Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photo from the Field

July 24th, 2014

Running the numbers

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ben Wurst prepares to band two osprey nestlings for future tracking. Photo courtesy Eric Sambol

Ben Wurst prepares to band two osprey nestlings for future tracking. Photo courtesy Eric Sambol

By now many young ospreys have taken to the wing. While they still rely on their nests to perch at night and their parents for food, these juveniles take to the skies to learn the skills needed to survive to adulthood. Our nesting surveys have been completed, birds banded, and our sunburn and green bites are healing! Over the next week I will start to enter and summarize data that I’ve collected and data from our volunteer “banders” who help cover the most densely populated colonies. From my surveys, which range from Mantoloking to Atlantic City, I’d say that productivity is down in some areas and up in others, as compared to last year. But, ospreys still had a decent year. I would NOT call it a BAD year!

By far my own survey effort was not as great as last year, when we conducted a census of all nesting ospreys in NJ, by publishing our nest locations on our partners website, called Osprey Watch. This year I battled broken boats, a severe cold (still didn’t slow me down), harsh south winds, and thunderstorms to get to as many nests as I could, especially on Barnegat Bay. Why Barnegat Bay? We all have heard that Barnegat Bay is dying. Overloaded with excess nutrients from stormwater runoff, which is killing off the eelgrass beds that provide shelter for many juvenile fish, aka future osprey prey. This project will help us learn about osprey foraging habitat on N. Barnegat Bay. Are more birds foraging in the ocean in those areas, as opposed to birds that nest closer to LBI and LEHT? Hopefully our ospreys will help shed some light on the health of the bay. Lastly, the project would not be possible without the generous support of Northside Jim, chief blogger/extraordinary photographer at “Readings from the Northside” and his many followers. With their support we were able to purchase (100) and deploy (60) a red auxiliary band on young birds. These bands are engraved with an alpha-numeric code which will make identifying birds much easier than only the aluminum USGS band. In the coming weeks Jim will be giving us some assistance with setting up a nice little website where people can learn all about the bands, the birds, and most importantly: report re-sightings of these awesome new bands!

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