For ospreys, nature is harsh, but never cruel

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A screenshot of the osprey nest at the Lagoon Pond water pumping station in Oak Bluffs.

A young osprey was removed from the nest at the top of the old chimney at the Lagoon Pond water pumping station in Oak Bluffs Monday after those charged with monitoring the nest discovered the bird was deformed.

Author and ornithologist Rob Bierregaard told The Times Tuesday that after observing the live cam, it appeared one of the young was stuck, which can often happen when the adult ospreys trim the nest with fishing line.

Hoping to save the chick, Bierregaard enlisted the help of wildlife biologist Gus Ben David.

Ben David got a bucket truck to go up and check on the chick. He discovered the chick wasn’t moving because its legs were deformed. Wanting to save the chick suffering a drawn-out death, Ben David had it euthanized. The nest is now down to its last chick.

Often people won’t, and shouldn’t, intervene in nests unless there is a manmade issue such as fishing line being caught in the nest. In this instance, Bierregaard and Ben David believed the unmoving chick to be caught in fishing line, but learned the chick was deformed.

Chicks getting caught in fishing line is nothing new to Ben David. “This has happened a number of times over the years,” he said.

Bierregaard said this was a good educational opportunity for people who enjoy observing the osprey, but become upset when nature or natural selection takes its course. Often if there is a lack of food, a pecking order is established by the chicks, sometimes leaving one of the chicks without food.

“People watching the nest cams start demanding whoever is managing the nest cam intervene, and we as a rule don’t do that,” Bierregaard said.

Calling nature cruel is something Bierregaard does not agree with. Cruel is doing harm for harm’s sake — something nature is not capable of.

“Nature is harsh, it’s unforgiving, it’s very often random, sometimes it’s wonderful, but it’s never cruel,” he said. “It’s important for people to understand that’s the way the world works, nature especially.”