Osprey Nesting at Pier 80
Near the former site of the Hunters Point Power Plant — which activists succeeded in closing in 2006 — an osprey family has made a home on a large crane at Pier 80. Osprey are predator birds that resemble bald eagles. Until recently, they were in danger of disappearing from the earth. Even after they were spotted at Pier 80, the fowl have rarely shown themselves. But two volunteers from Berkeley-based Golden Gate Audubon Society (GGAS) caught a glimpse of the osprey in March, carrying nesting material to the top of the crane. And though on some outings society volunteers haven't seen the birds, last month they were sighted again.
“We got there a little late Saturday, but the answer to your questions are yes, and yes,” said Noreen Weeden, GGAS volunteer coordinator, in response to a query about the birds from the View. “We saw the osprey around noon for about 20 minutes,” said Weeden. “It took off from the crane, flew around for about 20 minutes, and landed back on the nest. Last year it was reported that there was an osprey nesting on another crane. But something happened, maybe a windstorm, so the osprey didn't successfully build a nest.”
According to National Geographic, osprey “can be identified by their white under parts. Their white heads also have a distinctive black eye stripe that goes down the side of their faces…The birds happily build large stick-and-sod nests on telephone poles, channel markers, and other such locations. Human habitat is sometimes an aid to the osprey…Osprey are superb fishers,” subsisting almost completely on fish. Osprey, which are between 21 to 23 inches in length, live up to 30 years in the wild. Their wingspan is five to six feet, and the birds can weigh 3.1 to 4.4 pounds.
Osprey can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. After the U.S., Canada, and Mexico banned DDT, a pesticide found to harm to humans, in 1972 “it seems the species is doing much better,” Weeden said. According to Weeden, the birds may stay in San Francisco until the end of this month, after which they’ll likely migrate to Mexico, Central or South America.
Access to Pier 80 is restricted by the Port of San Francisco. GGAS volunteers view the birds from nearby Pier 94, which is open to the public. The area near Pier 94 has significant amounts of heavy industrial traffic during the week; Weeden encourages anyone interested in seeing the birds to come to a volunteer workday, the first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon, during which the Port provides facilities for volunteers.
According to Weeden, the Port has been very supportive of the nesting. “It stopped operation of the crane when the birds were seen. [And] they [the Port] continue to be interested in the activity. They want the osprey to successfully breed. We're excited this is happening. We're hopeful the environment is improving along the Bay.”
The Port's environmental manager, Carol Bach, confirmed that the osprey “chicks are still present at the nest atop one of the cranes” on the east or south face of Pier 80. “The best place to view the nest is from the wetlands at Pier 94,” she said, “which is open to public access. The best folks to talk about the history of sightings and current status of chicks and assist with viewing are the Golden Gate Audubon Society.”
For information about volunteering: goldengateaudubon.org/volunteer.
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