Watching ospreys

Wild Ways

It’s amazing how fast the years go by. My first column for the News-Leader was in 2005, titled “Timesharing is for the birds,” and it was focused on the avian activities on a utility pole on North 14th Street near the back gate to Fort Clinch State Park. Now,12 years later, I’m still writing about “the Pole.”

This area has seen many changes over the ensuing years. Initially, ospreys and – at different times – great horned owls nested on an active utility pole there. Eventually, due to power and safety concerns, Florida Public Utilities installed another, even higher, pole next to it and relocated the remaining nesting material after the ospreys had left for the fall.

This was a success! The next year, the ospreys returned to the area and nested successfully on the new osprey platform. For a number of years to follow, ospreys came back each year and fledged one to three youngsters from this perch. In the winter of 2014, great horned owls used the nest and fledged their own young before the ospreys came back in the spring.

But then disaster hit. One parent osprey was found injured on the nearby road and was taken to the BEAKS bird sanctuary. The remaining parent could not feed her two young alone and eventually left the nest. One youngster disappeared. The second one jumped out of the nest and landed in the marsh. Bucko found it and took it to BEAKS, too.

The next year, there was no nesting at the platform, but in 2016, a pair of ospreys again took up residence there.

The ospreys better hurry up and get their act going if they are to breed again in 2017. For the past few weeks, avid osprey watchers June and George Jones have seen one or two ospreys either in the nest or in the area, and once, Bucko saw a single osprey carrying nesting material to the nest. But it’s getting very late in the season for any pairing to be successful at “the Pole.” Keep an eye on it if you are curious.

But have no fear, there is another active ospreys nest that is easy to watch this year, too.

Thanks to Wes and Deb Johnson, I’ve been getting regular updates on “Flora” and “Parke,” a pair of osprey that have nested close to the highway near the Flora Parke development for at least the past six years. A pair (it’s not clear if it’s the same pair) nested for a few years running on the old Flora Parke sign, now gone, with a large nest that was “humungous and must have hung
down 6 feet or so,” according to Wes.

The sign was torn down to make way for a new, large gas station, and when the ospreys returned and found their old nest gone, they made do. Soon, they constructed another nest on an active power pole near the new RaceTrac gas station right on the corner of S.R. 200/A1A and Flora Parke Crossing and, again, successfully produced offspring.

Once again, though, the ospreys’ choice of nesting site presented a problem to the utility company in charge of that pole, and another new, and higher pole was provided for them to nest on nearby. Would the ospreys use this one? Those of us watching have been wondering. But now, Wes reports that a pair is nesting on the pole, and he hears the sound of chicks inside. Soon, maybe there will be photos for all of us to enjoy.

For nearly a decade, June Jones and I have teamed to distribute an email to those interested in watching ospreys at “the Pole” on North 14th Street. But over the years, we all have gotten occupied elsewhere, and the list has become inactive.

Now, enter Gail Pfoh. She is an avid nature photographer on Amelia Island and has been posting incredible photos of ospreys over the years. A year or more ago, she created a Facebook page called “Ospreys of Amelia Island,” and this is open to anyone who cares to join. If you follow it, you will see occasional posts on the progress of nesting of ospreys in our area and other related information, too. Best yet, you can add your own observations and photos of ospreys to share your sightings with the rest of us.

So, if you like to watch ospreys, step right up! Check out the nest on the North 14th Street pole, at the RaceTrac gas station off-island and anywhere else you see them. We’d all like to keep up with our osprey neighbors, and you can help by posting on the Ospreys of Amelia Island Facebook page. See you there!

Pat Foster-Turley is a zoologist on Amelia Island.  She welcomes your nature questions and observations.

 

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