Last Monday morning Opal Osprey sat calmly atop one of the 60 feet-tall light poles surrounding the Naval Academy’s football field. She leisurely nibbled her fresh sushi while below her six or seven workers in bright yellow hard hats waited at the base of her light-pole perch, leaning on their work trucks and sipping coffee beside a crane.
Above our beautiful, strong osprey a thick cable hung from that tall crane. At eye-level, Opal saw an iron ball below which hung a very large and dangerous looking hook. This cabled hook swayed threateningly in the morning breeze. Opal moved only to dip her beak into the fish, finishing her breakfast at her own pace.
I walked on, confident that Opal had this situation well in hand.
You may recall my last update on the two-generations of Academy osprey. The elder pair, whom I’ve named Opal and Oscar, lost their first nest to an hurricane and their second nest to an Academy clean-up. This spring, for the first time, Oscar and Opal’s son, Pablo, and his mate, Pearl Osprey, built a sturdy nest nearby, overlooking the Academy’s soccer field and the Severn River.
Since Oscar and Opal had to relocate after their nest was destroyed, I have no idea if they produced young this year. (They have not brought fledglings to the football field.) But Pablo and Pearl are the proud parents of two fledglings.
But wait… their saga continues.
In a commendable effort to be energy efficient, the Academy decided to replace all the athletic-field lights with LEDs. That meant the huge metal platforms on which the old lights were suspended had to come down from the tall poles, and in their place, the LED lights went up, like ice cream cones in a holder.
As the project began at the soccer field, I spoke to a worker, pointing out the nest and young birds. I was assured they would work around the osprey nest until the fledglings were independent.
Well, two weeks later, as I approached the soccer field, the cranes had done their work and moved on. Pablo and Pearl’s nest was gone! Where was the family now?
But wait, just as my heart contracted, out of the blue sky over the soccer field two slender osprey dipped and swirled, while above them, Pearl and Pablo used their distinctive calls to caution and encourage… or so I interpret their chirps.
Since then, I’ve seen Pearl and Pablo individually, perching on the soccer field’s new LED lights. I think I’ve also seen the parents doing training runs with their fledglings over the Annapolis harbor. I anticipate a new nest over the soccer field next spring.
But what of the elders? you ask. I can tell you this, our indomitable Oscar has already begun festooning the new LED rods with twigs and limbs. He has turned the old-homestead light pole into a veritable pincushion with twigs protruding in all directions. This morning, Opal sat quietly atop the pole, as though checking out Oscar’s efforts. (And are you asking how I know it’s she and not Oscar? Well, Opal and Pearl are larger than their mates. Also, they are usually silent. Oscar is a noisy fellow, always letting me know he’s overhead, demanding I look up and admire his fancy fly-by. He’s a real flirt.)
So, all signs point to the two, and perhaps three generations of osprey family remaining in our neighborhood, part of the fiber of the Navy family in Annapolis. I certainly hope so.