Letter: There's more to the osprey story than recent removal

Posted 9/9/21

To the editor:

A letter to the editor, published in the last two issues of Shorelines, laments the story reported in a previous issue of Shorelines about relocating young Osprey from the Westport …

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Letter: There's more to the osprey story than recent removal

Posted

To the editor:

A letter to the editor, published in the last two issues of Shorelines, laments the story reported in a previous issue of Shorelines about relocating young Osprey from the Westport River to Southern Illinois to try to restore the Osprey population in that area. The author of that letter is obviously very fond of our local Osprey population and has observed their breeding behavior very carefully, as have I. But she may not be aware of some aspects of the story of the Westport River Osprey population that would help to understand and feel more positively about this relocation effort.

In the 1960s the Osprey population in the Westport River was down to a few pairs because widespread application of DDT on farms drained into the rivers and was ingested by fish that were then eaten by the Osprey. This in turn led to weakening of the Osprey eggshells and inability to hatch live chicks. Rachel Carson led the campaign to ban DDT and remove it from the food chain. At that time, Gil and Jo Fernandez, who had a farm in Dartmouth, took up the cause of the local Osprey and travelled to the Chesapeake Bay Area to obtain Osprey eggs from nests in that area where the adults had for some reason been less exposed to DDT. Gill and Jo brought those eggs to Westport and placed them in the nests of the local Osprey where they hatched successfully and then were fed and raised by their adoptive parents as if they were their own.Those young Osprey fledged, flew south for a few years and some returned to this area to mate and rebuild the local population. Gil and Jo, with help from others, also set up many of the platforms in the Westport River that now support one of the largest Osprey breeding populations in New England.

I took over responsibility for monitoring and maintaining those Osprey nests for about eight years when Gil was no longer able to do so. In 2008, the Allens Pond Sanctuary took on those responsibilities and has been doing so very successfully ever since. There were 67 active nests in 2003, and that has risen to 103 active nests in 2020 in the Westport River and Allens Pond. Over those years Osprey hatched and reared in this area have contributed to rebuilding the Osprey population up along the New England Coast without any transporting of eggs or chicks from this area but just by natural processes. To rebuild the population in the Mid-West, so that people there can have the opportunity to observe and appreciate these magnificent birds, a different approach was needed, and that is what has been happening for the last three years. Hopefully by next year, some of the young Osprey will return to that area and look for places to build their nest and raise their young. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

David C. Cole

Westport Point

Editor's note, Sept. 30: For more reading on this topic, see the following letters:

"Westport osprey relocation will help here and in Illinois," Gina Purtell, Sept. 16

"David Cole's osprey letter was refreshing and kind," Carla Lindquist, Sept. 30

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