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Living Together

Osprey nest provides teachable moments at Minn. high school.

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Colleen Wambach, the principal of Irondale High School in New Brighton, Minn., has learned a thing or two about ospreys since one built a nest on a light pole at her high school’s football field last spring.

She learned that the bird of prey, which has a wing span of 5 feet, is federally protected, so an osprey nest cannot be disturbed while it is in use. She also learned that ospreys usually have two or three offspring each year and return to the same nest annually.

The osprey at the 1,600-student Irondale High is raising two young chicks in the nest this summer.

The birds were first discovered this past spring when workers were redoing the turf on the football field.

Late last month, some of the school’s science teachers and others interested in birds watched as a naturalist climbed the light pole on the football field and banded the two young birds, so they can be studied as part of the Twin Cities Osprey Project, run by the suburban Three Rivers Park District.

Ms. Wambach said the teachers took some photos and are likely to talk about the ospreys in their classes this fall. “It’s certainly been fun and interesting,” she said.

Irondale High School isn’t the only school in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to have had an osprey nest on its campus.

Larry Gillette, the wildlife manager for the park district, said ospreys nested for a couple of years on a disconnected light pole on the soccer field at Wayzata Middle School, just west of Minneapolis.

The birds then changed the site of their nest to a structure nearby, off school grounds, perhaps to avoid a predator, such as a great horned owl, he said.

And a few years ago, an osprey built a nest on a pole on the track and field at Rockford High School in Rockford, Minn.

“We weren’t sure how much activity they’d tolerate,” Mr. Gillette said. “We ended up putting up another pole near the property, and the birds did move there and have been nesting there ever since.”

The Twin Cities Osprey Project began releasing ospreys into the area in 1984. Ospreys have since built about 40 nests in the area, according to Mr. Gillette.

“These birds are adapting to living with people,” he said.

One concern remains over the Irondale High ospreys: The hot lamps from the stadium lights could ignite the birds’ nest. Students, teachers, and naturalists will monitor the situation.

Vol. 24, Issue 44, Page 3

Published in Print: August 10, 2005, as Living Together

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