Rebound of ospreys in Vermont continues after decades of decline

A young osprey lands one of its first-ever fish meals at Lake Arrowhead in Milton on Aug. 6, 2020.

Ground zero for osprey’s triumphant return to Vermont remains a home to flourishing broods of the fish-eating bird.

The man-made nesting platform at Lake Arrowhead in Milton, initially installed nearly a quarter century ago to coax the species back from the state endangered list, yet again hosts summer flying lessons.

Fledglings (birds with sufficient feathers to consider taking the leap and earning their wings) are quickly building confidence, reports photographer and Green Mountain Power vice president of customer care Steve Costello.

A longtime chronicler of local efforts to bring ospreys back to the state, Costello maintains an impressive portfolio of the birds’ progress.

Local ospreys, and Vermonters who admire them, can thank the relentless work of Milton resident Meeri Zetterstrom who began lobbying state wildlife experts in the early 1980s to introduce artificial nesting sites, Costello said.

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Advocacy launched by Zetterstrom (known throughout the state as “Grandma Osprey”), led to Lake Arrowhead’s first osprey hatch in at least a generation, in 1998.

By 2005, the birds had expanded from several nests at Lake Arrowhead to much of Vermont, and they were removed from the endangered species list,” Costello wrote in an email. “Today, ospreys can be found all across the state.”

They build nests on lake channel markers, dead trees, and on a favorite utility platform in Milton — which people erected before were osprey pairs had reconsidered flying in this direction.

Zetterstrom died in 2010. That same year, Green Mountain Power created an environmental award after Zetterstrom, whose vision helped others take flight.

A young osprey, just days after flying for the first time, takes the plunge again off the top of an artificial nesting platform in Lake Arrowhead in Milton on July 27, 2020. "While its parents typically head up and away when they take flight, the young bird is still getting the hang of flying, and repeatedly dropped below its nest upon takeoff, before soaring upward," writes osprey chronicler Steve Costello.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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