Every day for the last few months, as she drove across the Chetco River bridge, Cindy Vosburg looked to see if an osprey had returned to the empty nest atop a nearby tree.
Her patience paid off Thursday morning when she crossed the bridge and spotted an osprey perched on the edge of the nest.
"On Earth Day, of all days!" exclaimed Cindy after flagging me down in the Pilot parking lot to share the news. She'd been giving me regular reports for weeks.
As the advertising manager for the Pilot and its sister paper, The Daily Triplicate, she splits her workdays between Brookings and Crescent City, crossing the Chetco River bridge nearly every day andndash; and looking for the osprey.
She's not alone. I've been doing the same and, each spring, the Pilot receives a number of phone calls and e-mails from others heralding the osprey's return to the nest. Then, for the rest of spring, summer and fall, we delight in watching the adult birds leave the nest, return with a fish clutched in their claws, and take joy in the ultimate appearance of baby osprey.
It's Mother Nature up close and personal andndash; and you don't even have to leave your car! Just keep an eye on the road and don't crash.
Ospreys built the giant nest more than five years ago at the top of a fir tree towering above the Chetco River.
According to the National Audubon Society (NAS), ospreys will reuse the same nest over and over, adding to it with more sticks and twigs until it reaches more than 7 feet wide and 5 feet deep. They tend to favor dead trees or artificial structures such as utility poles to build their nests andndash; making their homes easy for us to spot.
Ospreys feed mostly on fish and usually nest near large bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and the coastline. When they spot their swimming prey, ospreys will plunge their feet into the water and use the barbed pads on the soles of their feet to grip the fish.
The NAS reports an interesting fact andndash; when ospreys catch their gilled prey, they will often fly away with the fish held headfirst in their talons to cut down on wind resistance.
The NAS offers plenty of information about osprey:
andbull;These birds of prey, one of the largest in North America, are migratory, flying south in the winter andndash; usually below the U.S. border andndash; and returning north in the spring around April. Females will lay eggs around this time, and parents trade off incubating the eggs.
After the young hatch, the female stays with the hatchlings 24/7 while the male spends his days searching for food. It will be another two months before the young attempt to fly from the nest.
andbull;These majestic birds are still listed as endangered or threatened in many states. Their numbers declined drastically from the 1950s to the early 1970s when the pesticide DDT was ingested by adults birds, causing eggshells to become thin.
Fortunately, ospreys have been making a slow but steady comeback throughout North America since DDT was banned in 1972.
For avid birdwatchers and residents such as Cindy and me, the arrival of these magnificent birds at their nest by the Chetco River bridge is cause for celebration.
If we're lucky, another osprey pair might arrive in Azalea Park, where the birds built a nest near the baseball fields two years ago.