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Nesting Ospreys

By Lindell Haggin

– Photos courtesy of Jeanne Dammarell

The Osprey is a bird of prey whose main source of food is fish. At one time they were heading toward extinction due to the heavy use of DDT. The pesticide caused the eggshells to become so thin they would break under the weight of the adult as it tried to incubate it.

Now we are fortunate enough to see them nesting successfully along the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. As their numbers increase and as Bald Eagles are also expanding their nesting range, trying to find a satisfactory nesting site can be more of a challenge.

The preferred nesting site has a top that is flat enough to build a large nest on and is taller than any other nearby trees. They don�t want possible nest scavengers to have a perch from which to observe the nest.

Over the years, Osprey have discovered that utility poles frequently fill both of these criteria. The one major drawback is that either the nesting material or the outstretched wings can on occasion reach across the span of wires resulting in either a fire in the nest and/or death of a bird.

Since Osprey are protected under the Migratory Bird Act it is illegal to destroy an active nest. Avista works with Fish and Wildlife to try to replace nests built on utility poles with an alternative nesting pole placed in the same area.

There was a very persistent Osprey pair that started nesting on a utility pole near the old Wandermere Bridge several years ago. After several successful nestings Avista tried putting up structures to deter the Osprey from nesting the following year. The Osprey succeeded in building another nest, in spite of the offending structures. Since this pole provided power to the waste water pump station Avista was quite concerned that power not be interrupted by a pole fire.

After talking with both Wandermere Golf Course and Christian Life Church, it was decided to build a nesting platform on the north side of the river on the church property. They also put additional obstructions on the preferred utility pole.

To humans the platform looks lovely. To Osprey there were too many trees towering over the platform and they rejected it outright. Instead the Osprey found another utility pole across the river from the platform.

There is another Osprey nest on a utility pole near the Dartford Bridge which has caught fire at least once. We will hope that they are able to nest safely.

It is truly a joy to watch Osprey dive in to the water to catch a fish. We even find fish heads on our lawn on occasion from the Osprey that dine in our Ponderosa Pine. Not many people can say that!

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