Osprey benefit from lofty Eagle project

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 29, 2011 11:04 am

Boy Scout Michael Mackley is shown with the one of the two benches he made for the Tule Lake Public Access Area. JERI MACKLEY photo
Boy Scout Michael Mackley is shown with the one of the two benches he made for the Tule Lake Public Access Area. JERI MACKLEY photo

The Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area has new high-rise housing.

Housing with no skylights but all the sky a tenant could hope for.

An approximately 24-foot-high osprey nesting platform has been put up by La Grande Boy Scout Michael Mackley for his Eagle project.

The nesting platform will serve a valuable purpose since there is limited osprey nesting habitat at Ladd Marsh, said Dave Larson, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. Larson is the manager of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.

Osprey can cause major problems when they cannot find nesting habitat. Sometimes the birds will nest on the top of power poles supporting electrical lines when they can’t find suitable nest sites. This causes power outages and can result in the birds being electrocuted.

A growing need exists for osprey platforms in many places because the type of tall trees osprey need are vanishing.

“Big trees that can serve as homes for osprey are few and far between,’’ said La Grande birder Trent Bray.

Nesting platforms for osprey have no walls or roofs, but they mean as much to the raptor as enclosed structures do for other birds.

“(Building nesting platforms) is like adding bird houses,’’ said Bray, owner of the Bobolink, a La Grande birding supply store.

The new osprey platform is one of three now at Ladd Marsh. The oldest, built abut a decade ago, is north of Hot Lake Lane. Osprey have been successfully fledging young their each year for about a decade, said ODFW biologist Cathy Nowak.

Another platform is east of the Ladd Marsh viewpoint along Foothill Road. The platform has been up about two years. Osprey are examining it but none have nested in it yet.

“We see a pair come there every year. We don’t know why they are not nesting,’’ Nowak said.

Osprey are enjoyed by many wildlife viewers because of how they skillfully pull fish from rivers, lakes and ponds.

“They are easily recognizable and fun to watch,’’ Nowak said.

Fish make up more than 90 percent of the diet of ospreys. This explains why they are sometimes called fish eagles and seahawks.

People should not expect to see osprey nesting in Mackley’s new platform in the near future. The reason is it takes osprey about two years to find a nesting platform, Nowak said.

Mackley installed the nesting platform with major help from Oregon Trail Electric, which donated employee time and equipment  to place its pole in the ground. Eastern Oregon Rental and Sales also helped with the installation by providing a post hole digger at no cost, Mackley said.

Mackley, a member of Troop 521, is the son of Jay and Jeri Mackley, and a senior at La Grande High School.

The nesting platform  is only a portion of what Mackley did at Ladd Marsh for his Eagle project. The Boy Scout also built two benches that have been set up at the Tule Lake Public Access Area, which is part of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.

The benches are an excellent addition to the wildlife viewing area, Nowak said. She explained that people walking through the wildlife area tend to spook birds. Having a place to sit makes it easier to blend in with the surroundings and put birds at ease.

“Sit still and everything will settle down. You will see and hear more of what is going on around you,’’ Nowak said.

Mackley made the benches and nesting platform with materials provided at a discount by Miller’s Home Center and Lumber. A portion of the material for the benches was provided by the ODFW.

Individuals who assisted Mackley included Russel Olmsted and his son Nathan Olmsted; Mark Hanley; Daniel Hibbert; Leigh Wright and his son Larame Wright; Allen Mackley; Greg Mackley; Tucker Strand; Joel Orton; Jarin Whitnah; and Dave Bronson of ODFW.