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State and private enterprise collaborate to save osprey nests

A male osprey brings his catch home to his mate. - Courtesy Annette Colombini, Pilchuck Audubon Society
A male osprey brings his catch home to his mate.
— image credit: Courtesy Annette Colombini, Pilchuck Audubon Society

Ed Schulz loves osprey. A former employee of the U. S. Geological Society, Schulz has researched the lives of osprey and is a champion for their cause.

Thanks to his efforts, the Pilchuck Audubon Society and Washington State Department of Natural Resources are working together on behalf of the largest colony of saltwater nesting ospreys on the West Coast.

The two agencies were assisted by some eco-friendly land owners and a lot of community support to create homes for five pairs of nesting osprey along the shore east of Marysville, from Everett to Stanwood.

Some of the largest birds of prey, the fish-eating ospreys commute annually from the north in the spring to warmer climes in Latin America in the winter.

Osprey most often nest on waterside structures, such as pilings and utility poles.

Many of their local nest structures are deteriorating and Schulz is concerned the nesting colony will be lost. Schulz finds osprey to be especially charismatic. He has been working on their behalf over the past 15 years.

Schulz’s dedication has extended from simply watching and photographing ospreys to building nesting platforms and catching and banding ospreys.

Three years ago he spurred the Pilchuck Audubon Society to undertake a demonstration project to replace five of the most seriously deteriorated sites with solid new nest pillars and platforms.

Support poured in from the community. Five 65-foot long concrete posts weighing 15 tons were donated by Concrete Technology Corporation of Tacoma and stored by Ed Rubatino at Shadow Development Corporation, while the rest of the project came together.

In 2006, a $10,000 grant from the Boeing Corporation, $8,000 from Snohomish County and $5,000 from Audubon membership donations were dedicated to the cost of installation.

Permit and construction documents were prepared, pro bono, by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Bids for the actual installation came in higher than anticipated, however, and the project appeared doomed, said Bill Lider, Pilchuck Audubon member and osprey project manager.

“Then the Tulalip Tribes came to the project’s rescue. They happily agreed to have nesting piles placed on their Port Gardner Bay property,” Lider said.

With specific sites lined up, DNR staff studied financial feasibility. They came up with a way to incorporate the installation of the osprey nest piles with its project to remove creosote treated timber pilings in Port Gardner Bay and Tulalip Bay. Four piles will be installed on mudflats owned by the Tulalip Tribes and one pile will be installed on mudflats owned by Cedar Grove Compost.

PAS will contribute $23,000 toward the piling installation and the project should be completed in Feb. 2009.

“When our ospreys return to Snohomish County in early March, at least five pairs will find brand new platforms on which to build their nests,” Lider said.

“With the successful completion of this demonstration project, we hope other property owners in the Port Gardner Bay area will allow replacements of deteriorating osprey nest piles and that we’ll be able to garner additional funds and in-kind donations to give our local osprey colony a sustainable home in Snohomish County.”

PAS Birding Trips

Pilchuck Audubon birding trips are open to non-members as well as members. Trips go, rain or shine, just show up, bring a sack lunch, beverage, binoculars, scope, and field guide if available, but if not, it’s no big deal because regulars are willing to share. Be prepared to share the cost of gas with carpool drivers.

Virginia Clark will lead a trip to the Samish Flats Nov. 25.

For information call Virginia Clark at 360-435-3750 or Art Wait at 360-563-0181.

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