Osprey comeback topic of keynote address

Alan Poole at Connecticut Audubon Society’s annual meeting held Monday, Oct, 7, 2019, at Pequot Library in Southport, CT.

I’ve taken a keen interest in the burgeoning osprey population ever since I covered the story about the osprey pair that built a nest at a Norwalk (Connecticut) beach park. The nest was being built high atop a light pole overlooking a softball field. It seemed a peculiar place to build a nest with the giant lights right there.

At the time, however, even more out of the ordinary was that an osprey pair was building a nest in Norwalk, which is a city in southwestern Connecticut on the shore of Long Island Sound. Norwalk hadn’t hosted an osprey nest — and certainly not one that public and visible — in many years, perhaps decades.

That was 2004. Fast forward 15 years and Norwalk is now home to a more than a dozen osprey nests. Connecticut, in fact, now has more than 500 osprey nests. All up and down the East Coast — shoreline and inland — ospreys have come back with a fury.

It is truly a conservation success story. Ospreys were nearly wiped out by pesticides in the 1950s. Now they have bounced back mightily throughout the U.S. and Europe, and their accompanying winter grounds in South America and Africa.

So when I saw that Alan F. Poole, a Massachusetts resident and noted expert/author on ospreys, was going to be the keynote speaker at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s annual meeting, I marked the date on my calendar.

Poole’s informative presentation on osprey included photos, graphs and charts on the incredible comeback of the “fish hawk.” Some tidbits from the presentation:

  • osprey are the only bird species that eats live fish exclusively
  • baby osprey take about 50 days to reach full size
  • in 1940 there were one thousand ospreys in New England; by the end of the 1950s only 90 pairs remained
  • artificial nesting sites such as man-made platforms and light poles have played a major role in the recovery
  • ospreys mate for life but do not migrate together
  • about half of the first-year osprey will die within the first year
  • osprey nests are made of large sticks and may weigh a half ton or more
  • osprey are gentle birds for the most part but will fiercely defend its nest
  • John James Audubon was a big fan of osprey and called them “This Famed Bird”
  • Osprey have self-sharpening talons as the hard upper layer of the talon grows faster than the soft under part

Poole recently wrote Ospreys: The Revival of a Global Raptor.

In other business, Connecticut Audubon Society (@CTAudubon) reinstated its officers, confirmed new board members and doled out awards to volunteers. It’s a great organization worthy of support.

Poole ended his presentation with an interesting comment. Referring to the study released a few weeks ago about the bird population decreasing by 29 percent since 1970, Poole said: “Ospreys are a good example that we can get things right if we pay attention and get organized.”

Amen to that.

Photo by Chris Bosak A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.