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A bird's-eye view of fairgrounds

An osprey built a nest on top of one of the light poles at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. (Photo by Izzy Rusch)

It's not uncommon for birds to build nests in and around man-made structures. But one kind of bird is taking it to new heights.

An osprey nest was found built on top of a light pole at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Other osprey nests around Douglas County have also been sighted, including a nest off the north side of I-94 just east of the Garfield exit on a 150-foot cell tower.

"Ospreys tend to nest in upper locations usually on trees or electrical poles," Ryan Sansness, naturalist at Carlos State Park, noted about the seasonal birds that nest in the north for the summer months and fly south in the winter.

Because the birds feed almost exclusively on fish, they prefer to build their stick and sod nests on tall trees or structures near open bodies of water.

He noted that the birds are "fish experts, and have special grippers on their feet so they can grip the fish easier."

Ospreys search for fish by flying steadily in high circles over relatively shallow water.

"They do a dive into the water and then at the last second, go feet first in. After gripping the fish, they can then get airborne from the water, which is really amazing," he explained. "An interesting fact about the bird is that bald eagles in the area will often harass an osprey until it drops its fish and then steal the fallen fish from the osprey."

While they do primarily feed on fish for their diet, ospreys do not just hunt for game fish, but any fish that are near the surface of the water, including the injured or diseased ones.

"So they are actually helping the environment by cleaning up the lake of these fish," he added.

Another notable attribute of the large bird is its impressive wingspan.

"The only bird with a similar wing span is the bald eagle, but ospreys are much lighter color brown than an eagle," Sansness noted.

Osprey bodies are slender, with long, narrow wings and long legs. They fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below.

The public is asked to contact a nongame specialist or nongame wildlife program if an osprey or osprey nest is spotted, because they are very interested in tracking the active osprey nests in the area.

Recently, the Minnesota Department of National Resources revealed 608 active osprey nests in 31 Minnesota counties.

"Though the birds are not dangerous to us, it is a good idea to keep a distance away. It is fun to observe them though, especially when they go in for a dive because it is such a rare thing to see," he said.