One day last summer the osprey nest was suddenly gone; it looked cleanly swept from the platform at the top of the tower at the local park. This had been the place where several eggs were nurtured, hatched, babies fed, osprey-ettes fledged. The huge nest of large twigs - built at the top of the tower on which someone painted the word "DREAM" - was there one day and completely gone the next.
I mourned the loss of that terrific sight: two mature ospreys flying in turns over the top of the nest, across the small open expanse of parkland sky nestled between thick Pacific Northwest forest patches, homes, a hiking trail, roads. I mourned the loss of those babies’ heads, bobbing up and down over the top of the nest, barely visible from my low-ground perch. I sighed in sadness as all evidence of the osprey family was gone. I remembered with bittersweetness all that had occurred in the osprey home, now destroyed. I remembered the sharp call of the birds: one parent across the park from the nest, the next moment four wings dancing in the sky before switching places on the nest.
This year as the springtime began to bloom at the park, I kept watch on the top of the tower. Nothing for weeks. Not a single stick, not one osprey overhead. A single screeching call is all I needed. But there was none.
Then three weeks ago I heard it: the whistling announcement of an osprey! And up above my head, hard to see in the rare and stunning sunshine, was an osprey giddily moving across the park. My eyes shot up to the platform above the tower and there I saw a few sticks, raggedly hanging off the edges of the several foot square perch. Ah! The ospreys have returned. I felt awe at their resilience and memory. Two appeared: one on the tower, one in flight.
A few days after first spotting their nest this spring, I deliberately chose against a wilder hike. Instead, I returned to the urban park in search of those ospreys. I saw the nest-in-progress, the sticks hanging messily over the edge of the platform. As I rounded the final bend on the journey, I heard a loud clanging sound: a stick falling to the ground below the ospreys’ platform home. I headed straight to the grass beneath the tower and was surprised to see huge twigs all over the ground. Many were over two feet long and two inches in diameter; these must be the ones the osprey dropped, that fell off the tower as she began to construct this year’s nesting site. The attrition rate for an unbuilt nest. As I looked up at the grated platform, I could see that the nest was still largely non-existent: just a random scattering of sticks, a first layer not yet intact.
I called then to the osprey who stood up there. I wished him luck in building the nest. I commended her ability to carry such heavy, long sticks.
And off I went back to my own small home, satisfied that the ospreys had returned.
|Photo taken by Bob Howdeshell|