Silverthorne residents unite to replace osprey nest after storm | SummitDaily.com

Silverthorne residents unite to replace osprey nest after storm

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

For the people who live near an osprey nest in Silverthorne, the faithful return of the birds every spring for more than 30 years is a reassurance that everything will be all right.

About 15 years ago, some locals loved seeing the fish-eating birds of prey so much that when the utility pole home to their nest was removed, they had a lookalike pole installed and moved the nest on top.

Bill Linfield, a Silverthorne resident who has seen the nest in the same spot since he moved to Summit County in the 1970s, said the group secured the nest to a wooden platform, and over the years the ospreys added to the nest until it was 4 or 5 feet high.

He said the Eagles Nest Property Homeowners Association installed benches a few hundred yards away so people could sit and watch the birds, which mate for life, and their babies that learn to fly every summer.

On Sunday, Oct. 12, a snowstorm threatened that bond between the humans and the birds when gusty winds rattled the nest and blew down most of its twigs.

The folks living nearby worried the ospreys wouldn't return to the nest in the spring and contacted Summit County's Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife managers.

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Nest blow-downs are natural occurrences, but this one is a blessing in disguise, district wildlife manager Elissa Knox wrote to Linfield.

Parks and Wildlife was concerned for the last couple of years about how tall and unstable the nest had grown. The wildlife managers worried it would fall with chicks inside.

Luckily, the ospreys had already flown south before the storm.

"They're regal birds," said George Resseguie, board president of the Eagles Nest Property Homeowners Association. "The ospreys are just the all-stars."

The nest is a landmark, he said. "Everybody talks about it and they all watch and see how many babies there are."

The osprey mates don't winter together, he said, but they always manage to return to the same nest within a week or two of each other.

"How do they know when to leave and when to come back?" he said. "It's just a marvel, it really is — like nature at its best."

Linfield said he is amazed by how the birds come back the first week of April every year, no matter the weather.

Linfield, Parks and Wildlife, and HOA board member John Taylor collaborated to replace the man-made part of the nest and its base before the snow comes.

On Monday, Nov. 3, the Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks will allow the bird lovers to access the nest site on its property, and Wagner Rents in Silverthorne will donate use of a 65-foot lift to reach the top of the 55-foot pole.

Osprey populations worldwide declined significantly in recent decades because of widespread use of the pesticide DDT. In 1983, only about 8,000 breeding pairs spent their summers in the U.S. A ban on DDT has led to a rebound, and by 2001 the U.S. population was estimated at 16,000 to 19,000 breeding pairs.

Now the biggest threats to North American ospreys are habitat loss because of human development and conflicts with fish farmers in Latin America.