Originally published November 19, 2013 at 04:13p.m., updated November 20, 2013 at 02:54p.m.
Craig A small flock of osprey once again might call Moffat County home this spring.
Dr. Allan Reishus — in cooperation with Yampa Valley Electric Association, Cromer Contracting and several other volunteers — successfully installed Nov. 12 two additional artificial nests for a total of five.
Reishus came up with the idea for the project four years ago when he noticed there was a significant number of ospreys feeding alongside the Yampa River during the spring and fall. He knew that 90 percent of the birds’ diet is fish and that they generally live close to bodies of water, so he to talked with biologists to get feedback on his idea.
When he began his project, he got support from the community as well as Yampa Valley Electric, which donated two poles, and John Cromer, of Cromer Contracting, who donated a crew’s time, trucks and money to help build the nests.
“He and his crew did not know much about osprey when they started, but now they’re experts,” Reishus said.
The first two nests were built in late fall 2009 at the Wyman Museum and southwest of Craig on Bill Mack’s property. During the first two years, both were vacant, but in 2012, a pair of ospreys moved into their new home built on Mack’s property and were able to produce a single chick offspring.
Then, a pair moved into the nest built at the Wyman Museum and were able to produce three successful offspring.
“They’re quite spectacular to watch,” Reishus said. “They’re very diligent in feeding their offspring.”
The third nest was built in October in Steamboat alongside the Yampa River. Last week, two more were erected, one at the Elkhead Reservoir and the other along the water in the Yampa River State Wildlife Area, which is between Craig and Hayden.
“We hope that the pairs will come back and occupy their same nests,” Reishus said. “The new nests are a bit of a gamble. They might sit vacant for a year or two.”
Ospreys are an indicator of a healthy and productive ecosystem, according to Friends of Osprey, because the birds are at the top of the aquatic food web. For example, if an area is polluted, animals that are lower on the food chain will consume small amounts of chemicals, and the ospreys that eat those animals will accumulate more toxins in their bodies. It’s known as bioaccumulation, and an increase in toxins in ospreys can lead to a declination in osprey population through eggshell thinning.
Bear Steadman, a student at Colorado Northwestern Community College, is working as a fall intern for the Craig Daily Press.