I had a beautiful sighting in Port Monmouth the other day. Not far from Pews Creek, a tributary to Sandy Hook Bay, a pair of young Ospreys (mostly likely male and female) were building their very first nest. It was a rough, crude, and unrefined, but it was a work in progress. Unfortunately, the birds were learning nest building 101 on top of an electric power pole. I guess it's true, learn by doing can be a brutal teacher.
Earlier in the week I had received an email from my long-time friend, Joe. He lives not far from Pews Creek and has lived in Port Monmouth practically his entire life. A self-taught naturalist, Joe knows the home and habitat of just about every Osprey, egret, heron, and other creatures around the creek.
His email message enthusiastically said it all, "The birds were really working the pole now." A pair of Ospreys were building a nest just down the road from his house. They were bringing in sticks and flying over the nest constantly from morning till early evening.
I quickly got in my car and headed down Port Monmouth Road, I first heard the distinctive call. It was a high pitched cry. One of the Ospreys was circling overhead.
(Photos taken by local resident Kathleen of Port Monmouth)
In front of me there was a bunch of sticks that were sloppily put together on top of a power pole. The birds must of chosen this site as they would have a perfect unobstructed view of Sandy Hook Bay and Pews Creek to catch a fish.
Nesting on a power pole, however, can be bad news for both the Ospreys and nearby electric customers. If sticks or other nesting material touch the lines it will cause a short circuit, the result can be a fire or an explosion, loss of power and electrocuted or injured birds. The birds can be electrocuted if their bodies even touch a live wire or a grounded part of a support structure. It is a dangerous place to make a home.
(Photo taken by local resident Kathleen of Port Monmouth)
A few years ago, these young Ospreys had left their birth nest in the fall to drift south following the coast to northern South America. Young ospreys do not return to North America the following spring. They remain in South America a full year while the adults head north. They will return the following year to their home territory to attract a mate and build their first nest - a practice nest. The young pair will not successfully breed until they are three years old. Late spring and summer is a time when pioneering young pairs start to establish themselves in new localities, rarely more than 30 miles or so from an active Osprey pair.
Nature is never so wild than to see a pair of young animals trying to make it. I watched, fascinated by how these young Ospreys were building their nest one stick, one branch, and one section at a time. There was no blueprints, no diagrams, no directions, just instinct.
What will happen to this pair of young Ospreys is anyone's guess. The end is unclear. Perhaps the power company will work with local environmental organizations to erect a nesting platform adjacent to the pole. This will allow nesting to safely take place next year without the loss of power or injury to the birds. Maybe local people will come together to install more platforms in the floodplain away from the road with the aim to increase the breeding population of Ospreys in Lower New York Bay and to re-colonize lost range.
Until something happens local residents like my friend Joe will be keeping a watchful eye on these young birds. The story of these birds is now the ultimate local drama, a tale of instinct and survival in Lower New York Bay - one of the most urban coastlines in the world, but also one of the wildest!
For more information, pictures and year-round sightings of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay, please check out my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://natureontheedgenyc.blogspot.com/