Ospreys nesting on Beaver Creek gondola tower put a halt to maintenance work | VailDaily.com

Ospreys nesting on Beaver Creek gondola tower put a halt to maintenance work

A pair of ospreys on Beaver Creek's Westin Gondola lift tower on Sunday. Local wildlife experts suspect it's the same pair which attempted to nest on a construction crane in Avon one year ago.
Rick Spitzer/Courtesy photo

Workers performing maintenance on the Westin gondola at Beaver Creek have discovered a pair of nesting ospreys in one of the lift towers, putting a halt to the regular offseason routine there.

Beaver Creek spokesperson Rachel Levitsky said the workers notified Colorado Parks and Wildlife of the nest and are working with the agency to determine the next steps, but in the meantime, all maintenance work on that tower has stopped.

Layton Stutsman, a district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the agency and Beaver Creek will likely work together later to prevent nesting on lift towers.

“In the future, it’s probably not an ideal location to have a nest,” Stutsman said. “Once the chicks have fledged and they’ve left the nest, and the nest is inactive, that’s when the maintenance crews could take measures to remove the nest and put up materials to prevent them from nesting there in the future.”

Ospreys are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, preventing humans from interfering with the nest while it’s being actively used by the birds.

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Stutsman said around the same time he was notified of the nest by a Beaver Creek maintenance worker, he received a picture of the nest from local wildlife photographer Rick Spitzer.

“These ospreys probably arrived within the last month or couple of months and started to build a nest on the lift line, and based upon the photos that Rick sent me, there could be a female that’s laying eggs, or has already done it and is now incubating the eggs currently,” he said.

Spitzer said he saw an osprey fly across Highway 6 in the Avon area on Saturday, but didn’t see a nest.

“And then I got a call the next day saying there’s an osprey nest on the lift tower,” he said.

He said he snapped the photo on Sunday morning and immediately shared it with CPW.

“They’re some of the most common raptors in our area,” Spitzer said of ospreys. “And they like to make nests in something that’s standing all by itself and is really tall.”

On the Westin gondola tower, “they can look down on the Eagle River and look for trout to pick up,” Stutsman said. “They’re up very high, have a large degree of view and feel pretty safe.”

In photographing the ospreys nesting on the Westin gondola on Sunday, photographer Rick Spitzer said he observed one of the birds break a branch off a nearby tree and carry it away. Ospreys can live for 20 years or more, often form monogamous male-female relationships, and both the male and the female help build the nest.
Rick Spitzer/Courtesy image

In Colorado, ospreys have habituated well to areas inhabited by humans, and are known to nest on powerline poles or light fixtures at sports stadiums.

“They’re fairly unique, as far as where you see them nesting,” Stutsman said. “In urban interfaces, it’s fairly common.”

Spitzer said he has photographed ospreys occupying man-made structures up and down the Eagle River Valley.

“Virtually every ball field in Eagle County has had an osprey nest on the light pole,” Spitzer said. “And they’ll return to the same area year after year.”

For that reason, both Spitzer and Stutsman agree that there’s a strong chance that the nesting ospreys on the Westin gondola are the same pair that attempted to nest on a construction crane at the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District wastewater treatment facility in Avon one year ago.

“Because ospreys have a fairly high fidelity to the nest location, on an annual basis, my suspicion is it could be the same pair,” Stutsman said.

Spitzer said two years ago, along the Eagle River, he observed a tree with an osprey nest getting blown down during a winter storm, when ospreys migrate to Central and South America.

“There’s a new nest there now in the tree next right to it, and I imagine it’s the same bird,” he said.

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