Concerned birders spur action as osprey couple attempts to nest on active construction crane in Silverthorne |

Concerned birders spur action as osprey couple attempts to nest on active construction crane in Silverthorne

The construction company and local authorities are now working to install a new platform near the Blue River for the osprey to potentially nest on

An osprey flies near a crane in Silverthorne where it had been attempting to establish a nest around May 1, 2023.
Sharie Sobke/Courtesy photo

For Summit County residents, ospreys flying in the vicinity of the Dillon Reservoir are a sure sign of spring.

After migrating south for the winter, the large hawks return every year to nest and breed near water bodies throughout Colorado. But this year, several Silverthorne residents became concerned when an osprey couple attempted to nest on a crane amid an ongoing construction project.

Sharie Sobke, the owner of Alpine Earth Gardens in Silverthorne, said she noticed the ospreys near the crane around the end of April or the beginning of May and has been watching them since.

“What bothered me was the other day — and they could have been doing it in conjunction with Colorado Parks and Wildlife — but they took the nest down and took it away,” Sobke said. “I’m worried there might have been eggs in there.”

That day, the two hawks, “were just frantically flying around and screeching,” she said. “It was heartbreaking to a birder.”

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Another resident, Karn Stiegelmeier, who said she passes the townhome construction project with the crane every day on her way to and from her home, has also been keeping her eyes on the ospreys.

One of the first days Stiegelmeier noticed the ospreys, she said the crane was located almost directly above the American flag at the Dillon Ranger Station.

“It was right above their American flag,” Stiegelmeier said. “I thought, ‘It’s not a bald eagle, but it’s pretty close. Better protect it.'”

“And they are protected by the American Migratory Bird Act,” she added.

Just barely visible, an osprey pokes its head above the top of a crane in Silverthorne where it has been trying to establish a nest around late April and early May 2023.
Hollis Whitson/Courtesy photo

The concerned residents said they contacted the town of Silverthorne, as well as the Dillon Ranger District and Colorado Parks and Wildlife in an effort to find a solution. 

Now, plans are underway to construct a platform atop a pole on White River National Forest land for the nesting ospreys.

Describing the ospreys as “tenacious little birds,” Steve Gilbert, the owner of Tufts Construction and Development Inc., the contractors doing work on the townhouse development, said his company has been trying to do the right thing.

The crane has been there since late last summer, Gilbert said, and only in the past two weeks or so have the ospreys attempted to build a nest there. With daily safety inspections required on the crane, crews have been removing sticks regularly and no nest has ever been established, he said.

“There was never a nest. They’ve just been carrying sticks up there,” Gilbert said. “At one point they carried a small two-by-four up there. That poses a safety risk to our guys below.”

While Gilbert said that he has been able to reach local and state authorities, he said he has been unable to reach the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency in charge of federal regulations around ospreys.

“All the authorities we’ve been able to meet with say we’re doing the right thing,” Gilbert said. “We’re clearing the sticks.”

Kristina Nayden, Silverthorne’s communication manager, agreed that the construction company is working hard to help the ospreys. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife official visited the site Wednesday afternoon, Nayden said, and confirmed the construction company is taking appropriate steps to encourage the birds to nest elsewhere.

“The Town of Silverthorne and its residents love ospreys, and the Town is working with the contractor to identify a better location for these two ospreys, such as a permanent nesting platform along the Blue River,” Nayden said in an email. “The Town will continue to assist with relocation and has provided a nesting platform to the contractor to help protect these migratory birds.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales said there is not a nest, nor are there eggs, on the crane. There are no regulations related to osprey nests in Colorado and federal regulations only come into play if the nest is active, with eggs or chicks, she said.

Moreover, while osprey were severely endangered back in the 1970 when pesticides such as DDT decimated their populations across the United States, the species has rebounded and is widely considered a conservation success story.

And, with a nesting platform expected to be mounted in the area any day now, Silverthorne residents may soon have another osprey couple to watch flying along the Blue River and Dillon Reservoir with fish in their talons.

“We hope we can get this new pole up in short order here,” Gilbert said. “I was told maybe as early as (Friday), but we’ll see what happens.”

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