Conserve Wildlife Blog

Project RedBand continues on Barnegat Bay

July 24th, 2015

92 Ospreys Enlisted in Citizen Science Based Re-sighting Project

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A young osprey was banded with a color auxiliary band: 76/C for future tracking at a nest on Long Beach Island.

A young osprey named “Danny” was banded with a color auxiliary band 76/C for future tracking at a nest on Long Beach Island. Photo by Northside Jim.

This is the critical time of year for monitoring our nesting ospreys. Each year biologists and specially trained volunteers, aka Osprey Banders, conduct ground surveys by boat to monitor the state population. They visit or survey the most densely populated colonies of nesting ospreys: Sandy Hook, Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Absecon, Ventnor-Margate-Ocean City, Great Egg Harbor Watershed, Sea Isle, Avalon-Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Maurice River, and parts of the Delaware Bay. These surveys have been conducted since the early 1970s when ospreys were not so common, with only 50 pairs in 1973.

 

Their recovery has been quite remarkable. With an estimated 600 nesting pairs throughout the state, our ospreys are in a much better position today. Why put so much time and effort into monitoring a seemingly healthy population? Even though their population is much larger than it was decades ago, ospreys still face a variety of threats that jeopardize their ultimate survival. It’s commonly known that ospreys face very high mortality rates in their first year of life. Before even leaving the nest their young are so vulnerable. They can fall or be blown out of the nest, predated by raccoons, crows, or eagles, killed by their own siblings, or die from starvation. After they fledge, then they need to learn to find and catch prey and avoid power lines and wind turbines. Then they need to learn to migrate south and avoid being shot in the process. Once they find a suitable wintering site, then they remain in the same area for the next two years. Then they return to their natal areas to find a suitable nest site and start their own osprey family!

 

Today, we need your help! We cannot reach all active nests in New Jersey. There is still plenty of time to help us keep track of the state population. Citizens are encouraged to submit sightings of activity at osprey nests on Osprey Watch, a global osprey watching community. In 2013 all of the known locations for osprey nests was released on Osprey Watch’s website. As a partner with Osprey Watch, we share and use the data collected to help determine the overall health of the population, which is summarized in our annual report.

 

To help engage our Osprey Watchers, we started Project RedBand, a citizen science based osprey re-sighting project. This is year two of the project. So far we’ve deployed 92 red bands (out of 100) on young produced at nests on Barnegat Bay (62 in 2014 and 30 in 2015). The young that were banded last year will start to return to New Jersey in 2016. Usually young adults return later than older adults, so the red banded birds might not be seen until May or June. That’s when they’ll find areas with high prey availability and suitable nest sites. Usually males don’t stray far from their natal areas but females do. With these red bands, we hope to learn a little more about where our ospreys are dispersing to and at the same time engaging our coastal communities in osprey conservation.

 

Learn more:

 

Ben Wurst is the Habitat Program Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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2 Responses to “Project RedBand continues on Barnegat Bay”

  1. Karen and Bob Lund says:

    There is a well known nest in Knowlton Township which is used every year by the osprey near Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Delaware Water Gap. Are you interested in monitoring this nest, or only the ones near the shore?

  2. Ben says:

    Hey Karen and Bob, I usually only monitor nests along the shore but we do encourage all residents of NJ to report activity at all nests throughout the state. If you watch nests up in NW NJ then that is great! If not, then we’d love to have your help to track their (slowly) growing population up there. We do know of one nest in that area, which is on a communications tower: http://www.osprey-watch.org/nests/3354

    Just FYI – You can see all known osprey nests and record activity on this website: http://www.osprey-watch.org/monitoring_groups/3

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

    –Ben

 
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