In 1991 Menunkatuck began a program of putting up Osprey platforms in Hammonasset Beach State Park. We began by installing three Sanibel tripods. (See May 1991 newsletter article here.)
After 15 years the tripods were beginning to show signs of age. Their height and design made it difficult to get to the nests to remove plastic bags, fishing line, balloons, and other trash with which Ospreys decorate them. The Menunkatuck Board of Directors made a decision to replace the tripods with a sturdier platform that would be easier to maintain.
Conservation Chair John Picard designed a new platform made of Atlantic white cedar and stainless steel hardware that would weather well. Students from the Morgan School in Clinton took on the job of doing the construction. Through the winter of 2007-2008 they cut lumber and put the platform together. By early March 2008, the platform was ready to be installed in the marsh. The worst of the Sanibel tripods was in the marsh near Meigs Point and the new platform replaced it. On a blustery day our volunteers carried the new platform out to the site, demolished the old one, and erected the new one (see slide show here). Within weeks Ospreys had returned to Hammonasset from their winter in South America and were bringing nest material to the new platform.
In March 2009 two more Sanibel tripods at Hammonasset were removed and replaced with ones of the new design (slide shows here and here). Again within weeks Ospreys were nesting on them. In June 20009 we put a new platform in the marsh behind the Meigs Point Nature Center and on a bitterly cold day in January 2012 a fifth platform visible from the end of the Willards Island trail was installed (slide show here).
Hammonasset Osprey Platform Locations
Meanwhile two Guilford High School students built another Osprey platform as part of their graduation capstone requirement. In October 2009 a crew from GHS joined some Menunkatuck volunteers to install the platform in the East River Marsh of the Guilford Salt Meadow Sanctuary (see a slide show here). Ospreys nested on in the following spring.
Because of Menunkatuck’s reputation for installing Osprey platforms, we were asked by Harkness Memorial State Park to assist them in replacing two platforms that were damaged in Super Storm Sandy. Volunteers from Dominion Energy prefabricated the platforms using the Menunkatuck design and in October 2013 we went to Harkness to help out with the installation. While we were completing the installation two late migrating Ospreys flew over as if inspecting our work. In March 2014 Ospreys nested on the platforms.
Menunkatuck’s Osprey conservation work switched to repair and replacement of platforms in May 2014 when a platform in Guilford’s East River marsh collapsed with three eggs in the nest. Terry Shaw was able to facilitate its repair and the next day the Ospreys wee rebuilding the nest and mating. Unfortunately they were not able to rebreed successfully. Terry’s inspection of the collapsed platform showed that the hardware used to hold the platform’d braces had rusted through and the braces had been useless when three days of high wind blew the platform over. Recalling that in 2011 a 1990s era platform near Branford’s Trolley Trail collapsed with the loss of two chicks that were near fledging, we began a survey of the Osprey platforms in the Chapter area and a program of replacing ones that are in poor condition.
Menunkatuck’s experience with Osprey platforms drew the attention of officials in West Haven and we were contacted to offer advice and install six to eight platforms in suitable areas along the West Haven shore.
And in late 2014 Menunkatuck was awarded a grant by the Watershed Fund to install an Osprey camera on an Osprey platform in West River Memorial Park in New Haven. Partnering with the Barnard Nature Center in the park, the camera offers streaming video of the nesting Ospreys.