Ospreys are perhaps the most common fish hawks found living near human development. An overuse of DDT nearly caused their extinction in the 1960s, but they are returning in greater numbers than ever. Our light tower acted as a summer home for the birds, who migrate to Latin America for the winter months. It was an optimal site for an osprey's home; the birds-of-prey resided only a few hundred feet from Hyannis Harbor, their primary food source. In addition, the 90-foot pole was the highest structure in the immediate area, another prime concern that ospreys tend to discuss with their realtors.
The ospreys came to the field under great concern. At the time, the McKeon Park lighting system was still operational, and the primary fear was that the nest of dry twigs constructed atop the pole in right-center field would catch fire if the lights were activated. No such problem occurred in the first year of the family's occupancy, but the concern remained. Worried that maintenance of the lighting system would prove impossible in the coming years, the electric company built an alternate nesting site on the opposite side of the complex. This new pole was ignored by the birds, who seemed to prefer the tower that was not only higher, but closer to the harbor and to the baseball games.
Sadly, accurate records about the arrival of the first osprey at McKeon Park were not kept. The first mention of the birds can be found in the team's 1995 yearbook, which lists the first sighting of an osprey as taking place before the 1992 season. An excerpt from that year's guide, which was the first of four in the following years to recognize the osprey on the front cover:
When the light towers were removed from McKeon Park in 2003, the ospreys built a new summer home right down the street at Barnstable Town Hall. With the installation of new towers at McKeon Park prior to the 2008 season came a nesting platform in the right field corner (see bottom photo), designed especially for the osprey's eventual return to the park.
That return came about in the spring of 2010, just in time for Hyannis's first season as the Harbor Hawks. When you visit McKeon Park this summer, be sure to tip your cap to the team's highest-soaring fans!