2015-12-17 / Nature

Osprey Nest Falls Victim to Upgrades

By Jack Kelly


Two juvenile ospreys test their wings in the nest atop the cell tower at Freebody Park. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Two juvenile ospreys test their wings in the nest atop the cell tower at Freebody Park. (Photos by Jack Kelly) The osprey nest that has rested on the cell tower in Newport’s Freebody Park/Toppa Field for 10 seasons was removed recently by cell tower technicians from Sentenia Systems of Wakefield, Mass., during equipment upgrades. A company spokesman, who asked not to be identified, stated, “We always try our best to limit disturbances to the nests which occupy the cell towers we service. In this case, we needed to add equipment to the tower and the nest was directly over the area we needed.”

Osprey and their nests are protected under federal statutes and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1972. However, if a nest is considered a nuisance to equipment or is causing damage to existing facilities, it can be removed during the off season. Before nests are removed, permits must be obtained through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to Charles Vandemoer, refuge manager for the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, “This company followed all the protocols and regulations in the pursuit of their work. Unfortunately, it required removal of the nest, but it was done in accordance with standing procedures.”


The male osprey dines on a fish dinner at Freebody Park last April. The male osprey dines on a fish dinner at Freebody Park last April. There have been other instances of nests being removed from cell towers or National Grid poles and substations on Aquidneck Island in past years because of damage to equipment or interruption of electrical service. In some cases, a replacement nesting platform was constructed close to the original site, where the adults could rebuild when returning for spring breeding season. In some instances, the birds have re-nested on the same structure if there was enough room after modifications.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. “We have studied the platform [at Freebody], and there is enough space for the osprey to renest if they so choose. We hope they do return, as this nest is a fixture for so many in the area,” the Sentenia spokesman commented.

The nest is well known to the neighborhoods adjacent to the park. The osprey’s human neighbors have welcomed the matedfor life pair back every March since the large birds of prey first built their summer home in March of 2006. The adult birds have produced 24 fledglings in the past 10 nesting seasons, and they migrated to South America to continue their maturation. For many, the raptor couple represents a harbinger of spring and renewed life. Stories abound throughout the region concerning the birds' behaviors, dining preferences, and how affectionately they treat their young. Only time will tell if the couple decides to rebuild or move on to a new nesting site. The neighborhood will be watching the skies and the cell tower come late March.

Return to top