Dartmouth ospreys thriving in new nest site

·3 min read
Oscar and Ethel are shown in their nest at Russell Lake in Dartmouth. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)
Oscar and Ethel are shown in their nest at Russell Lake in Dartmouth. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC - image credit)

Oscar and Ethel have returned to their summer home.

The ospreys come back to their nest at Russell Lake in Dartmouth every year, delighting the surrounding community.

David Currie, the former president of the Nova Scotia Bird Society, lives nearby. He has been observing them for six years.

He said area residents have taken the birds under their wing.

"The people take these birds as being their neighbours and are very protective of their safety," Currie said.

Patrick Callaghan/CBC
Patrick Callaghan/CBC

Ospreys fly north for the spring and summer and like to return to the same nest every year.

Oscar and Ethel's nest had to be moved last year due to sewer construction in the area. The community worried the birds wouldn't take to the new location.

"They actually cut the top of the pole off, took the nest intact, erected another pole just 300 metres away, and set it up again, and it worked perfect," Currie said.

Challenges for the provincial bird

For the last 40 years, Nova Scotia Power has maintained nests throughout the province with an osprey management program.

Peter Morrison, environmental scientist with the company, said NSP responds to calls about osprey nests found on power poles. Some nests are left where they are other but others need to be moved to new platforms.

"Because of the design of some of our power poles and our power-line infrastructure, they tended to be good locations for osprey to build nests," Morrison said. "They're adjacent to waterways or lakes and with the design of the structure osprey preferred to nest on them.

"So in order to keep them safe and keep the infrastructure safe, we decided to build these platforms and manage the nest that way."

Patrick Callaghan/CBC
Patrick Callaghan/CBC

The osprey program was responsible for moving Oscar and Ethel's nest in Dartmouth, and Morrison said he believes the relocation was a success.

Ospreys are the provincial bird of Nova Scotia and are common in the province. But it wasn't always that way.

In the 1960s, pesticides like DDT were being sprayed throughout North America. An unintended consequence was reduced calcium production in birds of prey, like ospreys. The deficiency caused osprey eggs to be fragile.

"Once DDT was banned, ospreys, bald eagles, falcons, all these birds of prey that were having trouble started to rebound," Currie said. "And ospreys now are fairly common. I think there's 250,000 or so in the world."

Patrick Callaghan/CBC
Patrick Callaghan/CBC

Back at the nest, Currie is observing the pair's day-to-day behaviour. The female is attending to the nest and getting ready to lay her eggs, while the male brings her fish to eat and sticks for their home.

Currie is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Oscar and Ethel.

"With the local Facebook page, the progress of the nest is recorded on an almost daily basis. So, we'll see the eggs, we'll see the chicks, and we'll see them grow, and then we'll see them stretching their wings to take off."

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