Osprey & Bald Eagles Nesting
In season we offer Naturalist-led birding tours by wagon and kayak. This gives our visitors an opportunity to see up close and learn about the birds here at Pleasant Hill Lake Park. We have located several bird nesting platforms to encourage and protect the Osprey and Bald Eagles. We currently have four (4) nesting Osprey pairs and two (2) Bald Eagles at the lake area. The nesting platforms were made possible through a partnership with The Greater Mohican Audubon Society, Firelands Electric Cooperative and Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.
Pleasant Hill Lake's Osprey will enjoy more nesting options this summer and beyond. Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), Firelands Electric Cooperative, and the Greater Mohican Audubon Society have joined forces to add a nesting platform and replace another that succumbed to the forces of nature and is leaning precariously.
Later this summer of 2018, plans call for adding two more nesting platforms — one for osprey and one for bald eagles.
Those will be available for the 2020 nesting season. Ultimately, one of the osprey platforms will be equipped
with a nest cam so the public can follow the progress of the hatchlings as they develop and fledge. By next year, there will be a total of five osprey nesting platforms and one bald eagle nesting platform on or near the lake. There also is an active eagles nest in a tree on the south shore near the west end of the lake.
Firelands erected two osprey platforms in the lake more than 15 years ago. Year after year, those nests produced fledglings. Over time, the poles on which they were mounted developed a lean. The platform along the north shore at the west end of the lake is still usable; the one near Camp Area E is not. The Energy Cooperative added another platform near Pleasant Hill Road two years ago after osprey built a nest on a utility pole, knocking out power the Mohican State Park Lodge. The osprey pair rebuilt on the new platform and produced offspring two years in a row. As of late February, Firelands was waiting for a break in the weather to replace the leaning platform in Camp Area E and to place another pole and platform between there and the beach. The latter will be equipped with an HD nest cam.
However, park naturalist Louis Andres thought it best to further research nest cams and get the best quality unit available at an affordable price so visitors and the general public can watch the developing chicks. Of course, that all depends on whether Mother Nature cooperates. The nest cams should be up and running by the 2020 nesting season.
Pleasant Hill Lake is an exceptional place for bird watching by virtue of its mixed habitat, its position along migratory routes, and nesting platforms. The addition more platforms this year and in 2020 should make it even better.
Wildlife biologists report 145 osprey chicks were produced from 110 nests throughout the state this year. With the number of breeding pairs steadily increasing over the past 15 years, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has removed the osprey from the state’s threatened species list.
The Division of Wildlife uses six categories to list species: endangered, threatened, species of concern, special interest, extirpated and extinct to further define the status of selected wildlife. Ospreys no longer meet the criteria for any of these categories.
“Osprey populations continue to increase in Ohio, especially in northeast Ohio where three-quarters of the 15 new osprey nests have been reported.”” said Dave Sherman, osprey project coordinator for the Division of Wildlife. “Their increase in numbers is excellent news for Ohio.”
The osprey’s breeding range has grown to include nests in 30 Ohio counties, producing an average of 1.8 chicks per nest.
Ohio's osprey reintroduction program was originally started in 1996, and the goal of the program was to have 20 nesting pairs of ospreys by 2010. That goal was achieved in 2003, seven years ahead of schedule. Last year, 92 breeding pairs were reported.
No state tax dollars are used for this program. Efforts to monitor Ohio’s osprey have been supported by the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Fund, which receives donations from Ohioans through the state income tax check-off program and by the purchase of cardinal license plates. Individuals who are interested may donate online at wildohio.com.
Ospreys eat mostly fish, but sometimes they eat lizards, insects, muskrats or even squirrels.
Ospreys migrate south to South America every year, flying 6,000 miles or more.
Ospreys mate for life. Their first nest is small, but they add to it every year.
Ospreys almost disappeared because they were being poisoned by the pesticide DDT. This chemical is now illegal. Ospreys are coming back.
Ospreys are also known to be called “river hawk” or “fish hawk”
They can live up to 20 years in the wild
Osprey can be found on every continent except for Antarctica
Osprey prefer to hunt in shallow waters but they can dive over 3 feet in the water if need be.
They can catch fish similar to their own size
Raccoons often eat Osprey eggs while Great Horned Owls will eat the young chicks and sometimes even Adult Ospreys.
Osprey have a wingspan up to 6 feet
Osprey chicks are ready to test their wings when they are only 7 or 8 weeks old. After 2 or 3 weeks from their first flight test, they will go hunting with their dad.
The adult bald eagle is one of the most easily recognized species of wildlife. It has snow-white feathers covering its head down to the neck area. The tail feathers of the mature bald eagle are also white. The body color is very dark brown, almost black. Yellow eyes, beak, and feet accent the bird’s appearance. The white of the head and tail distinguish the fully mature eagle from immature birds of the species. Young eagles do not have this appearance until they reach the age of five or six years. Until that time, they are decidedly duller in appearance and, to the inexperienced observer, probably would not be recognized as a bald eagle. Immature eagles are almost uniformly dark brown from head to tail feather. Their undersides are mottled white with buff and cream blotches.
The Bald Eagle occurs in marshes, swamps, and river systems throughout Ohio. Eagles have continued to recover from a low of 4 breeding pairs in 1979. In 2018, the number of estimated breeding pairs increased to 286, and pairs produced an estimated total of 445 young. In the past 5 years (2014-2018), the estimated average number of nests was 224, and the estimated average number of young was 334. This year’s growth in breeding pairs was around 30%, which is unusually high compared to the 5-year average increase of 9%. Bald eagles now nest in all but a handful of Ohio’s counties.
Please remember that even though eagles are no longer listed as state or federally endangered or threatened, they are still protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and state law. The mid-late winter nesting period is a critical time for eagle reproduction and every effort should be made to reduce interference. Many nests are located in State Wildlife Refuges and access is not allowed. Other areas may also be posted as “No Trespassing” areas. Lastly, please observe posted signs and remember that private property may not be entered without the landowner’s permission. Pleasant Hill Lake has two (2) nesting pairs in the lake area.
Although mid-winter may seem like a cold and dreary time to be outdoors, it can be one of the most rewarding times to view one of our nation’s symbols, the bald eagle. In mid-winter, frozen lakes and rivers often force Eagles to expand their hunting grounds in search of food. Also, many of the species preyed upon by eagles are hibernating or hiding under a thick blanket of snow. Because of this, eagles are often seen in non-traditional areas during this period. They can be seen roosting along rivers, sitting on frozen lakes or even in open farm fields. Their large size and dark bodies are easy to spot against the white snow and ice.
Along with other state and federal agencies, the ODNR, Division of Wildlife participates in an annual mid-winter survey of bald eagles. In 2019, the ODNR, Division of Wildlife staff counted a record-setting number of 230 immature eagles and 210 adult eagles, for a total of 440 bald eagles. This is a 75% increase over last year’s total of 252 eagles. While this suggests that Ohio’s eagle population is on the rise, it may also indicate a favorable response of wintering eagles to Ohio’s recent period of wet weather and somewhat mild winter. Pleasant Hill Lake and US Army Corps of Engineers provide updated data and monitoring of the nests.