I spent this morning destroying the nest of a protected migratory bird because the creature was being reckless and stupid. Don't hate me! I had to do it. Here's my story.
I live on a river south of Annapolis, where the first sign of spring is heralded by the return of the osprey. These beautiful native birds nest on platforms and channel markers throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Thirty years ago they were endangered, their numbers dwindling because of DDT pesticide use. The poison made the eggs so fragile they would break when the mother osprey sat on them. DDT was banned in 1972 and the osprey have made a brilliant comeback in our estuary.
We have an abundance of osprey in my neighborhood. Several couples reside on various platforms built for them over the waters. They winter in South America and come back to our neighborhood each spring to mate and raise their young. It's lovely.
Two weeks ago a new couple appeared soaring and screeching overhead. Since the platforms are full, they decided to take up nesting in a flowerpot on my neighbor's pier. This is idiotic. The pot is on the pier and can be easily accessed by any human or animal, including my cats Buddy and Rudy. What are these birds thinking?
My neighbor is renting that house to a couple from Virginia who come out on weekends. They plan to use that pier this summer, but once that wacky bird lays her eggs, that nest and pier are off limits. Ospreys are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act and it's a federal offense to tamper with their eggs. My pier is awfully close to the nest, and I plan to use it this year. Believe me, once that chick lays her eggs she will go nuts if I go out on my pier. Ever seen a mother raptor in action?
I called the Department of Natural Resources and talked to Glen Ferris in the Wildlife Managment Division. He says the osprey needs to be discouraged. He instructed me clear off the nest every day and night until the two birds (she has a husband) get the message and find a more appropriate place. But it could take a month!
Meanwhile, I've seen those birds having romantic candlelight dinners and dancing under the moonlight, and that can only mean one thing. They're mating. On Nell's pier! Come on guys ... get a platform!
As the sun rose this morning I headed out to the end of the pier. The couple screeched and flew off, soaring in alarm over my head as I approached their sweet little nest. Ospreys use sticks and soft dried grasses to feather their beds. This couple had done an admirable job.
I put my hand on the indentation of the nest where the osprey had just been sitting to see if I could feel her warmth. Then, with a rising horror within me, I grabbed the the thick golden threads and tossed them into the water and pushed the vast placemat of sticks in as well. The couple watched quietly from a perch in a nearby tree as the individually laid pieces of thier future drifted away.
I cannot bear to do this again. I cannot. The wildlife management guy told me to place a conical tomato cage or some kind of object that will prevent them from creating another nest. I found several cages in my brother's garage next door, along with some wooden posts. I staked the cages into all the pots. Now the end of the pier looks like the Blair Witch Project.
I watched from the window as the osprey couple returned with clumps of dried grass and sticks in their clutches and flew over this uninhabitable setting. They tried several times to come in for a landing but couldn't. My medieval setup is working. But my heart is breaking. I have ruined their nest and they don't understand.
We have encroached upon nature for centuries. Now we try to be wise and compassionate as we share the increasily tight spaces. There is an empty osprey platform around the bend, but how do I direct these distressed and homeless birds. There is also a piling two doors up, and I may ask my neighbor if I can have a carpenter come out and erect a platform on it for my evicted friends. No guarantee the birds will take it.
The wildlife guy warned me that osprey are stubborn and may opt to start a nest directly on the pier near the flowerpot -- an even more vulnerable place for them. I have been counseled to be equally stubborn in combating their plans. They must seek higher ground.
As I write this I wonder: How they are spending their day? What hard work must I destroy on their behalf? Will the gods understand or will my actions bring a flock of bad karma to my nest? Will my tomato cage withstand a stiff breeze? Will I feel better after a stiff drink?
While I cannot fly, I feel like I am now soaring in some strange configuration with these birds. A flight of fancy. I may be just another misguided human getting in nature's way. Or I could be sparing them an awful fate.
To be continued...