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Boy scout helps fix up new home for osprey pair

An osprey nest atop this cell tower in Oldsmar has been removed and placed nearby. 

JIM DAMASKE | Times

An osprey nest atop this cell tower in Oldsmar has been removed and placed nearby. 

OLDSMAR — A homeless pair of ospreys may have a new home, thanks to a local Boy Scout.

For years, the ospreys have nested in a cell tower near Woodlands Square shopping center on Tampa Road.

The nest and corrosive droppings damaged the tower, so T-Mobile applied for a permit with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and removed the nest this month.

Barb Walker, a volunteer with the Clearwater Audubon Society, scrambled to find a nearby spot to move the nest, while scout Noah Thompson stepped in and helped create a new home for the ospreys as part of his Eagle Scout service project.

The new home, a platform atop a utility pole, was installed next to the cell tower Wednesday afternoon.

"I never really realized how good it would feel to finally have this wrapped up and get it completed," said Noah, 14, senior patrol leader in Troop 475.

One of the key goals of service projects is leadership, so Eagle Scout candidates are urged to take chiefly supervisory roles. Noah oversaw a group that built the platform out of wood and mesh. He also helped raise money for the installation.

In recent years, he watched fellow scouts tackle Eagle Scout projects. But he didn't realize how stressful all of the planning and deadlines could be.

"When I actually started working on it myself, it really ended up being a lot tougher than I thought it would be," admitted Noah, a ninth-grader at Palm Harbor University High School.

One temporary roadblock: He raised about $1,200 from two garage sales, but was told by contractors that it would cost from $3,000 to $3,600 for the pole and installation.

Days later, he contacted Tampa Electric Co., which offered to donate the pole.

The funds Noah raised went toward the installation, which costs about $1,500, Walker said. Dynamic Environmental Associates, an environmental consulting firm, agreed to cover the rest.

Ospreys, often called fish hawks, are typically found near water. The large raptors have blackish-brown backs and mostly white heads. Their wings can span 6 feet.

"They tend to mate for life, the same way that eagles do," Walker said.

This pair hasn't returned to the nest yet. But early this month, one of them stopped by for a quick visit. "The male landed on the tower the night the nesting materials were removed," she said.

The nest was moved to the ospreys' new home on Wednesday. Walker hopes the couple takes to their new digs.

It's difficult to move ospreys from a very tall structure like a tower to a lower one, she said. But it has been done successfully just a little further up the road.

"We can all walk away feeling good about it," Walker said.

But she plans to keep an eye on the pair's new home: "It's going to be an important case to watch."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Boy scout helps fix up new home for osprey pair 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 8:37pm]
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