Empty nesters no more | AspenTimes.com

Empty nesters no more

Janet Urquhart

An adult osprey, right, and a juvenile bird nearly ready to take its first flight sit in their perch along the Roaring Fork River. (Jonathan Lowsky/Roaring Fork Conservancy)

A pair of ospreys has joined the bald eagles and great blue herons that nest and raise their young along the lower Roaring Fork River despite a proliferation of golf courses, homes, bulldozers and a gravel pit.It’s the first time wildlife officials have documented the successful mating of ospreys in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy. The group made note of the milestone in its November newsletter.”It’s kind of baffling everyone, with all the development that’s happening there,” said Rick Lofaro, the conservancy’s executive director. “It’s very encouraging to see the wildlife respond favorably with all that development.”The ospreys nested last spring in an area just downvalley from the Aspen Glen golf course and residential development, selecting a site Xcel Energy, working in conjunction with the conservancy, prepared especially for them.Lofaro noticed a pair of ospreys building a nest atop a power pole near the Aspen Glen wastewater treatment plant early in the spring of 2003. The large raptors, known for their spectacular drives to feed on fish, were in danger of electrocution on the precarious perch.The conservancy and Xcel removed the makings of the nest, added a raised platform atop the pole, and put the nest back. The ospreys continued their work and returned to the site in 2004. This year, two nestlings were observed on the platform.”It’s sort of like we made the bed and they slept in it,” Lofaro said.”They definitely fledged one – they may have fledged two,” said Jonathan Lowsky of Basalt-based Wildlife and Wetland Solutions. A fledgling is a bird that grows adult feathers and leaves the nest. Only 30 percent will survive their first year, however, he said.Lowsky, former wildlife biologist for Pitkin County, is now a private consultant and does work for the conservancy. He snapped photos of a young osprey last May.”It’s the first pair I know of to have successfully mated and produced a fledging in the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said.It’s also the first in the valley the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory has documented, Lofaro said.While ospreys aren’t endangered – and may not generate the same excitement as the return of nesting bald eagles to the valley, at Aspen Glen – their presence is encouraging, he said. It indicates a healthy riparian habitat.Also known as the fish hawk or fish eagle, the osprey feeds solely on fish, Lofaro explained.The conservancy has protected 61 acres on both sides of the river, below the osprey nesting site, through conservation easements. It also works with property owners to minimize human disturbances while the various species of raptors are nesting. The organization is working on another conservation deal not far from the osprey platform, he said.Go to http://www.roaringfork.org for more information on the conservancy’s efforts.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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