Summit Daily News
An osprey couple that had been attempting to nest on a crane at an active construction site in Silverthorne now have a new home thanks to the collaboration of local residents, companies and town officials.
On Monday, May 8, Xcel Energy installed an osprey nest pole along the Blue River, not far from the crane, in hopes that the ospreys would take up a nest there rather than at the construction site.
The birds have since moved in, according to several people involved with the project, and appear quite happy with their new home.
“Occupied. No vacancy,” said Sherie Sobke, the owner of Alpine Earth Gardens in Silverthorne.
For Summit County residents, ospreys flying in the vicinity of the Dillon Reservoir are a sure sign of spring. After migrating south for the winter, the large hawks return every year to nest and breed near bodies of water throughout Colorado and North America.
So, when Sobke first noticed the osprey couple near the crane around the end of April of May, she became concerned and alerted other local bird enthusiasts to the situation. The fish-hunting hawks appeared to be nesting atop the crane, she said.
“I’m worried there might have been eggs in there,” Sobke said last week, after noticing construction crews had removed nest materials.
Soon, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the town of Silverthorne, the Dillon Ranger District, local residents, a contractor working at the construction site and Xcel Energy were working together to find a solution.
That’s how this osprey couple, which could nest in the same spot for years to come — the birds are known to mate for life and return to the same nest year after year — got a new home.
“It was amazing that everybody just jumped in and made it happen,” Sobke said. “Everybody got along, everyone had their hand in it. It’s the good news we all needed.”
Tufts Construction and Development Inc., the contractors working on the townhome development where the crane was located, helped scout out an alternative site for the ospreys to nest, according to Steve Gilbert, the company’s owner.
Describing the osprey couple as, “tenacious little birds,” Gilbert noted that the ospreys never established a nest on the crane but had been trying. Daily safety inspections are required on the crane, he said, so crews had been removing the sticks regularly.
At one point, the ospreys carried a two-by-four up to the crane, so the situation was creating a safety hazard for the crews below, Gilbert explained. The company even installed a fake owl, among other measures, in an effort to keep the crane clear — but the birds kept coming back.
Tufts Construction contacted local and state authorities, including the town and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in an effort to do the right thing, Gilbert said. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson confirmed there was never a nest or eggs on the crane and that there are no state or federal regulations that would apply to the situation.
Soon, the town of Silverthorne was offering an osprey platform, the White River National Forest had granted permission to mount the pole near on forest lands, and Xcel Energy had agreed to provide a refurbished pole and do the installation for free.
With instruction from a biologist with the Dillon Ranger District, Tufts Construction even constructed a nest out of sticks, threw some grass in the middle and affixed it to the pole.
“Between the Forest Service, Xcel, a couple of our subcontractors, and the Town of Silverthorne, everyone came together to help, do what’s right and to hopefully give the osprey a much more appropriate nesting location behind the Forest Service building,” Gilbert said.
The osprey couple’s new nest now towers over most trees and buildings in the area, not quite the thousand-mile view they would have had from atop the crane, but it’s tucked cozily between the new townhome development and the Dillon Ranger Station.
“The town has just been really thrilled to work with everybody and ensure a positive outcome,” Silverthorne Communications Manager Kristina Nayden said. “It’s been so impressive to see so many different organizations on all different scales come together to support the ospreys.”
Ospreys have long been considered a conservation success story, since their populations have rebounded since the 1970s, when the species was severely endangered due pesticides such as DDT.
But this is a local success story for the species, and Sobke said she would like to see more of this kind of collaboration on conservation efforts in Silverthorne in the future.
“We need some good positive things going on down here because everything has changed so fast,” she said. “I think we need to focus on the environment a bit now.”