Copperopolis residents Ciara Datwyler, 10, and her mother, Bonnie Pivirotto-Datwyler, used to see osprey nesting every spring on cross-beams at the top of utility poles next to Tulloch Reservoir.
It was the way they drove Ciara to school in Chinese Camp every day. Ciara started noticing the birds of prey when she was about 5 years old.
Then about four years ago they noticed Pacific Gas & Electric workers taking the nests down.
Pivirotto-Datwyler said she started making phone calls to people at PG&E and state Fish and Wildlife to complain. She said over the course of more than two years she convinced the utility to put platforms on top of the poles to protect the birds from live power lines and vice-versa.
“We thought the logical thing was to put the platforms up first, then move the nests,” Pivirotto-Datwyler said. “It was heartbreaking to see and hear one of the birds so distressed. She wanted to nest but she couldn’t.”
This spring, Ciara and her mom are pleased because they have noticed healthy pairs of osprey and their young occupying four different platform nests made possible by the utility.
“It’s so beautiful to see them now,” Pivirotto-Datwyler said. “You can hear them clearly, going back and forth. To watch them feed and carry snakes across the lake.”
Ciara, who is starting fifth grade later this year at Chinese Camp Science Academy, said the osprey at Tulloch are “beautiful . . . they’re just really graceful. It’s really cool to watch them fly. When the chicks are ready to fly it’s cute to watch them fly for the first time.”
She and her mom say she is already studying basics of biology and physics at Chinese Camp. She says she likes to look for wildlife.
“Sometimes we go walking and we see coyotes up on the hill,” Ciara said. “They look like they’re hunting. Sometimes we go the ocean and see whales, on the North Coast, a little beach near Mendocino.”
Osprey are fish-eating birds of prey and their range extends up and down North America, South America, Africa, across Europe and Asia, and coastal Australia. People in different cultures give the birds similar nicknames, including fish hawk, river hawk, sea hawk and fish eagle.
According to scientists with National Geographic, osprey are superb fish hunters. They can be found near ponds, rivers, lakes and coastal waterways around the world. They hunt by diving from 100 feet to 30 feet above the water to its surface, where they use special gripping pads on their feet to help them pluck fish from the water with curved talons.
Osprey can carry fish great distances and, in flight, they sometimes carry fish headfirst to ease wind resistance.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Interagency Wildlife Task Group, osprey breed from March to September each year. A healthy clutch can be up to four eggs. Young osprey begin breeding at 3 years.