Volunteers replace deteriorating osprey platform at Gulf Pond

Early Sunday morning a group of residents, some city officials and members of the Menunkatuk Audubon Society drove through the new light snow to a muddy area around Gulf Pond, and then hauled material through the mud and marsh, through a hole in a fence, and set it down close to the pond so they could put up a new osprey platform.

The osprey platform behind the old Shadyside pump station was well over 20 years old, failing, and in need of replacement, said Mark Paine Jr., who lives near the pond and has a good view of the platform.

“This is an occupied platform that has traditionally fledged chicks,” Paine said.

Carol Dunn, a local birder, member of the Inland Wetlands Agency and an osprey monitor, noticed too. She said the platform was leaning and was in danger of falling over.

The word went out and neighbors volunteered to help. Paine works for the public works department in West Haven, and in that capacity he had worked with the Menunkatuk Audubon on osprey platforms there. Tom Kelly, with the Menunkatuk Audubon, said the Audubon was happy to help Paine out. Kelly provided the pre-fabricated osprey platform for Sunday’s mission, which made installation easier.

They took down the old platform, which was lined with Christmas lights among other nesting materials that ospreys had gathered, and then put up the new one. The group converged around 9 a.m. and were done around 11 a.m.

The osprey is “unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them,” according to the website All About Birds. “Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons.”

Paine said people often rally around ospreys when they decide to build a nest in their neighborhood.

There are 18 osprey sites in Milford that Dunn monitored this past summer. Nine are on the platforms like the one installed on Sunday, and the rest are on various other structures.

With help from the Audubon and others, including Milford’s Inland Wetlands Compliance Officer Mary Rose Palumbo, the permitting process went through quickly and the reinstallation was arranged.

As their final step Sunday morning, with Kelly on one ladder and Mark Paine III, an eighth grader at Harborside Middle School, on the other, the nesting material of sticks and other items was put back atop the platform to complete the osprey abode.