Community comes together to rescue osprey

Jim Bronson knew the fledging osprey was in deep trouble the moment he peered through his spotting scope at the young bird just before sunrise.

"The juvenile was hanging upside-down from the nest platform, flapping and flapping," he said. "I could see it was attached to some twine or string. The flapping wasn't doing it any good."

Two of its siblings already had fledged. Bronson, 67, a retired counselor whose home overlooks the osprey nest, realized it wasn't lack of courage that stopped the third osprey chick from launching itself from the man-made raptor platform atop a power pole near Emigrant Lake.

And he knew the exhausted bird didn't have long to live if something wasn't done to free it of its bonds.

He called Pacific Power and his friend Harry Fuller of Ashland, a veteran birder who teaches birding classes. Fuller called the Jackson County Parks Department, which in turn notified the local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office of the bird's plight.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, forces were in place to launch the rescue effort. The young raptor was largely motionless at this point.

"The power company had a guy out here a half-hour after I called," Bronson said. "They were very helpful. And it was a good thing they were quick."

Upon arrival, Dave Cossette, a journeyman lineman in a Pacific Power bucket truck, went aloft in his bucket. He carefully covered the bird and brought it down to the ground along with its bonds — nylon twine, fishing line and sticks its parents had used in building the nest.

Wearing a pair of thick gloves, ODFW wildlife biologist Rosemary Stussy held the bird as Bronson and Fuller cut away the string and sticks.

"We subdued the bird and cut the strings off. The foot had grown into a snarl of artificial fibers; the foot was compressed," Bronson said, noting that the compression indicated the fledgling had been wrestling with its tethers for a while.

"The bird was free but could not perch or fly," he added. "It was too weak."

It could not perch when Stussy placed it on a limb. To survive, the bird needed to be returned to the nest, they concluded. They placed another call to the power company.

Cossette returned with the service truck shortly before 11:30 a.m. to help complete the rescue effort. After Bronson covered the fledgling's head with a coat, Fuller gently but firmly grasped the osprey while Cossette elevated birder and bird in the bucket.

By noon, the young osprey was back in its nest, no strings attached.

"The lesson here is the persistence of one man," Stussy said. "All of us jumped in there to help. But he made the calls and got this started. Kudos to Jim."

But it's also a reminder that leaving fishing line, nylon cords or similar objects around can be detrimental to wildlife, she noted.

She recalled a similar situation in the upper Rogue River watershed in which a fledgling osprey died when it could not be rescued in time.

"The prognosis is pretty good for this one," she said. "I think this guy is probably looking good. His talons work fine. His wings weren't injured. He just needs to get his courage back up to try to fly again."

"It didn't seem to have any injuries," Fuller concurred. "I expect these three juveniles will do pretty well. The parents have a relatively good supply of fish. But even when the young osprey are out flying around, they still aren't skilled enough to catch a fish. They are evolved to be great fishing birds but they still need some practice."

On Wednesday, the once-tethered young bird was well on his way to resume his practice flights, Bronson reported.

"He looks a little ragged — he needs to recover some more," he said. "But his parents are caring for him. The dad brought him half a fish this morning. He grabbed it. I think he's going to make it."

For more information and photographs of the rescue, check out Fuller's blog at

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