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INTERVIEW: Paul Henry On The North Fork’s "Osprey Zone" And Providing A Magnificent Bird’s-Eye View

T.J. Clemente

The website has many regulars who watch season after season. (Courtesy Photo)

You can't live near the bays and ocean on the East End without eventually watching the amazing Ospreys! That's why talking with Paul Henry, who along with Tommy Aprea are the originators of OspreyZone.com, was so fascinating. The Osprey was actually an endangered species back around 1971 when insecticide poisoning was believed to have lowered the total amount of Ospreys in New York State to 324! The building of the Osprey nest and their repopulation is one of the great conservation stories on the East End.

Paul Henry is a committed "old" Greenport type of guy. When his buddy Tommy Aprea told him about the Ospreys building their nest above his East Marion home, on an old TV/radio antenna, he listened. Aprea put a webcam up there too, but it had the capability of as Henry said, "Like three people seeing what was happening, so I came up with the website idea! Now with over 30,000 people as watchers - with over 600 watching at any given time - almost everyone local on the North Fork knows about us. We have names, originally it was George and Gracie…Ospreys mate for life, but a few years ago George showed up with a new mate, we are not sure what happened."

Henry informed me any minute now "this year's eggs are to be laid! It takes the female like a day to lay all three, one at time. The eggs also hatch one at a time, sort of making the new born Ospreys different in size chronologically."

The site garners as many as 30,000 viewers. (Courtesy Photo)

I asked Henry what do the Ospreys do in very high wind situations? He explained, "At first they stay in the nest until or if the wind speed gets really dangerously high, they go seek safety in a tree, however if the eggs have been hatched they stay at the nest and protect the eggs."

Seeing pure nature isn't always pretty. Sibling rivalry sometimes manifest itself in ugly ways. He noted, "Besides the intruders, birds who try to takeover nests at the beginning of each season. Perhaps the most painful thing to watch is when the older sibling, perhaps just hours older, is still bigger and stronger because at that age they grow that fast. They bully the youngest smallest, and yes sometimes in ends with a death."

The photos on the website are of poster quality, but it is the "ridiculous amount of cool comments" on the website that gets Henry's juices really going. He said, "We try to read them all and answer some, it's a full time job, but I already have one (www.taxreductionservices.com) so now we have wonderful help. Tommy and I at one point were so focused on the website that we became 'exhausted' and almost discontinued it. But, in the end, we couldn't let our followers down. There are seniors who are immobile who watch regularly. In fact, many, many North Fork locals tune in every day. They follow the new arrivals each season, the nest repair, the hatching of the eggs, the feeding of the new Ospreys, then their growth and eventually their learning to fly, and yes, they were commenting madly when the bullying was going down."

The Osprey zone is above Tommy Aprea's East Marion home. (Courtesy Photo)

Henry explained the updates to the tech of the site that now has a process to clean the Axis lens they use. "It's a window washer spray, it works really well!" Then he stressed the beauty of the webcam when it's clear by saying, "Not too often does one get to look down inside an Osprey nest. To see them do the actual repairs, they are like engineers. Nature is so amazing. Instincts! They, the hatching, come out of the eggs and to watch them be fed... It's all there with actual recap video's on the website to catch up if you missed something."

Henry made a request that I mention a special "thank-you" to Christina Aprea, Tommy's wife, for her support during these last five years or so.

He also insisted I check out OspreyZone.com to see the phenomenal amount of information, via the comments and posts, along with a sort of chronological history of the site and developments. The comments tell a story all themselves about the Ospreys, using the names they have been given and of their social intrigue that happens in the Osprey zone above Tommy Aprea's East Marion home, on top of his old antenna!

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