Northland News

Ospreys take up residence in Berliner Park

Enlarge Image Buy This Photo
LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
An osprey lands in its nest atop a light pole at Berliner Sports Park on Columbus' South Side. City officials removed the birds' original nest after checking to be sure there were no eggs or chicks in it. Federal wildlife officials said the birds likely would return to the same spot, however, so city recreation and parks personnel built a nesting box.
By

The eagle has landed.

Better make that two.

A pair of ospreys -- also known as sea hawks, fish eagles, river hawks or fish hawks -- are nesting atop a light pole located between baseball diamonds 8 and 9 in Berliner Sports Park on the South Side.

It was a real conundrum for personnel in the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, who had never seen the river eagles choosing such an active or unusual place to nest.

"This is the first highly developed park we've seen them in," said Craig Seeds, division administrator for rec and parks.

Terri Leist, planning administrator for the department, said federal wildlife officials said the city could remove the ospreys if there were no chicks or eggs in the nest.

While neither was found, the feds issued another caveat: The birds likely would return to the same spot.

Worried the birds might be in danger, rec and parks officials planned to erect another pole -- donated by American Electric Power -- in the southwest section of the park, which is less busy. There also was concern that the eight high-intensity lights could pose some problems for ospreys.

But a compromise was reached when the department built a wooden nesting box on top of the pole were the ospreys originally nested.

With their nest at the top of a 50-foot wooden pole, the birds are pretty much out of danger of an errant foul ball or well-hit home run.

Karen Norris, a wildlife communication specialist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said it's not uncommon to see ospreys setting up habitats around people, as long as there's a shallow body of water nearby with abundant fish.

"As the population increases, the more they become part of urban areas," Norris said. "It's like any form of wildlife."

Ospreys are bright white underneath, with dark brown patches at the carpal joints and a mottled dark brown necklace, Norris said. Other identifying markings include a dark stripe through each eye, and a dark brown back.

The bottoms of an osprey's feet are specially adapted for gripping and carrying fish, as they are covered with short, sharp spines. The average length of an osprey is 25 inches, with a wingspan of 4 to 5 feet. They typically weigh about 3 pounds.

They generally adapt well to humans, unless they are defending their nest. Their current nest in Berliner is about a quarter-mile from the Scioto River, just over the tree line from the park.

The most common place in Columbus to spot the bird is in the Hoover Reservoir area, Seeds said.

During the middle of the 20th century, osprey numbers -- along with those of many raptors -- were in decline because of the use of chemical pesticides and the destruction of the birds' habitat, Norris said.

Ohio's osprey-reintroduction program, which started in 1996, was a huge success, she said. The program had a goal of 20 nesting pairs of ospreys by 2010. That goal was achieved in October 2003 -- seven years ahead of schedule, she said.

Columbus rec and park officials said they've identified another pair of ospreys in Berliner. So they will build a wooden nest on the pole supplied by AEP when they find a permanent location for it.

Comments