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Last fall, I published a blog that touched on the subject of stewardship. As wildlife and landscape photographers we have an obligation to protect the very subjects we record through our lenses. To this end I decided to write a season long blog that touches on the subject of stewardship and will follow my efforts in pursuit of protecting and helping our local osprey population. A few years ago I got involved in the beginnings of an Audubon program to monitor all the active Osprey nest in the state of RI.
Because of my military training in topo map reading and my proficiency using a hand held gps I was tasked with mapping the nests in Bristol County. I already knew where most were. In the summer of 2010 a very well known nest was destroyed in a micro burst. I was asked to investigate it. It is one of the oldest platform nests in the area. There was no repairing it, it would have to be rebuilt. I lined up a small group of volunteers and we rebuilt it before the spring. The birds returned to the new platform and produced a brood last summer.
In the spring of 2011 I was contacted again and asked to investigate 2 other platforms, both tilting badly. The 2 nests in question are designated “Johannis Middle” and “Johannis North”. Both had birds sitting so we decided to let them be and hope for the best. 2 weeks later I was out walking the eastern shore of the Palmer River. I looked across and was horrified to see the “Johannis Middle” nest was gone, the platform had fallen. I hiked back to my truck, stopped by home to pick up some tools and boots, and drove over to the western side of the Palmer to a spot where I could access the Johannis nests.
When I got through the marsh to the platform it was beyond repair. The support pole was solid so I drove to Home Depot and bought the materials for a new platform. I spent the afternoon building a new nesting platform. The next morning, with friend Joe DePasquale, I headed back to the nest site. By 11AM Joe and I had the new platform secure. During the entire time we worked we had 2 ospreys circling us. When I checked the platform the next day there was already a new nest taking shape.
While the Johannis North nest was also tilting we had to let it ride for the summer because the birds were already nesting in it. It turned out to be a wise decision. The nest not only survived but produced 4 fledglings, a number unheard of in Osprey land with 2 being the norm and 3 considered exceptional. It was the only nest in the state to fledge 4 birds. After the nesting season we made plans to replace the Johannis North nesting platform.
We took a trip out to assess it. Even though the pole was tilted it was still solid. So we modified the plan to rebuild the platform on the off-center pole. It won’t look great but it will be solid and level. Another benefit to using the same support pole is we don’t need to get a permit. In mid February my wife and I went out with tools and after about 90 minutes of working off a ladder in the marsh I had the old platform off. The next step is to get the materials, build the new platform in my yard, and make a trip out to the marsh to re-attach it. This will need to be done by the time the birds return, usually starting in mid-march.
I originally thought this would be my only osprey project this winter, that is until I got a call from Mike Gerhart. He was in the process of getting a permit to put a platform up in the Jacob’s Point Marsh located in south Warren. I had always thought this was a good spot for a platform. He was doing all the leg work to get the permit but didn’t know how to build a platform…..so he called me. We got the permit in Mid-February. We made a trip to Home Depot and loaded my pickup with the materials for a new platform. This will also have to be completed by mid-March before the birds return.
In this continuing blog I will take you through the rebuilding process of the Johannis North nest and the building of the new nesting pole in the Jacob’s Point Marsh. Osprey bond with their nesting site and the same birds return each year. So the Johannis North nest already has tenents. The new nest in the Jacob’s Point Marsh will be up for grabs. Hopefully, fledglings who left this area 3 years ago (The young spend their first 3 years in South America before returning to nesting grounds) will return to claim this new platform. In my next blog I’ll document the rebuilding of the Johannis platform and the completely new Jacob’s Point platform.