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This osprey is a different kind of soccer mom | Kitsap Week
By GENE BULLOCK
Poulsbo’s Strawberry Field hosts more than soccer competitions this summer. Evicted from their former nest atop a Poulsbo cell tower, an osprey pair has adopted one of the lighting towers on the playing field at the corner of Hostmark and Noll Road. From their perch on top of the lights they’re raising their brood and keeping tabs on the players below.
The osprey pair commutes daily to Liberty Bay to feed their fledgling family on fresh-caught fish. The commute may be longer than before; but the pair seems happily at home on the cluster of lights, despite concerns about flammable nesting materials in contact with the hot lights.
Kitsap Audubon is proposing a change that could elevate the nesting platform by creating a second story addition just above the current nest. Some have suggested installing a new nesting platform someplace else, such as Fish Park; but osprey expert Jim Kaiser says ospreys are too loyal to their chosen site and doubts that they could be persuaded to relocate more than a quarter mile away. A retired wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim has overseen the installation of some 300 osprey nesting platforms along the West Coast.
Displaced ospreys are a growing concern for those who care about wildlife. As suitable trees disappear, cell towers too often take their place as preferred nesting sites for ospreys. Ospreys are a popular bird. Even our Seahawks football team is named for them. But the nesting materials create a fire hazard, so cell tower owners and contractors have begun installing excluder devices to drive the birds away.
Ospreys displaced by the excluders often end up on light towers like those on Strawberry Field. It’s not an ideal solution because flammable nesting materials in contact with high intensity lights creates another fire hazard and maintenance problem.
Cell tower owners encounter this problem with thousands of installations across the country, and are understandably reluctant to spend large sums of money on alternative sites. Bainbridge Island residents got concerned as they watched an osprey pair try repeatedly to replace their nest beneath a cell tower excluder. The community rallied and the Bainbridge Island School District offered a place for a new nesting platform on the Sakai Intermediate School grounds. The Bainbridge Island School District even put an interpretive kiosk next to the platform to make it an educational wildlife viewing site.
Erection of the new platform was greeted with enthusiastic community support. However, but the existing active nest can’t be disturbed until after it is totally abandoned in September. After that it will be removed. If all goes well the osprey pair will happily rebuild on the new platform when they return next spring. Until then, their Bainbridge fans can only wait and hope.