On Thursday, July 2, my kids and I noticed a baby osprey on the ground under its nest. Still without feathers and too young to fly, I knew they needed help.
After getting ahold of Safe Wings Ottawa, a bird-protection organization and short-term rehabilitation centre, I was advised to place the baby bird in a box and move it to a safe location until we could come up with a plan. With the help of neighbours (thank you Ron and Tina), the baby bird was collected and moved.
The bird didn’t appear to have any injuries but after some back and forth with Safe Wings Ottawa, it was decided that after such a fall it was best to have the baby osprey checked over by staff at the Wild Bird Care Centre located in Ottawa.
The kids and I took him in and after waiting a short time learned that amazingly, the baby bird did not suffer any broken bones but that it was covered in parasites and had maggots in its ears (poor guy!). The Wild Bird Care Centre wanted to treat him with some antibiotics and told me that he would be good to go in a few days.
In the meantime, I had reached out to Ottawa River Power Corporation (ORPC) to see if they could help renest the wee babe. Jody without hesitation came out to assess the height of the nest and whether ORPC could help. He determined the pole to be sitting at approximately 60 feet high (plus the height of the nest) and unfortunately their trucks just couldn’t reach it.
I got word on Monday that the baby could be picked up on Wednesday, so I started calling around to see what could be arranged. After going through plans, A, B, and C, it was now Thursday and we were no closer to getting this bird back home. Reflecting on conversations over the week and in consultation with Safe Wings Ottawa, I started calling local arborists.
Maybe it was the sound of desperation and defeat in my voice when I left a message, but I got a call back from Justin of Stittsville Tree Services. In our conversation I asked, ‘Wondering if you could try climbing the light post to renest the baby?’. To which he responded, ‘I think we have a truck that would reach that high, would Friday or Saturday work?’.
AMAZING! In consultation with Safe Wings Ottawa and the Wild Bird Care Centre, it was determined that the heat on Friday (Humidex of 43 degrees) was not ideal for a renesting attempt and waiting until Saturday morning (even with the risk of thunderstorms) was the better option.
Anouk, the founder of Safe Wings Ottawa, offered to pick the bird up, bring it to Almonte, and be onsite for the renesting. With Justin from Stittsville Tree Services on board, things were coming together and it was looking more and more like this baby osprey was going to be reunited with its family.
On the morning of Saturday, July 11, Anouk and Justin arrived ready to get to work. Justin got the truck in position, put on all of his safety gear, got instructions from Anouk on what to expect and how to go about renesting the baby.
Everything was in place and Justin calmly climbed into the bucket on his truck, with the baby osprey in tow and started to climb, climb, climb, all 60 feet just to realize he wasn’t going to make it.
OH NO! So very close yet, so far away! By this time the adult osprey who was sitting in the nest was not impressed, but Justin kept his cool as he tried repositioning the bucket with no luck. He descended, unsuccessful but was still determined to get this baby into its nest.
He wanted to try again but first needed to reposition the truck. He then climbed back into the bucket with the precious cargo in a box tucked beside him and he ascended again. Everyone was holding their breath, wondering if this time he would be successful. With some serious skill (and maybe a bit of luck), Justin was able to reach and place the baby osprey on the edge of the nest but was still a bit shy of getting the babe right into the nest.
Now the baby bird was out of reach and teetering on the edge of the nest but Justin stayed calm and professional and persevered. We could see him thinking and debating what to do next. He managed to pull a branch from the nest and was carefully trying to push the baby further in.
When that didn’t work, he realized there was a stick in the way, so he shifted his focus to moving it. Keep in mind, he is 60 feet in the air and using a stick as an extension of his arm! He was trying so hard to get this baby bird further into the nest, which is a challenge in its own, but he also had to keep an eye on the parent osprey flying overhead, this is no simple feat! Then, to everyone’s relief – SUCCESS, the baby was in the nest!
We as observers were thrilled by the fact that the baby osprey had been returned safely to its natural home and was reunited with its family; the baby osprey’s sibling on the other hand was not as thrilled. As Justin carefully returned to the ground, we could see the baby osprey having a bit of a quarrel but after a few minutes things settled down and after some more time, the parents returned to the nest.
Now, as I write this, it looks like all is well and fingers crossed both baby ospreys continue to thrive! Thank you to Safe Wings Ottawa and the Wild Bird Care Centre for your guidance and care of the baby osprey. Both organizations are heavily funded by donations and supported by volunteers so, if you are moved by this story or enjoy walking by the osprey nest, please consider making a donation in support of the work that they do. A huge thank you as well to Justin of Stittsville Tree Services for not hesitating to help, for his perseverance, and quick thinking during the renesting. Thank you!
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It really was a team effort getting this baby osprey reunited with its family. Here’s hoping both babies live full osprey lives and that this was my first and last osprey renesting experience!!
PSA: Please respect the osprey’s space and do not attempt to get a better look by drone. Safe Wings Ottawa noted that drones can spook baby birds and they could fall out of the nest, a scenario we really don’t want to repeat. But, if you do want to get a closer look at some osprey, check out www.Explore.org.