Osprey return to Steamboat nest on river trail after a tough 2017 nesting season | SteamboatToday.com

Osprey return to Steamboat nest on river trail after a tough 2017 nesting season

Photographer Jeff Morehead captured an image in early spring 2016 of a mating pair of osprey on a nest platform along the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. The osprey failed to hatch chicks in 2017, but a pair of osprey returned to the nest this week.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a disappointing 2017, there are already signs that Steamboat Springs' osprey family is on the rebound.

Yampa River Botanic Park supervisor Gayle Lehman reports having seen two osprey exhibiting mating behavior on the pole-mounted platform located between the Yampa River Core Trail and the river itself.

"They were both on the nest Monday," Lehman said. "First, there was one, then suddenly two. They were hopping around each other and bringing in sticks. They took off, but I pretty well think they are going to come back. They often fly off in the middle of the day to go fishing."

There was also some hope this week that there are more than one pair of osprey shopping for nesting platforms in Steamboat this season, but that's a tough call in Lehman's mind

"There are definitely more than two in our valley," she said. "But they are incredibly hard to tell apart."

Steamboat's first-known nesting pair successfully raised three chicks on the platform erected by Botanic Park co-founder Bob Enever in 2016.

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In the summer of 2017, there was once again a nest on the platform, sandwiched between the Yampa River Core Trail and the river itself, just a few feet downstream from the entrance to the botanic park. However, by late summer, no chicks had hatched. Then, a new nest appeared high atop a very tall power pole, where a regional transmission line crosses U.S. Highway 40 not far from the park.

But the second nest disappeared in a wind storm, and the season was lost.

Jeff Morehead, who lives next door to the Botanic Park and has a large collection of photographs of the local ospreys, captured a picture Tuesday of an osprey sitting on the beginnings of a nest atop one of the power poles.

Morehead drove to the elevated Hilltop site for a photo vantage point and spied three other osprey flying in the area in addition to a bird on the nest.

But on Tuesday morning, when Lehman checked on it, all traces of the nesting materials were gone. She concluded that the gusty cold front that blew in overnight likely wiped out the lofty nest on the power pole a second time in less than a year.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

About osprey

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The osprey is the only hawk on the continent that eats almost exclusively live fish.” In autumn, the birds migrate as far as Mexico and South America. The offspring must be ready to hunt for fish within a few weeks of learning to fly in order to make their first migration on their own.

Spying the osprey

There is no sign alerting passersby on the Yampa River Trail to the presence of the nesting platform. One of the best ways to see the osprey is to stop in at Trillium House at the Yampa River Botanic Park to gaze through a spotting scope at the birds. The park is currently closed but could re-open for the spring/summer season as soon as April 15.