SEASIDE — They’re back!

The ospreys have returned to Broadway Park, settled into their new home and are about to hatch some eggs – maybe as soon as next week.

When they do hatch, photographer Neil Maine and Seaside Public Works Director Neal Wallace, who have mothered the osprey relocation project for the past year, will consider the project a success.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Maine, the retired director of the North Coast Land Conservancy.

But they admit they already are thrilled that the birds, which have nested in the same location since 2009 and could continue to nest there for another 20 years, have taken to the new 60-foot high pole placed near the Neawanna Creek and the cedar-framed platform on top of the pole. That’s where the old nest – rescued from a light pole on Broadway ball field – was placed earlier this year.

Admittedly, the ball field location gave the ospreys plenty to look at when games were played, but this new waterfront real estate is more peaceful. It’s easier to dart to the creek for fish and bring them home to the wife and kids. And the platform, covered in stainless steel mesh, is smooth – not lumpy like it was when it sat on top of field lights.

The new platform even has an outstretched arm for Mom and Dad to perch on when the kids get older and rowdy in the nest.

“When the young are hatched, they pester their parents constantly for food,” Wallace explained. The arm gives them a place to be alone and still keep an eye on the kids.

The project began last year when Broadway Field was renovated with new artificial turf, a fence and other amenities. New lights also were planned, and that required removing the old poles.

All of the poles were eliminated, except the one that supported the ospreys’ nest. When the ospreys left for the winter, the nest was removed and stored in a barn owned by the land conservancy.

After Maine studied a new location and received permission from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the new pole was placed about 450 feet east of the former location. Luke Colvin, of Arbor Care, brought his bucket truck to the park, attached the platform and the nest to the bottom of the bucket and gently placed them on the pole on the first attempt. The nest was attached to the mesh screen with heavy duty plastic ties. Four galvanized braces attached to the pole support the platform.

Then, everyone waited.

Maine worried somewhat because most successful osprey relocations occur when the new home is within 300 feet of the former location. But, when he saw the birds for the first time on April 3, he figured the longer distance would be OK.

“The habitat is so terrific there; it’s close to the river and trees. There are snags and space for them and some hidden spots as well,” he said.

Photos on display

Maine spends at least two hours a day at the site, jotting down notes about what he has observed and taking photos. They are on display at the Seaside Library.

One day, Maine saw an unfamiliar osprey approach the nest. He suspected it was one of the two chicks the ospreys hatched last year.

Dad was away, and Mom was sitting on the eggs. Junior flew into the nest and joined her. But not for long.

When Dad returned, he booted Junior out of the nest, and an aerial skirmish began. It lasted for a couple of hours, Maine said, and the juvenile finally flew away, only to return a week later and try again. Eventually, he left and hasn’t been seen since.

Although the birds are a source of conversation for a small group that gathers at the park every day, relocations aren’t rare, said Maine, who noted that three have occurred in Warrenton.

The ospreys accepted their old nest on the new platform, “but they had no problems doing a little home-remodeling project,” Wallace said.

They nearly doubled the nest’s height and pushed it out to the edge of the 4-foot platform, said Maine.

“An osprey nest can get feet deep,” he said. “The one at Warrenton High is one-and-a-half to 2 feet deep. Some of the things they used to fill it had seeds that sprouted. Vegetation is growing around the edge of the nest.”

Now the expanding group of osprey followers is awaiting the impending births of the new chicks. Maine isn’t sure how many there will be, but he doesn’t expect more than three.

The first year the ospreys nested in Seaside, they didn’t hatch any eggs. The second year, they hatched two, but one died. Last year, they successfully reared two youngsters.

Next year, the ospreys may be the stars of their own show. Wallace plans to install an osprey cam with donated funds, so everyone can watch the birds’ every move. “It will add a whole new dimension” to the experience, Maine said.

But, he added, the cam might also reveal some of the not-so-pleasant aspects about life as an osprey.

Maine recalled how on one popular osprey cam elsewhere, “422,000 people saw a great horned owl come in and rip a chick out of the nest.”

“There was major agony. People have to keep in mind that things happen other than fluffy chicks,” he said.

September departure

expected

Most of the excitement about the ospreys will be gone in early September when they fly off to warmer climates.

The males will go to Central America, and the females will head to South America or the islands around Cuba. The same pair will meet up again at Broadway Park next spring.

While he enjoys watching and photographing the ospreys, Maine also observes them to determine how healthy the environment is. The ospreys and their youngsters consume about 350 pounds of fish during the rearing process.

“You’ve got to have an estuary clean enough” to provide that food, he said.

“Here in the Northwest, most estuaries are in good shape,” Maine said. “We can honor the wildlife by making sure they can survive in their environment.”

But it’s not an easy task, he added.

“How is it that we do live within the capacity of the environment and still fulfill our cultural needs? Finding that balance is so important,” Maine said.

     

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