Sitting at an open bar at King’s Bay in Crystal River, Florida, I hear a familiar sharp whistle. I look over to see a tall pole with a platform on top where there are four black and white heads looking over its edge. Above the platform are two adult osprey soaring overhead looking down, probably checking on their fledglings. Then mom and dad glide over the water hovering from time to time looking for an opportunity to snatch a fish from the water.
My mind wanders back to the late 1960s, when I attended a seminar where Dr. Charles Wurster from New York’s Stony Brook University, presented evidence on the impact of DDT on egg-shell production in osprey. DDT caused a thinning of its eggshells resulting in a 90% decline in breeding pairs in the northeast U.S. Dr. Wurster and fellow scientists, lawyers and citizens fought the use of DDT to kill mosquitoes in Suffolk County, NY and the Environmental Defense Fund* (EDF) was born. Through the important work of Dr. Wurster, the EDF was responsible for a nationwide ban on the use of DDT in 1972.
Little did I realize that several years later, on a cold March day in a state park preserve, I would be nailing large oak branches to a platform that would be erected on a pole by the local utility company to provide a nesting prospect for osprey. By April of that year, a pair arrived and completed its nest and raised two youngsters. This was a record breaker – the westernmost osprey nest on Long Island. Today osprey breed as far west as New York City.
High pitched chirps ring out again from the youngsters at the top of the platform when they see the adults fly nearby. They all lift their heads and flap their wings anticipating dinner. Yes, the hard work of Dr. Wurster that resulted in the banning of DDT, donations of nesting platforms by utility companies and the work of conservationists is why I can sit here and enjoy watching these beautiful birds.
*Now called Environmental Defense