By Gary Walker
You might say restoration biologists have a familiar mantra for bringing important migratory bird species back to the Ballona Wetlands: If you build it, they will come.
In an effort to entice the return of the large brown-and-white raptors known as osprey, Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Urban Resilience is offering the fish-eating birds of prey new lodging on the campus bluffs.
On Tuesday, center Executive Director Eric Strauss and Southern California Edison environmental project manager David Kay presided over a campus celebration to inaugurate an osprey pole and nesting platform erected near the Tongva Memorial.
Built with labor donated by Edison, the 57-foot platform contains a nest of tree limbs and twigs that mimics the birds’ natural roosts, which they typically build at the top of dead trees, on manmade platforms or along high cliffs.
Dozens of students from nearby Playa Vista Elementary School attended the morning event and murmured in surprise when, midway through the ceremony, they spotted an osprey circling high above the pole with its wings spread wide.
Strauss said he and other scientists have had great success with similar nesting platforms in Massachusetts, and that ospreys were already scoping out the potential new digs on the LMU campus shortly after the platform went up last month.
“We’re very enthusiastic and very confident that next year we’re likely to see some potential tenants,” Strauss said.
The nesting platform project is “symbolic of our longstanding community effort to restore the Ballona Wetlands and its flora and fauna, one piece at a time,” said Kay, a past president of the nonprofit Friends of Ballona Wetlands.
Strauss said reintroducing birds such as the osprey is important for sustaining the wetlands’ natural ecology.
“As fish-eating birds, they would begin to exert predator pressure on the fish populations,” he said. “We’ve seen them migrating into the wetlands looking for habitat.”