The osprey, often called the fish hawk, disappeared from our area many years ago because of DDT. Then in 1992 a hacking project was run for three years to try and restore them.
Young osprey, around six weeks old, were taken from nests on Long Island where the birds were well established. Only one bird was taken from a nest if there were two, two if there were three. Nine to twelve young birds were brought back each of the three years and were finished being raised in the hacking tower over on the Oak Orchard WMA ( the same one used to hack our bald eagles). They then were released from there with hopes that they would return to this area when they were ready to nest. Eventually this is what happened and at present we have around a dozen nesting pairs in our area here in the swamps.
These birds take only fish and are very good at it. They will cruise over the water and dive right in, many times right under the water, to grab a fish with their specially developed feet and talons.
They generally take three to four years to become sexually mature and often build a nest a year before they actually raise young. Their nests are built of sticks, branches and aquatic vegetation which sometimes end up being almost as big as a bald eagle's nest. They like tall dead trees near water and will use this same nest for many years, repairing it each year.
When our “home raised” ospreys began to return to our area to nest, special platforms were put up on old telephone poles around our two State Wildlife Management Areas. Many of these platforms continue to be used today but as their numbers increased they learned to use our power poles and cell towers for nest building. Usually it is not a problem but in the late-1990s a pair of ospreys began building a nest on a wooden telephone pole right next to the road on Route 77 across from Cayuga Pool. The power company was worried about the nest shorting out the power lines so they removed it during the winter. Naturally the birds rebuilt it the next spring when they came back. The power company again removed the nest and replaced the pole with one that had a nesting platform above the lines. The birds quickly rebuilt their nest on it and are still using it to this day.
This nest, being right next to a heavyily used highway, attracts a lot of attention from passing motorists and of course they have to pull over to look and to try and get a picture. The problem is there is very little road shoulder in this area and the road is all a “No Passing” zone because of the curves and dips. “No Standing or Parking” signs were placed all along the road near this nest but they are ignored and it amazes me there hasn't been an accident there as big trucks fly through this area all the time. It can be a problem for the osprey too as the female is often scared off the nest while incubating her eggs by these people stopping there and one year there was a nest failure because of this.
Over the years I have photographed this nest off and on but only after the young have hatched out and do not need incubation from an adult anymore. I also park way down the road and enter the bushy area next to the road near the nest early in the morning before light. Here I hide in my camouflage only 20 feet from the road's edge hoping to get some activity shots.
Often, as with many nature photography situations, many hours of waiting are needed to get those great shots. At this location things can get a little humorous for me as people, ignoring the “No Parking” signs, pull half way off the road to look. If on my side of the road they are usually less then 50 feet from me but my camouflage and the thick brush keeps them from seeing me. I often say in a loud voice “Hey no parking here!” and after a quick look around they tear off. This year a lady driver got out of car and leaned over the car's hood as her husband stood on the other side of the vehicle with his camera ready; like the driven off osprey was going to return to the nest while they were standing there! After a while they lost patience and as the lady went to get in her car to leave I said “GOOD BYE” in a very loud voice. It was hilarious to watch their reaction to that, still not knowing where this voice came from! There was another instance that day where I “barked” at a dog staring my way in the back seat of a stopped vehicle. That dog almost ripped the back seat out trying to get out to “attack” the “voice”!
Seriously folks, avoid disturbing nesting wildlife as you can cause a nest failure and as in this situation it can be dangerous to your well being too.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org .