Ospreys ‘Monty’ and ‘Bella’ find a home at Montabella High School

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 7:21 pm on Thursday, July 03, 2014


Monty and Bella, an osprey pair, build this nest atop a platform constructed especially for that purpose at Montabella High School. In previous years, the birds had continually attempted to build a nest on one of the school’s lighting poles. (The Daily News | Mike Taylor)

BLANCHARD — You can’t fight nature. Well, you can, but sometimes it makes more sense not to.

That’s the message Montabella Community Schools Secretary/Bookkeeper Patti Hicks has been spreading for the past few years, ever since Monty and Bella laid claim to a small but lofty section of Montabella High School’s football field.

The two osprey first began building their nest — or attempting to — atop one of the field’s light posts, 80 feet above ground. Osprey are not small birds and they frequently incorporate large sticks into the construction of their nests.

When those sticks began to fall, as they did frequently, owing to the fact that a lighting post is not the ideal location for an osprey nest, school administrators realized they needed to address the problem.

“The maintenance men were having to pick up sticks constantly,” Hicks said. “A light post is not exactly a perfect place for a nest.”

Hicks contacted the Department of Natural Resources, which gave the school the green light to remove the nest, provided there were no eggs or chicks in it. That solved the problem in the short term.

However, the following year, the osprey were back again, attempting to build another nest on the same light post. Monty and Bella (as they’ve since been named in a school-wide contest) just weren’t going to give up their bird’s-eye seats to Montabella athletic events, it seemed.

In desperation, Hicks contacted the local power company.

“Being a small community, we know people who work for Consumers Energy,” Hicks said. “They said if we could make a platform, they would install a pole for it.”

Montabella High School shop teacher Max Simon volunteered one of his classes and construction got underway.

“He went online and got a good pattern for it,” Hicks said. “They put it up on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. We made a big deal about it at the school, saying stuff like we hope they ‘love’ their new nest and so on.”

According to Consumers Energy representative Roger Morgenstern, the company hoisted the new pole into place close to the pole the birds had previously shown so much interest in.

“(It is) away from, but near, the high school football field,” Morgenstern said. “The osprey had been nesting on one of the school’s tall light poles and making a mess of sticks and debris below.”

Monty (or maybe Bella) soars majestically over the Mustangs football field. The osprey pair have settled into their new home, constructed 70 feet above the field thanks to the efforts of many community members and Montabella Community Schools Secretary/Bookkeeper Patti Hicks, who spearheaded the project.

Of course, by the time the platform went up in February, the osprey had vacated the state for warmer climes. Tension was high among Montabella students and staff, wondering if the pair would return again in the spring.

Not only did Monty and Bella come back, they took to their new home immediately.

“When they came, they went straight for that platform,” Hicks said. “Those platforms are ideal for them to build a nest on.”

It didn’t take long for the birds to create an impressive new nest atop the platform and settle in for the summer months. Now that the pair has made Blanchard a more or less permanent fair weather home, the school is considering the educational possibilities of having an osprey pair living on the premises.

“We’re talking about trying to get a grant to install a (webcam) up there, so that students could watch the osprey up close,” Hicks said. “It would be mounted on another pole or something, of course. Right now, we’ve already had a couple classes studying the (birds) from afar; you can’t get too close.”

For their part, Monty and Bella seem to be taking their new-found notoriety in stride. The majestic birds can be seen most day soaring over the athletic field and environs, catching the air and simply enjoying the view from their new home.

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