Once found on wetlands and other water bodies across southern Michigan, the osprey population sharply declined during the mid-20th Century. The primary culprit in this crash was the overuse of harmful pesticides. Over the last 30 years, The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and many other organizations have worked to re-establish the osprey population in Michigan. The number has risen from 81 pairs in 1975 to 166 by 1988 and has been on the rise ever since (Source:Huron River Watershed Council). In several places where Ospreys nest they provide a popular wildlife viewing opportunity.
My interest in ospreys was piqued when looking for an Eagle Scout project. To achieve the highest rank in Boy Scouts of Eagle Scout, scouts need to lead a project that benefits an organization in their community. My Eagle Scout project beneficiary was the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). HRWC was interested in building an observation deck in a local park. The observation area was to compliment a recently installed osprey nesting platform–which would hopefully attract, an osprey. The HRWC revitalizes and monitors the Huron River watershed which covers seven counties and 900 miles in the Detroit Metropolitan area. I have been a proud macroinvertebrate data collection team leader and volunteer for this organization since the eighth grade.
Since the nesting platform is far from the shore, I suggested we include commercial binoculars (with a child step) and a child-friendly educational sign. This project involved raising over $7660, developing and managing a budget, obtaining permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Ann Arbor Building Department, making several presentations to stakeholder groups, and organizing a team of volunteers to build the deck. The project involved 176.6 volunteer hours.
Thinking I would have to design the educational sign myself, I completed a fair amount of research on the Ospreys I was somewhat relieved when many local bird experts offered to be part of the sign design team. I quickly realized the sign had become the unifying element for our community. The sign was symbolic of the passion so many people have for our rivers and the Ospreys. In the end, the sign will help to create awareness of HRWC and their revitalization initiatives. It will also inform the public how conservation efforts can impact the return and survival of interesting birds like the ospreys. It is a very inspiring message. The project went well and the platform installed with the help of volunteers from my scout troop and other volunteers.
Last month it was great to watch 30 school kids line up to take a turn looking through the new binoculars. I have already seen several wildlife photographers use the deck to take pictures of the waterfowl in the area. It has been rewarding to see our community so vested in being part of HRWC’s vision for our rivers. I am looking for the day when a pair of ospreys decides that our nesting platform is perfect for their nesting site. Maybe it will be this spring. I will be waiting and watching.
If you are an Eagle Scout candidate or Boy Scout troop looking for a small or large project, please consider a conservation project. Many opportunities exist for service projects like this. Contact any one of your local outdoor or conservation groups or organizations.
Dale (Trip) J. Apley, III, YCC Member, Ann Arbor