A family of ospreys that nested atop one of the light posts along the high school’s track last year returned to their home after it was relocated to a nearby tree.
From their perch, the birds surveyed the construction of the new athletic field and stadium complex as it developed throughout the summer. After they headed south for the winter, project manager Brandy Fox sought out assistance from certified arborists Tom Otto and Shaun Sears, who own the business Canopy Cat Rescue, to scale the pole and dismantle the nest.
Ospreys can have a wingspan of up to six feet and are often colloquially referred to as “seahawks” in the Puget Sound region. They return to old nesting sites annually — the same pair will often roost again in the structures they built the previous year. Andy Sears, the director of facilities for the Vashon School District, said the effort to relocate their address at the athletic field was a success and that the pair rebuilt their home right away.
“I was a little surprised that it worked and happy that it did work; it preserves our light towers but also gives them a place to do their thing,” he said.
Osprey nests, woven together with large sticks and branches, can pose hazards when built on power poles, cellular towers and light poles, and active nests are at risk of catching fire, such as in the case of an island microwave tower in 2012. The blaze killed two chicks as both parents flew overhead and looked on.
Julie Burman, Vashon Audubon president, said that while the birds will often nest high up and out of sight, they have a distinctive call that grabs the attention of those below.
“A lot of people, when they hear that sound, they look up and that’s how they see them,” she said, adding that the proliferation of cell towers in their habitat has resulted in more conflict between ospreys and construction or utility crews due to where the birds choose to nest.
“When there’s a construction project, it’s always a dilemma,” she said.
Ospreys are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — in Washington state, a permit is required from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to relocate them elsewhere. Moreover, the law prohibits interfering with the animals or their nests, but Burman noted that as the Trump administration continues to weaken conservation laws, they could be open to threats.
The administration changed several guidelines under the century-old law last year, leaving species protected under the legislation vulnerable to potential adverse, incidental impacts from industry and construction activities that could result in their harm or displacement, according to the National Audubon Society. Last year, the organization filed suit against the administration’s update to the law.