The spring of 2011 saw the return to Alameda Point of a nesting pair of ospreys. This pair set up their nest on the same light stand at the entrance to the Seaplane Lagoon as another osprey pair, or perhaps the same pair, had done in 2009. Unlike 2009, this year the area is fenced off for cleanup work, making it difficult to get good photographs.
Remarkable in flight
It was a pleasure to watch the adults change shifts on the eggs and go off to catch fish. Although they may sometimes prey on small ground dwelling animals, their diet is normally restricted to fish. Often they could be seen heading north across the Seaplane Lagoon just inches above the water attempting to grab a fish. What was remarkable to witness was their flying technique. The osprey that I watched one evening was propelling itself just inches above the water for a few hundred feet, skimming the surface with its unique opposing claws ready to clutch a fish. Up would go the wings to almost full vertical, and then come down in an arcing motion, cupping the air and thrusting it forward.
When they returned with a small fish, they would usually perch on either the tip of an old metal post next to the nest or further west on the breakwater on a post with a horizontal arm. After having their fill, they would share with their mate.
Unfortunately, vacation plans interrupted my photography before the chicks hatched and fledged.
While the osprey is not an endangered species, it is certainly an environmental asset and a beautiful creature to watch – so much so that many communities throughout the U.S. build perches around lakes and bays to attract ospreys during the nesting season.
Alameda should preserve nesting sites
Alameda should emulate these efforts and adopt a policy of not only permanently preserving the old light beacon stand that was used this year; we should also refurbish the other one on the east breakwater that is tipped over and hanging on by a chain.
We should make provisions for when the cleanup fencing is removed. Perhaps a small fence at the entrance to the west breakwater to prevent deliberate or uninformed intrusions into the “nesting space.” We could have organized viewing programs during nesting season. One way to generate interest in the ospreys would be to install video cameras in some new poles next to each nesting platform. A pole with a horizontal perch would be more useful to the osprey and a good way to have one camera facing into the nest and another one facing out toward the lagoon with streaming video.
To place the protection of osprey nesting sites in perspective, it is instructive to know that if the light stand used for nesting were a tree in a logging area of California, it would be illegal to cut it down. Nesting sites are protected in our forests, and they should be protected here. Without a proactive effort now, I fear that one day we will find that the old historic light stands have been thrown away.
The open space and wildlife resources that we have at Alameda Point are priceless. We should make an effort to preserve them, especially when we have visitors like the ospreys.