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Our Very Own Osprey Nesting Pole

Good news stories, part two:

Last week I wrote how about Stephanie from Wild Care treated the mites on the baby flycatchers in my nest box. I know that sounds creepy, but it actually wasn’t that bad, and the little birds are doing just fine. She also told me how to prevent the same thing from happening again next year. I’ll pass that info on to everyone else in a future column, but now it’s on to my other favorite story of the summer.

This story actually started last winter when I received a letter from Verizon (yes, that Verizon). The letter explained how they needed to install a utility pole on the edge of my (business) property as part of the Orleans’ new sewer project. In exchange, they would pay me the sweet sum of one dollar (really). I tossed the letter aside. It’s not that I didn’t need the dollar – I totally could have used it – but I hate utility poles. Talk about an antiquated system, not to mention dangerous and ugly. A few months later, Tom, the head of the Orleans DPW, stopped by and asked what the problem was. He went on to explain that the project would “benefit the residents of the town.” I said getting rid of those ugly and dangerous overhead wires would benefit the town a lot more. After an awkward pause, I softened my stance and agreed with whatever they wanted me to do. As an afterthought, I asked Tom if they might consider putting up an extra pole nearby for the Ospreys to use. Recently, nests built on active utility poles have been a problem and a second pole, set up just for the birds, might help prevent such conflicts. Tom didn’t respond, but I’m used to people ignoring me.

The very first Osprey I ever saw was sitting on a nest on top of a dead tree in the middle of a freshwater marsh in New Brunswick, Canada. This was in the 1970s and if there were any Osprey nests in Massachusetts at that time, I didn’t know about them. So, seeing this lone Osprey was a highlight for me, but it was also a low period for one of North America’s most majestic birds. Ninety percent of their population in our area had disappeared. Then a few good things happened. The evil DDT was banned and the Clean Water Act was signed into law. Cleaner water meant more fish and thus more food for Ospreys. Those two landmark events, combined with the dedicated work of Gil and Jo Fernandes and the nesting platforms they erected around the Westport River, have helped make the Osprey’s recovery one of our few positive environmental stories. Now, instead of driving to New Brunswick to see Ospreys, Cape Codders merely have to visit the nearest cove or bay. And while having Ospreys nearby is pretty cool, having a pair nest near your own property is way cooler. That’s what I was hoping for. Forget bluebirds; I was after something bigger.

Not long after my conversation with Tom, I received an email saying that the Osprey pole was indeed going to happen. (Hey, someone actually listened to me.) They also asked if they could install the pole within the next few days. OMG, yes! Do it now, right away, before the pole people have a chance to change their minds. The date was set.

On installation day I was out of the house at 7:00AM. (I was too excited to sleep.) I arrived at the site an hour before the workers and paced around, worrying that they had changed their minds. Eventually, two guys, Ron and Seth, arrived, which helped calm me down…a little. Ron didn’t stay long, as he had some more important things to attend to across town. (I can’t imagine what could possibly be more important than putting up an Osprey pole, but not everyone thinks like me.) Seth, however, stayed and began putting the finishing touches on the platform that he had built for the top of the pole. A platform? I had assumed they would simply slap a few boards on the top and let the birds worry about the rest. I was wrong. Seth had carefully constructed this new Osprey platform in accordance with a design approved by the State of New Jersey. It was very impressive.

A little after 8:00AM a forty-foot pole arrived, pulled by a giant truck that was driven by Oscar of Farrell Electric. Oscar immediately began the process of excavating the hole for the post. Among other things, the giant truck also had a giant auger that was to be used to bore the six-foot-deep hole…or so I thought. The auger had only dug a few inches when Oscar stopped the machinery. Still worried about everything, I nervously asked what was wrong. He replied that the ground was too hard and that he would have to dig the hole by hand. Are you kidding me, I thought? The ground was too hard for the giant machine to deal with, but he’d be able to dig the hole with a hand shovel? Yup, and that’s exactly what happened. Oscar and another guy, with stylish long hair, got busy and soon the hole was ready. Oscar put down his shovel, snatched the long pole with a giant mechanical arm, which was also on the giant truck, lifted it into the air and plopped it into the hole, and that was that. We now had our very own Osprey pole. Yay!!

Of course, we won’t know if the birds will actually use this new pole until next spring, but that doesn’t stop me from walking out back and looking at it every chance I get. The pole, the platform and the setting all look perfect and I’m totally grateful to everyone involved. In fact, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m so appreciative of what everyone did, they no longer have to pay me that dollar. (I just hope the mysterious bird illness subsides soon and we can start feeding birds again, or I may regret giving up the money.)