Several weeks ago I found this nest atop a snag about a third of a mile from Baum Lake (Shasta County CA). There was no sign of any activity around the nest, yet its good condition suggested to me that it was used last season. Would an eagle, hawk, great blue heron or osprey use it this year? I kept returning to the site every few days. No takers!!
Since the ospreys had not yet returned on their spring migration, I began to believe that this nest might be an osprey nest. The eagles, hawks and herons already appeared to have claimed their nesting sites and were getting down to the business of repairing their nests and laying their eggs.
Osprey usually build their large, conspicuous nests at the top of dead trees. Check! The tree has to be tall enough to protect from ground dwelling predators such as raccoons. Check, since the tree is at least thirty feet high! The nest requires an open site for the ospreys’ flying approach. This dead tree is amid plenty of open space. Check! Since their diet is almost exclusively fish, the nest needs to be within about twelve miles of a fish source – shallow Baum and Crystal Lakes filled with fish. Check, again!
On March 17th Leonard and I saw the first osprey of the season at Baum Lake. The nest remained deserted when I went to check on that day. Yesterday I was delighted to see an osprey sitting atop the nest. It is an osprey nest!! The bird was wary so I did not approach very close, not wanting the osprey to abort using the nest. I can get nearer once I am certain the pair is committed to raising their chicks in this nest.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nests are constructed of sticks and lined with bark, sod, grasses, vines, or algae. The male brings the building materials to the female who arranges the nest. For the first few years a nest is relatively small. However, after years of use osprey nests become huge.
Unfortunately we will not be able to see the clutch of 1 to 4 cream eggs with reddish-brown spotting. However after an incubation period of 36 to 42 days the little heads of the nestlings should be visible over the rim of the nest. Leonard and I now have another nest to monitor. It is always exciting to watch the parents feed and care for their offspring. I must admit that when the youngsters fledge I always feel like a proud parent myself.