It was for the birds.
In an effort to relocate a pair of juvenile ospreys, Huntington Lighthouse officials last year created a raised platform in the granite rock on the northeast side of the building. But while the idea proved successful at the time, they weren’t sure the pair would return to the nest for a second breeding season.
“We’ve been nervous all winter. It’s a pretty barren place, in the middle of Huntington Bay,” said Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society.
When authorities discovered the couple had returned, she said, “We were tickled to death.
Last season, the likely first-time parents did not appear to have a viable newborn, lighthouse officials said.
But to their delight, lighthouse officials discovered on Tuesday that there were two eggs in the nest.
Last spring, the osprey pair built a nest on a low pier leading to the lighthouse, blocking access. When the state Department of Environmental Conservation took a look, they told lighthouse officials they had three options — but, Setchell said, the first two weren’t suitable for the location.
“We were a bit stretched and around 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t sleep, I was racking my brains and thinking, ‘Ah, we’re going to put it on the granite rocks in front of the lighthouse as far as possible of the building,” Setchell said.
She brought in two marine contractors who have worked on the lighthouse over the years: Paul Kaiser of Huntington Station-based Kaiser Marine Services and Frank Scobbo of Port Washington-based Scobbo Marine Contractors. Scobbo pre-built the rig and, with Kaiser’s help, installed it mostly in the early morning hours at dawn during high tide over a three-day period. The DEC moved the nest and the birds occupied it almost immediately.
“We are honored to have been part of the process,” Scobbo said. “We are pleased that the no vacancies sign has been posted again.”
Setchell says the osprey and its high-pitched nest are now part of the lighthouse’s heritage, as she incorporated them into her logo and affixed them to merchandise that will be rolling out in a few weeks. They will also be a point of pride and a highlight for visitors who come to the lighthouse on scheduled tours.
“This will be the first season where we have to coexist peacefully,” Setchell said. “I’m sure it can be done without a problem.”
Ospreys mate for life, separating when they migrate south for the winter, but reunite in spring and summer and return to the same nest.
DEC wildlife biologist Chip Hamilton said the group effort to welcome the birds is a testament to what people can do when they work together.
“When you can get collective groups together to do something like this for the betterment of the environment or for the species, that’s always good,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll be successful this year with fledgling chicks.”