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Osprey need a re-model

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Osprey need a re-model

Funding needed for new light poles at Sandpoint's Memorial Field

No one knows how long this particular pair have lived high over Memorial Field in downtown Sandpoint but, given that osprey can be long-lived birds—up to 30 years in the wild—the oldest of these raptors might well have been delighting audiences ever since the Festival at Sandpoint began holding performances on the field back in 1983.

 “They’re so vocal they sing along with the music,” observed Chris Quayle, who then laughed. “That’s really anthropomorphizing the birds, but it sure sounds like that to us.” Chris, the jury commissioner for Bonner County, is a raptor expert, though she disputes the characterization (“I’ve been out of the field too long to be considered an expert anymore.”), and has a unique vantage point on the birds that nest at Memorial Field, as she’s been a volunteer in the information booth there for the past 18 years.

Appreciative as she is of raptors, she says not all might consider their call to sound like song, but it’s long been music to her ears. “Based on my observation, they really like the symphony,” she said. “At least, they seem to sing along more when the symphony plays.”

If they’re not the original birds, then there’s a chance one of the adults viewed on the field is the offspring of those original birds. Osprey mate for life, and their young stick around for a couple of years helping to raise the fledglings before going off to create a nest of their own. Osprey typically hatch three or four young each year, and both mama and papa help with the raising. That raising includes providing plenty of fish to eat, as fish are the primary component of an osprey’s diet.

Say “Festival” locally and people think of music, but get them talking about the Festival experience, and before long the osprey stories start to be told. Having volunteered in that information booth alongside Chris these past 18 years, I have several of my own.Given that the osprey at Memorial Field are so habituated to the Festival and its audiences it’s hard, as Chris pointed out, not to anthropomorphize their actions. So I won’t even try to refrain.

Take the osprey that, one year, was returning to its nest with a fresh catch from the river. A packed field, waiting for the music to begin, caught sight of the bird and began to applaud. In response, the bird began to circle the field to show off its catch, triggering a partial standing ovation.Or the fight between the osprey and the crow over a fish; fascinated watchers staring up at the spectacle will not long forget the rain of fish parts they were showered with.Or the stories like my own of seeming to be an apparent target of osprey droppings. “You must be lucky,” said Becky Haag, an assistant environmental biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, who insists it is good luck to be hit with osprey droppings. When told how many times it has happened to me, she clarified, “You must be very lucky.”

Becky, by the way, will be on the field for much of this Festival season, along with her husband Matt (a Dept. of Fish and Game warden and columnist for the River Journal), as well as others knowledgeable about raptors. They’ll be manning an ‘osprey’ booth on the field, where the city is hoping to help raise some of the enormous cost of replacing the field’s light poles a number of which are topped with osprey nests.

“We will accommodate those birds,” said Kim Woodruff, Parks and Recreation Director for the city of Sandpoint. “It’s the right thing to do.”

It’s Woodruff who has the responsibility for maintaining the city’s parks, of which Memorial Field is one, and for maintaining the structures within them—like light poles.“I brought Fish and Game into the picture to make sure whatever we do helps to maintain our resident osprey,” he said. “They’re a community resource.

“I am so appreciative of the partners who have stepped up to help accomplish this,” he added; “groups like the Festival and the school district, and this awesome community we live in who always step in to help with what’s needed.” 

Look for the “Operation Osprey Tent” on the Festival field or send your check to FAS Osprey Fund, PO Box 695, Sandpoint, ID 83864-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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Environment, birds, Sandpoint, Festival at Sandpoint, osprey

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