by Erik Baard
A sharp-eyed photographer for The Wave, serving the Rockaways and the south shore of Long Island, recorded the gentle relocation of an osprey nest from a transformer box to a safer place atop a pole. Our thanks to Bernie Ente for passing the tip along.
Like many bird species, the osprey was hit hard by massive DDT insecticide spraying in the mid-twentieth century. That chemical, now banned in the U.S., is widely credited with saving hundreds of millions of human lives from malaria. But indiscriminate spraying took its toll on the environment. A critical problem was that DDT, which concentrates in fatty tissue up the food chain, interferes with calcium processing in birds and weakens their egg shells. Embryos died in “omelets.”
Biologist Rachel Carson sounded the alarm in her book, “Silent Spring.” She might have overstated her case (while being honest to what she believed and knew at the time), she helped spark an environmental movement for a new generation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency owes its creation in part to Carson’s advocacy.
In osprey population in New York City is rebounding, with nearly a dozen mating pairs in Jamaica Bay. The strange thing about osprey in New York City is that artificial structures like telephone poles have become their standard nesting sites. Sometimes poles capped with “osprey boxes” are erected for them in better locations, like the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
I sometimes see these “fish hawks” flying up from the disturbed surface of the water to their boxes with a fish grasped in their talons and barbed foot pads. I haven’t been lucky as often to spot the actual striking dive.
If there are young chicks in the nest, they have good reason to hope the hunt is a good one – the clutch hatches on a staggered schedule and older siblings starve the younger ones in lean times. Hey, you don’t have to be nice to be worth protecting.