. It's also an apt parable for the fleeting nature of good habitat. Urban wildlife, in particular, is always seeking that special zone, often dab smack in the middle of things, where no one ever goes. Then suddenly, a bulldozer enters the picture, or a path might emerge, or in this case, an animal blows it's own cover. Then, it's over.

1 comment:

  1. The nest has moved but only a little way away. I was excited to see that they had made a nest on what I think is a landfill. just next door to the old Georgia Pacific site. Also there might be another nest site along the Kalamazoo River behind the Lamplighter Bar. I work there and saw the birds landing in a tree. A few days later I saw the DNR out there taking pictures. If you have any questions give me a call at the Lamplighter Tuesday-thrusday 11-4 269-345-0511 ask for Amy