Nesting birds disrupt construction on Anacostia River Trail

The osprey nest atop the crane. Photo via DDOT's Flickr account.

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Construction of a 20-mile trail along the Anacostia River has gotten an unexpected stop-work order from Mother Nature. A family of ospreys - a large fish-eating bird - has built a nest atop a construction crane that was being used on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.

“They're opportunists when it comes to nesting,” said Dan Rauch, a Wildlife Biologist at the District's Department of the Environment. “They've got a view of the river. They're safe from predators. They can see the area around them.”

He said it appears the female osprey is incubating eggs in the nest, which should take about 35 days. It will take another 45 days after hatching for the young ospreys to learn how to fly.

Instead of moving the nest, construction workers and District officials set up a work-free zone around the crane. Trail crews will continue working in other areas until these winged guests take their leave.

"This might be a first for us,” said Terry Bellamy, DDOT's Interim Director. It’s “not the type of complication you expect on a construction project, but we'll roll with it," he said. DDOT is treating the issue with humor: On its Flickr page, it says the birds have "unobstructed river views and cheap rent."

Crews were using the construction crane to build piers for a bridge that would carry the Riverwalk Trail over railroad tracks on the east bank of the Anacostia River. The work zone is in the Anacostia Park.{ }

"Ospreys adapt well to urban environments," DDOT writes with this photo. Sure looks like it. (Photo: DDOT)

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“This is absolutely wonderful,” said National Park Service Ranger Jim Rosenstock. The birds certainly have a view from their nest 75 feet above the as-yet unfinished Anacostia River Trail.

“It was so pretty and amazing,” said D.C. resident Edna Washington. “But it's a lot of nest up there.”

“These wonderful, charismatic raptors coming back on the river, and nesting and raising young, and feeding with fish from the river,” is a sign the Anacostia watershed is alive again, said Ranger Rosenstock.

It will probably be about 2 1/2 months before crews will continue working in the area near the nest. They hope to complete the next section of the trail by the end of the year.

Ospreys are migratory birds and fly south for the winter months.

Photos of the ospreys and their nest are posted online.