Searching for strong backs to aid ospreys on the East End

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | An osprey delivers a twig to build up its nest at Cedar Beach in Southold on Tuesday morning.

A local environmental group is organizing a volunteer project to help the osprey population by installing new poles and repairing some existing ones before nesting season begins next month.

Kate Fullam of the Southold-based Group for the East End, the lead group organizing the nesting platform project, said most poles on the North Fork were put up by individuals, but few have been maintained. Her group’s goal is to repair or install a pole in each of the five East End towns.

“We’re in the process of developing a long-term monitoring program to evaluate existing poles and to figure out where new poles are needed,” she said. “Right now, we’re looking for volunteers with strong backs.”

Many poles are made from 25-foot black locust trees and placed in marshes, where the soft ground and high winds are common causes of poles leaning and becoming unstable.

Since the spring nesting season begins in mid-March, pole repairs are usually scheduled in February.

“If a pole is leaning, a nest could be at risk and fall off,” Ms. Fullam said. “We will usually dig out one side, push the pole back up straight and refill the hole for support.”

In addition to repairing nesting sites, Ms. Fullam said her group plans to install new poles. So far, one is planned to go up in Aquebogue near Reeves Creek and another is needed by Scallop Pond in Southampton.

Eastern Long Island, according to the Group for the East End, had been home to the world’s largest population of ospreys, often called fish hawks. But in the 1960s, DDT in pesticides made shells of osprey eggs thin and brittle, and numbers of the large fish-eaters declined sharply throughout the country. After DDT was banned in the early 1970s, the birds have been making a comeback.

For more information about the project or to volunteer, call (631) 765-6450, extension 208.

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