MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And now, a story about wanting to get a ahead until a rather special something gets in your way. WAMU environmental reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, takes us to a construction site in D.C. where humans are making way for a pair of rather distinctive birds.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Through a pair of binoculars, Dan Rauch is looking at a nest. And it's a big one, a good three or four feet across.
MR. DAN RAUCH
It's very substantial nest. You can actually -- you can see it from 295 when you're driving down.
Rauch is a biologist with the District Department on the Environment. We're at Anacostia Park looking at an Osprey nest. Osprey are large, dark brown and white migratory birds of prey. They mate for life and travel the world together. This couple may have migrated from as far away as the Amazon or even the southern tip of South America to spend the summer here.
Oh, here comes one of the other dault (sp?) into the nest now.
That's a large bird.
That's a -- it's a very big bird. Four and a half foot wingspan. It's got a very dark eye stripe down one side and a very yellow eye. They're keeping an eye on us.
Oh, and just one other detail. This nest we're looking at, it's in the middle of a construction site on top of a crane.
It's decided to put its nest on top of a 75 foot crane. Unfortunately, it thought it was just tree. So it's got a great view of the river, it's -- they're safe from predators so it's a perfect place for a nest.
Yeah, perfect for the Osprey. Not quite as perfect for the District Department of Transportation.
MS. GLORIA JEFF
An interesting turn of events, is the best way I can describe it.
Gloria Jeff is a project manager with DDOT. She’s overseeing this construction, which would build a foot bridge over some railroad tracks as part of the Anacostia River Walk trail. The nest means construction on this section is on hold now.
It's about six to eight weeks before we'll resume construction on this side of the river.
The National Park Service has had to stop what it was doing, too. Jim Rosenstock is a ranger here.
MR. JIM ROSENSTOCK
We have a large recreational field, ball field, if you will, and picnic area that's going to be out of service for a little bit longer than we intended.
There's now fencing all around the area. This is all because these birds are protected by something called The International Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 and it protects all migratory birds. You're not allowed to hunt, keep them from nesting, any kind of thing that could possibly harm them unless they're game animals.
And so that means that this nest isn't going anywhere and neither is the crane, at least not for the next couple of months while the eggs hatch and the chicks learn to fly.
This happens quite a bit. About 90 percent of Osprey in the Maryland-Virginia area use manmade structures to nest on because there aren't that many other places for them to be. We take down a lot of snags along the river. They need these big trees like this to support such a large nest.
DDOT and Gloria Jeff are taking this in stride.
We're excited about them being here. It's a great opportunity as one flies...
Did I just miss one?
Yeah, you did. It has posed an opportunity for us to partner with nature.
She says crews can just work on other parts of the project while the birds incubate. Jim Rosenstock with the park service is looking on the bright side, too.
Those gorgeous birds. And to have them nesting in full view of one of our educational facilities, that's great.
DDOT says it doesn’t know if the delay will cost anything and the contractor who owns the crane declined to comment. So apparently, everyone is just completely thrilled and couldn't be happier to put everything on hold for the birds. But in reality, there can be very real costs to this. Jani Salonen owns Salonen Marine in northern Florida where a pair of Osprey's built a nest on a crane on his barge.
MR. JANI SALONEN
The out-of-pocket expense was last -- $38,000. That's with the equipment rentals and the payroll.
He applied for a waiver. The Fish and Wildlife service will grant exceptions where human or bird safety is at risk. But he didn't get it and so he relocated the nest himself, something that's not always possible physically and which poses a big risk for the birds.
There'll be some penalties coming, but, you know, figuring out what all that will be.
The penalties can be up to $15,000 and up to six months in jail. Conservationists say there's a reason for the strong protections afforded migratory birds. They point to the passenger pigeon, a bird once so numerous it used to blacken the sky for days as it migrated. In 1914, the last one in the history of the planet died in a Cincinnati zoo. And so, in the scheme of things, as Ranger Jim Rosenstock...
A little thing like a trail project might need to have its schedule modified.
The birds will be visible in the park for at least another six to eight weeks. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.
For photos of the Ospreys and their nest, check out our website, metroconnection.org.
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