Building Osprey Nest Platforms – A Great Eagle Scout Project
by
Jim Cox, Director, FMWA
and
Caleb Sampson
Candidate, Eagle Scout and UWF Student

In 2019 my wife Lila and I attended classes with the Florida Master Naturalist Program from the University of Florida.

To complete the Coastal Systems segment of the program, each participant was required to do a project consistent with the topics of the program. But what to do?

I recalled that about ten years ago, when I was living in the Villa Sabine development on Pensacola Beach, I worked with a Boy Scout to build two osprey nests as an Eagle Scout project.

Those nests have been occupied each year since then. So I put out feelers to find a scout to build some nests in Gulf Breeze, where I live now.

OSPREY-PANDION HALIAETUS

A friend who is active with Ocean Hour got me in touch with Caleb Sampson of Troop 417. Caleb and his mother Nancy met with me to discuss the project.

I shared with him general information about ospreys and a design for a nesting platform that I had found on the internet. I was delighted when he decided to do the project.

Caleb:
I wanted an Eagle Scout project with lasting impact. And what better way to do so than by helping the osprey population with two permanent nesting platforms.

Caleb Sampson, assisted by FMWAS Director Jim Cox (right) and Scout Leader Rick Reder (left), assembles the Osprey Plaform

I was warned by a couple of people not to do too much of the project myself – it is important that it is truly the scout’s project and that he learns and grows from it.

I was pleased to see Caleb grow in confidence and initiative during the course of the project.

Caleb Sampson attaches the Osprey Platform to the pole observed by Scout Leader Rick Reder (right background) and Jim Cox (right foreground)

This was no simple Eagle Scout project.  In addition to building the nest platforms, Caleb needed to contact and coordinate the project with multiple people – the City of Gulf Breeze Parks and Recreation, Gulf Power (who donated the poles and the equipment to erect them), and Tiger Point Golf Course.

I set up the initial meetings and went with Caleb to meet the folks, but after that, Caleb initiated all the follow through with phone calls and meetings.

Caleb, observed by Jim Cox and Rick Reder complete final assembly
before the volunteer Gulf Power crew raised the Osprey Platform pole

Caleb:
It seems there were countless hours of meetings and phone calls. It gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and to make some wonderful connections in the city.

Finding the right sites for the nests was challenging.  I initially thought putting up a platform by the water in Shoreline Park would be great even though there is already one there.

Then putting one in Williamsburg Park was discarded as the trees would be too close to the nest.

We also looked at putting a nest in Woodland Park on Fairpoint Drive right near the bayou, but the Gulf Breeze Parks and Recs folks told us that would not work because a new boat launch facility was planned for that spot.

We finally decided on two sites – one at a retention pond just north of the Gulf Breeze Recreation Center, and one on the Tiger Point Gulf Course where there is plenty of open space.

Caleb:
I had to get the project approved by my Scout Troop. I had to present the project on three separate occasions and respond to feedback before it was finally approved.

In March Caleb, his Scoutmaster Rick Reder and I and went to Lowe’s and bought the materials for the platforms.

The materials plus other incidental costs totaled $278, which Caleb paid for out of his own pocket. Construction took place in my garage.

Caleb had the help of four other scouts and two adults.  Construction took about two hours.

Caleb Sampson installs the predator barriers with Jim Cox’s help and supervised by Rick Reder

Caleb:
I thought the construction went very well. It was easier than I expected. I had a good turnout of scouts from my troop to help out with the construction.

Caleb Sampson and his Eagle Scout project an Osprey Nesting Platform

Monday, March 16 was chosen as the day to erect the platforms. Caleb coordinated everything with Gulf Power, the City of Gulf Breeze and the Tiger Point Gulf Course.

Gulf Power dug the hole, lifted the poles a little so Caleb could bolt Monday, March 16 was chosen as the day to erect the platforms. Caleb coordinated everything with Gulf Power, the City of Gulf Breeze and the Tiger Point Gulf Course.

Gulf Power dug the hole, lifted the poles a little so Caleb could bolt-on the platform and attach aluminum flashing.  Gulf Power then lifted the pole upright and placed it in the hole.

Caleb also designed and had printed an aluminum sign describing ospreys.

Caleb:
The day we installed the platforms is one I’ll never forget. It was awesome to watch Gulf Power drill the holes and lift the poles high into the air and then into the hole. It was definitely cool to watch.

The timing was both right and wrong.  It was just at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, and masks and social distancing were mandated shortly after we erected the platforms.

A few weeks later and we may not have been able to do it, and Caleb’s Eagle Scout award presentation had to be deferred indefinitely due to the corona-virus.

It was also a few weeks too late to attract ospreys for the 2020 nesting season, so we will have to wait for 2021 to see the platforms get used.

Caleb:
In total, I spent 187 hours on the Eagle Scout project. This Eagle Scout project was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

It taught me that I should always persevere in the face of hardship. A very small percentage of scouts make the rank of Eagle Scout. I’m happy to be joining their ranks.

OSPREY WITH MULLET

Jim Cox is a retired accountant and franchise restaurant CEO and a new FMWAS Director at Large and Assistant Treasurer.

Caleb Sampson is a graduate of Gulf Breeze High School, a candidate for Eagle Scout and new pre-nursing student at University of West Florida.

BACK