Bird lovers hope efforts to build new nests will bring more osprey (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Standing in the middle of a frozen, snow-covered hay meadow just south of Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, Tracy Bye, retired schoolteacher and founder of the Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, couldn’t hide her excitement as she watched an osprey, wings spread wide, circle high above her in a blue Yampa Valley sky.
“It’s exactly like Amazing Grace,” said Bye, who made it her mission to build a nesting platform along Routt County Road 14 this spring after she came across a pair of osprey determined to try to build a nest on a utility pole that was leaning awkwardly to one side.
Bye’s mission became reality Wednesday when Cromer’s Contracting helped install a new nesting platform near a parking lot of the Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area. Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked to make the platform possible and add value to the area.
“Everything just went, boom, boom, boom,” Bye said. “I was like, wow, this is happening.”
Bye’s effort also resulted in another nesting platform being placed on private property owned by Bill Gay just off of Colorado Highway 131 near the turnoff to Pleasant Valley.
For Gay, adding the nest fits into a bigger plan, to create an accessible area where recreation coexists with agriculture and wildlife. Gay didn’t offer much detail about his plans, but he’s hoping to create some sort of a lasting legacy for his family.
The process of placing the nests, which was probably more complicated than Bye lets on, was a joint effort between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and wildlife technician Tyler Jacox, Yampa Valley Electric and John Cromer, who helped get two used utility poles donated for the nests. Cromer’s uncle, also John Cromer, who owns and operates Cromer Contracting also assisted with the project, erecting the poles at no cost.
The project also got a boost from Steamboat Springs Middle School student Noah Brinkman and Grey Barbier, who built one of the two nests. The other was provided by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Hot Sulphur Springs.
“This community is amazing,” Bye said. “I love how everybody is so helpful … I had no idea how the process would work, and the kindness after kindness after kindness that I came across. I was like, wow.”
She said Grey, a hunter, was helping provide meat for several of the raptors she was caring for this summer, and the two started talking about Bye’s drive to build another nesting structure.
“I got into birding a couple years ago,” Grey said. “I went over to see some of the raptors she was rehabilitating and saw the nest. We got to talking and she asked if I wanted to help build one.”
Grey recruited his friend Noah to help, and the two gathered the needed materials and created something they are optimistic will fuel their love of birding.
“I find it super cool to just be able to watch them,” Noah said. “It’s good for the community because they get to see the ospreys nesting, and then they get more involved in the world of birds.”
The nest platforms are part of a growing effort up and down the Yampa River basin that have brought ospreys back to the area. Dr. Allan Reishus, who has lived in Craig for 40 years, was instrumental in establishing a string of osprey nesting platforms between Moffat County and West Routt.
In 2013, Bob Enever helped build the first nest in Steamboat Springs, which was erected along the Yampa River near the Yampa River Botanic Park. It took more than two years before a nesting pair arrived.
Reishus said he believes there are now about 10 nests in the Craig and Steamboat Springs area. There are also nesting sites near Granby Reservoirs and along Colorado Highway 9. Osprey sightings across the area have increase significantly.
“The more platforms we put up, the more osprey we are going to see, because there are plenty of fish in the river and in the ponds,” Enever said.
“I like birds that are visible to me and the public, and ospreys in particular are very visible,” Reishus said. “It’s awesome, and I love watching them hit the water and come up with a fish.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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