Osprey carrying a branch to build a nest in the spring (photo: Janet DiMattia)

On Thursday, November 14th, the nonprofit Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) and AmeriCorps Cape Cod members assembled and installed a new osprey nesting platform in the saltmarsh tucked behind Red River Beach. Two salt marsh parcels totaling 2.7 acres were donated to HCT in 2015 by Barbara and Peter Sidel. HCT’s Outreach & Stewardship Coordinator Tyler Maikath organized the osprey platform project, which was funded by a generous HCT donor.

With help from AmeriCorps members and HCT volunteers, the pole was constructed in the nearby beach parking lot, carried across the marsh, and positioned in place in hopes of attracting an osprey couple when they migrate north in late March from places as far south as Venezuela. The expanse of windswept marshland near Nantucket Sound is not far from local ponds like Skinequit Pond with fish that osprey like to catch by diving talons-first into the water. HCT volunteers have been collecting information about osprey nesting activity across Harwich and this new platform will provide a perfect place for a pair to nest with the nearby fishing grounds. Since the platform installation took place in the salt marsh, HCT had to secure permission from Town of Harwich Conservation Administrator, Amy Usowski who works with the Town Conservation Commission that has wetland regulatory jurisdiction.

Like many raptors, ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) suffered a precipitous population decline from the effects of DDT insecticide spraying during the last century. The persistent DDT toxin

Adult and juvenile ospreys (photo: Janet DiMattia)

poisoned the birds and caused their eggshells to become very thin and brittle. Since the banning of DDT and with human intervention in the form of installing osprey nesting platforms, the species has rebounded in coastal areas throughout Massachusetts. Because many birds have been raised in nests located on osprey platforms, these instinctive birds key in on these nesting opportunities.

“Further north, we’re considering adding an osprey platform to HCT’s Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve as the ecological restoration planning continues there,” said Michael Lach, HCT Executive Director. Ospreys hold a special place in his heart. “When I was about 12, my father organized an osprey platform project in the marsh of Little Pleasant Bay for my sixth grade class. The students helped build the platform and the result was the first known nesting pair to return to the estuary. That osprey experience and my parents’ effort at always getting my brother and me outside has created a lifelong appreciation of the Cape’s natural lands, water, and wildlife,” said Lach.

HCT continues to watch for opportunities to create osprey platforms on both public and private lands with property owner permission. To learn about the Cold Brook Eco-Restoration Project, click the project link in the “Save Land” menu tab above.