Piper has returned home.
The rehabilitated osprey was set free Thursday afternoon after undergoing a rare procedure at a New Jersey bird rehabilitation facility to have new flying feathers implanted. The osprey was injured after a strong wind gust blew into the path of a westbound Long Island Rail Road train last month.
Joe Rocco of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center based in Hampton Bays set the osprey free in the backyard of a Greenport home near its former nest. After Mr. Rocco opened the container, Piper quickly took off and flew south toward the water, free once again.
Piper was in for a mild surprise when another osprey was back in the nest it had previously called home. Piper and the other osprey jostled for position at times, each taking turns in the nest.
“You know how nice it is to see him flying?” Mr. Rocco said as Piper flew overhead under clear, blue skies.
Prior Coverage: Osprey on road to recovery
Mr. Rocco was reunited with LIRR engineer Ryan Dunaske, who was driving the train last month through Greenport when Piper got clipped in the area between Pipes Neck Road and Kerwin Boulevard.
Mr. Dunaske, who’s been with the LIRR for 23 years, said it’s not unusual for ospreys to be hovering overhead as the trains pass. The train that day continued its route toward Ronkonkoma after clipping the osprey and on the way back, he spotted Piper on the ground unable to fly.
“He couldn’t get more than five to six feet in the air,” Mr. Dunaske said.
When the train arrived in Greenport, Mr. Dunaske called the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. Mr. Rocco drove to the scene and found Piper in good condition aside from the damaged feathers that prevented him from flying.
Mr. Dunaske, whose parents now live in Cutchogue, recalled growing up on the water in Massapequa and how rare it once was to see ospreys.
“This is a success story and I’m happy to see them back,” he said.