Community awaits return of ospreysPatrons of the North Shore Bar in Gordon are watching at waiting. Their eyes are fixed on a small wooden platform atop a 60-foot pole; and within the next few weeks, they hope to spot a pair of ospreys building a nest.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Patrons of the North Shore Bar in Gordon are watching at waiting. Their eyes are fixed on a small wooden platform atop a 60-foot pole; and within the next few weeks, they hope to spot a pair of ospreys building a nest.
“The platform has caused quite a stir of interest with the patrons of the North Shore Bar, who, once they noticed the platform, have begun eagerly watching it for signs of activity,” said Lorna Wilson, a member of the Gordon/St. Croix Flowage Association. “One person even told me she looked up ospreys on the Internet to see the description.”
Ospreys, like bald eagles, are in the raptor family and are often mistaken for their better-known cousins. An osprey is slightly smaller than a bald eagle — with an average wingspan of 5 to 6 feet as opposed to 6 to 8 feet for a bald eagle — and has a more slender build. Ospreys also have different coloring than bald eagles and can be identified by their white throats and underbellies.
Wisconsin’s osprey population suffered a drastic decline into the 1970s, but it has recovered since the banning of DDT. Ospreys are currently listed as threatened on Wisconsin’s Endangered Species List.
The new osprey nesting platform is about 2.5 miles west of Highway 53 on Flowage Lane near the border of the Douglas County State Wildlife Area (Bird Sanctuary). The platform was built on the northern shore of the St. Croix Flowage and is easily visible from the North Shore Bar’s deck and windows.
“We have decided to put up a poster and a page of facts about ospreys at the bar near the window,” Wilson said. “I guess it is the next exciting thing to watch for after ice out.”
The nesting platform is the brainchild of Wilson and her husband, both members of the Gordon/St. Croix Flowage Association.
Last summer, for the first time in many years, they spotted a pair of ospreys nesting near the St. Croix Flowage. The avid birders were thrilled, but their enjoyment was short-lived. Both the osprey nest and nesting tree were destroyed in last year’s July 1 windstorm.
Since then, the Wilsons have spurred the Gordon/St. Croix Flowage Association to undertake a project to bring the ospreys back this summer, and they had plenty of help from the community.
The project began with a search for a suitable nesting site. An osprey’s diet consists mostly of fish, so the birds prefer to build their nests near a body of water and look for trees or structures about 10 feet above any surrounding trees.
Approximately 87 percent of all ospreys in Wisconsin use man-made structures for nesting, according to a 2010 report by the Department of Natural Resources.
With information and suggestions from Ryan Magana, Wisconsin DNR regional ecologist in Spooner, sites were researched and three were chosen as possible options for a nesting platform. The location near the North Shore Bar was eventually chosen, and work then began on the construction of the actual nesting platform.
The platform was built by students from NorthStar Community Charter School, which is managed by the Northwood school district. Wilson said the students eagerly investigated the proper specifications for the platform and went to work under the direction of teacher Brian Olson.
By March, the platform was finished and ready to be put in place. Dave Dahlberg, president of Dahlberg Electric, agreed to provide the equipment needed to raise and attach the platform and also provided a 60 foot pole, as there were no suitable pine trees at the site.
“There was still ice on the Flowage when the Dahlberg truck and equipment arrived late in March, but the platform on its pole was raised,” Wilson said. “A large portion of the Gordon/St. Croix Flowage has been designated by the Wisconsin DNR as ‘critical habitat,’ and the addition of the nesting platform through this community group effort will serve to enhance that status.”
Wilson said the Gordon/St. Croix Flowage Association could not have completed the project without the help of the NorthStar students and Dahlberg Electric, but now the final step of the process is out of everyone’s hands.
“There is no guarantee that the ospreys will use the nest, but all is ready and all are waiting and watching for the ospreys to return,” Wilson said.