Featured Story

Pitching in to save a bird: Osprey safely returned to its nest

Shelter Island Animal Control Officer Jenny Zahler had a problem. How to return a fledgling osprey to its home 40 feet above Westmoreland Drive.

The return to the nest saga lasted most of a day and involved other Good Samaritans — along with  Officer Zahler and photographer Eleanor P. Labrozzi — to save the young bird from traffic or as a meal for foxes.

A couple of weeks ago,  Officer Zahler fielded a call from Shelter Island Fire Chief Earl Reiter who had seen a young osprey in the road below its platform nest, four stories above the ground.  Officer Zahler took the call at her other job with Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons in Jamesport, and said she could make it to the site later in the day. By the time she got there, the young bird had been taken to a veterinarian who diagnosed it as perfectly healthy and advised returning it to where it had landed.

 Officer Zahler explained that fledgling ospreys attempt their first flights about two months after birth. It was obvious to her, she said, that this bird had not had a successful maiden voyage. “Some just lack confidence and stay where they landed,” she said.

Her first thought was to leave the bird alone until it got up its nerve to fly, but that might take time, and she knew the area was home to several foxes and their families. “They’d eat it pretty quickly,” she said.

“Birds like to be at a certain height by themselves to get a head start to fly,”  Officer Zahler said, so wearing protective gloves, she lifted the bird above her head to give it a head start.

Officer Zahler encouraging the osprey to fly.

No luck.

She then put the bird on the roof of her truck. It just looked around, stared up at the sky and at  Officer Zahler. She picked up the bird and held it aloft with the same result.

Gaining some height didn’t help the bird’s confidence to leave Officer Zahler.

“It looked like it still wasn’t confident enough to fly,” she said.

Enter Chief Reiter again, who drove up, assessed the situation and said he had “a bucket truck,” that could be used to get the bird back to its nest.

With the assistance of Fire Department Chief Earl Reiter, Officer Zahler ascends with the osprey on her mission of mercy.
Home again.

He returned,  Officer Zahler got in the bucket with the bird, and gently delivered the young osprey to the safety of home, to wait for another day to take wing.

Mission accomplished.