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Osprey admirers wait for hatchlings
On April 21, some of the staff and maintenance workers at Mercer Island High School started a countdown. That is approximately the day they believe the two osprey, perched in a nest on a lightpole at Islander Stadium, laid eggs.
“That’s what we’re assuming,” said ASB secretary Susie Scaringi, who keeps an eye on the osprey camera feed from her desk, and even saw them mate. “Since then, one of them is constantly in the nest. They trade off and you can always see one of their heads in there.”
The camera, located on a lightpole adjacent to the nest, went up in March after students voted to allocate funds from the recycling center to pay for it at a student council meeting. Scaringi helped propel the camera from an idea into a reality. A camera she saw in Vancouver last year, which was monitoring an eagle nest, piqued her interest and fueled ideas for a similar camera on the MIHS osprey nest.
“It was Susie’s energy that got this thing really cookin’,” said Harry Leavitt, Committee to Save the Earth (CSE) advisor. CSE helps operate the recycling center at Mercerdale, and Leavitt said the students were happy to invest the profits from the center into the osprey camera.
Though the same osprey have been returning to the MIHS nest for five years now, this is the first time they’ve laid eggs — and the first time that those who are interested, but earth-bound, are getting a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in the nest.
Because the osprey have built the nest up so much, it’s impossible to see the eggs from where the camera is located. Next year, Leavitt said, they are going to try to move the camera to the same pole as the nest in order to see down into it. But Tony Kuhn, who works for the school district maintenance and operations group, said that the changes in the birds’ behavior indicate that there are some eggs waiting to hatch.
“From what Susie has said, and seeing as how there is always one of the osprey in the nest, we’re pretty sure we’ll see some eggs hatch in the last week of May,” he said.
According to Kuhn’s research, osprey eggs have a 33-day incubation period. That puts the hatch date around May 24, depending on the exact day the osprey eggs were laid.
Leavitt’s research on the species also revealed that osprey usually produce three eggs at a time.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Kuhn. But after five years of watching these birds, their fans are eagerly awaiting some chicks.
The ospreys’ behavior has been amusing for observers throughout the years. Scaringi said that in past years, by the time the ospreys head south for the winter, the roof of the school is littered with fish skeltons from a summer full of fishing in the food-rich waters around the Island. The birds have also been known to scavenge the school for nest-building materials.
“One of them dove down on a lacrosse practice and picked up a piece of one of the girls’ clothing from the grass and took it back up to the nest,” said Scaringi. “We assume they have a lot of bits of cloth up there, as well as sticks and grass clippings. They work on the nest a lot.”
In fact, grooming the nest into tip-top shape has been the ospreys’ priority lately, lending more evidence to the case for eggs. Scaringi said that the birds do a lot of maintenance, adding sticks and reshaping it almost on a daily basis.
For now, it’s all about waiting — waiting for the day some fledgings will peek their heads out of the giant nest, finally greeting their observers on the ground.
Due to the school district’s Web site bandwidth, video streams are not available to the public. To view updated image stills of the MIHS osprey, visit www.misd.k12.wa.us/osprey.html.